10 Questions with ... Mike Elliott
September 24, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS: My first full time job was doing news at an Urban AC AM daytimer in Lansing, Michigan. I worked nights in Michigan at CHRâ€™s WVIC snd WYSS, and then moved to afternoons in Columbus at Top 40 WWHT and WAKS. Iâ€™ve only been out of work for 2 months since 1989, and when I was, I reinvented myself as a morning show producer to get a gig at Sagaâ€™s AC WSNY for 7 years, then crossed the street to produce Bob Conners on WTVN in 1999; I clawed my way to the PDâ€™s chair. I also currently voice track stations in Columbus (WODC, WBWR, and WCGX) and I do weekend on-air work in Detroit (WDTW) and previously did weekends in Philadelphia (WRFF).
1. How did you get into radio? Why radio?
I had a sweet Panasonic cassette recorder and made goofy recordings since I was 10: mock radio shows, fake sportscasts, and commercials. Iâ€™ve always been intrigued by "behind the scenes," and radio is rich with that.
I'm a wannabe musician, too, so I thought I wanted a career in audio recording; one of the requirements was working the college radio station. I was hooked.
2. You've been with WTVN and the Clear Channel cluster for a long time now -- what's the biggest challenge in keeping the station strong and a market leader? How do you keep WTVN from getting complacent?
Living up to listener expectations every day. Content demand, delivery methods, and, of course, the measurement systems have all changed, so spoken word formats really have to be hyperfocused on content choices. Determining what people REALLY want to hear, and delivering that every day. Coaching my team to do radio from our listenerâ€™s perspective and constantly asking them., â€œwho cares?â€
3. As a PD and producer of a heritage talk station, what's your outlook on talk radio - do you see it becoming less political, staying the same, less conservative, something else? What do you expect talk radio to be like ten years from now?
I think everyone in talk radio agrees it has to change. There is certainly a place for political talk, but it needs to be smarter, hipper, fair, and accessible. We need to be more reflective of the listening audience; so often, we cram down news simply because it came across the wire, or out of DC, or via a press release. When you see television ratings for shows like "Honey Boo Boo" or "Duck Dynasty," but then fail to hear talk stations discussing those shows from a viewer's perspective, there is obviously a disconnect. Locally produced talk radio will be the wave of the future, imagine that! We'll figure out that, done right, good local hosts covering local issues and relating big national news to the local audience is how to win. Look at what great news and talk stations like WLW, WTOP, and KFI (to name a few) all have in common: they all have great local personalities who are ultra-focused on their communities and have great relationships with their audiences.
4. You've had to do things like replace the iconic Bob Conners and handle controversies generated from on-air promotions. With all of that, and keeping in mind that WTVN is a heritage talk station, how hard is it to change an institution like WTVN? How resistant is the audience to change, and how do you introduce new elements and personalities and still maintain the station's image? Is that difficult, easy, or not an issue?
It's difficult. Loyal talk audiences dont like their cheese moved. Funny story to illustrate that point: about a year after Paul Harvey died, we had a guy call up and ask where Paul was. Our phone screener told the man Paul died last year and the caller asked "well, why aren't you talking about it?" Bob Conners did mornings for us for over 3 decades, he was a big deal. We feathered in (current morning host) Joel Riley a la Jay Leno into The Tonight Show. Joel is from Central Ohio, and is well known and was already liked by our listeners. The station's image will always include service elements and news. We have a great information brand on the radio, and will defend that position to the death! Providing that service consistently is the key.
5. What role does social media play in WTVN's daily operations? How do you use them, and how do you want your local hosts and newspeople using them?
People who follow you on social media are clearly craving more from you, and we feed them a pretty steady diet, so itâ€™s very important to be active.
Twitter is where the information is, and appears the fastest, while Facebook is where we talk about it with our audience. Social media consumers are so savvy now and know when they're being sold something and tune it out, or worseâ€¦ drop you. We only use it for promotion in small doses, and only for real meaningful events or listening appointments. Hosts are engaging and asking the same thought provoking questions online as they are on-air. We pride ourselves on breaking local news or sports news stories on Twitter and being the first in the market with breaking news e-blasts. Iâ€™m competitive and aggressive with our digital assets; we really compete with the TV stations and the newspaper. Locally, no other radio station is better at news on social media than we are. Itâ€™s great brand building, and helps maintain the news image and credibility, especially for a younger audience.
6. Of what are you most proud?
I like that Iâ€™m able to still be so multifaceted. Keeping my hand in music radio is important to me and keeps me fresh and relevant. I voice track a number of stations in and out of market, and it allows me to flex my creative muscles.
Iâ€™m also proud that I have not bounced around very much. Iâ€™ve been able to stay at my jobs for long stretches and move upward in the companies that Iâ€™ve worked for. I think it shows dedication and loyalty, both of which are tremendously important, and itâ€™s easier on my family. A wise man once said, "getting the job is the easy part, keeping it is the challenge.â€
7. Who have been your mentors and inspirations in the business?
Ken Calvert in Detroit, who doesn't know I exist, was who I listened to on WRIF growing up in Detroit. He was my absolute favorite. I used to record his morning shows and make my own best-of shows. I also listened to JP McCarthy, Dick Purtan and CKLW.
I worked with Bob Conners for 12 years and still have yet to meet a bigger pro; Darryl Parks and John Crenshaw are two of the smartest programmers out there, and I owe them a ton for helping and coaching me.
I would be remiss if I didnâ€™t mention my wife Erin, who is the Marketing Director for our Top 40 station, WNCI. She has a marketing and PR background, and one day I suggested she take the leap from a PR firm to radio. Now, 7 years later, she is still a huge part of the success WNCI achieves. Iâ€™ve learned more about event planning, branding, and promotions from her than anyone, plus we can carpool to work, so thatâ€™s nice.
8. Say you hadn't gone into radio. What do you think you'd have ended up doing for a living? What would Plan B have been?
Iâ€™d probably own a restaurant. I love food and cooking.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
â€¦doing show prep and consuming tons of news.
10. What was the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Don't quit, and Don't quit. From the same person, who shall remain nameless.