Consultants Are Not Evil ... Well, Most Aren't
November 10, 2015
The most important attribute for a PD is to know when to ask for help. I know OMs/PDs cast the "All Knowing" mystic to establish the top dog, Alpha-in-charge thing. It is important for the troops to know you are their leader into the battles of radio wars. The constant need to stay ahead, gain or show progress takes the ability to stay calm in the face of adversity, creatively BS when necessary, plan, stay five steps ahead of the competition, focus, know the enemy, coach the air staff, turn sales promotions into programing strategy, and know when to ask for help. It's true: OMs/PDs don't know everything and a strength is to admit it; that, and know who to turn to for answers regardless of the problem. I always tell people, "I don't know everything, but I do know the people who can lead me to answers on any subject."
For air personalities, one of the more confusing things is the role of radio consultants. In the eyes of some, it makes their OM/PD seem like a follower and not the leader. This jock sees his PD as a store-front with a title and the consultant as the real boss.
Jock: When my PD tells me anything, I feel as if she is saying the words but our consultant is putting the words in her mouth. I want to program someday, but I want to be in charge and not someone else's flunky.
Coach: I can't speak to the situation at your station, but I can tell you some consultants are more involved in the day-to-day of some stations. Everyone is different; some consultants like to actually consult and advise. You know, the experience of the OM/PD has a lot to do with how much some consultants inject themselves.
Jock: My PD has been running this show for six years. She used to do afternoons here before they moved her up.
Coach: Where was she before this and did she program before?
Jock: This is her first PD job. She used to work on the air in Des Moines and in Columbus, OH. She might have worked some other places, but that is what I know.
Coach: It sounds like she has had some radio life experience, but this is her first programming job and may still need a little more help than a seasoned programmer with a few programming stops along the way. Cut her a break; she is still learning on the job.
Jock: I think she is what this consultant wants and he runs the show.
Coach: Including this station, where else have you worked? Also, how long have you been in the business?
Jock: Two, I have been doing radio for seven years and at this station for three.
Coach: You are only looking at this from one side and not the whole picture. I am sure there are some other voices involved in the decisions around your cluster, other than the consultant. Let me explain a few things to you.
When management hires or retains a consultant, it does not necessarily mean a lack of confidence in the OM or PD. It is a matter of an experienced outside voice who can step back and objectively offer advice when it's needed. Having a consultant can be beneficial; I was always fortunate enough to have consultants who I could call upon as counsel to reiterate something I felt strong about.
Jock: I figured they were out-of-work PDs or somebody's buddy.
Coach: A little bit of both can sometimes be true, but far from the truth in the case for most. A good consultant has years of programming experience in a variety of markets. They usually have had successes, failures and faced a variety of situations. Exposure to life's ups and downs can provide a wealth of information. A consultant can be a good ally.
Jock: How does the ally thing work?
Coach: I will give you an example: Let's say you need research and you keep getting rejected. Get with the consultant and let him or her draw upon experiences in a similar situation and let them re-chase your request with some old fashioned 'If you don't' scenarios to the company powers. Many corporates view consultants as peers and will cave to the pressures of perceived specialty expertise.
Jock: So these guys make money off advice?
Coach: Never underestimate perspective and objectivity. Sometimes all of us can be too close to a project and need to step back and view it through the average person's eyes or someone has the capacity to do so. If you are lucky enough, you'll have a consultant you can do it with.
A good consultant knows they are only as good as the PD who is directing the troops and navigating the everyday waters around a station.
Jock: So the consultant thing is good thing.
Coach: Most times, yes, but I have to be honest with you -- there are a few consultants who are power hungry, abusive, controlling and are solely driven by controlling the music list and mind controlling the OM and/or PD. Fortunately, these are in the minority.
I can honestly say I had the pleasure of keeping one these maniacal madmen from consulting a station I was programming. One day I was walking by the receptionist's desk and heard her reading back the spelling of a consultant's name who I personally knew to be the spawn of Satan. When she got off the phone, I asked if she had just been talking to ##### and she looked at her message pad and said yes. I immediately asked her if she liked how well our station was doing and she said yes. I proceed to tell her if this message was passed upstairs, all hell could break loose in the coming future. She gave the message to me and I tore it up. I then waited for a day and approached management and said that even though things were going great, we should look at getting a consultant as added insurance. They were surprised and after taking it under consideration they asked me for recommendations. As I put together a list, I told the receptionist to be on the lookout for another call from Satan's spawn and if it came in, take the message, don't date it, and hold on to it. I gave management two names and then had the receptionist date his message and put in the GM's box. Sure enough, the GM gave me his info and told me to put together the interview process.
I put Satan's spawn first on the list and the guy I wanted last. I also gave my pick all the intel necessary to get the gig and he did. It was a great situation for everyone the entire time I worked at the company. I know what I did was manipulative, but I had prior knowledge of what Satan's spawn had done in several previous situations.
Jock: That's funny.
Coach: Thank you, but you need to give the PD a break and learn what she does and what your station's consultant is all about.
The majority of consultants are great sources of information and survivors of radio wars. Most important, many are major players who can help programmers and air personalities with steady employment.