New PD And Established Morning Shows
April 30, 2013
The radio talent coaching business is similar to the daily work of programming a station or cluster of stations. Because of unforeseen emergencies, the "To-do Checklist" gets laid aside. And that leads me to another one of my stories. I was drinking a cup of tea when I received an anxious call from a PD client "I finally heard back about the job for PD/afternoons at the Top 40 station in town. But the GM and OM want to do a phone interview today, in two hours! I know this much, the station is doing very well and the morning show has good ratings. I have never been in a situation to program an established morning show or a place with such great numbers. How should I approach the interview since nothing needs fixing?"
Coach: "Even when things are doing well, there is always room for improvement. For example, a football, basketball or baseball team wins a championship, yet in the off-season they will trade, release players and sign free agents. The goal is to always be in a position to do better." There was a list of things I covered with him for his upcoming interview. I believe it is how you say things, much like cross examination on a witness stand. So my task was to give him a sense of how to answer the interviewer's questions as to what he would do if hired. It is rare these days for a programmer to get the opportunity to work with a live morning show; usually they are the morning talent or it's syndicated. Much of the information I shared with him could apply to anyone having to explain their approach to being a new PD in a new setting.
- Listen to the station and the morning show for several days.
- Talk and listen to the morning show personalities, get their thoughts and ideas. Ask questions; see how they approach gathering content. How do they prep for the show? You want to get a historical perspective on how the show and the station have evolved.
- Based on your conversations, begin to determine where the areas of improvement might be needed. It might be how they select their content or guests for interviews. Maybe you can show them some shortcuts for prepping for their show. Are they visible enough outside of paid appearances?
- Is the morning show maximizing their efforts? Are all the show members maximizing and firing on all cylinders? What are they eating before or during the show? I once had a morning show co-host that was a bottomless pit for Twizzlers and Cokes. She was always full by 8a and then turned into a she-devil. It dawned on me, it was the sugar. It was a crash and burn thing, so I made her stop doing it until the shift was over. You're always looking for ways to enhance performance.
- Sometimes the best move is the one you don't make; don't fix what doesn't need fixing. You're not trying to make anything perfect, just continuously trying to upgrade the product.
I impressed upon him to make it clear in his phone interview, being a good leader means you may not have all the answers, but know where to look for them. You are there to guide the morning show and the station to be at their best. Above all, reiterate the goal of letting the morning show and air staff know your intentions are to evolve the station as necessary. Fixing is one thing and improving is another.
He successfully got through the interview and subsequently two more with others involved in the hiring process. They have all but told him the job is his. I asked him if our pre-interview discussion helped and he said, "Yes, it helped me process my thoughts and confirmed what I already knew and helped me understand the things I did not know. Directing an actual morning show will test my abilities to lead. Because they were phone interviews, I was able to bullet-point things you deemed important. I felt very confident, answered questions and did not nervously talk too much. Like you said, answer and then shut up, ha ha."
A Benefit of Coaching
Learning is one of the many benefits of coaching. A client told me he sends his imaging/drops person portions of his stations broadcast containing the recorded liners. What a great idea!
Sometimes it might be smart to send your drops/liner person some audio containing his or her work. It is a good way to let them hear how it is being used in conjunction with the overall sound of the station. Actually listening to how something is applied could give a different perspective to their verbal approach. Remember, these people work for a lot of clients all over the country and it might give you an edge for the work they do for your station. I used to always communicate how I wanted my drops to sound, but never sent any audio of my stations. Like I keep saying, there is always more to learn, even for coaches.
By the way, for definition purposes and any beginners reading this ... drops, recorded liners, liners, or jingles are all the same, just referenced differently. One person's soda is another person's soft drink. These recorded identifiers are like constantly wearing a name tag, an audio way to identify the station or in some cases push a specific concise message agenda. Example" "WWWW, a chance to win millions, keep listening ... 97.1."