Evan Boyd is the station manager at WSUM(FM)/91.7 at the University of Wisconsin — Madison. He is also the student representative to the College Broadcasters Inc. board. Campus View commentaries are a regular feature for Radio World.
As my senior year approaches, I am nearing the end of working in radio, after working at my high school station and in college. It truly is weird being done, but I will look back on it and remember it as the best thing I could have done in high school and college. Coming to this point, I’ve realized that, sure, you can try your hardest to get more listeners to the station, or to try and get more money for events, but I realized that those things were not the main reasons for being a successful station. The main reason is to give more people the experience to pursue radio broadcasting.
Going in with this notion always made me want to help people share the same love for college radio as I have. This is why I decided to apply to be a part of WSUM’s executive staff my freshman year, and it has led to me becoming the station manager. Being an exec, however, made me realize how big of a gap there can be between the executive team and the rest of the staff.
One problem that many of us face is that the staff is generally all-volunteer, so management has to make quite an effort to engage them. I asked myself, how can I bridge the gap so that every volunteer gets the same experience and enjoyment of radio broadcasting? The answer was easy. The gap between your staff and your DJs can be limited by giving them more opportunities and treating them equally.
Being on an executive team is a privilege, as you now represent your college radio station to the students, the community and the school. Most importantly — with the position, it is important to never look down at the other DJs, as if Big Brother is watching them. I’ve found that by using some of these ideas, not only will you get more positive feedback from your DJs, but it will improve your station as a whole. I hope that this advice can apply to any station that deals with volunteer work.
The first Wednesday of every month, WSUM holds a monthly meeting inviting the DJs to hear what is going on around the station, allowing them to get involved some more if the opportunity is given. Not only will you find your most committed DJs here, but it will be easier for them to get to know you. Refreshments and/or pizza are always a great way to get people in!
One of the biggest station-bonding events that WSUM does is attend a local minor league baseball game. While I love baseball, the best part about it is that you can hate sports and still enjoy an event like this. Another great part about it is that it is different — if I had to guess where a bunch of college music lovers would go, the last place I would look at is around a baseball field.
The “I have trouble remembering names” trait has no place at a college radio station. Using the person’s name acknowledges their identity, massages their ego and thus boosts their self-esteem. Just by recognizing that they exist, you have done them a great favor. I can recall the first time I walked into WSUM, wanting to help out in any way. The person I first talked to was incredibly helpful, and she and I became good friends. She made me feel welcome to a place where I had no idea how things ran.
Try and create additional activities that can induce them to come in for another hour during the week, instead of simply coming in to do their show. There are so many other things that they can get involved with if you give them the opportunity. For example, when I was the production director, I created the “production team” that would create IDs, spots, PSAs, and more fun things as another way to get involved with the station. At first, not as many people showed up as I would have liked, but I never gave up and kept pushing the team. This past fall, three of the members of production team became members of the executive management team.
This past semester, I decided to listen to EVERYBODY’S show, which, as you can probably imagine, took some time. After listening to a ton of shows and writing down notes on what I liked and what I thought could improve, I almost gave up and said to myself that this was pointless to do. But after sending some emails out, I got so much positive feedback from the DJs, saying that it felt good that somebody on the exec team was listening, and that they would continue to work on their skills.
Even if you thought the show was bad, it is important to stay as positive as you can be with the email, call, etc. Not only does it improve quality control, but it makes people feel more relaxed about doing their show, and they will feel more comfortable asking questions. I truly believe that this is one of the most important things to do to keep in touch with the rest of your station.
Be the first to say, “Hi!” I know that sounds silly but going out of your way to say, “Hi,” to a new DJ will change everything. You do not have to wait to see if they come to you, just introduce yourself! Who knows — maybe the next person you say “Hi” to will become the next person in charge at the station.