Panning for Radio Personality Gold
Continuing our discussion from my Feb. 1 column, let’s recap: Radio
brands have become increasingly difficult to establish, maintain and grow. While
marketing was once part of our industry DNA, the necessary dollars and
competency to launch campaigns is now the exception. So what’s left to drive sampling
and grow an audience? Personalities.
frequent caller could just be your next star DJ.
As I promised, we’ll now explore a few thought-starters
on where to locate, and how to grow, this rare species.
Go to School(s)
Standard practice has been for program directors
to scour smaller markets for talent, and there’s no question that this remains
a strong source for finding personalities. A common mistake, however, is to pinpoint
someone of interest and jump right into a hire.
Instead, you should develop a one-on-one
relationship with the candidate, so that over time you have the opportunity to follow
his/her progress and, more importantly, discern whether or not this person can
take direction and respond well to guidance.
This approach also enables a PD to discover how
aggressively the personality wants the position. If someone doesn’t work hard
to land a job with you, this inaction should make one wonder how hard he/she
will work to succeed once in-house.
Another great source for talent is college. Hundreds of college
radio stations participate in College Broadcasters Inc. activities, including
the organization’s annual convention, which will be held this year from Oct.
31–Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency in San Antonio, Texas.
Yep, there are still plenty of enthusiastic 20-somethings who want a
crack at being taught the ropes. Do you have room for interns who could do
shows on one of your HD Radio channels this summer? Try out enough kids and you
might just get lucky in finding a few who have the potential to become
larger-than-life in your company.
Outside of searching for personalities by
listening to over-the-air broadcast stations, the Web gives us thousands of pre-recorded
shows and live non-broadcast streams. There are tons of podcasts to comb through
online. Yes, amateurs abound; but there are also diamonds-in-the-rough to be
Many of these podcast hosts have never even
considered pursuing broadcast radio. This enables them to approach being a
personality differently, because they do not model themselves after someone
they’ve heard on the air. Going through podcasts holds such potential for
discovery that it’s more than a one-man job to search, find and develop relationships
with potential picks.
Bonus: If you
don’t have Stitcher on your phone, give it a shot; it’s a terrific podcast
I’ve long been
fascinated by the unusual places radio stations have found potential
personalities. Rich “The Coach” Gilgallon was an opinionated bartender at a
place frequented by radio guys after work.
After hearing this barkeep’s passion about local
sports, the program director gave him a tryout as a part-time sportscaster for
WMZQ(FM) in D.C. Rich then became a full-time host for WTEM(AM), one of the
first all-sports stations in the nation. Rich currently does talk on
NewsTalk920(AM) in Palm Springs, Calif.
Another shooting star is Anthony Cumia of the
“Opie & Anthony Show.” He was working for an HVAC company on Long Island
when he submitted a tape from his band to Opie, who was working at WBAB(FM).
Anthony became a
regular on the show and then the team left for greener pastures in Boston. Of
course, this duo is now on SiriusXM.
Finally, I have been told repeatedly that
lawyers often make great radio personalities, but I’ve never put this one to
the test. It is true, however, that attorneys often excel in being certain of their position on a
particular subject. And trial lawyers? They’re darn good at keeping folks’
attention on an issue. These are all excellent traits for a personality.
When it comes to finding successful personalities,
one thing is certain: It is always best to be proactive. I have worked in a few
places that sank like cement because they had nobody “on deck” when a key
personality split for another station.
part of being a great program director is being an excellent listener. So listen
carefully to what your own staff is telling you, and always keep an ear to the
ground for talent. You owe it to yourself and to our industry.
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.