Sarah describes the beginning of a great story as the intersection where what you are passionate about meets what others are invested in. She tries each time she opens her mouth to make impossible connections with people.
The key to great spoken-word poetry and spoken-word radio are the same.
Entertain. Inform. Inspire. It’s about gathering up all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up until now to help you dive into things you don’t know. Sarah suggests approaching each day / show / poem with your backpack filled with everywhere else you have been.
Sound advice for all radio hosts.
Take 18 minutes and watch this video.
Radio managers, producers and talent show up and, for the most part, grind through each day. The stories change, but our process tends to remain the same. Too often things at a radio station are done or said without thinking of how it impacts the fans or clients, without considering the carefully crafted brand, and without a conscious awareness of the core values and unique attributes of the company, station or show. The very people who are responsible for embracing these concepts and working each day to reflect these defining characteristics often times don’t know what they are. It’s time to stop thinking of radio as a playground and become more strategic with what you do and why you do it.
A year ago, the NBA released its core values and unique attributes. They are as follows:
NBA CORE VALUES
Regardless of age, sex, and race – fans agree that these four things are what attract them to the NBA.
- Intensity of Competition
- Power of Teamwork
- Respect for History & Tradition
NBA UNIQUE ATTRIBUTES
These are the qualities that make the NBA so special and differentiate it from other pro sports
- Exhilarating – from the pace of the game to the in-arena experience
- Progressive – the innovations, social responsibility of the players, teams and league, and willingness to evolve
- Inclusive – NBA fans and players are from all cultures and walks of life and the NBA celebrates culture
- Charismatic – the NBA has the most recognizable and magnetic personalities in all of sports
All of these values and attributes apply to a radio station too. Whether on the air, preparing for a live remote, throwing a party or in a pitch to a client, you should bring passion, compete with intensity, use teamwork to maximize effectiveness, and have respect for traditions and history. You should be exhilarating, progressive, inclusive and charismatic in your presentation and approach. Doing these things reflects a general fan perspective of your product and will allow you to engage more fully with our customers and clients.
However, I would recommend you and your team (whether managers or show units) create your own core values and unique attributes. Doing this exercise gets everyone on your team on the same page; it focuses your daily efforts and gives you a way to judge your content (ie. Is what you’re planning to do or say in congress with your core values and unique attributes?)
What are the four things that attract fans and / or clients to your station or show? Are you doing enough of these things? You do what you do to attract listeners and clients, so why not give them more of what they want?
What are the unique qualities that make your station or show so special and different from other stations or shows? How can you better capitalize on these points of differentiation?
If you haven’t thought about these things, you cannot know your product or brand well enough to maximize results.
As the boss, you can call a staff meeting and celebrate all the great things that happened over the year. Have fun with it. Put together a power point with pictures from station events. Let staffers submit the greatest moments at the radio station for 2010 and then rank them. Give fun awards for staffers (ie. The 2010 free stuff king/queen, the 2010 funniest person in the office, 2010 most resourceful employee, etc…) Radio stations often forget to take time out to thank the staff and celebrate accomplishments. This goes a long way towards morale.
As a host this is a gold mine. Pull all the great highlights, sound clips, and moments from your show. You can use these to count down great moments, quotes and moments with audio support. You can even pre-record and play it back over the holiday. This is also a great way to engage the listeners through the web for voting and ranking. Celebrate the year that was. You can also hand awards (Best male athlete, biggest loser, worst play, best play, team of the year, etc.) You can also make your predictions for the coming year.
Regardless of your position, take a moment to look back on goals you set for 2010. How did you do? What do you want to accomplish in 2011? Write them down and keep them someplace safe.
TOM: Preparation – you need to make sure you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. Your on-air crew will have prepped all week on the opponent’s stats, injuries, etc., but your support staff needs to be doing the same thing. Is the imaging ready and current? Is your pre-production edited and ready to go? Are the broadcast lines (ISDN and POTS) ordered and tested? Have you communicated to your on-site engineer that they need to be set up and connected no later than 1 hour before the broadcast start time?
Execution – Is your board op prepared with all the info they need (pre-recorded interview info, highlights, etc). Communication with the crew on game site is crucial both before AND during the broadcast.
GIFF: As someone who has produced play-by-play events for many years, what are some of the detailed items that elevate a broadcast from good to great?
TOM: It’s the small things:
Great production – You’re PxP talent is doing their best so why not surround them with the best. The production is the first thing your listeners hear. I tend to image our sports broadcasts like rock radio. It builds excitement before the talent even says a word.
Use of highlights – Too many broadcasts forget to take advantage of this. You can tell your fans how that play happened OR you can let them hear it for themselves again. We like to build broadcast opens that use highlights from previous games to help set the stage for that day’s game.
Good equipment – You can have the best talent in the world but if you have them using mediocre gear it will show. It’s the old saying “You get what you pay for.” You don’t have to break the bank but invest in a good headset, mic and mixer. Flash recorders have really become affordable as well. Do yourself a favor and get a good one and make your pre-produced interviews sound as good as your live stuff.
Great prep – Build a format structure for your pre-game ahead of time. This doesn’t mean script your show, just have the structure of where you want to go and how long each segment should take. Then be ready to be flexible if need be. I encourage talent to put together bullet point thoughts and not full scripts.
GIFF: You talk about using highlights. We’ve all heard highlights on-air that were too loose, upcut, too long, or used for sound’s sake. What are your guidelines for editing highlights?
TOM: As a standard we capture and archive:
- Our team’s scoring plays
- Defensive takeaways (int/fumble recovery)
- Any offensive play in the air or on the ground of 30 yards or more
- Any game-changing play at the end of the game
A good highlight should be 12-15 seconds in length, 20 seconds max. I only like an analyst to be in the highlight if he gives a “verbal explanation point” (“what a play”……”that’s the way it’s done,” etc.). I like using highlights in postgame coming back from breaks to help set up a postgame segment. My biggest pet peeve is the PxP voice setting up his own highlights. If you have a strong analyst, they should be doing that segment in the postgame.
GIFF: What are the differences between working on play-by-play events at Learfield vs. for a radio station or directly with a team?
TOM: My role with Learfield is different than when I produced the Dodgers Radio Network. Learfield Sports produces the radio networks for 43 schools. Since we aren’t a 24-hour radio station operation, we can focus on the production of our play-by-play product and weekly coaches shows. I think this allows us to laser focus our attention on the little things that make a broadcast great. Of course the flip side is handling the workload for 43 schools, which can become even more excessive when football overlaps with men’s and women’s hoops and hockey.
In the end I think we have an advantage in producing play by play broadcasts because it’s our specialty.
GIFF: There are a lot of aspiring play by play announcers looking for advice. What insights or guidance are you willing to pass along to them?
TOM: First and foremost is CALL GAMES! Take your recorder up to the top of the bleachers at a local high school or college event and call the game. Nothing beats repetition. Make sure you’re “painting the picture” for the listener. It sounds cheesy but the best PxP announcers do exactly that………they paint the picture. When I listen to demos I close my eyes and try to visualize what the talent is trying to tell me.
Fans really only care about a few things:
- What’s the score?
- Where is the ball?
- How much time is left?
Outside of this is a bonus. They like insight about the player or a good stat but essentially they want the basics. Good talent gives them what they want and sprinkles in a little of the rest. If you’re working with an analyst you’ll need to perfect the back and forth or “the dance.” In football, for example, the PxP voice should call the play, the analyst should jump right in with the “why” and as soon as the team breaks the huddle the analyst needs to be done and the PxP voice needs to jump in with the next play. Those are the basics.
Contact Tom Boman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 573-556-1294 office