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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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For the Love of Ratings and Your Livelihood, Tweet Smart

twitter-logo-breakI’ve started to wonder if twitter is inherently negative. Don’t get me wrong, I love twitter. But, recently I’ve noticed an avalanche of stories involving radio and twitter’s dark side; threats, trolls, listener backlash, industry bullying, and firings over tweets. We talk about it extensively on this week’s radio stuff podcast.

Is it Twitter’s fault?

“You really can’t say it is all twitters fault,” says Lori Lewis, Jacobs Media’s Digital and Social Media Strategist, on the Radio Stuff podcast. “All of these folks are not using Twitter constructively, nor are they using it strategically. So when they shoot off at the mouth, they say in appropriate things, if it just backfires on them or nobody is interacting with them, it’s absolutely not Twitter. It’s every individual’s use of the platform.”

Oh. Okay, so why do this? Why put yourself out there? Why participate in social? And if you choose to do it how do you do it right?

Thankfully, Lori Lewis has some suggestions.lorilewis_1323706974_59

WHY BE SOCIAL? IT’S A RATINGS THING.
“I can’t tell you how many talent I get to work for and their ratings correlate their social use. It’s amazing and could be coincidence, but there is a major market radio station, they have one talent that is a social brand – the midday personality – he outshines the entire radio station weekly after weekly after weekly — he’s always number one. Now, he’s the new person on the radio station. Everybody else is legendary. Everybody’s been there for decades and they don’t participate in any of the social tools and while their ratings are good, isn’t it ironic that the social brand really outshines them?”

AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA AT YOUR OWN PERIL
“You’re just making room for your competitor. You don’t have to Twitter. People don’t have to embrace social, but all you’re doing is making it harder for yourself and making it harder for your future. This is where the puck is going and if you think it’s cute to say you don’t know those apps, you don’t use those platforms – that’s your prerogative, but there’s someone younger and faster ready to take your place.”

USE COMMON SENSE
“It takes skill to humanize a brand and come off naturally. You really should watch your grammar. There is nothing attractive about using the letter ‘u’ for you. We don’t have to look like 12-year-old girls when we are tweeting. I think you have to remember at the end of the day that social is as public as face-to-face and it’s almost louder than it is face-to-face. Because, when your tweet shows up in my live feed and you are cussing or you have bad spelling or grammar or it’s just not funny – it’s just substandard – it’s almost more offensive.”

STUDY THE PLATFORM
“Twitter is the most simple platform of all the social tools out there. Yet, you really have to study it. You really have to listen. Listen to the founders of Twitter, listen to the CEO Dick Costello, and listen to all the VPs of brand development. How are they expecting users to use the platform? And then when you have studied it enough and you have watched people who are really winning on Twitter, you start understanding the strength and you start using twitter appropriately.”

BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT YOU TWEET
“So many people think the social space is an unrestrictive playground and they can say and do whatever they like. And you know what? You can, but so can your bosses. And if you are the voice of a radio station, if you are the face of a brand, — it doesn’t matter if you are on the air or not on the air – it doesn’t matter who you are, if you have any affiliation with a brand and you say something that is questionable, that gets a rise from a lot of people, your boss also has the right to do and say whatever they wish too. And people really need to get over themselves.

trollTAKE CONTROL FROM THE TROLLS
“One of my favorite things is just to block people. But there’s no golden rule out there. I see this happen more on Facebook, because the comments lay there more publicly than looking at tweets. There’s no rule that you have to let those comments sit there for everyone to read. Delete that stuff. If it’s inappropriate, if it’s vulgar, if it just doesn’t fit, if it’s weird…there’s no rule that it has to stay. Trolls will bait you and they will get you to say things you would never ever say in public.”

Read more from Lori Lewis in her MERGE column on All Access

Why Social Media Is NOT Radio’s Magic Bullet and Four Other Revelations

Five Radio RevelationsOkay gang, every day someone in radio asks me what’s new? what’s next? or how can we be better? There are millions of theories, philosophies, and tips for success. These are five things that I keep going back to. They aren’t the only things. They aren’t necessarily the most important things. They’re five things you can do today to improve you, your show, your station.

 

1. Be Consistent. Everyone on your show / station should have a defined role that the listener can depend on. And your show should be dependable…for whatever the audience can depend on it for; news, big opinions, laughter, stupid jokes, three songs an hour, passionate rants, or whatever. Deliver it without fail.

2. Get Personal. If you’re trying to be neutral or unbiased, you’re lying to yourself and the audience. Every word, detail, and piece of audio you decide to use or omit is a choice based on your bias. Stop trying so hard and use your reactions to stories and events (or music) to create and drive your content (yes, even if you’re a news anchor or reporter.) Have a point of view. Even Paul Harvey delivered “News and Comment.” Why can’t you?

3. Embrace Emotion. Don’t drain the emotions from your content…use them; laughter, tears, fear, rage, embarrassment, etc. Emotional moments create the stories and memories in life that people remember and share. No one ever asks what was the most neutrally satisfying moment of your life. Stop striving to create it.

4. Stop reading and start sharing stories. Every day I hear radio hosts reading AP wire copy, newspaper or internet stories. This is lazy and boring and often leads to stumbling, because they’re written for the eyes not the ears. Take the time to read it off the air and tell me the story or relate the story to me the way you would if we were friends.

5. Snap Out of It! “Social Media” is NOT a Magic Bullet.

Yes, find a way to connect and have conversations with listeners through facebook, twitter, text, email, your website, and other platforms.  Don’t just use them as promotional platforms. Like radio, content is king, and users will “unlike” you faster than you can blink.

Here’s the kicker. It is time to stop talking about “social media” as a comprehensive solution to radio’s mid-life crisis. The difference between users and applications of Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Four Square is vast. Offering “social media” as a solution is like offering “transportation” as a solution for going from LA to NY, instead of car, train, boat or plane. Be specific with your strategic vision. Pick a lane and drive it.

Twitter Doesn’t Break News. Shhhh, Don’t Tell Anyone.

Everyone is getting excited, because Twitter reported the death of Whitney Houston 45 minutes before traditional news sources. Actually it didn’t, some guys named Big Chorizo and Aja Dior M. did. Social Media sites don’t break news, they allow others to break news through them.

The graphic below is from mashable.com.

An unscientific survey of friends shows most found out about Whitney’s death through social media (Facebook, twitter), though most can’t cite the source behind the information. Surely, Twitter doesn’t want to claim credit for Big Chorizo’s breaking news, or it opens the social media site up to massive legal issues. But, that doesn’t diminish the power of twitter.

Mashable notes that over 2.5 million tweets were sent within the first hour after Houston’s death.

To me, this is the shifting news paradigm; People are learning about and talking about breaking news stories in break-neck speed.

For years, news organizations have spent millions building news brands (first, fast & accurate — eyewitness news — on your side, etc), yet in today’s world we consume the information so quickly we don’t stop to see where it came from – and in most cases we don’t care. In fact, an initial prank report that Whitney Houston had died from a bee attack was believed by several dozen twitter users before it was debunked. And keeping up with the speed of news is a dangerous game as CBS Sports discovered by prematurely reporting the death of Joe Paterno.

A friend of mine was espousing how TMZ was ‘the source’ for the Whitney Houston story and how amazing it is TMZ has established their brand with celebrity news in six years or so. However, just because TMZ reports something is it automatically worth repeating? My observation is that TMZ is willing to report on stories and facts with limited confirmation, paid information, or single source. Which is why everyone else gives TMZ credit for developing celebrity news and facts in situations like the deaths of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. If TMZ gets it wrong, the brand isn’t tarnished. If CBS gets it wrong, the world sits up and takes notice.

UPDATE: Here is a real example of how TMZ puts credible sources in jeopardy.

Whitney’s funeral is in Jersey and there is still debate over where she’ll be laid to rest – Newark NJ or Atlanta GA – even according to TMZ. Makes me wonder if the “debate” is real or a way for TMZ to save face.  Sure, it is a minor detail, but it is a microcosm of a larger issue; followers think they are getting information from a trusted source “WSB” and may not remember pr notice that WSB was sourcing TMZ. So, if Whitney is ultimately laid to rest in Newark some WSB followers will think WSB got it wrong.

So, what is a credible news team supposed to do in this out-of-control, I-want-it-first-I want-it-now society?

At the radio station I program, we removed most of the TV monitors from the news room and replaced them with tweetdecks about a year ago. We use them to see what’s trending, mine and develop unique stories and keep us on the front edge of the artificial news cycle, instead of chasing news papers and TV stations.

News teams (and talk hosts) should strive to tell an interesting story or share a unique detail instead of breaking the news. As we are learning, when the news breaks, most don’t recall where they learned it. It’s what you do with the story after it circles the globe in 23 seconds that will define your brand.

UPDATE 2/15/2012: Two concepts: “Verification” and “Curation”, are key to the future of news. More on Twitter as a breaking news source from CNN

How Big Is Your…List of Responsibilities?

This is the time of year when most companies have managers sit  down with employees to conduct employee reviews. Regardless of your position in a radio station there is one concern/complaint that I’ve heard, I share and that I believe is keeping most people from performing their very best — too many responsibilities.

As the industry evolves — endless digital platforms, video, audio on demand, podcasting, blogging, social media, and more — we all end up adding duties and responsibilities to our list of things to do. The problem is these rarely get prioritized and never get removed or reassigned – even if they’re old, out-dated, and unimportant.

It’s okay to ask – why are we doing this? Should we still be doing this? And as I add this to my list of responsibilities – which take priority? Can we re-assign any to someone else?

Sometimes the answer will be no. Sometimes your manager isn’t aware of all you do.

Do yourself a favor. Write down a list of everything you do. Identify the things you think you do best, the things you believe to be most important, and the things you enjoy doing. What’s left over? Talk to your supervisor and find out if your assessment of your job responsibilities is accurate in his or her eyes. If not, you just opened the door to a great discussion that will likely lead to some kind of change.

Communication. Sometimes we’re so far in it, we forget how to do it.

Don’t Just Build An Audience, Activate Your Community

Social media should be a vital component to your strategy to engage, retain and grow your fan base. One study just released (by Arbitron) shows most radio stations and hosts are still broadcasting (simply pushing information) on social media instead of engaging.

Engagement comes in many forms and it’s crucial if you are going to engage in social media that you create a 24/7 experience.  This means replying to tweets/comments online and on air, retweeting posts, following listeners, asking questions, providing information, expressing opinions and observations, posting pictures, videos, and owning big events or moments.

 If done correctly, not only will the listeners feel like they’re a part of your show and/or your station (and not just witness to it), but you’ll have a staff of tens-of-thousands helping you prep and advance your show or giving you leads for stories.

And the key is doing this without taking our focus off of creating great content for radio. For talk shows, hosts and producers will need work together and assign specific duties to make sure you serve your fans the best you can.  Read through jobs-to-be-done below and work together to identify what each member of the show unit can do to contribute to the effort.

These are social media insights from talent who are having success with it; 97.3 KIRO FM’s morning news anchor Linda Thomas (@thenewschick), 710 ESPN Seattle producer Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynESPN), Syndicated host Dave Ramsey (@RamseyShow and @DaveRamsey), CBS Dallas Sports radio morning guy Shan Shariff (@newschoolSS), and regionally syndicated hosts Armstrong & Getty (@AandGshow) among others..

Here are some of the Jobs-to-be-done for successful social media

Make the show a 24/7 experience; don’t just tweet or Facebook while on the air. The most successful engagers are tweeting opinions, insights, observations and pictures during the time they are off the air. This is how you can get fans to think about your show when you aren’t on the air. And create a community of fans who can turn to you for reaction at any given moment and not have to wait for your show to start.

Showcase your personality. Sending links to stories is not enough. It’s your personality and how you observe the world that resonates with YOUR fans. Engage. Have a conversation.

Be substantive. Don’t just make this a promo machine, telling people to listen to the radio at a certain time for some reason. If you promote something to get radio listeners, follow-up with a link to the discussion for those who missed it. The rule of thumb is four pieces of content for one piece of promotion.

Think of it as content. Use twitter and Facebook to find REMARKABLE comments on things you are talking about on air. Reading a BAD tweet is just as bad as a BAD phone call. 

Reply to follower’s messages. Not all messages, but messages that add to the conversation.

Retweet. GREAT messages that ADD to the conversation should be retweeted, so the community can see how others are engaging with you.

FOLLOW all followers. This is how you grow your community.

Own big moments; provide an ongoing commentary of big events/moments. Assume your followers are witnessing what you’re seeing, so it doesn’t become straight play-by-play. Notice what YOU notice.

Give Access. Tweet or Facebook behind the scenes access; observations, pictures, videos.

Share Audio. Tweet and/or post podcasts and short sound clips each day that showcase your show, your personality or the station.

If you have successful best practices you’d like to share please post a comment or send me a note.

Godin Sticks a Fork in Radio, Gifford Chews On It

I’m a big fan of author Seth Godin. I read his books, follow his blog, and when I saw he was coming to Seattle for a half-day session I jumped at the opportunity. I think Seth is a big thinker and while he’s marketing-minded he has wide-ranging opinions on wide-ranging topics. At our session he jumped from chastising those in attendance for daring to “waste the revolution,” permission marketing, the difference between artists and workers, the important role of parents in education, and the death of radio, among many others.

In regards to radio, Seth was answering a question I asked, “What’s the future of radio?”

Seth responded, “Terrestrial radio is d-e-a-d. Dead.” He went on to explain that radio was built on the model of scarcity. If you owned a radio station you were one of say 14 radio stations in the city. The number of commercials were finite as were the number of places you could place commercials. In three years, when wi-fi is readily available in everyone’s car, those 14 stations become 14,000,000 stations, including channels you can program yourself, and thus scarcity is gone forever.  Your options are infinite.

While not a revelation, hearing it out loud in a room full of people is stinging. I’m sure I was a little red-faced, as my stomach dropped and I considered for a half-second that I should quit this crazy business. I recovered. So now what? Do we all just close up shop and call it a career? Nope.

The key is for “radio people” is to stop being defined by the delivery system. We are artists who create and sell content. That won’t change. How we create it, how we distribute it, and how we sell it will change. Welcome to the radio revolution. In order to save “radio people” from singing the same, sad, bitter tune that the record and publishing industries are right now, we need to think about how we do what we do differently.

Consumers want what they want, when they want it on the device of their choosing. It’s no longer mass media; it’s personal. That’s actually good news, because now we can focus on improving the quality of our content. You see, in order to have “mass consumption” of a product it (radio, a widget, or otherwise) has to appeal to a mass of people, which means it’s likely average. Godin described this as a race to the bottom — the cheapest, the most efficient, the “good enough.” Good enough radio content has succeeded for years and years. Now the game is changing and the most successful of us are racing to the top, which means your audio content needs to stand out from the crowd — be remarkable. It has to be so great that if you were to go away tomorrow, you’d be missed. If not, you’re just a cog in the radio/audio wheel. And cogs are interchangeable.  

So, yes, radio as we know it will come to an end. That puts the responsibility on all of us to help determine how it evolves. In order to do that we can’t wait around be told what to do. We all have a tendency to show up and do “our job.” In order to influence the future, we need to think of ourselves as artists who do work. Godin encourages us to stop waiting for the map to appear and instead create it ourselves. “True art,” Godin says, “is when someone solves a problem for the first time in a creative way.” This means no longer using the excuses we’ve used so well for so long; my boss won’t let me, it’s not my job, and I don’t have the authority to make change. Be a leader. Help solve problems. Get involved. Make the impossible, possible. It’s time for us all to push forward, try things, fail, learn, try again.

Let’s get to work.