I find this one of the toughest things to do.. having
to put my programming philosophy to paper. The reason I say this is that I operate under no specific terms when it comes to
a market. Each one is different in listening habits, ethnic diversity and advertisers. To have a preconceived notion on how
the radio station should work or sound can often be the ultimate mistake. Since the radio marketplace is ever changing so
must programmers be. I have discovered in my over 17 years in radio that every market is different. What worked in your last
market may not work in the new one. However, there are strong foundations that all great radio stations are built upon and
those are the things I most strongly believe in.
As a programmer I found out I have two bosses. Neither one being a General Manager or an Operations
Manager, they are supervisors. The two bosses Im referring to are the Listeners and the Advertisers. If I can keep harmony
with both, then Im rewarded by increased share and increased revenue. Thus allowing me to stay working in the occupation I
love so much. The trick to finding the balance is understanding the market. The market youre in right now is different from
Sacramento, CA, Hattiesburg, MS, Albuquerque, NM or even Augusta, GA. The job of a programmer is to exploit those differences. When your station is on the air, it should be one that listeners and advertisers say
is their radio station because it reflects the community so well. To accomplish this mission the following are some of the
things I believe are crucial to a successful local radio station.
Stationality is key to your on air product. You must
always keep in mind the direction of the station. This becomes increasingly more difficult when you have a direct format competitor.
If you are the number one station in the market, its too easy to become distracted by your competitor and lose sight of what
it is that makes you number one. If youre the competition you must attack the market leader, you have nothing to lose by trying
to flank the station. The stronger the attack the better your chances are that the other guys will lose sight of their main
objective. If you are the market leader your competition should be yourself. Find ways of improving the on air sound, come
up with better promotions and try to always maintain consistency while reinventing yourself. If youre setting the standard,
always keeping raising it, so it makes it that much harder for your competitor to reach that standard.
Promote, promote, promote. I dont know how many times I've heard this and I have found it
to be true. Promotions are one of the biggest cornerstones of top-of-mind awareness.
This is how radio stations can live or die when its time for someone to fill out their Arbitron diary. They dont go to the
radio and see what station is on; they recall it from memory. To ingrain yourself with the listener you must be the same place
the listener is. You must make the streets yours. As often as you can take the station vehicle out to a busy street corner
and hand out bumper stickers and tapes. Show up at big events to make yourself visible. Take part in parades and community
events, even if its for an hour or two. The more the listener sees and hears your call letters the better their recall of
your station. Most jocks wont mind this little extra work either, as long as you make it fair and have all the on air staff
involved. They want to win just as much as you do.
Community involvement, now theres something lots of radio stations have either forgotten or dont want to invest time in. I have always felt
strong about getting involved with the community. As a jock I was involved with organization like M.D.A., Easter Seals, Childrens
Miracle Network, Foodbanks and Toys for Tots. These are simple things that dont take up much airtime, sound great on the air
and get you free TV time. The more a station gets involved with the community, the more chances it has to make a positive
halo effect. After working with these organizations you find your station appearing on telethons and news programs. All of
this just for doing something that the FCC already requires you to do. You don't really have to force a jock to do this either.
I have found in most cases they are willing, it's just something they never thought about.
The difference in today's radio marketplace between a good air staff and a great air staff is the Program Director.
The Program Director must see to it that the air staff has the direction and coaching it needs to be the best in town. It
involves understanding every person on their air staff, knowing their goals, personalities and skill. The PD must work with
the air talent on a weekly basis. This sends a message that you care about the product, but most importantly you care about the individuals career. Mornings are the most critical daypart
to a programmer. A good PD will get involved with the show on a daily basis to help correct delivery, phone calls, bits and
over-all content. As a PD he should be able to offer solutions to problems in the Morning Show and even offer to help with
daily content ideas. The more a programmer works with his Morning Show the happier he and his jocks will be, because all involved
understand what the end product should sound like.
key to all of this is that a good programmer must instill a team attitude. I believe the only way a radio station can reach
its full potential is for all people involved to work together as a team. A Program Director can build team spirit in a variety
of ways, but often forgets the most important one of all, the occasional pat on the back for a job well done. The responsibility
of the Program Director is to be the biggest team player of all. Lead by example.
Once a PD falls off the horse the rest of the staff is not far behind. Not only does this effect morale, it can have damaging
affects to the on air sound.
The most important thing a Program
Director cant forget is to keep it fun. Most PDs get caught up in sales meetings, department head meetings, promotion meetings
and aircheck meetings. These are all part of the daily ritual. However, this cannot become a burden on the fun quotient of
the radio station. Most jocks got in to the business because it was just that, fun. In management we tent to think we cannot
afford to have fun, but remember, were to lead by example. If the staff sees a PD whos having fun, chances are youll have
a staff that is having fun and sounds like it on the air. Take the fun away and soon you may notice more than just a few jocks
heading for the door. Fun is the name of the game, and I believe that if you really want to succeed as a Program Director
you must have more fun than any other station in the market.
Radio has changed since I first started 17 years ago. It was changing then and its changing
now. With things like satellite and voice tracking, the job of a Program Director is becoming easier and harder at the same
time. The Programmers that will survive are the ones who embrace the changes, but at the same time know how to beat them.
The days of a Program Director simply coming into a market and tightening the music and getting a new voice guy are over.
You may sound fresher, but by no means better. In order to be better you must have a Program Director who understands that
the only way to win is by being local. One who takes every opportunity to celebrate the community in which you live. No satellite
or virtual radio station can accomplish that. In fact, there are stations that are live 24 hours and dont accomplish this.
So could I come in to your market and tweak the music and
get a new voice guy? Yes. Would you sound fresher? You might. What I really want to do is help your station sound better. My ultimate goal: To be a Program Director who is known for being insightful, a market innovator
and a winner.