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Critical Listening For Program Directors

So does a PD listen to the station? Of course—that’s part of the job. But when does the PD get a chance to REALLY listen? Between meetings, phone calls, dealing with the GM, Sales Manager, Promotions, Engineering, and Talent–how can the PD really listen in a way to fully hear what’s going on the air in a way to improve the product? I am talking about critical listening of your own station and the competition.

When critically listening to their own station, here’s what PD’s should be listening for:

  1. The Show-Is the program welcoming to new listeners? Or is it a private club that a new listener feels excluded from?
  2. Hosts-Do the personalities sound like they’re having fun? What stands out? Is it smart, funny, aggressive?
  3. Callers-Are they well screened and relevant to the conversation? Do the hosts move them along well or are they on too long?
  4. Imaging-Does the programming match the imaging? If the imaging makes a claim like “Your breaking news station” or “(insert City)’s home team station”, does the programming back that up? Same with the energy level. The show’s energy needs to match the energy in the imaging.
  5. Guests-What does this guest add to the show? Are they in the news or funny, entertaining or unique? Would the segment be better with or without the guest?

When critically listening to competitors, here’s what PD’s should listen for:

  1. Commercial time v Programming time: How much time per hour does your competitor dedicate to programming vs. commercials? When do they take their breaks and how long are they?
  2. Content-What is your competitor talking about? Do they stay local? Are they discussing the same things that your station is? Who are their guests?
  3. Imaging/Positioning statements-How do they position themselves? How does that compare to the messaging on your station?
  4. Promotions-What type of promotions are they doing? Are they guerrilla marketing the team you have rights to? Are they doing remotes? Are those remotes sales or programming driven?
  5. Sound-How do they sound on the radio, online, on the app, on Alexa? Is it clean or overly processed? How’s their signal during the day and at night?

The PD not only needs to critically listen to their station(s) but their competitor(s) as well. PD’s must create time in their daily schedules to do it. How does that happen? Here are a few ways:

  1. Limit your time reading and returning emails while in the office. Check it only 2-3 times a day at set times. For example, checking it when arriving at work, Noon, and 5pm.
  2. Create off-site listening time and days. It can be at home or if you have hotel trade, a hotel room works best. Bring a legal pad and spend the day listening and filling the pages with notes.
  3. As best as it can be avoided, stay off the phone in the car. The car is the best place to replicate the experience of a regular listener. You catch the show(s) from the time you get in it until the time you get out. Not from beginning to end, but a great snapshot of a show or shows.

Want to be a better PD? Then critically listen to your station and the competition. It will provide a ton of ideas on how to improve your station and how to best compete in the market. You will become the sports radio expert that everyone expects you to be.

About Matt Fishman (7 Articles)
Matt Fishman is a sports radio programming executive with over 20 years of experience. He has worked for SiriusXM Sports, 670 The Score in Chicago and 610 Sports in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @FatMishman20

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