How Today's On-Air Talent Should Spend Their Time
September 30, 2014
Let's face it, in this day and age, very few people in radio are doing just one job. As an industry, we've used voice-tracking technology as an opportunity to cut costs by doubling-up our duties. Increasingly, the off-air Program Director, Music Director, Production Director, and even Promotions Director are becoming roles of the past.
Ultimately, I think this trend harms the industry more than it helps. The bottom line is that companies can't grow their revenues by cutting costs. But don't pigeon-hole me as your typical "live and local" cheerleader reminiscing about the days of yore. I absolutely think that voice-tracking should be used to free air talent up so they can do more; I just don't think that "more" means they should spend their time doing tasks that require a completely different skillset.
At the end of the day, being a programmer and being an on-air talent require different -- albeit related -- sets of skills. There are great programmers who are good jocks, and great jocks who are good programmers, but it is rare to find a great programmer who is also a great jock. And even if you do find one, he or she probably struggles to find the time and energy to excel at both. If you want great jocks and great programming, you need to give these roles to different people.
Too often, we justify "good enough" on-air talent in the name of cost cutting. This is a mistake for our industry. On-air talent is one of radio's biggest differentiators. Pandora doesn't have it. Spotify doesn't have it. iTunes doesn't have it. We do.
So let's make the most of it.
Instead of minimizing our air talent, we should maximize it. We should not put our disc jockeys in a position where their show is an afterthought because they are rushing to cut the day's spots or finish the music log. We should put them in a position to focus on the content that they are putting out.
CONTENT MARKETING FOR RADIO
But when I say, "focus on the content," I don't just mean focus on the quality of the content that jocks produce. I also mean the quantity. Today's jocks should be voicetracking their airshifts to allow them to do more. More what? More content creation.
Radio stations should be employing a content marketing strategy to build an audience both on the air and online. This strategy requires the creation of lots of quality content. Not all of that content needs to go on the air. In fact, today's disc jockeys should spend a significant amount of time creating content that only goes on the web.
Voicetraking is what frees them up to do so.
Below is an example of how an afternoon drive jock, who is not pulling double-duty, could spend their time on a daily basis. Please note that this is just an example, and that different stations or even different days would call for different schedules. The point of this example is to illustrate how on-air talent can use voicetracking to spend more time creating online content.
12:00 - 12:15p: Plan. Spend 15 minutes looking over your To Do list and preview your day. If you find that time management is an issue, I highly recommend reading David Allen's Getting Things Done. There are dozens of way to implement the GTD system. I use an app called Remember the Milk on my iPad. Find a system that works for you.
12:15 - 1:00p: Answer email. Let's face it, our inboxes run our lives these days. Stick your sack lunch in the fridge and dig out.
1:00 - 2:30p: Prep and voicetrack. The internet has made show prep faster and easier than ever. Ideally, you have set us an RSS reader like Feedly to pull RSS feeds from all of your reliable content sources. (Here's a list of ten content sources every jock should use.) At the very least, you should have these sites bookmarked in your browser for easy access. Voicetrack as much of your show as possible. Yes, there may be reasons why you can't voicetrack every break -- contests, phone-heavy segments, traffic windows, live remotes, etc. -- but the more of your time you can free up, the better.
2:00 - 4:00p: Book, conduct, and edit interviews. The internet allows jocks to create a lot of longer, niche audio content that might not be right for broadcasting, but is perfect to make available online for on-demand listening. Jocks should aim to conduct several audio interviews a week. These interviews can be with big musical superstars, but can also be interesting people within your local community. Work with your Program Director, Music Director, or Sales Department to line up interviews with local musicians, sports players, hot chefs, event organizers, stand up comedians, and more.
Record these interviews, edit them, and upload them to your podcast stream (hosted on LibSyn or Blubrry). Post them to Soundcloud as well, so they can be easily shared on social media. You may also want to make a YouTube version.
4:00 - 4:45p: Grab that sack lunch from the fridge and enjoy. Wander the building and chat with your coworkers (it's fine -- their productivity level dropped an hour ago, anyway).
4:45 - 6:00p: Write. Aim to publish at least one solid blogpost each day. (Here's a content calendar template to help you plan.) Writing can be difficult if you don't know what to write about, so use some simple formulas for inspiration: Review an album or concert, preview an upcoming movie, publish a Q&A with an interesting person from the community, recap a TV show from the previous night, write about yesterday's sports game, highlight a local Kickstarter project, etc. These blogposts don't need to be long, just interesting. Aim for 250 to 500 words.
Make sure your post includes at least one image, a well-written headline, and is optimized for search engines. (This last step will be a lot easier if your station's website is built on Wordpress with something like the Wordpress SEO Plugin by Yoast, and your webmaster has given you a 10-minute crash course in search engine optimization; if not, there's not a whole lot you can do here.)
6:00 - 6:45p: Manage social media. Schedule social media posts to go out on both the station's network and your own professional network. A social media management tool like Hootsuite will make this much easier. Remember, links that drive traffic back to your radio station's website are more valuable than links to other people's sites (that's why you spent all of that time creating content!).
Also, don't just talk. Use social media to listen as well. This means responding to what other people say online. Aim to spend at least half your time replying to blog comments, leaving your own comments on other people's blogs, replying and retweeting on Twitter, contributing in forums and discussion groups, and responding to content written by others on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Remember, there's nothing worse than somebody who always talks and never listens -- even on social media.
6:45 - 7:00p: Preview tomorrow's list of tasks before you head home for the night.
For most of today's jocks, this schedule represents a major departure from their current routine -- especially if they are pulling double duty. The only way to work like this is if your management team buys into the idea that content creation, especially online content creation, is a high priority for on-air talent. If they don't, this schedule isn't going to happen. I've written this example so that PDs, OMs, and GMs, as well as jocks, can see how a content marketing strategy could be implemented at a radio station.