Learn From Your Mistakes
November 17, 2015
As you grow in this business, there are many nuances and realities that have to be faced. All of this comes into play when an air personality reaches the point of wanting to try their hand at programming. Getting the opportunity to grab the reins is the first obstacle and the second is when someone finally says yes.
I can hear it in the voice or see it in the eyes when a jock is going to ask me how to go about getting a programming job. They always ask how I started and I tell them the story.
I had just gotten off the air and for no particular reason I can remember, I decided I wanted to program. Honestly, there was no story line, nothing Godawful had happened, no one suggested I should, and there was no sign from heaven above; I just said to myself, I think I should program.
My first thought was who can help me? So I gave a call to a PD in Los Angeles I had turned down for a job, he and I had built a relationship. He immediately put in a call to his National PD and the three of us had a conversation. The very next weekend, I was flown to Memphis to talk to the GM. Looking back, I was brutally honest in accessing the station and was aware our meeting was out of courtesy to the National PD. The GM was upfront on the fact another gentleman was the front runner for the job and I was a dark horse.
A strange thing happened: Three weeks later, the GM called and asked when I could start. I can still remember the out-of-body experience of realizing I was joining the fraternal order of PDs. Then four months later, I lost the job because I did not understand how to work with the sales department and the importance of every department's contribution.
My lack of knowledge outside of music and jocks was the catalyst to becoming a well-rounded programmer. I became obsessed with learning how every person and department contributed to the process of programming a station.
Now that I have confessed my early sins, I can now address this question from an air personality.
Jock: Sales and promotions seem to run our station. My PD is always giving in to some dumb remote idea that some salesman came up with. We even did a remote a few weeks ago and the store could not even pick up our signal while we were there. So I did my breaks and we could hear it back where we were. It was embarrassing and when I called my PD from the place, he said do the best you can. Too much crazy stuff like this goes on around here. I want to program, but if sh#t like this is what it's all about, I don't want to ever do it.
Coach: I am sure there are a lot of factors at stake that you are not aware of. Your PD probably just absorbs it and doesn't show how upset he is about sales promotions. If you ever become a PD, you will see a whole new side to things and realize it's a process to successfully keeping a station from shooting itself in the foot.
Jock: Okay, well let's say I become a program director. What would you advise me to do about sales promotions?
Coach: I would suggest you make a conscious effort to make friends with the Promotions Director. The Promotions Director is busy with sales promotions and doing the bidding for programming. He or she is the key to turning your share of sales promotions into a collaborative effort as a programming tool.
Jock: How so?
Coach: I would argue that the majority of sales promotions without programming value are a direct result of a neutered Promotions Director. You can empower him or her by propping them up and making them understand how important they are to helping you get ratings and helping the station make money. It is walking a fine line, because you also have make nice with the sales manager, too. It will take constant effort, but you must make an effort to take sales ideas and turn them into a programming element ... something that may drive business for a client while at the same time potentially help with what I call rating publicity. Try and take crazy sales marketing schemes and turn them into a promotional/programming bonanza. These days too many Promotion Directors feel like sales foot-soldiers; it's your job to help them realize their actual worth to programming.
Jock: All that is a part of programming?
Coach: It's not for some, but for those who want to have longevity in this business, it's a process with huge benefits; a station with better focus, happier clients, sales increase, and the rating are more consistant.
Jock: What's the best way to approach promotions if I ever get a programming job?
Coach: Take the Promotions Director to lunch and explain your ideas for turning sales promotions into a winning programming strategy. Explain to them you can't do it alone and will need their help in learning the mindset of the Sales Manager. Once the Promotions Director realizes how you operate, working close together for the greater good will make your programming efforts much stronger and sales will be smiling all the way to making budget.