10 Questions with ... Cindy Miller
June 14, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WWGZ - 1993 - 1995
- WWBN - 1995 - 1997
- WABX - 1997 - 2004
- WBYR - 2004 - 2006
- WOTT - 2007
- WSFL - 2007 to present
- WXNR - 2009 to present
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
I worked on a Classic Country AM dawn-to-dusk station, making minimum wage. Everyone I ever worked with, even to this day, has had an influence on me in some way. Everyone has something to teach -- whether it's a new skill or what not to do. I had a great GM at my first PD gig, Rob Burton, who used to let me come in his office, scream my head off and lay on his couch so I wouldn't flip out on anyone. He just kept working while I did it. He used to tell me that I couldn't hold everyone to my standards and that the bar has to be changed for each person based on their abilities.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I listened to CKLW out of Canada when I was growing up in Michigan -- loved it. I never really thought about going into radio at that time, but I wrote for a newspaper and bartended, then tried my hand at being a club DJ (I sucked) until a friend told me that since I liked music and had a big mouth, I should be on the radio. My Mom was a prize pig at a local station, so she called to ask if they were hiring and the rest is history.
3) What makes your station or market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
We are in one of the largest geographic markets that Arbitron measures, serving several distinctly different audiences. What works for one group in one area may not be of interest to another; it's challenging. I've worked for stations with wide coverage before, but never one with an audience that is so diverse.
4) How do you feel terrestrial radio competes with the satellite radio and Internet these days?
Local radio has always had and continues to have a personal relationship with the listener; nobody else can do it -- not satellite, not the Internet, not TV, not an iPod. You can call a radio station and talk to the jock ... and now with e-mail, Twitter, FB and texting, a listener can connect one-on-one with the person in the studio in the way that is the easiest and most comfortable for them. Local radio supports and serves the community in which it is based in a way that just can't be done with any other type of media.
(The last time I answered a question like this for the trades, a satellite radio show called me out on the air and said I must be a fat pig because the photo on my station website was just a headshot. Must have hit a nerve. And dang if I haven't gained a few pounds since then ... crap.)
5) If you could add any one full-time position to your budget with no questions asked, what would it be?
As much as I would love another full-time jock, it would probably have to be an Imaging Director. Andy at Longtrain Productions does a stellar job for both my Rock stations, but we never seem to have enough left at the end of the month to get everything we want. I need Andy full-time! Since the music rarely changes on a Classic Rock station the only way to keep things fresh is with imaging and off-the-wall promotions. We do a great job of coming up with ideas, but there's just never enough time to produce them all ourselves.
6) What was the biggest gaffe you've made on-air? (dead air ... forget a mic was still on ... etc.)
Running the board for the morning show during a remote, I did a cross-talk with the guys and turned down their mics, but forgot to turn mine off. I was wearing headphones so I had no idea it was still on. When I went to fire the next cart (it was a looooong time ago!), it wasn't cued up so I got dead air and yelled F*CK at the top of my lungs ... and did I mention earlier in this paragraph that my mic was on?
7) What is the most rewarding promotion or activity your station has ever been involved with to benefit the community or a charity?
There have been a ton of great moments where you really feel like you've DONE something, and I'm grateful for each and every opportunity. The one that touched me the most was when we granted a Christmas wish for a WSFL listener who needed a new prosthetic leg. Colleen Jackson, the PD of our A/C station, had a P1 listener who worked at a prosthetic clinic, which happened to be the same place that our WSFL listener had been to for his original work. He had lost his insurance and couldn't afford a replacement for his worn prosthetic, so we were able to work out a trade for the new leg. I had the honor of calling our listener to grant his wish and the emotion and the tears in his voice ... I still get chills. I will never ever forget that call.
8) How often do you do remotes and which work best for the station?
It seems like it's either feast or famine around here ... a ton or none. Spring and summer are always big because there are so many outdoor events happening and we cover such a large territory that we're running wild across Eastern Carolina. It always works best when client is a partner and participates in putting on an event, rather than just having a remote. Sometimes it doesn't even matter if you're giving away a great prize; if it doesn't sound like fun, nobody will show up. People are so much busier than they used to be; it's hard to get them to change their plans for a free DVD, so you have to work hard to make it sound like they're missing out if they don't join you
9) How do you interact with your sales staff?
As scary as it sounds, I'd like to spend more time with my sales staff. Because we cover such a large area we have three different sales staffs -- one in the studio building and two in other buildings that are 45 minutes away. We keep up via e-mail and phone, but I miss the solidarity of having them all nearby. I stay in closer touch with core reps for each station, and I try to share my excitement about promotional ideas with them, and I also try to be a cheerleader when they pull off something cool.
10) In today's world of multi-tasking and wearing many hats, how do you find time to show prep and what sources do you use?
I come in much earlier than I used to, about two-and-a-half hours before I go on the air. My midday show is pretty at-work focused and music-driven, so I don't do bits or anything, but I make sure that I have something to say. If listeners are gonna give me their most precious commodity, their time, then I don't want to waste it. I check all the local and national news sites, sports sites, Facebook -- someone is always posting something funny. I have several rock news websites bookmarked. I keep a running show prep document where I save everything, then delete it after I use it. Some great stuff isn't dated, so I can use it later if it ties into something in the news or whatever.
What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Being a PD is like being the teacher on a field trip with kindergarteners every day ... clever, funny, talented kindergarteners
What is the best advice you would give to young programmers/promotion people?
Eat it, sleep it, breathe it, love it. Work your ass off and take pride in what you do; you make the difference every day
What gets you upset at work and how do you channel your anger?
I have a lot of hot buttons at work and can get pretty fired up, but it really comes down to people who don't care -- that's what makes me insane. If you don't care or if you hate what you're doing, then STOP DOING IT ... go find another line of work. If you don't have the skills but you try ... I am good with that, I love you for that. People who truly have talent and are content to do only what they have to in order to get by? Well, I just don't understand that. I don't do this job and work these hours because they pay me an outrageous amount of money, I do this job because I love it, I care about the listeners and the radio stations and I take personal pride in everything I do. I have a heavy bag in my office and when it gets to the point where I'm about to lose it I can take a couple swings. I also have a great support system both in and out of the building -- radio junkies who I can vent to.
What do you like best about working in this format?
Right now, Classic Rock is comfort food for your ears. With all the worries about jobs, gas prices and the economy, you can turn on a Classic Rock station and go back to a great memory or a better time. It's always great to get calls from listeners who haven't heard a certain song in a long time, or they wanna talk about a great show they saw years ago. The artists are larger than life and the passion for the format is still strong, and many younger demos are finding their way to Classic Rock through video games and reality TV. There are a lot of great new rock bands out there with solid songs, but how many people can name a member other than the lead singer?
Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
There's plenty of room for improvement in all areas; I never stop learning and growing. I'd like to learn Photoshop ... that one escapes me, and I'd love to have more time to play with production and imaging
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
First woman president of the U.S. ... or Steven Tyler's girlfriend.