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Missed Opportunities

In the past week I have offered part-time work to interns. They both declined the offer choosing instead to pursue opportunities that are more aligned with their career goals. I wondered aloud on twitter if this is the new reality for radio and it seemed to strike a nerve.

 

Some offered to take the jobs on their behalf including a couple peers from their school and one woman who has no broadcast training at all.

I am not pointing fingers at all millennials suggesting this is a generation of slackers. I know that’s not the case, because many of the millennials I’ve had the pleasure to work with are dogged, creative, hard-working and very talented. I am suggesting some inexperienced broadcasters are undervaluing actual experience. Perhaps it’s a false confidence created by the internet where anyone can become a broadcaster through their personal computer. Why work odd hours or off-air “button pushing” jobs to climb the ladder when I can create “radio” in my dorm room?

I am suggesting some broadcast students aren’t considering the power of relationships and networking. Every job I’ve been offered started with an introduction from a friend or colleague. I have never been hired by someone who I wasn’t within three degrees of separation. I have blanketed North American with resumes though my career and not one resume I sent to a total stranger lead to anything more than a “thank you for applying.”

New broadcasters may also be dismissing the value of gaining experience on a live broadcast where there are standards, expectations, and big dollars on the line. Talking into a microphone and recording a podcast is one thing, having the responsibility to deliver news or traffic information or be responsible for airing thousands of dollars’ worth of commercials is another.

I appreciate candor, bold decisions and determination. The interns that rejected my overture for part time work have that. I wish them well. I will only offer this. As a broadcast student I reluctantly interned in the news department of a radio station. I had no interest in news. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a host. But, I was good at news, discovered I loved it, and it lead to my first real radio job and a career I am proud of. You never know where opportunities, connections and experience will take you.

Navigating Change

Change is scary and uncomfortable for most people.

It just is.

Humans like to know they are safe and secure. We want to know we have enough money for food and someplace hospitable to rest our head at night. So, when pink slips start flying like they did at KGO last week in San Francisco or organizations are merged and realigned like Corus Entertainment last week in Canada, fear takes hold. It’s instinctual.

But resisting change is actually more lethal for entertainment and information industries like radio (see: music industry, Blockbuster Video, newspapers). There is hope and opportunity in change. You just have to be willing to see it and seize it.

Yes, what happened in San Francisco to KGO is tragic. It was a juggernaut of a radio station that has slowly and systematically been starved of resources and been a victim of benign neglect. The dedicated staffers who were sent packing after years of pouring their heart into a product deserve better. They tried to find a small part of a corporate beast they could love and quickly realized the beast was indscriminate. But now they are free. Unschackled. No longer beholden to a dream of yesterday’s KGO. There is life after KGO right Gil Gross??

Gil Gross Facebook

Right Claudia Lamb?  (Article: KGO and the Death of Radio)

In Canada, a completely different scenario. Not one of downsizing and cost-cutting but of investing and growing. Eerily, employees feel similar. Corus just completed a $2.6B acquisition of Shaw Media and new corporate structures were unveiled. The questions came fast and furious; Why? Where’s this worked before? What’s it mean for me? How can this possibly work? When are they going to fire me? Don’t they know we’ve never done it this way before?

Fear. It’s contagious.

differentKeep in mind, change isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s just different. When companies change it often creates opportunities. New managers, new faces, new processes and procedures and fresh eyes on old problems. It doesn’t have to be scary. It should be exciting. Anytime you get to work for a leader who has bold vision and a sense of purpose and direction embrace it, champion it, and rejoice. The opposite is stagnation. The opposite is KGO.

It reminds me of a phrase I quickly learned while working at ESPN; “evolve or face extinction.” In the past week, we’ve seen this played out in both directions in dramatic fashion.

 

10 Things To Do In A Radio Job Hunt

RS 109This week I’ve been talking to radio folks about searching for and applying for jobs. It coincidentally or not comes as CBS Radio layoffs several hundred employees. So I’ve assembled a list of 10 things to do while searching for your next radio gig.

1. Network. Most people end up getting jobs because of who they know. And you never know who is going to be the perfect “in” to get each job. So, connect with friends, colleagues, and old bosses on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Comb through your address book and reach out to folks from three markets ago. The key is don’t ask or beg for a job, don’t bemoan your situation, simply ask for advice. When you ask for knowledge people are more emotionally vested in your success. Take people to lunch or coffee and pick their brains and ask them if there is anyone they can think of that you should know and see if they’ll introduce you.

2. Apply for jobs. You are not above the hiring process. If you don’t apply managers assume you’re not interested. Don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. When you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind no matter how successful you were at one time. Find jobs that interest you and apply for them.

3. Update your resume. If it has been awhile since you’ve applied for a job make sure your resume reflects your most recent work experience. If you’re light on experience you might consider creating a functional resume over a chronological one. That allows you to focus on your skills and abilities and takes the focus on your tenure at each position. (Bonus Pro Tip: Spell check. Many hiring managers will eliminate candidates for spelling errors. The attention to detail you put into the materials you assemble to get a job is assumed to be as great or even superior to the attention to detail you’ll actually put into performing the job.)

4. Customize materials. Having one cover letter or introduction email, one resume and one demo for all positions is a sure fire way to get placed into the circular file (garbage bin.) Do some research and address your materials to the hiring manager. Avoid generic phrases like, “I’m seeking fulltime employment at a media company” and be specific about each job you’re applying for, “I want to be the night host on Crazy 96.6 WGIF.” Rearrange your resume so the experiences and skills that apply most to the position you are seeking are reflected towards the top.

5. Learn something new. Take this down time from employment as an opportunity to learn a new skill. Maybe you want to explore digital editing, know more about how PPM works or become an ace at snapchat or Pinterest. Expand your skillsets while you have the time to dedicate to it. It will also ultimately make you a more attractive candidate.

6. Don’t leave social media. One guy I recently spoke to told me he was waiting to see where he got hired to be active in social media again, because he knew he’d have to change his handle. It’s your personal brand and your responsibility to cultivate it. In this new world of media, it is important that you remain active and engage on social media regardless if you’re employed.  It helps you to remain relevant to fans and evolve your personal brand. It’s also a key factor in hiring. Hiring managers look at how many followers you have, how engaged you are with them, how often you post and what the content of your posts.

7. Vanity search. Do a google search of your name to see what comes up. You want to type in some keywords too. Try it a couple different ways “Larry Gifford,” “Larry Gifford, radio,” “Larry Gifford ESPN” and so forth. See what shows up and be prepared to address anything that does. This is one of the first thing hiring managers will do if your application peaks their interest.

8. Dress up. If you get an interview, dress up a notch or two from what you’d actually wear to the job. Trust me, how you present yourself matters. It just does.

9. Ask questions. Always be curious. At the end of a phone conversation or in-person interview when the person interviewing you asks, “Do you have any questions?” Be ready to ask some questions. Curiosity is one of the most important attributes of a talent. This is a test. Don’t fail it.

10. Sell yourself. This is not the time to be humble. The key is to leverage all the great attributes, skills and traits you bring to the table by positioning them to the hiring manager through the lens of “this is how the company benefits with me in this position.” It’s actually less about you and more about how you help the company achieve its goals.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so if you have more tips and suggestions please feel free to share below. Good luck on your job hunt.

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Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Are You Really Done With That Great Radio Talent?

This week a disturbing trend creeped into my consciousness. Radio is losing great talent at an alarming rate. It started with Stern, Leykis and Corolla. Apple is plucking great radio talent from the UK. I talked with three guys that previously worked for me who are out of work and they aren’t even getting nibbles. One of them said, “I’m not sure radio has a use for me anymore.” These are all really talented folks. There are dozens and dozens of these people who are now cranking out great, inventive and creative podcasts to keep sharp and selling insurance or cleaning pools to help make ends meet.

I and others have frequently asked, “Where is the next great radio talent coming from?” But, really we should be asking, “are we really done with that great radio talent?”

Radio needs to find ways to use all these discarded personalities turned podcasters that has either fled radio out of frustration or were pushed out the door. We need guys and gals who love radio, get radio, are good at radio and are ready to reinvent it.

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Larry Wachs, sinner

Larry Wachs is one of those guys. For 20-years he hosted the Regular Guys radio show, entertained listeners, and made companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus lots of money. Now he’s like too many other great radio talent: out of work and off the air.

“I think I committed the sin of making too much money for the Cumulus people. They don’t like their talent making money,” Wachs talked about the end of the Regular Guys on Episode 101 of the Radio Stuff Podcast. “I was also burnt out. In all fairness to Cumulus, I did sit down with them a year before and them pretty much gave me the hint that this run was coming to an end.”

For now Wachs is podcasting, redefining his style, honing his craft, and building his storytelling muscles, because he wants back on radio.

“Oh yeah, absolutely. I love it. It’s the best medium. It is so warm and intimate. And when done right it is extremely powerful.”

Great talent is out there just waiting for radio to give them another shot. We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot not to give it to them.

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Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Top 10 Posts of 2014!

Each year I find it gratifying to look back and take stock. It’s been a fun, frustrating-at-times, insightful, enlightening, empowering year thanks in a large part because of you. What I write on these pages is a reflection of what I’m experiencing in the world as it relates to radio. Here are the posts that drew the most attention this year for one reason or another.

photo 310. Stop Questioning, Start Creating. This was a talent-focused piece on how to best engage listeners and a plea for the world to stop asking so many questions. It’s an engagement device that really doesn’t work as well as you think it does.

9. 1,000 Miles of Radio Listening. This entry was inspired while moving my family from Seattle, WA to Atascadero, CA. It reflects my time in the role as a real radio listener. (Spoiler: Radio remains, to my dismay, mostly cliché, predictable, forgettable, and crammed full of poorly written commercials.)

8. Radio is Overloaded. I WANT to love radio, but I am increasingly dissatisfied with the return on my investment of time.  Gang, we got a spot problem. There’s way too much clutter.

PETE CARROLL LOMBARDI 27. Building a Championship Team. Sometimes we need to look beyond the four walls of the studio or station to be inspired for greatness. This entry focuses on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and how he built a World Championship team.

6. How to Quit Your Radio Job in 10 Steps. There is going to come a time when you want out of your radio station. Here is how to do that with dignity and grace.

5. Fun Cannot Be Formatted. This was a 50% inspiration and 50% kick in the ass. A major portion of people in radio have forgotten how to have fun. The future success of the industry depends on the spontaneity of personalities and giving them permission to try new things and fail.

4. Six Tips for Co-Hosting a Radio Show or Podcast. Co-hosting a radio show or podcast seems like it should be easier because there are two of you, but that also means there are twice the problems. Here are some tips to get you started in the right direction.

3. Making Sense of Another Radio Firing. Anthony Cumia, the second half of Opie & Anthony, was fired by SiriusXM over the weekend for a series of offensive tweets he made about African-Americans after a woman physically assaulted him in New York City. I examine the firing from a radio perspective.

Leykis12. Seven Hours with Tom Leykis. This my takeaways from spending the day with former radio star turned internet radio star Tom Leykis. Tom doesn’t hate radio. He says he’s been doing it too long, made too many millions off of it and has too many friends still in it to hate it. “I love radio. NOT the appliance, but the concept.”

1. Prepare for the Pink Slip. This entry is the most viewed blog post of 2014 and it also originates from my day with Tom Leykis. It is full of advice from Tom to those of us still working in the traditional radio business.

VIDEO: Ask Larry! Episode 10

Radio consultant Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio; A college senior asks about starting a job hunt, should your radio show make a viral video, and should ex-athletes refer to their playing experience while on air?

Radio Co-Host Confession

tony215x215There is an issue facing thousands of radio co-hosts and sidekicks across the country; the radio station values the main host of your show more than it values you. That was the revelation this week for Fitz in the Morning sidekick Tony Russell when the host of his Seattle-based morning show got a new deal.

“I realized Fitz signed for another 5 years, but I didn’t. No one came to me to sign a contract for another five years.” Tony, who is documenting his mid-life crisis on the blog www.TheNextHalf.com, confessed his frustration on this week’s Radio Stuff. “Basically, Fitz’ decision was my decision. I had no say so in it what so ever. So I’m here for another five years too, basically. It’s kinda like Brooks & Dunn.”

It was a swift kick in the gut.

And then another does of reality hit.

“Hell, I’m not his co-host, because if I was his co-host this would be a 50-50 deal. Thus the word “co.” I’m a sidekick. And I thought, ‘Wow. I don’t really want to be here another five years if I don’t make more money.’ The truth of the matter is while I make great money for the rest of the country, for here (Seattle), I don’t even qualify to buy the average home. I thought, ‘This just sucks.'”

So he wrote a parody of a country song about it. (Listen) Fitz and the morning team had a good laugh. But, there are lessons for all us in Tony’s story.

“The biggest mistake I made early on was not saying, ‘Hey I want my name on the show.’ Because, if your name is not on the bumper sticker your equity goes way down and so does your pay in comparison to a host. Get your name on the show when you’re starting out. Make sure you’re part of the brand not just part of the team.”

If all this sounds a bit mopey and “woe is me,” Tony has a caveat. He’s not bitter with Fitz or even blame him. He owns it. And as a licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister he offered himself some advice;

“Watch your attitude. Because it’s easy to get bitter. Remember you get to do something everyday that thousands and thousands of people would love to do. Walk in everyday like your pants are on fire and do the best you can do and again brand yourself. Find what your good at and don’t go ask to do it, don’t wait to be asked, initiate and show your value if you want to stick around.”

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