10 Questions with ... Mary McKenna
September 20, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Wilks Broadcasting's KFKF/Kansas City, 1986-2011
- Bonneville Broadcasting's KMBZ/Kansas City, 1980-1986
- Nominated Top (Large Market) Radio Personality with the Academy of Country Music 1996
- Winner Top (Large Market) Radio Personality with The Country Radio Broadcasters 2003
- Winner Missouri Broadcasters Award of Excellence 2000, 2001, and 2002
- Nominated Top (Large Market) Radio Personality with the Country Music Association 1991, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004
1. First, back to the beginning of your career -- what drew you to radio news, and radio in general? Â When you were deciding on a career, what attracted you to the radio business?Â
Initially, I was going to be a television meterologist, but that took way too many physics classes in college, so I turned my attention to radio news.Â Â I was responsible for the 3:55 pm news update on KCMW-FM at the university-managed public radio station... by 3:54, I had broken out in hives from nerves. How could I give allÂ that up?
2. Let's talk about the current show you're doing on KCMO -- describe what the show's about, and what makes it different from what else is out there in talk radio. Â What's a typical show like? Â What roles do you, Darcie, and Mindy play on the show, if any in particular -- who does what?
The Radio Dish is a very smart andÂ approachable show.Â We'reÂ on the air each SaturdayÂ to talk to our listeners and toÂ each other.Â We're absolutelyÂ not stuffy -- We do have guests who address a variety of women's issues and topics, but first and foremost, we have a lot of fun.Â DependingÂ on your timing, you might call us your favorite coffee klatch, or, better yet,Â an early happyÂ hour with the girls.Â Â Â WeÂ launched the show in mid-June following the demise of two mainstream AC stations inÂ the Kansas City market.Â We host, produce, and sell commercials, and I have learned a new appreciation for radio sales and how difficult the job can be.Â
As far as roles go: I guess you could say I drive the bus. After 25 years in morning radio, I have finally become accountable to a clock and my partner and former Program Director at KFKF in Kansas City,Â Dale Carter,Â would be proud of the fact I can finally tell time.Â Darcie Blake, a dear friend and competitor in news and later in mornings at KUDL-FM in Kansas City, would be the nice one, usually apologizing for something tastelessÂ I mayÂ have just said.Â She is so well-rounded and can adaptÂ to any and all situations.Â And Mindy Hart, who had never done radio before this venture, is our executive producer, who crunches the numbers, keeps us on task, closes theÂ sale, and bringsÂ more thanÂ 20 years experience in non-profits benefiting woman and children.
3. You've been a news anchor and a morning co-host in the Kansas City market for several years; how has the adjustment to talk radio been for you? Â What's been necessary for you to learn anew after all these years in news and on the KFKF morning show?Â
You can never be too prepped for your show.Â In music radio, there is always time to regroup during the song, but in talk radio, that luxury is gone.Â I have a genuine gift ofÂ gab, but there's got to be a road map.Â Â Â If you don't know where you're headed in the first place,Â you'll find yourself wandering the desert.Â What IÂ mean to say is... wait a minute... I forgot what my point was....
4. You've had to take the step of brokering the time to get the show on the air, something that appears to be trending upward for radio veterans who want to make the transition to talk radio. Â What have been the challenges of doing it on your own so far? Â What's been the toughest part of it, and what's the most rewarding part?Â
The toughest part has got to be writing the check to the station!!Â Seriously, in this economy,Â It's difficult to sell advertising right now, be it print, television, orÂ radio, and as a brokered show, we have found it difficult to getÂ past preconceivedÂ notions on what a successful show is or is not.Â We are truly a destination on a Saturday afternoon.Â Our listeners setÂ an appointment to hear us.Â And our advertisers are being rewarded with a aÂ loyal niche audience that actually "listens."Â Â We have purposely sold commercial time to clients who make sense for our audience.Â
The most rewarding part has been the steadyÂ growth of the show.Â The dream that it might be successful is closer to a reality each and every day.
5. How have Facebook and Twitter, if at all, changed how you do your work?Â Is there a place for social media in your work, or is it more valuable as a personal thing?Â
Facebook is our friend.Â As a brokered show, we had to be able to show potential advertisers growth and potential growth and Facebook allowed that to happen.Â Facebook is not a luxury, but a necessity.Â We incorporate it in all of our sales with socal media links between us, the radio station, and our advertisers, and we use Facebook as an on airÂ tool, posting topics and questions long before we hit the studio, giving us great feedback before we everÂ crack the mic.
6. Who have been your mentors and inspirations in the business?
I admire Becky Brenner, who recently left KMPS in Seattle.Â She has been a role model for me, and, I am sure for so many other women in radio.Â Dean JamesÂ (President at Dean James & Associates), who wasÂ a former Program DirectorÂ at KFKFÂ in Kansas City, taught me a long time ago to have fun and stop trying to be funny.Â Jaye Albright, Partner at Albright & O'Malley Country Consulting and Owner, RadioIQ,Inc., once told me to stop being such a *itch on the air.Â Â This was early in my career in morning radio and I didn't get it.... but, years later, I understood what she meant, and, as usual, she was right.
Also, my Radio Dish partners, who allow meÂ to be a *itch at times... Dick Wilson with KCMO FM andÂ David Lawrence formerluy with WDAF (106.5 The Wolf)Â in Kansas City, who taught me you didn't have to move all over the country to be successful in this business... PD and city councilman Dale Carter,Â who trulyÂ is one of the last of the nice guys... Dan Wastler,Â who has helped us every step of the way in the launch of The Radio Dish... andÂ Skip Mahaffey (1340 TanTalk) in Florida, who is fighting the good fight in brokered radio as well,Â and occassionally allows me to vent.
7. About talk radio and women: We've seen attempts made to appeal to women with blatantly "female appeal" talk (family issues, health issues) and with Us Weekly-InTouch morning show-style talk (celebrity gossip, reality show updates). As a woman doing a show about and for women, what approach are you taking, and what do you think women want to hear in a talk radio show? Â Is there such a thing as talk-for-women?
Is there such a thing as talk for women?Â Yes.Â The Radio Dish. Enough with the self-promotion...Â I have learned a lot about marketing in the past few months.Â Â
We have a segment called The Dirty Dishes where we "dish," if you will, pop culture and odds and ends from Hollywood... we talk about our own lives and our families.Â Â You know,Â It's funny: When we first startedÂ promoting this idea of a woman-inspired talk show to programmers in Kansas City, we were countered with "It's been tried before"... dare I say, "evergreen"?Â Truthfully, The Radio DishÂ couldÂ and would be a welcome morning show anywhere in this country.Â We're very mainstream, and have a good deal of men listening to the program.Â We don't dive head first into politics -- there's more than enough of that on the radio -- and we don't talk sports.Â WeÂ offer anÂ alternative.Â We cover the hot topics, and thenÂ go deeper into areas women may want to knowÂ more about, be it health, fashion, or parenting.Â It's very three-dimensional.
8. Of what are you most proud?Â
Launching a successful and growing radioÂ show with great friends who are still great friends: It can be done.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day withoutÂ ____________.
...immense amounts of caffeine and tons of praise, for, truly, I am a radio dork needing daily affirmations.
10. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?Â
Eliminate "I should" from your vocabulary and replace it with "I shall". I shall be sucessful... say it... mean it... live it.Â Hopefully, I will learn to put this in practice.