10 Questions with ... Dennis Clark
November 17, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Dennis Clark is VP/Talent Development for iHeartMedia. He is also one of the most admired people in the business, both in the U.S. and in the many countries around the world where he has worked throughout his career. We are thrilled that he has been so gracious as to share some of his expertise with us.
1) You're an extremely busy guy and spend quite a bit of time on the road. Now that you are in charge of the talent development division at iHeartMedia, can you give us a glimpse of what a typical work day looks like for you, if there is such a thing?
A typical day never looks the same for me. However, it's always about being on e-mail, helping shows, having headphones on with my laptop listening to airchecks, and sitting on planes. But the most important thing for me is meeting shows in person. That always works best for me. I always feel that you have to listen to the radio shows before you meet the team. I've heard some horror stories of other coaches listening to shows off the web and making opinions on that. I actually like to listen to my shows directly from the radio.
2) For up-and-coming morning show producers, and even established ones, what are some of the key elements that they must adhere to at all times, regardless of format, market size, target audience, etc.?
The most important thing, not only for producers but also for talent themselves, is to fit on the station that you're broadcasting on. Make sure the station's brand is compatible with the type of show you do. So many radio shows try to sound the same and create competitive clocks that go against your clocks. But none of that would work unless you have a strong station brand and your show is part of that station brand with a little bit of that sexy difference that really matters in connecting with listeners. The most important thing for me is to get the brand values of the show clear. I coach to those brand values and make sure the roles and content are all interesting and amplify the show and the station's brand.
3) We know that social media has changed the landscape of radio tremendously. In your opinion, what are the benefits that you've seen and how can it enhance a morning show's performance?
Social media is a perfect companion to radio listening. I compare this to live tweeting/posting during an awards show or a sports event. Social media is about now and it is a perfect mirror to blend life and life happenings into a radio show on the air and then off the air through the wonderful gifts that social media gives us in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
4) Can you give a recent example of a station that is doing an exceptionally good job in utilizing social media?
The best examples of shows doing an excellent job at social media are shows like Elvis Duran and the morning show, the Bobby Bones show, Ryan Seacrest, and the Breakfast Club, to name a few. I am very impressed with the people on those shows and how they play to their on-air role on social media as well. But I must say that it's not a taught skill. It is one that each and every member of the show is motivated to do; they all build a fan base and create fans by satisfying their needs and connecting to each and every one of those listeners.
5) Consolidation, budget cuts, and cyber-jocking, among other things, have made talent development more challenging. Given this environment and cliché as it may sound, where and how do you find and develop the next generation of talent?
Consolidation has flushed out a bit of the old-fashioned way we used to do radio shows and has brought forward a new generation of radio performers who really get companionship and how audio is being used lately. I say this because we're seeing a huge surge in podcasting activity. A good podcast is fine to listen to once or twice, but when it becomes routine and builds a huge fan base, that to me is exactly where the new generation of talent can come from. We're seeing a lot of success out of spinning off personalities from larger shows, such as Carla Marie and Anthony of the Elvis Duran show with their podcast, "My Day Friday," and Angela Yee, who is part of the Breakfast Club, doing her own podcast called "Lip Service." So the new generation of talent is all about connecting with an audience and what I call making sure the personality of talent is "subscribable," where eventually listeners will pay for your audio because your shows and your broadcasts are so compelling and important to them.
6) In your work with talent and morning shows, what role does market research play? How should PDs and producers ideally utilize market research for their shows?
Research is and always has been a huge ingredient to why I'm able to coach shows so well. Whether it's doing strategic studies that focus on images or conducting more in-depth focus groups, quality research studies with companies like yours* are vital to get to the heart of what listeners think of a particular show. We can gain valuable insights from research into how we can make our show better and whether or not our station or our show is healthy for the future. Research is super-important so that we can we build toward success and create a better product.
7) One of the more common takeaways that we find in doing research on morning shows, especially for shows with larger teams, is to make sure that all of the members of the show are as clearly defined as possible. What are some of the other common takeaways that you find from market research studies on morning shows?
I have five things that I see in every research study that pop up all the time.
The #1 thing that comes up in research studies in all of my morning shows with roles is which one is which character? So my constant buzz term is to "SAY YOUR NAMES!" It's been my consulting statement for probably 20 years now, only because we see so much confusion with new listeners not knowing which character is which -- and that's even after a listener has become a regular user of a show for more than five years. Role work is obviously very important and it even makes the "which one is which on the show" print deeper if there's a super-mom, single guy, crazy guy, etc. But sometimes role work can be a little unclear to the listener's ear, so that's why saying your name and what they do for the listener during the show on a daily basis is really important.
8) When you spoke at Radio Days this past March in Milan, you explained that relevance was an especially important quality for a successful morning show. Knowing what your listeners are talking about right now seems to be a key ingredient in achieving this success. How do you suggest that a radio station gain this relevance?
Relevance is vital. Relevance is important for life in general right now. No matter what your age, having an incessant focus on what your life will be about tomorrow and what's going on with your life today is just as important as building a radio show. All of the shows I work with spend a substantial amount of time with prep, focusing on the listeners' needs, connecting with listeners via social media after the show, and teasing forward to the next day's show. Because of the presence of social media and how much of it is out there, that makes shows, teams, stations, and personalities focus on connecting with their audience on a 24-hour basis like friends. Knowing what people are talking about, knowing the buzz, knowing the vibe, and having real strong angles on what is happening out in the world is really important to any radio show's success whether it's a music show or spoken word show.
9) What are the major differences between radio in the US and radio overseas, for instance?
All radio stations inspire me somehow to create great shows. I always enjoyed my work in Australia because I thought they had a huge amount of ideas and always tried to get those ideas on the air and make it so the listener connects to those ideas. Radio in Europe is fascinating because it is very similar to the U.S. where we have a huge presence of national radio shows, but at the same time, local stations are really successful and are winning the race against the big national stations that have huge budgets and attract large talent. So really, I think there are no differences. Each and every radio station has to create a competitive strategy to compete with what is available for a listener to connect with your show.
10. What was it that initially attracted you to consulting radio stations outside of the U.S.? How has radio overseas changed since that time and what can U.S. radio stations learn from this evolution?
I am proud to say that I got the consulting bug to work outside of the United States upon landing at a MIDEM in 1990! I was just happy to help broadcasters.
When you get a chance to "unplug" is there hobby or activity outside of radio that you enjoy?
When I get a chance to unplug, there's nothing like catching up on a bunch of movies that I never saw.
Growing up, did you already know you wanted to be in radio or did you wish to do something else, and if so what was it?
I'm originally from the Lake Tahoe area and I thought the best job in the world was hole-punching ski lift tickets as skiers would head up to the mountain. I felt it was all about the chairlift operator and if he's a in a good mood, you know you'll be in a good mood all day!!
Interview conducted by Global Media Research and Consulting Partners, who specialize in providing the highest quality and most innovative market research and programming/marketing consulting services to the entertainment industry.
Stuart Saunders - Managing Partner E-mail: Stuart@GlobalMediaRCP.com Phone: +1 917 332 7559
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