What The Hell Do I Do Now?
October 21, 2014
You just worked your butt off in the Northeast for two years and now you've landed a new PD/PM-drive gig in a warm climate just in time before the winter months. Despite fewer jobs available these days, you have held three PD positions within the last five years. At each previous job, there has always been something that has not gone smoothly in the beginning stages.
In an attempt to try and not have to move again anywhere too soon, you need some advice on "How To Start Off On The Right Foot." Does this sound all too familiar? Well that is what this week's PD/personality of interest wants to know.
Coach: So you've held three different jobs before you decided you needed some advice on programming in an unfamiliar market.
PD: I have finally come to realize that maybe someone who has had more experience with this sort of thing could help me break this pattern of automatically messing up as soon as I step in the door of a new set of call letters. Don't get me wrong; I have had VPs of Programming hire me and fly in for my first few days at a new place. But they are not there every day and some daily programming stuff is outside their reality.
Coach: Before I make any suggestions, tell me what you do when you get to a new station.
PD: I meet the jocks, the sales department, and office staff. The times I had a Music Director I got with him and got familiar with categories and the station music. I always make any changes I think need to be changed.
Coach: Well, what you told me sounds pretty standard. On the changes, how quickly did you do make them?
Coach: Sometimes we can be right and wrong at the same time. When it comes to being the new sheriff in town, I always suggest to make changes if necessary and only after settling in for a couple of months. When it comes to other annoyances or things which need tweaking, implement these at times which would meet with the least internal resistance, like a down trend or monthly. Timing is everything. I was programming a station and on Sunday there was a program with a grandfathered weekend who sounded as if he had been stuck in a radio tunnel. He sounded like an imitation of a DJ that people do when they find out you're in radio. Seriously, the first time I heard him was during a live brunch remote and he sounded as if he had drank every Bloody Mary within a five-mile radius. It was painful to listen to.
On Monday before I picked up the phone to invite him in for a meeting, I took a look at the weekend ratings and Sundays in particular. To my shock, over a three-year period this jock not only was #1 in the market on Sunday in his time slot 18-34, he also consistently out-performed the rest of the station by a share-and-a-half.
Everyone assumed I was going to dump this personality, but instead I gave him a Saturday shift, got the owner to give him a bump on his hourly and a bonus plan incentive. I privately talked to him about his conduct at live remotes and he continued to kick ass. Incidentally, although he was weekends, he was the most sought-after for remotes by clients.
Never make any changes when you begin programming a station until you get the full picture.
PD: That jock sounds like he was pretty amazing. I have to admit, I usually make changes ASAP based on what upper management lets me do.
Coach: My friend, sometimes there is more to it than that. I recommend to any PD going into a situation to find someone who can give a historical perspective on the station and the market. This is important only if the station has always done wel; there is nothing you could screw up if the opposite is true.
PD: Who would you recommend I talk to?
Coach: Everyone from the owner to the cleaning people. Also create some casual settings in which you can find out if sales and programming have had a good relationship. Don't do this at work, but at a lunch or dinner and do most of the listening and not the talking. There are always those one or two people who have good grasp on what is going on around the station.
PD: How do I find these people?
Coach: At every station, the unofficial welcome wagon greets and overwhelms you with words of well wishes and offers to help in any way they can. Sometimes one of these people might be your source or it is the one person who keeps to themselves and seems to be observing you. Just try and pay attention to see who is sincere and avoid too much contact with the extremely curious. Regardless, you need to identify the persons or persons and learn the landscape before you do anything at your new station.
PD: I have never had anyone tell me anything like this. You must have dealt with some interesting situations.
Coach: I always tried to be aware of everything around me and not just the music, jocks, promotion, and production. It's like a pick- up basketball game; you always want to know who can shoot and who can't.
You also need to become acquainted quickly with local politicians, civic leaders, local concert venders and promoters. Get out in the community and observe the people.
Jock: Anything else?
PD: There is a bunch, but as you pick up on what I have told you, I know you will be calling to ask me a lot of things. I can't predict each situation, but I can advise you as things arise. I will finish by telling you one more thing -- avoid office politics and be an observer of all things good or bad. It is the best way I know how to keep anything from coming back to bite you in the butt.
PD: Man, I could have used you two stations ago!
I once worked at a station where all the personalities (me included) would take bets on how long some new PDs would last. The point is, you do not want to be the sure bet to lose before you even get to the post.