10 Questions with ... Pat O'Neill
March 7, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- KWWK-FM-KOLM-AM/Rochester, MN (1975-1978)
- WIRK-FM/West Palm Beach, FL (1978)
- WCCO-FM/Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (1978-1982)
- KSTP-FM/Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (1983)
- KGLI-FM/Sioux City, IA (1983)
- WMGN-FM/Madison 1983 to Present
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
We moved to a new neighborhood when I was 11. Before I could make any friends, I discovered WISM-A 1480 in Madison. I remember that summer's hits like it was yesterday! Songs like (Marvin Gaye "Mercy Mercy Me", Carol King "It's too late", Tommy James "Draggin' The Line", John Denver "Take Me Home Country Roads".
2) What makes the Madison market unique? How does this compare to other markets you have worked at?
Mid-West Family is an employee-owned, "live and local" radio company and has been since 1959. Public Radio is strong here and soon will celebrate 100 years. Madison itself is beautiful, with our downtown situated between two lakes. Historic preservation is big. We're "foodies," with four James Beard chef nominations this year. Drive five miles south of the capital building and you'll see cows. I hear the nightlife is good, but since I get up at 3:30 am I can't confirm that.
3) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Most companies have given up on creating great local radio. Every winning station I've known had a relationship with its listener beyond "10-In-A-Row."
4) How are you using social media to market your radio station?
We try to make Facebook about our listeners instead of us. Every post is signed by a talent. We keep the conversation going on the weekend too.
5) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
I answer every call to our morning show. Our staff responds to every E-mail and Facebook post. We have an active "Listener Club" that gives us immediate feedback.
6) How are you using new technologies in your personal life to listen to music, and what observations have you made about how today's listeners use technology?
Thanks to All Access for music downloads (although I miss CDs in the mail). Our listeners say they have lots of choices for pure music, but come back to Magic 98 for entertainment and information they can't get from a national service. They know what's local and what's canned. A simple app and glitch-free stream is important to our listeners.
7) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
Jonathan Little and Charlie Simon let me hang around WISM-AM/Madison, WI when I was a teenager answering my endless questions. Both are great friends to this day. Chicago voice talent Peter Dean taught me about high standards. When Chuck Knapp took over KS95 he dismantled the station I was working for and gave me an opportunity to learn from him. Former Magic 98 GM Bill Vancil believed in a fun, creative atmosphere. "Consultant" doesn't begin to describe Tim Moore of Audience Development Group, who has hosted morning shows and owned stations. Talent coach Tommy Kramer is drop dead honest. And for a "radio hero" I never met, Paul Harvey for his brilliant writing and work ethic.
8) What is the most rewarding promotion you've ever been a part of?
In 1991, we learned of an out-of-work listener facing a tough Wisconsin winter. We arranged for a client to provide her with a new winter coat. Magic's "Holiday Wish" grew from there, and now listeners and clients contribute thousands to this annual campaign. The surprise phone calls we make to grant the wishes are genuine and emotional.
9) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Be yourself, but notice the best qualities of the best performers. Find someone to give you feedback. Be a friend to your listener. They don't like it when you "talk up the ramp,"
10) What is the one truth that has held constant in your career?
When it comes to radio stations, "different" can win. "Better" usually doesn't.
If copycat stations don't last it's often because they have no second act planned.
What has been Magic 98's biggest accomplishment?
We debuted #1 with women in 1984 and are still #1 in 2016. We're consistent, but constantly tinkering. Some great talent (Bob Bonner, Sara Freeman, Kathryn Vaughn) have been here since the 80s. Personalities like Lanette Hansen and Ginger Martin are true friends with their listener. Ownership values and protects the station.