10 Questions with ... Jeremy Lawrence
February 12, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Got into radio as a part timer on a small town station in Celina, OH. Ended up full time there before working in Midland, Michigan at Family Life Radio. Took a brief detour into Promotions at WBCL in Fort Wayne, Indiana, before I found out how much fun the talk format is at the legendary WOWO in Fort Wayne. From there, I became Brand Manager/Program Director for Newstalk 96.5 KPEL in Lafayette, LA.
1. How did you get into radio in the first place? What drew you to going into radio?
I found myself attracted to radio as a kid because it sounded like those guys were having a lot of fun when I listened (which was whenever I could). When I heard about my first station needing help, I did everything wrong when applying and found an understanding PD that let me in the building anyway. From there, I did everything I could and did everything that was asked of me, no matter how small because I found out that getting behind that microphone was a lot of fun. Now, I'm just hoping that no one has any tapes of what happened back then because, well, let's just say I've learned an awful lot since then.
2. Similarly, how did you transition into both your PD position and to hosting your own talk show? How difficult a transition was it to go from anchoring news to hosting a talk show?
The transition was not a hard one to get into a PD role. So many things that I had done, from on-air to promotions to remotes to even a little sales got me ready to deal with the ins and outs of being a PD. As I've said to many people, some days are a lot more fun than others in the job, but I've enjoyed doing it. Programming a station with the right shows has been rewarding and I have loved being able to introduce our listeners to a new breed of talk shows.
Hosting a talk show was something that I got a little taste of and knew that I wanted to do it. Really, the transition between anchoring news and hosting the show was not extremely difficult. With one, you are staying on top of what is happening in the area and with the other, you are guiding the discussion about it with listeners. I think the thing that has helped the transition is that I was trained under Peter Brooks at Family Life Radio about being myself on the air and really being personality radio. In addition, I continue to keep up with consultants like Tommy Kramer, who is one of the geniuses of the business.
3. You've been in Lafayette for the last two years - how did you get to know the market, and how long did it take for you to get a feel for the area and what issues and interests are paramount for people there?
In my position, I need to keep up with the news as I coach the news personalities. That has certainly helped, but I have to hand it to my listeners, who have given me an education on what is most important to them. I think it also helps to have a life outside the station and friends that I talk to on a regular basis. They help me know that some of the things that I might think are important are really not as big a deal as I think they are and vice versa. Truthfully, you always learn new things about the audience you serve so getting to know a market never truly ends.
4. As a PD, what makes a good show -- local or syndicated -- to you? What do you like to hear in a talk show; what's "good talk radio"?
A lot of things occur to me, but I think it comes down to two things: forward momentum and engaging the listener. Keeping a show moving in the right direction will make people want to listen to you so they don't miss a thing. Also, you need to make sure that you are reflecting what people are talking about. If it is politics, then it is, but if it is something like Star Wars or even red light cameras (which is a huge concern with our listeners), whatever it is, you need to make sure you are paying attention and doing things that will keep listeners focused on what you are doing. That has proven a good strategy for us as we have seen our local shows and recent comer Andy Dean really getting a full head of steam.
5. How are you using social media in conjunction with your show? Is it a prep source, is it a listener engagement tool, is it entertainment, all of the above, none, some? You recently started to tweet again after a long absence -- what prompted the return and how are you finding it so far? And you continue to keep up your blog -- what role does that play in your daily media regimen?
It really is a little bit of everything. One of the things that we decided to do two years ago was talk to our listeners through Facebook and use it to interact with them during live shows. That moved us from around 450 likes to our current level of around 3,750. That seems to track well with what other news/talk stations are doing in similar sized markets.
When I first started using Twitter in 2009, I was really struck by the difference between it and Facebook. While Facebook encouraged conversation, Twitter seemed to go a totally different route. So far, I am trying to get a feel for the differences and similarities and figure out the best way to interact with people using it. Personally, I think that any social media that encourages conversation is better, particularly in the talk format.
I started my blog a few years ago just to exercise my other love, which is writing. I used to update every day, but now I am finding that I generally only get to update it once a week. I guess as it comes to what I pay attention to on a daily basis, it hasn't changed a lot. Ultimately, I look to get to the bottom of everything as I read different media. That means not believing everything you read and using critical thinking to get the truth.
6. How do you do your show prep? What do you use, and what's your process?
I use a lot of things in preparing for the show. I read major news sources, Drudge, Glenn Beck's The Blaze and even what you find on MSN. I have found all of them to be a good source of material for more national stories. For local material, I peruse our station's variety of stories that we have tackled, but I also look over Dead Pelican, which is a Drudge-like alternative for the state of Louisiana.
When it comes to the process, I guess I just look over to see what listeners are going to respond to. I know certain issues are touch points for the local audience, so they might get a little more attention. In addition, I try to spend what time I can developing about three or four possibilities. That way, if the main topic I choose doesn't work, I can always fall back on another one. That way I am prepared for just about anything.
7. Who are your mentors and/or influences, in radio and in life?
In radio, as I mentioned before, I enjoy the coaching and ideas of Tommy Kramer. He is rather blunt at times, but most times it is exactly what you need.
In life, I am influenced everyday by my wife and kids. They keep me grounded and at the end of the day, they are what matters most to me, without a doubt.
8. What do you do for fun?
I have always enjoyed playing video games when I get a chance. Also, I am in process on about three or four different ideas for a novel. I don't write as much as I'd like, but it is one of the things I love to do most.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
If there is one thing you can count on, things are going to change. Sometimes that is something you like and sometimes it is something that you don't. You need to make sure that you stay grounded and stay connected to those that know you and love you no matter what. They will keep you being yourself, no matter where the career guides you.