10 Questions with ... Kevin Gardner
September 29, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
WWPT/Philadelphia, WOKB/Orlando, FL, WWPD/Florence, SC., KDKO/Denver, WWDM/Columbia, SC., WDJY-WJZE/Washington, DC, WDAS/Philadelphia, WHBX/Tallahassee, FL., WKJS/Richmond, VA., WCFB/Orlando, FL, KRNB/Dallas, TX.
1. What is your programming philosophy when it comes to dealing with staff?
Office politics play a part in every situation you enter into as a manager. Tenure in the building, traditional roles versus multi-roles and whatever has been allowed to become part of the company culture all play a part. Who ultimately has authority and what happens in your building when departments and talent get different directives and mixed messages from programming, sales, promotions and/or the VP/GM? This can be very confusing if not addressed and snipped early and can cause the downfall of any great brand or company.
You can eliminate a lot of the confusion by clearly defining roles, chain of command and letting everyone know who is responsible for what and if issues arise, how they should be handled and reported. But after sharing these roles, they must also be solidified through actions because saying one thing and doing another contributes to the team's chaos.
The other key thing to remember is that everyone wants the same thing and that's for the radio station to be successful. If you keep that in mind when confronting issues, you'll address them in a more positive manor, not send micro-inequities when dealing with the individuals involved and handle situations so they become growth opportunities for your organization.
2. Could you give some advice to other programmers and personalities on how to spend time when on the beach?
Enjoy your down time because it's not going to last. Take the time to decompress and enrich yourself by reading that book you've been putting off because of your busy schedule, or take that class online that you were interested in and spend quality time with family and friends. I would also encourage that you stay connected to the industry via the Internet and by continuing to network, so when you're next opportunity knocks, you'll be ready to answer.
3. How do you view programming in a PPM-measured market versus a market with diaries?
There are several differences comparing PPM versus diary, but the one thing that is consistent between the two is building a brand that engages your listeners on an emotional level. There's a reason that with all the music choices there are today, listeners tune in daily to terrestrial radio and that's because they want to connect with your brand. They're looking to be entertained, informed and have a relationship with your station and its talent. The deeper we make that relationship; the better our brands will perform in both PPM and diary.
Ultimately, we're in a customer service business and like Disney, we should strive to make every interaction, on-air, online, through social media and on-site, one that is memorable and magical. By making this connection, your brand will stand out above the others and make it a favorite with your target demo.
4. How important is research when it comes to dealing with music?
Research is very important. Programmers should use their format knowledge and whatever tools they have at their disposal, such as Mscores, to determine what songs/titles to add; however when deciding rotations, what goes up, goes down or comes out, should be determined by the listeners (research). Stations will never suffer when they do what listeners tell them they want.
5. Are morning shows still important?
Morning shows are still very important. If you don't believe me, just look at any radio station's ratings that don't have one or what management will do and/or put up with to keep a good one in the building. Live and local is always better, but if you cannot find the talent or have the resources to put a solid morning show in place, syndication can and will work. The more the station does to make the show sound local, the better it should perform.
6. Let's touch back on research, are stations relying too much on research?
No, we've not become too research-driven. Radio competes with others who deliver entertainment content to listeners so programmers should use every tool at their disposal to be successful. Gut comes into play when research doesn't dictate a direction. PDs can then lean on their past experiences and successes (gut) to make certain calls. GMs and VPs are easier to convince though when your decisions are accompanied by numbers.
7. How do you see your future in radio?
I have been doing what I love now for over 20 years and have been blessed to be successful in every aspect (management, coaching talent and on-air). The plan now is to join a radio group or stand-alone situation where I can put my experience and decision making skills to good use to benefit the station(s). I'd like to segue from Brand Manager/PD to OM and eventually have multi-market oversight duties. I have a passion for this business and enjoy doing good radio. If I can take what I know and share it with others to help them go from "GOOD to GREAT," I feel like I'd be contributing not only to my future but the future of our industry.
8. What are the keys to working with the sales department?
The key to working with the sales department is to creatively "find solutions" together that are a "WIN" for your clients and listeners. A sales manager I knew always told his team "we don't do this for college credit, we do it for the dollars but only if they make sense."
I worked for a station that was a ratings success in the market, but felt it was missing a NTR event, it could be known for and eventually grow into a ratings and revenue generator. We came up with a catchy name that would resonate with both clients and listeners, found an attractive downtown location and had giveaways that helped brand the event. The initial event drew 5,000, which grew into 8,000 and in my last year, 12,000. Sales, promotions and programming all worked together to make this a profitable and enjoyable event and it's something the station continues to do annually.
9. If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it? What would you do differently?
Radio is a passion for most of us, so yes, I would do all over again because I believe whatever you're going through, good or bad, God is preparing you for the next leg of your earthly journey. At first thought, I could think of a couple of things I'd do differently but if I did, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
10. Earlier we touched on PPM, do you think it has changed radio?
Listeners don't listen to our stations the way we initially thought. They're constantly punching in and out, being exposed to other brands and not listening for as long as we thought. Most listening to radio is done outside of the home. Women still dominate our format, but men can no longer be ignored because their meters count, too. I learned there are no throwaway moments; every minute counts in PPM.
What would people who think they know Kevin Gardner be surprised about?
That I met my wife Lisa in kindergarten and we got married in 2nd or 3rd grade. Not really, but it seems that long.