I’ve been asked a bunch of questions recently about why Program Directors (Brand Managers) do certain things, respond certain ways and what a PD might think about (x). PDs aren’t easy to pin down. So, I’ve come up with this handy list of 10 truths regarding PDs.
1. PDs always hire the very best talent available. Unless they know and trust a lesser talented person. Or, someone is recommended by a trusted peer. Or, they pluck someone from obscurity. Or, they hire a local TV personality. Or, there is a gal who is local, available and under budget.
2. Hires are never made to save money and make budget. Except for when they are.
3. PDs rarely answer their phone. This is because it’s either a listener complaint, a part-timer calling in sick, a programming note from the GM who was “listening in the shower this morning,” a sales guy with a “great” new sponsored feature he created, a syndicator pitching shows and pretending to be a pal, or an applicant who wants to make sure his demo arrive, but has nothing else to add to the conversation. Most just let it go to voice mail and sort through it later.
4. PDs will always answer the phone when you are in their office. Not sure why.
5. If a PD gives you a fist bump and says, “I loved the show yesterday.” They didn’t hear it.
6. If you ask a PD if they heard a certain segment, she might nod knowingly, but chances are she didn’t. Go ahead and send it to her if you want feedback.
7. The hardest part of a PDs job is finding time to listen attentively. (see #6)
8. PDs are completely autonomous. Except when the parent company, regional SVP, GM, Sales Manager, or top client disagrees.
9. PDs want you to win. If you’re successful, they’re successful.
10. PDs have a box/drawer full of CDs and cassettes that have never been listened to and never will be. Seems a shame. There’s very little logic as to why some people’s demo get put in the player and others get tossed in the box.
There are ten truths about PDs, what would you add?
I received an email today from a young, rising star in radio who left an unsatisfying radio gig where he was the do-everything-guy for a boorish boss at a directionless station. He’s getting ready to interview for on-air hosting roles and was seeking advice. I was happy to help. Here were my suggestions based on my experiences at both the interviewer and the interviewee.
Be yourself. Don’t try to be who you think they want you to be. Be as authentic and real as you can be while being professional.
Speak clearly. It’s amazing how people, even hosts, tend to clam up and quiet down in an interview. The interviewer is looking for a little showmanship if they’re hiring for an on-air position. Don’t shrivel up.
Tell stories. Have a couple of well thought out stories to share that answer a question you know will be asked. Stories are important for talent to share to exemplify your ability to capture and hold the attention of the interviewer, exemplify your personality and show the certainty you have in your talent.
Role-play. Anytime I go in for an interview for a job I always role-play the interview in advance. I think of all the possible questions I could be asked including some ridiculous ones and I write out my answers.
Some to consider for on-air folk in addition to the 10 listed above:
- Why do you want this job?
- Why should I hire you?
- What do you think of the station?
- What makes your show special/different/successful?
- How would you describe your show? What makes it unique?
- How do you work with sales?
- How do you like to be managed?
Show prep. I would have some concrete ideas on benchmarks or regular segments that you can share.
Dress up. Dress a little nicer for the interview than you expect you’ll need to if you get the gig.
Be curious. Have at least three questions prepared to ask the interviewer at the end of the meeting.
- What’s your time line?
- How do you define success for this role?
- What happened to the person who was in this position (if you don’t know)?
- What’s the mission or vision for this station?
- What else can I supply to make your decision easier?
Be gracious. Even if you know you’re not qualified for the job, you’re not going to get it or you don’t want it — express your gratitude for the time your interviewer took to meet with you. They could be the link to another job down the line.
Be patient. Waiting is the hardest part. However, it’s important to realize that the hiring manager wants it to happen fast too. EOE regulations, corporate HR requirements and other hurdles exist making it near impossible for hiring people to be a nimble process. A word of thumb — if a station is looking to hire someone “immediately,” the process will likely take 4 to 6 weeks.
He shared his experience, insights and some show prep secrets with the Radio Stuff podcast this week.
Here are four things The Chris Evans Breakfast Show team keeps in our mind as they are making content for the show.
1. What comes out of the speaker, starts with what happens in the office. “We need to decide what kind of experience we want the listeners to have and generate that kind of feeling at the desks. We’re a hyper-positive and fun show and so we’re a good, fun team. We sound like we’re having a good time, because we are having a good time making the show. “
2. It’s not our show, it’s their show. “It’s not about us, it’s about the listeners. Everything needs to reflect the listener. We don’t just tell our stories, we tell the stories of the listeners.”
3. Third thought radio mentality. This is a simple principle to apply whenever you’re coming up with ideas. Here’s how it works; “Your first thought – whatever it is – is likely rubbish and you should throw it out with the trash. Your second thought is starting to get somewhere — you’ve built on the original idea — and this is where most people stop, but you can take it one step further. The third thought is typically more personal, more unique, and you’ll be a million miles away from your first thought.”
4. Make the little things the big things (Make the big things the little things). Instead of talking to the biggest celebs, try interviewing a 5-year old school girl about a spelling quiz she has today. “It’s taking an everyday, ordinary experience and putting it on a pedestal.”
As a young, struggling musician, Pandora founder Tim Westergren remembers radio with reverence and awe.
“We were all trying to get on radio. It’s always been the holy grail for artists.”
Westergren, Pandora’s Chief Strategy Officer, spent a half-hour chatting with Deb Slater and me for the Radio Stuff Podcast this week. It’s clear from the discussion that Westergren’s passion is in the music and for the musicians.
“My dream is that they’ll come a time when literally the day your song gets added to Pandora you can quit your job and get the band together and hit the road. The impact will be instantaneous and massive and global. So, whether you’re blue grass band or a classical pianist — on Pandora we will find your entire audience right away and allow you to pursue your passion as a career. That’s really the grand vision.”
Along the way Westergren will borrow ideas from wherever he can, including radio;
“We’ve learned a lot from radio, I tell you that. For one, the genius of radio was that it as an industry worked to embed itself ubiquitously; every car, every alarm clock, and every stereo – ultimately it became a home for AM/FM and that’s our same ambition.”
Should radio be concerned? Not according to Westergren.
“I think radio will always have a place here. I think there’s a shared playlist people always like to tune in to. There’s a community around that. It’s what I grew up on – the Michael Jackson’s of the world, U2s, and Cold Plays – these cultural tap roots have been created by radio and I think there will always be an appetite for that. I think they’ll live along side each other.”
Currently, Pandora’s app is embedded in over 1/3rd of all cars rolling out of factories this year. And while music is Westergren’s passion, don’t be surprised when Pandora adds news, sports, weather, traffic and shows.
“It’s not hard to imagine you could be playing your Pandora station it can weave in to it your favorite gardening show or news cast or a sporting team or whatnot. That, I think, makes a lot of sense over time.”
And regarding that word, “radio.” Why did he opt to attach it to Pandora?
“It’s funny, because we debated that a long time. What we do is very different. Ultimately, we just decided the “pros” out-weighed the “cons” and that it was the fastest and simplest way to communicate generally what we were to people. The truth is we’re still trying to find the right term.”
He doesn’t think it matters to listeners. Calls the “debate” over what is radio and what isn’t radio irrelevant and frivolous.
His advice for broadcast radio; go back to your local roots, invest in communication with your audience transforming listeners to evangelists, and make interruptions as painless as possible.
As part of this week’s Radio Stuff podcast we listened to a bit of each station. We heard rambling student hosts making pleas to “mom” for money to buy concert tickets, songs stopped cold that were meant to fade, tongues were twisted, words were mangled, points were missed. But… there was also laughter, joy, excitement, nervousness, and a lot of creativity.
There were good reminders for us all.
Be authentic. It was very easy to hear the difference between the DJs TRYING to be DJs and students who were being themselves. The latter was refreshing.
Play to your audience. I heard a lot of entertainment based stories, in-house spots aimed at student renters, and references to needing to take a test the next day. These students know their audience because they live the life of their audience. Do you?
Enunciate. One poor fellow needed to be a little more clear when discussing the Indiana Hoosiers’ women’s basketball tournament. He meant to say “Big Ten” and likely did, but it sounded like, “Big tit.” Which is a whole different kind of tournament.
Tell Stories. Most of the DJs we heard were front selling and back selling, but one host took the time to research the song and tell us where it was written, why it was written and how the artist feels about it. It was one of those moments where you think to yourself, “huh, I never knew that. Good to know.”
Believe what you say. A lot of the students would write copy and read it. Which I’m not opposed to. Just make sure you read it with conviction. The words are far less important than the message you’re delivering.
Have fun. Laughter was prevalent, though often times it was nerves. Regardless, we need to laugh more, have fun and enjoy what we’re doing.
Sometimes, I sit in my chair with a full cup of coffee, a cleared desk and a blank Word .doc page staring back at me waiting for station imaging to flow out of me like dirty water from a fire hose.
I check email.
I refresh Twitter. Just in case.
I end up writing something predictable, pedestrian, and yet somehow entirely acceptable and often times complimented by the radio station. We’ve all done this no?
Writing great production and imaging is hard. First off, “great” is debatable. Does great mean reflective of the brand promise? Does great mean encouraging listeners to take action? Does great mean you were able to fit 43 seconds of sales copy into a 30 second promo? Great is debatable.
Aside from that, it’s also hard because radio folk have come to expect a certain sound and style and anything too far off the ranch is quickly stamped out. (Raise your hand if you or your station is still using Star Wars laser sound effects.)
And it’s hard to capture a moment, an emotion, tell a story that resonates with the listener while selling them something (music, a benchmark, a contest, the news) that they didn’t know they wanted. Over the years my style has changed and evolved, as I assume yours has. Here are six of the most recent pointers I’ve picked up from various sources. Please share yours too..
SIX POINTERS FOR WRITING PROMOS and IMAGING
TIMING: :60s are dead. :30s are tired. :05s to :20s are where it’s at. The caveat! If you’re doing a :30 or :60 chunk it up in sections so you’re delivering one message or thought every :10 or :15 seconds. So, instead of one :60, think of it as four :15s.
TELL A STORY: People won’t buy what you’re selling until they can see themselves benefiting from it. Create a world for them to imagine.
NEVER SAY “IMAGINE THIS”: While creating that world leave our phrases like “imagine this” and “picture yourself.” Just take them there. Create the world you want them to play in.
PEOPLE DON’T BUY WHAT YOU DO, THEY BUY WHY YOU DO IT: This is from a popular Ted Talk from Simon Sinek. The idea here is don’t sell me 10 songs in a row, sell me the experience of zoning out to some killer tunes for the next half hour while the guy in the cubicle next to me refreshes his email every 30 seconds. I don’t care how many songs in a row you play, I want an uninterupted listening experience to bliss out to because it relaxes me, makes more productive, and makes me happy.
SWEET NOTHING: Being an audio medium, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do in production is nothing. Include silence in your promo. Stop everything for one beat longer than is comfortable.
TREAT WORDS LIKE WEEDS – CUT ‘EM DOWN: I like to write my script out completely and then chop it in half. And then chop it in half again. I look for extraneous words and phrases. Every word counts. Every word reflects the brand. It’s the difference between a “chauffeured limousine” or “a limo to haul you around” or “transportation included” or *delete* you can read about that part on the website.