Now that 2016 has passed us by, and you’ve returned from a winter break and began to settle back into your normal routine, I have one simple question for you – how do you plan to get better in 2017?
Each year we make resolutions and set goals for ourselves, but the truth is that we don’t always hold ourselves accountable to them.
Speaking for myself, it’s a question I don’t have all the answers to. I’m proud of what I accomplished in my first year in business in 2016, and was fortunate to meet some great people and enjoy some amazing experiences. Would I like to do the same in 2017? Absolutely, but I also hope to grow.
To do that, it will require helping my current clients improve their brands, plus more traveling, networking, and expanding relationships. I feel confident that I’ve developed a solid brand, good reputation, and resourceful website that produces timely and interesting content, and the only thing to do is be more consistent and further promote the product.
This is now where I insert my obligatory cheap plug. If you’re running a station and feel it needs an objective outside the building evaluation, or if you’re experiencing difficulties and need guidance to get your brand on track, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and dive in. Interested parties can reach me here to discuss.
Aside from that, I plan to continue speaking at conferences, hosting a podcast, publishing the annual Top 20, and sharing news and success stories on the format. If I’m able to grace the airwaves of a few more sports radio stations for discussions on the sports media business or contribute additional pieces about the industry with select trades and media sites, then that’s an added bonus.
But enough about my aspirations, this is about you. How will you be able to tell in twelve months that you grew as a professional?
Rather than trying to fix every small issue that keeps you awake at night, or ignoring the noise when a co-worker tells you you’re not executing the way you’re supposed to, let me suggest something simple – pick one thing per month to work on.
For example, if you’re a host and your crutch is getting to break on time, sit down with your PD and your supporting cast to evaluate where you are currently, and commit yourself to making it better. I’ve told this to numerous talents along the way, you can’t control what the meters do but you can control your own self-growth. A boss is more likely to continue supporting you if they see you dedicating yourself to improve at your craft.
In order to do that, you need to examine your performance over the next 30 days. Trust your producer and board operator when they tell you it’s time to wrap up, but allow yourself some wiggle room for those times where you miss the mark due to a special radio moment. It’s ok to have the occasional setback but make sure it’s truly worth it. Not every moment you create is special, and not every late break is worth it.
Ask your producer or PD to track the show and monitor when you went to break during your 12-16 breaks and compare it to how they line up with your clock. Do that every day for 30 days and see where you are. If you understand your clock, and are working on shortening your commentaries to fit inside the window of what you’ve been given to operate, then progress should happen. All it takes is self-discipline, focus and a desire to want to be better.
It’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to go thru your next twenty shows and never be late to break. If you can trim your losses though by 25-50% or even greater, it’ll make you feel better about your own performance, and it’ll hopefully benefit you with the meters. Then the next challenge becomes doing it again the following month and throughout the remainder of the year.
But this isn’t a column about the importance of navigating a clock so let’s use another example. Except this time I want to focus on the person behind the glass – the producer.
If you’re in charge of booking guests and you’re struggling to land good people for your show, how is that going to change tomorrow? You know the audience enjoys hearing from popular coaches, players, analysts and personalities, and your host either perks up or becomes frustrated depending on who you’ve booked for each day’s show. There’s also an internal pressure you place upon yourself to perform, and it can be intense and make you doubt whether you’re capable of handling the responsibility.
My suggestion is to start by analyzing the time you’re investing in the process and the strategy you’re using to deliver results.
Do you have a large enough rolodex? Are you networking regularly with people, teams, agents, and PR groups to grow your contacts and learn about upcoming opportunities? Are you booking guests in advance or flying by the seat of your pants on a daily basis? How many layers do you sort through to try and land a guest before you give up?
Even the decision of whether to send emails or make calls comes into play. Are you hiding behind the computer because you fear being rejected on the phone? What days/times are you reaching out to arrange guest appearances and is it producing results? Are you spending thirty minutes of your day on the task at hand or three hours? How many calls or emails are you delivering per guest booked?
Most on-air talent are going to show up each day with an idea of the key topics and what they want to say about them. If you’re spending two hours writing a one-sheet worth of talking points on the day’s top stories, that might be information that provides little value to your host. If it’s not important to them, think of how you could better use those two hours to create a stronger show.
Instead, maybe you’re better off using that time to send out more guest requests to help the next day’s show. Maybe it gives you a chance to locate better audio to help your host with their discussion on the day’s top stories. Maybe it becomes the time you need to create a kick ass rejoin or production piece that leaves the on-air talent and audience laughing or emotionally moved. Or maybe it’s just free time that you use to think of creative new ideas to enhance the show.
The goal is to maximize your time, identify the areas of your game that require improvement, and develop a system to be more efficient.
But before you can improve at something, you need to first acknowledge the problem, examine your process, understand what a win and loss looks like, and create a gameplan to assure future improvement. Then it’s up to you to stick to the plan, and track your development. If you’re laying out a good strategy, and holding yourself accountable to it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get better.
How many times do you engage in conversation with a colleague, and when they cite a specific example about a weakness in the show, you agree with their assessment? But then two days later, you’re back on the air making the same mistake. Anyone can point out a problem, but unless you prioritize the importance of making adjustments it becomes a useless conversation.
When these types of subjects are explored, it’s easier to focus on the on-air staff. But this can also apply to a Program Director.
I understand better than most that there are never enough hours in the day for a programmer to get everything done. They’re going to be asked to wear twenty different hats and solve every department’s problems, but remember this, and never forget it – the area which you will always be judged hardest on is what comes through the speakers and how it registers with your audience.
There is nothing more important than your product, the people you’ve hired to present it, and the connection the brand makes with its local audience.
Are you allowing yourself enough time to create new ideas? Are you meeting and talking with your talent regularly and creating ways to help them get better? Which methods are you pursuing to improve your own personal relationship with your listeners and keep them invested in your brand?
Each year when I operated stations, I challenged myself to do one thing the next year that I didn’t previously. One year it might have been to send shows on the road to an event we hadn’t covered and develop a big promotion around it. The next year it might have involved creating a lengthy promo campaign to introduce new branding or reducing the stations benchmarks. The year after I might have focused on connecting better with the audience on social media and in person or expanding the brand’s reach through additional local media partnerships.
The bottom line, you must always continue exploring new territory.
If you’re asked by your bosses at the end of 2017 to name one innovation you brought to the radio station’s airwaves over the past twelve months could you do it? If not, why not?
The reason why programmers are tasked with running brands is because they’re supposed to have vision, passion, work ethic, and a constant desire to win. They’re supposed to be great motivators, teachers, strategists, cheerleaders, and they’re expected to lead by example. The only thing that can get in the way of your creativity and leadership are distractions, and they only come into play when you allow them to do so.
Rather than making excuses and complaining about the laundry list of problems you have before you, take a deeper look at your daily plan, prioritize what’s important, create reachable short-term and long-term goals, and make sure you’re allowing time to develop new ideas and work with your staff. It’s ok to say no every once in awhile or ask for a raincheck.
You may not be able to schedule time to be creative, but when the ideas start flowing and you’re on the verge of developing the next big one hundred thousand dollar idea, you’ve got to have the ability to clear your head and the room. Paperwork can wait, and so can people. Your bosses will have your back, especially if you can give them one hundred thousand reasons to do so.