My PD Won't Give Me A Break
June 3, 2014
The one question I seem to get a lot is: What does it take to get better at what I do and how can I get to the next level? The answer really depends on what you consider the next level and your approach to life. Many times the answers to personal and work growth are in front of us, but we can't see them because of tunnel vision.
How we approach our work can hinder our potential if we get engrossed in the job to the point of not looking around and noticing life's moments. You can take your pick of clichés that best explain what I'm talking about, but my favorite is "Tunnel Vision."
Too many people are obsessed with a single accomplishment as opposed to seeing the whole job. Looking at things from all angles of life will make you more productive in radio.
A limited view of everyday life can be the difference between an average air personality and an evolving one. The best lesson I ever got for being on the air was a result of being unemployed and having to be a part of the crowd. For example, I observed on-air perfection versus perfecting the simple things listeners enjoyed was important. Overhearing a man in a barber shop respond to something a personality said about an artist was a revelation. Hearing him literally repeat what was said taught me how important music information or a quick quip could put a smile on a face or make people laugh.
I can remember arguing with a Production Director over the production elements he used in a recorded promo. We were going back and forth until we were both struck with the same revelation -- no listener has ever called a station to ask for more reverb or any other production elements for a promo or commercial. In fact, listeners consider both the same ... an interruption to music.
Air staffs are getting smaller but I am still encouraged by the number of jocks who are trying to figure out how to get better at radio. Here is an exchange I had with one those aspiring personalities.
Jock: My PD is always telling me I sound too young. I asked him for critiques and he says stuff like that and he's constantly telling me my name does not sound right on the air. I have used my real name and three others in the last month-and-a-half. I am not sure if he is screwing with my head or he just cannot make up his mind.
Coach: So what do you think really is going on?
Jock: My PD has never worked anywhere else and I'm having my doubts about how much he knows. What do you think?
Coach: I think he is doing the best he can and is a victim of what I call "stay-perience," which is a person who has only worked at one place for his broadcast career. To be a good PD you have to either have been exposed to a lot of good radio and mentors or be blessed with the uncanny knack of just knowing what to do. These days the chances of either happening at one station are not likely.
Jock: So what are you telling me? I mean, I live and breathe radio. How can I get better with a PD who has issues? Jobs open up around here and I never even get considered. I do not want to do part-time all my life
Coach: Cut your boss some slack; we all have issues of some sort. Okay, I have a few questions -- how old are you, what city are you in, what are your goals, and do you have any hobbies?
Jock: I would rather not tell you what city or station I am at. I'm 25 and I want to work full-time and make a lot of money. I don't get the hobby thing question, but I have a hat collection.
Coach: The hobby might be the most important thing; it shows me you actually have an interest outside of your job. You are at a good age to take a chance to do some moving around in this business. I say that because you are probably going to have move to another city and station to chase your dreams. Unfortunately, at your current station you have probably been typecast as a part-timer and the chances of getting an opportunity are slim. I have seen it happen at other stations. Unless you get a new PD or some act of God gives you shot, it could be a long time before you get a chance to reach your goal. A hobby is going to be important because when you land a gig somewhere else; you won't know many people outside the station and a hobby gives you something to do and de-focus.
Jock: Well, until I get a full-time air slot somewhere, how do I improve?
Coach: Getting your air act together will be easy because you want to learn. But to be a better air personality, I suggest you look outside radio to accessorize and arm yourself with some extra skills. A life outside the station walls can transfer back to the airwaves.
Successful personalities do things to increase their value, stay in touch with the average listener, expand their knowledge base, and some become successful entrepreneurs. Grow as a person and you will grow as an air personality.
Jock: Okay, you got my attention. My mom recently told me she thought I was getting too wrapped up in my work and should join a workout place.
Coach: You should listen to her and have an outlet to help you focus on your goal. I know it sounds a little strange, but if you think about nothing but radio, you will miss out on creative moments and opportunities which occur when you're NOT thinking about radio. You also need to look around and learn how people use radio and pay attention to the little things that seem to be important to them. Combine your passion for radio with a thirst for understanding how to relate to the average person and you will have a leg up on your goal for on-air domination and a hefty bank account.
I try to lead by example; becoming a radio coach was one of the best career moves I ever made. It opened my eyes to how there are people like you who still have a passion for this business. With a little guidance and direction, personalities with drive can still excel in this business.
Jock: Can I call you or can you direct me to someone who can help me by critiquing my work? Also, I am going to start doing some other things to take my mind off the station. I would appreciate some suggestions on things outside radio that could help me.
Coach: Sure I can either help you or I know several good coaches. Meanwhile here is a list of things you could do to help you grow as a person:
- Enroll in acting classes
- Learn more about voiceover work
- Take vocal lessons
- Yoga is great for focus
- Take a writing course
- Look into public speaking courses
- Go to the court house and observe some trials
- Take up a sport -- golf or tennis
- Learn how to build websites
- Read more