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Tis The Season of Opportunity

We’ve reached that time of the year where many programmers and top personalities take a break for the holidays to recharge their batteries for the new year. Some will enjoy a mental escape from the radio grind for the next two weeks, while others may only break away for a couple of days.

It’s the one ratings period (Holiday Book) that has lesser importance of the thirteen measured, unless of course you’re working for an AC station and cranking out Christmas music. In that case, this is your Super Bowl!

carradioAlthough the holiday book may be less scrutinized, sports news still breaks, games still take place, and the airwaves still need to be filled by quality talent. People may listen less, but if a local story breaks or your market’s team wins or loses an important game, your audience is still going to tune in for insight, opinion, and reaction on it. Just because most of the audience takes time off around the holidays, doesn’t mean they completely ignore the world of sports.

In many buildings, there are staff members who get annoyed when they see their name on the work schedule on a holiday. Everyone wants to stay home and be with their families and the thought of going into work ticks them off. What they don’t realize is that their actions towards the assignment go a long way in determining future responsibilities.

By accepting the shift with little resistance and doing a quality job, you’re sending a message to your boss that you can be counted on and are committed to doing whatever it takes to help the brand and further your career. Something as simple as working a board operator shift or hosting a 2-hour post-game show goes a long way in building trust with your manager. They also appreciate it and see that you’re a person who’s willing to sacrifice. That matters, and when a situation pops up in the future and you need a favor returned, they’re more likely to take care of you.

cavsThere’s this feeling that Christmas and New Year’s Day are automatic  days off. That’s not true. To many in your audience, the day means a big local NBA matchup or College Football Bowl game. Do you think they won’t be turning on your radio station to listen to the game when they’re driving over to grandma’s house? And guess who they’re going to turn on when they head home after the game and want to hear more about it? That’s right, your brand! Sports never takes a day off.

Check out this year’s NBA schedule on Christmas day. There are a total of 5 games. In each of these 9 cities, people will watch or listen to the game and discuss it while it’s happening on social media. If you don’t have the game on or aren’t talking about it on your airwaves as soon as it ends, you’re missing a chance to build a deeper bond with your audience.

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Maybe it won’t be reflected in the ratings, because the one listener with a meter in your city got buried under an avalanche of snow (gotta love that measurement system of ours), but sometimes you make decisions because it’s the right thing to do, and whether the numbers reflect it or not, being reliable to your audience is important.

There’s also another side of the holidays that I think is important to be conscious of. This part applies to on-air talent.

proIf you’re a host who’s getting a chance to fill in on one of the bigger shows during these next two weeks, this can be a great growth opportunity. It’s a chance to work with some of the full time staff and raise your profile with the audience. However, the way you conduct yourself can go a long ways in determining whether or not you’ll receive a future opportunity.

First, remember that you’re filling in on someone’s show. It’s not your permanent spot, so be respectful and remind the audience that the lead host is out, and you’re stepping in. You don’t have to execute the same gameplan that the lead host uses but you shouldn’t be turning their time slot into your personal playground. In simple terms, deliver the type of program that the audience expects.

I once had a talent fill in during the holidays and rather than step in and look at it as an opportunity to get some additional reps, work with some of the top people, and build some familiarity with the audience, they thought they were going to make a name at the expense of others. They were combative with many of the regular weekday crew who were working through the holidays, and in the span of 5 days, they managed to piss off an entire morning show, midday show, and afternoon show.

earnI received a call while I was on vacation that this person’s ego was out of control and because of their actions, a few members of the staff didn’t want to work with him and others called in sick. I wasn’t happy and trust me, the last thing you want to do is piss off your Program Director while they’re on vacation trying to mentally disconnect. I don’t expect every teammate to get along, but I do expect anyone who steps in on another’s show to treat it and the staff with respect.

When I returned from vacation, I spoke to various members of my staff and there was a consistent message about this person not wanting to be a team player. The feeling was that this person was out to make a name for themselves regardless of who they stepped on in the process. I called the individual into my office and asked what happened and I could tell within minutes that there was no way I’d use this person again to step in on a key weekday program.

Rather than acknowledge the possibility that he may have approached things poorly, this person was combative and convinced that the rest of the staff felt threatened by his ability and realized that he was coming for one of their timeslots. When I reminded him that no time slot was open and that he wasn’t going to earn that opportunity with me based on his current approach, he didn’t like what he heard. I told him that his actions proved to me that he couldn’t be trusted in a bigger slot and that part of success in this industry comes from proving you can build a rapport with others. Weeks later he left the radio station, which was wise, because he had lost my trust and was going to have a difficult time regaining it.

From the negative side of the holiday’s, we now turn to the positive.

gjA few years ago in San Francisco, Guy Haberman hosted nights for me on 95.7 The Game. I liked what he was doing and he had a great connection with one of our contributors John Middlekauff. The two of them were great friends outside of the building and that transferred over to the airwaves when John appeared on Guy’s show.

I was curious about John’s hosting ability so I hired him as a talent on our Saturday morning College Football show and he shined. I wasn’t sure if they could do a full show together on all sports subjects, but I figured we were going to be down a few of our key guys during the holidays so we might as well find out. During this time we were struggling in the ratings with our midday show. Although I liked the team we had, I wanted to see the program turn the corner and produce numbers, and I had to be prepared just in case they didn’t.

Guy and John stepped in to host our morning program during the two holiday weeks and not only did they show they were team players, but they also displayed an excellent ability to connect on all subjects and present a kick ass show. I remember when the Holiday ratings came out, I was blown away. Their two week stint had placed them 4th during morning drive which was higher than we had been pulling in that timeslot at the time. I knew it was only a holiday book and things can be screwy so I didn’t want to put too much stock in it, but I also knew what my ears heard was very good, and there was a chemistry between them that couldn’t be taught.

gj2Unfortunately, our midday show couldn’t lift the ratings up, so when I needed to make a change, I looked immediately to Guy and John. I knew a move to middays was the next logical step for Guy’s career, and I sensed that John was hungry and ready to immerse himself in doing a daily talk show. Once I gave them the shot, they repaid my confidence by consistently delivering a top 10 rated program, including finishing 1st overall in February 2015.

They didn’t know it at the time (neither did I) that their holiday fill-in assignment would make a big difference, but because I gave them a shot and they were prepared and took advantage of it, and my ears heard something good that was reflected by a solid ratings performance, it gave me confidence to call on them for a bigger opportunity. They’ve now held down middays in San Francisco for the past two years and are one of the best shows in the market.

If you’re an on-air personality who’s getting an opportunity over these next two weeks, let those stories serve as a valuable lesson. One person took the wrong approach and was gone from the radio station a few weeks later, and another duo conducted themselves the right way and earned a bigger opportunity in the future when something else wasn’t working.

futureMaybe this year you’ll earn nothing more than a one week fill in assignment. If that’s the case, be thankful that you got the call and be ready again the next time your name is called. There may be less eyes and ears on the product during the holiday’s but that doesn’t mean people aren’t listening, including your Program Director. Remember, your attitude and approach speak volumes about whether or not you’re someone who can be trusted. Make sure to leave a favorable impression. It could very well be the turning point of your career.

Under The Radar:

  • Marc James who recently hosted mornings on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta will be returning to the airwaves during the holidays. He’s expected to fill-in for Scott Ferrall on the CBS Sports Radio Network.
  • CBS Sports 920 in St. Louis will add two new shows to their lineup when they make their debut on Emmis’ 105.7FM HD-2 channel. The talent are very familiar to local listeners but an official announcement is being held off until the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted.
  • 920 The Voice in Princeton, New Jersey will be flipping to sports with an official launch expected on January 4th. The radio station is expected to carry Fox Sports Radio’s weekday shows and a mix of national and local on the weekends.
  • 590 The Fan in St. Louis may have decided to drop J.C Corcoran’s morning show but that doesn’t mean he’s leaving the radio station. It’s expected that Corcoran will become a part of the midday show with Bob Ramsey and Jeff Vernetti. Look for an official announcement soon.

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