“You’ve been on the air for 45
minutes!” the program director screamed at me on the hotline. “I just want to
know one thing: When does the show start?”
Without waiting for an answer, he hung up.
I later learned he wasn’t the only PD using this as his “signature move,”
purportedly to motivate young disk jockeys.
I’ve never been fond of this type of negative reinforcement, but the
experience taught me to remember that I was performing a “show” and that I was
supposed to be entertaining.
taught me how to map out a program, utilize guests and interject sound. As I
coach talent today, I cut to the chase and explain that these tactics are
intended to stimulate a listener’s imagination. Simply announcing song titles,
reading liners and teasing the next element will not do much to create fans for
DJs or station brands.
There’s nothing like a new year to make resolutions. Let this be the
year that program directors rededicate to working with on-air talent on a daily
Think twice before copping out and rationalizing that you’re too busy to
engage each other. The second half of a program director’s title should be
enough for both the manager and the talent to realize that “directing” is an
essential part of the process dedicated to driving entertainment, which leads
to successful ratings.
Regardless of how many years somebody has been on the air, they need to
dissect shows with a PD who can assist by pointing out great elements, along
with segments which need improvement. Aircheck sessions do not have to be long.
Much can be accomplished in 10 to 15 minutes. It is an absolute must that the program
director start with something positive and conclude in such a way that the
talent feels good about his or her progress and future.
Here are a few easy suggestions to freshen content:
1) Take a look at what’s trending on Twitter on any given day. You can
even set it up by telling listeners that’s where you’ve got it from; reading a
tweet or two on the subject can get listeners mentally engaged.
2) It is likely that the mobile phone your talent has in his pocket can
record sound. Having real people tell stories or voice opinions can make radio
Example: “Today we’re talking about the worst blind dates ever. I was at
a party last night and got this one from a woman I had just met named Dani ...”
While taking phone calls on a subject can be great, you give up control and can
end up with boring material.
schedule interesting local personalities as guests, even if they’re just “guest
DJs” for an hour or two. “I’ve got a dentist appointment today; fun for me ... and
actually more fun for you because the weather guy from Channel Two is gonna sit
in for the last hour of my show today. Let’s see if a TV guy can actually do radio.”
4) Plan surprises. “While we don’t usually play more than one song by
any artist, we just got a bunch of new songs in from Kenny Chesney. Let’s break
our usual format and play three of them; then we’ll open the phone lines up and
see how you like ’em …”
5) Change the way your DJs or hosts begin and end their shows. Odds are that
people are listening at the same time daily, so why are you boring them with
the same thing every day? For an entire week recently I was in the car at
exactly 2 p.m. Each day, the talk show host played the same song and introduced
his show nearly word for word the same way. Dull!
6) Celebrate stuff. People love anniversaries. “Today is the 20th anniversary
of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind.’ In their honor I’m headed down to Pete’s bar at 5 p.m.
today. I’m not sure how many people with show up, but we’ll make sure they’ve
got the CD on the sound system and I talked Pete into 1991 beer prices. Put on
a flannel shirt and drop by ...”
7) It’s never been easier to do great-sounding remotes at low cost. When’s
the last time you did a show from the middle of a crowded shopping mall, in a concourse
at a concert venue, or at polling location during an election? How about doing
a contest where you celebrate a holiday like Valentine’s Day with a live
broadcast from a listener’s bedroom, bathroom and kitchen?
No medium can stimulate imagination quite like radio. Put the word “show”
back in your day-to-day vocabulary by meeting with talent regularly and
encouraging creativity. During 2012, take the risk of being great or you’ll
really run the risk of being dull.
The author is president, Lapidus Media.