Remotely Successful ... Paid Remote Distribution Isn't Always Fair
July 5, 2016
Being a programmer requires the skills of a diplomat, educator, psychologist, and master politician. The later leads a terrible life, they get sworn in and then face constant scrutiny. The politician portion of the gig means you try to the best of your ability to keep things fair and equal. One of the most politically maneuvered situations in radio is the paid remote.
Who Wanted It ... The Client or Sales?
I dealt with the issue from both ends -- as a personality and as a boss. It always seems as if some air staff get more paid personal appearances than others. Yes, sometimes drive-times get a lot of requests, but if it's a weekday, no OM/PD wants to take a jock off the air to do a three-hour remote. Seriously, it's just a series of live on-location commercials. But let me stay on track, regardless of the system, whether the personality is requested by the client, a salesperson who likes a particular jock, an in-house kick-back between the salesperson and a personality, or a devised programming rotation system, there is always someone left out.
I recently wrote a column "Quit Making It About You," but when it comes to money, it's hard not to take it personally. It's a real tricky situation and can be a constant sore spot like it is with this air talent.
Jock: My show gets good ratings and I am beating the other jock across the street by a lot. My PD is always telling me how proud he is of me and what a difference I have made since coming on board. I have been here almost two years and if I am doing so well ... how come I don't get many remotes? They told me I would get remotes; I am lucky if I get one a month. Sometimes I get requested but if it falls up on the time of my air shift, my PD says it's more important I am at the station to do my show.
Coach: Were the paid remotes a contractual thing?
Jock: No, they just told me I would get my share. The young lady I replaced used to get a lot.
Coach: Let's keep the focus on you and not your predecessor. This kind of thing is delicate and a constant source of irritation at stations. So nothing was promised, but you are right ... fair is fair. Without being there, I am sure there are other factors involved, but I advise you to be pleasantly persistent in your efforts to find out why you are not being used much. Has anyone ever said they don't like how you handle personal appearances or paid remotes?
Jock: No, I have been here almost a year and have only done a handful; no one has said I am not doing a good job when I do them.
Coach: Well when you ask about how to get more into the mix on remotes, also find out from your PD if there have been any complaints about the job you are doing with them.
Jock: And if she says no problems, what do you suggest?
Coach: I always tell people that time and patience can be your best friend. Instead of waiting for paid remotes, I think you should volunteer for as many public service appearances as possible. Go and shake hands, kiss babies, and meet people. I did this when I was a personality and I would develop relationships which would turn into non-station events that needed my services to MC or host events. The other personalities would try and get out of them, but I turned them into cash opportunities. I am not saying that every person you meet at one of these events will be profitable, but one thing leads to another and before you know it, you're a part of annual events that put cash in your pocket. I used to always tell my air staff this, but only a few followed through and to this day many of those few still do it and are profiting. Meanwhile, the paid remote situation will take care of its self, but won't stop you from making side money legitimately. By the way, remember unless an organization is buying time or has a public service announcement on the air, you can't just mention an event, even if it's a charity if you are being paid to participate.
Jock: This really works?
Coach: Yes, most times personalities don't realize the weight of being on the airwaves. It takes a little time and a lot of smiles and handshakes, but yes, it works.
Jock: Is there anything I can do to get more paid remotes?
Coach: In a fair and balanced radio world, paid remotes would be assigned on an even rotation basis with the exception of an actual verified client request. You need to have your PD and Sales Manager allow you to come to a sales meeting and talk to them about your expertise at remotes and ask them what you need to do for clients to request you more. Yes, I know your Nielsen numbers are great, but this business is not always about ratings. Sometimes it's relationships, timing and playing the game.
Let me share one of my stories with you: There was a young lady who I hired for a drive-time shift who had a tough time getting remotes. As soon as she arrived, I maneuvered her into some good situations, but she managed to alienate sales, a couple of clients and worst all, her fellow announcers. Eventually she stopped getting requested and it became increasingly hard to get her anything. However, her situation brought to light a problem that you're being overlooked for remote requests because they take place during your regular air time.
It is important to understand remotes are not favors to clients, but often money an advertiser would rather spend this way as opposed to traditional commercial spot buys. I have heard some programmers argue that salespeople need to be stronger and not let clients convert spots to remotes.
I recently talked with a Regional VP/Sales who said, "Remotes are helping some markets get dollars they might not get. Things are tight out here and jobs are on the line. I know the other side of the argument is that we are compromising the sound of our stations and the ratings with too many remotes."
Coach: Remember, the station is not your personal agent and the main concern is the presentation to the audience. There is a situation that could work in your favor if it happens. I talked to another PD and he has a policy which I also used: "My jocks understand on-the-air trumps everything. However, I do have a policy for sales that addresses a personality being requested for a remote occurring during their regular shift. There is a huge dollar amount attached, a built-in cost to cover an ISDN line, and money to pay the board op. Trust me, these full-blown live remotes do not happen often. These types of remotes should never be done by phone."
Jock: I understand what you're saying, but it's still not fair. Some of these guys around here get four and five remotes a month. So how should I approach the PD to try and get him to even consider the same type of full-blown remote thing at our place?
Coach: Bring it up in your next one-on-one with your PD; don't do it in a jock meeting. Above all, do not be confrontational ... present it to him calmly. By the way, you also said something about the sound of your station's remotes. Is it technical or in the presentation?
There Is Money To Be Made
Remember, being on the radio is potentially a gateway to making extra money away from the station. I know personalities who also teach, do commercial voiceover work, perform PA (Public Address), work for sports teams, or actually take regular part-time jobs for extra cash. Never count on remotes as a constant revenue source; what you do for a living could open up other doors.