It's Time To Program When...
November 26, 2013
Programming is a combination of creativity, psychology, politics, left brain-right brain, business math, empathy and the ability to BS when necessary. I just described a psychopath -- and as alarming as it sounds, it is not far off the mark. I can remember as if it were yesterday when I decided it would be more fun to control my own destiny; do something closely related to politics, competitive sports and public relations. When I applied for my first PD position, I was a dark horse and naïve to the process but the GM was a former PD and saw some of himself in my abilities. Therefore I always feel obligated to guide others wishing to enter the sacred order of programming. Here is an e-mail from a potential future leader of our industry.
Jock: My goal is to program and I am not sure how to go about it. I know music and after all, isn't it about the music? What do I need to do to make this happen?
Coach: It has been my experience a person is ready to do something when they begin thinking of how to get started. Mentally you have taken the first step towards your goal. The first thing you need to do is to write your programming philosophy; your thoughts covering every facet of what you believe are important. It should cover music, promotions, sales, air staff, weekend programming, community relations, research and an understanding of ratings methodology. If you need help, get out there on social media and make friends with an existing OM or PD; you could ask your current PD, but it all depends on your relationship with him or her. When your programming philosophy is finished, be prepared to discuss it during a phone and or live interview. Here is a checklist of things you need to be ready to address:
- Describe what you believe makes a radio station successful; have in mind three stations as examples.
- If there is a particular station with an opening for PD, do some homework on the city and find out if there is a direct competitor and where there is or not, check the numbers for the past four rating periods.
- Understanding the basics of Nielsen Audio (formerly known as Arbitron) is a necessity; they periodically hold clinics covering either diary or PPM in Baltimore, MD
- Be ready to describe the most successful promotion you have ever been involved in.
- Have an answer for how programming works with the sales department.
- Your thoughts on working with an air staff; include considerations if the station has either a syndicated morning show and or the same for afternoon drive.
- Provide your knowledge of the music industry and philosophies on music adds, rotations, and music research. (Include in your programming philosophy.)
- In case the question comes up, have a definition of a leader; also be willing to share your strengths and weaknesses. Don't be afraid to admit you have made mistakes.
- Be ready to explain how to deal with adversity and your approach to solving problems. Even have an example of a disagreement with a boss and how it was resolved.
- Make sure your computer skills are up to the task with music scheduling programs, editing software, and broadcast automation systems. There are different companies providing software for each, but it's easy to understand any of them once you have mastered at least one.
Try and be as relaxed as possible, be truthful, admit what you don't know, and do not say anything bad about a previous or current employer. When you are being considered for a programming opportunity, remember your potential employer is evaluating you on several criteria. During the interview, be concise with your answers and don't be afraid of silence; answer and wait for the next question.
There is no such thing as a typical interview, it could take from 15 minutes to an hour or more; recently I had a client who was asked only two questions. Remember, a skilled programmer can program any music format, therefore don't assume you have no chance at a format outside of current job; the same principals apply regardless of format.
Hopefully the person you are applying to is looking for talent and not their format. Anyone can master any music format, thanks to Mediabase, BDS, Soundscan and research; you may not be completely familiar with a particular format, but if you can analyze charts and interpret research, you'll have not problems. Do not limit your job possibilities, apply and let those hiring make a subjective choice; never assume you will not get a job because of your current or previous format background. It only takes one person to say yes.
Jock: I guess I've got some work to do. You have given me a lot to think about, thank you.
Coach: You are welcome and good luck; if you get stuck while you are putting things together, I am only an e-mail away.