Moving From Hooterville To The Big City
April 29, 2014
Some themes constantly repeat themselves, especially the topic of moving from a smaller market to a larger one. Being able to make the move up usually depends on things like confidence, skill set, composure, phobias, low self-esteem, over-confidence, social graces, people skills and the ability to creatively BS without compromising your integrity.
I get asked all the time, "Sam, do you think I am ready to work in a large market? Regardless whether it is an air personality or PD, my answer is, "You are ready if you apply and they say yes come work for us."
Honestly, I have known jocks and programmers who I knew were better in some areas than I was, but the difference between myself and those who were never fortunate enough to work in some of the cities I did was my ability to give someone else the opportunity to yes or no to me. I always knew once I got hired, I could easily grasp the big picture and I would learn whatever else I needed as quickly as possible. Early on there were jobs I was never even considered for, but I got the job ahead of others. In fact, I was a last-minute throw-in for my first PD job and I got the gig over several veterans.
Okay, time for the dream sequence music -- hey this radio, theater of the mind, so stay with me on this trip back in my time machine.
I Got The Job
The first question I was asked, "What do you think you can do for this station that is not already being done?" I had a simple answer which actually made the GM smile, "This is the first time I have been in your town and I would like to listen for a day, see your music library, and have access to any perceptual study stuff you might have. Oh, I would like to go to one of the barber shops in the part of town your station has the best signal coverage." My friends, not only as a last-minute candidate did I get the job, but I also got more money than what was originally put on the table. Not bad for a 24-year-old; that was the good news.
I Lost The Job
The bad news, although I actually had a pretty good handle on the music and promotions, I had no understanding of office politics or working with sales to make things work for both sides of the building without having the station sound like a Wednesday at Walmart on coupon day. I lost the job in six months, but the GM and I remained friends for years and that moment in time taught me exactly what not to do at my next PD opportunity. Don't get me wrong, even when a PD or an air personality is winning, the job is a series of ups and downs.
The entire memory of that first ordeal came back to me as I discussed a great opportunity with a PD client. He was interviewing for a job that had the potential to make a move to a top-25 market. He had concerns and like always, I went over questions and did a mock interview so he could focus and fine-tune his answers for his first shot at the big time. Sorry, I cannot use his or her name because it might compromise their chances
PD: This is great, but I don't know why they would want me. I am in a small market and that is such a big town. Do you think I am ready?
Coach: You are a candidate, so you must be ready. You know your stuff; just get the size of the market out of your head. It's just more available listeners. You need to approach this the same way you would a job in any market. There are certain historical factors you need to know; a grasp of the target audience, an understanding of the sales manager, and what the company's definition of success is for your cluster. Let's practice on some of the questions you might be asked.
PD: Okay, I am ready with pen and paper!
Coach: What are your strengths? Don't ramble, write this stuff down and deliver it like a great actor! I also suggest you give concise answers. In this case, I would mention no more than three areas that are your strengths. In fact, never give long lists on anything.
PD: I know how to monetize, work well with air talent, and have done promotions which have well.
Coach: Dude, that's all fluff without anything substantial, Come on, you know your stuff! I want you to talk to them and give some examples of what you mean. And do so after explaining each strength. Take your time and write your answers down; I will keep you on speaker phone until you are ready.
PD: Alright, ready, now ask me again.
Coach: Really, I said act, but okay, I will ask you again ... what are your strengths?
PD: I know how to help sales make money and give the listener a good product to listen to. At my current station our website was not being utilized to make money with things we were doing. I helped put together something that was sort of like eBay and our company has been making a sizable monthly income from it and it's verifiable.
Coach: That's what I am talking about -- great answer for the VP/Programming and the GM! You stated what you do and gave specifics. Okay, give me your answer on the working with air talent.
PD: I also work with my air talent, I always let them know I am their biggest fan and it's my goal to keep them going in a direction that will keep them sounding the best they can. I will explain what I am talking about. When I got took this job a few years back, the entire air staff had a habit of always referring to themselves in third person, like "Big Mike has got your concert tickets," keep listening to win. So I got them to become more personal and talk to the audience "This is Big Mike and I am going to give you a chance to win these concert tickets in less than 20 minutes."
And with the morning show, I had them reduce the length of their talk breaks by eliminating a lot of excess rambling and opening the mic. Instead of using drops which said "You're listening to MM105." I had them go live and say it and include their names. We saw an increase in the numbers over the course of time and if you wish, I can send you a timeline showing the statio's improvement while I have been here.
Coach: Stop, you've got it if you conduct your interview in this fashion; you will have a great shot at getting this job. And if you don't, you will have given such a good account of yourself, they will hire you for something at one of their other stations. Look, get some rest and we will practice some more tomorrow. What do you think?
PD: I think you are working my brain, but I get it. I just can't believe I have a chance at this.
Coach: Your time has come; just quietly keep looking and be patient.
Stop worrying about why an opportunity comes your way. Don't over-think it; just embrace the situation and remember to practice different interview scenarios with someone. Be concise and give examples of what you are talking about. Do whatever it takes to relax before doing an interview. I actually went to a licensed hypnotist to get myself in tuned for a gig once. It was worth it because I still use some of the relaxation techniques he taught me for other things. Like I said, whatever it takes.