Monday, November 07, 2011

The Secret Sauce of Successful PDs and Stations

How would you describe a successful programmer? What advice would give aspiring PDs? What’s THE secret to a successful station? 

Radio Ink Editor-In-Chief Ed Ryan asked me these questions in last month’s magazine. Here’s how I answered plus a little post-interview elaboration. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as well. 

#1 – How would you describe a successful Program Director?

PDs that can use both left and right brain thinking are apt to have very successful stations that are both strategic and fun.

Strategically a successful PD understands their station’s position in the market place and what drives listening to their station and their competitors.  They know their listeners’ hot buttons and know the power of surprise and delight.

They have a thorough understanding of the ratings process down to how many diaries or meters or phone calls they need to grow cume to a certain point and how many occasions of listening are necessary to grow TSL/TSE. They have a plan for these and other strategies and tactics that they know increases their audience.

Successful PDs understand the importance of ‘fun’ and ‘feel good’ and know how to create a positive on air environment for listeners that becomes addictive. They keep the listening experience at the forefront of their thinking.

They are evangelists for their stations and their listeners. They have a great passion for what they do and are self-motivated to create great radio that not only captures the moment but becomes part of a listener’s lifestyle.

Successful PDs have strong leadership skills and are simultaneously coaches and cheerleaders. They’re highly engaged with their stations and the people that work there, particularly with talent. They ‘hear’ good talent and know how to encourage, coach and manage them.

They’re equally open to hearing and seeking out new ideas as well as sharing them.

Because PDs today are wearing more hats than ever, they need a love of learning and the organizational ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously without losing focus on what’s most important. They foster an environment where co-workers grow their skills to the benefit of all.

#2 – What advice would you give to those who aspire to be Program Directors?

First know that it’s the greatest job in the radio station. It is. Absolutely. Bar none.

Listen to your own station and to other successful stations and identify out what's working (or not) and why. Do the same for other businesses; figure out how they have succeeded and what can be learned from that success.

Begin programming now - even if it’s only a mental exercise. Think about what you'd do the same or differently at the station you're at and others you listen to. Could you heighten the listening experience? Put your ideas (including “what if’s”) in writing; be very detailed. Save them so you can go back at a later time and tweak them or see if they have other applications beyond your original thinking. Seek out people who you perceive as smart and discuss your ideas and observations with them.

Develop the habit of looking at things from multiple perspectives. You’ll get new ideas.

Volunteer for any work that you have an interest in and that you think might help you grow your skill set – even if you don’t see its application immediately.

Learn how to really listen to listener feedback.

Bring your "A" game to your show every day and ask to be critiqued if you're not being critiqued on a regular basis. Use these to improve your on air performance and to learn how (or how not to) coach others. 

Become an expert in something that you believe is important now and will grow even more important in the future.

Find a mentor.

#3 – What is the Secret to Programming a Great Station?

If there can only be one ‘secret,’ it would be ‘balance.’ 

Balance all elements on the station. Specifically regarding music, create and maintain the appropriate balance across your core genres, styles, eras, tempos and type so that you build the greatest coalition and are ‘on’ your strategic plan.  

Balance your thinking between left and right brain, between being inside and outside the box, between the 10,000 foot and granular perspectives. 

Balance your time at work so that the most important things always get done and get done first. 

Balance your life so that you’re not consumed by certain areas to the detriment of others.

I'd love do know how you'd answer!

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