Q It Up: What is the greatest challenge you face on a regular basis as a Production Director (Commercial Production Director, Imaging Director, Creative Services Director, etc.) or as a producer at your station(s) or independent production facility, and how do you deal with this challenge? What advice would you give others with the same challenge?
Michael McGurk [mmcgurk[at]earth link.net], KRTY/KLIV, San Jose, CA: I encounter two major, on-going challenges. First, everybody wants everything at the same time. I don’t think our sales department has ever heard of an “early week package.” Therefore, just about everything we run starts on Wednesday. Of course, Monday would be WAY TOO EARLY to get anything in, so Tuesday is just a madhouse. We have tried copy and production deadlines, but they have been about as effective as our Middle East policy. One thing that has helped, a little, is setting up a schedule for (at least) the “we’re on every week” clients. It’s posted on a big calendar just outside the production room, and it’s always full. So when a salesperson comes running in with this order “they just got” (probably last Thursday), I point to the calendar and ask them which account it would be okay to bump. After much groveling and promising “to never do this again” I assure them their spot will get done, somehow. And whenever the subject of trade dinners comes up, I usually don’t have a problem.
My other challenge involves the traffic department. How come when I get a notice that a spot is ready from SpotTaxi time stamped at 9am, I don’t get the production order put in my box until 5pm? I could just scream. And often do. I suppose there is an easy fix for this, but then there goes all my trade dinners.
Program Directors are notorious for this too. I can’t believe that you just came up with that new liner as you were walking out the door. And, of course, it needs to be on the next morning. You’ve been running that contest...how long? There’s not much I can do here, since they’ve already picked over all the trade dinners.
It’s frustrating, infuriating and, sometimes, just plain stupid. And I wouldn’t do anything else (because of the trade dinners...we’ve got a Ruth’s Chris coming to town).
James Stodd [James.Stodd[at]Red DragonFM.co.uk], Red Dragon FM: The biggest challenge is TIME...persuading people that you can’t rush all production and that there are only a certain number of copy points that can fit in a 30 second promo. Once we’ve crossed that hurdle - it’s just a case of getting on with it. Once you’ve come across the realization that you can’t give all your projects the hours you’d really like to create that masterpiece...it’s just a case of deciding on the priorities. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest writing and words.
The other challenge is realizing when you’ve overloaded the promo. Sure, the effects sound great and the edits are world class, but if the message is hidden somewhere waiting to burst out, then have you done your job?
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com]: Simple. The biggest challenge is time. I don’t have enough of it, and I can’t buy any more. I’d love to spend however long it would take to get everything I put on the air EXACTLY the way I want it, but I can’t. There is too much other stuff to do. My time crunch is compounded by other management duties and meetings that have been assigned to me. For the first time ever, I’ve actually had to bring voice sessions home on CD just to find the time to edit them.
How do I handle it? I spend a little time to make time. Stop and go through what’s on your plate and prioritize. Do what has to get done to get to air and then the next most important thing. Swallow some pride and ask for help by handing off requests to other Producers who may have more time in their day, or whose skills are better suited to the task than yours. Sit down with the PD and find out which of the 10 pages he dumped off this morning is the most important to him and when he realistically expects it on the air.
Most importantly, take time for yourself. Don’t skip lunch to just get that one last thing. Do go to the gym or out for a walk at lunch - the fresh air will do you good and it’ll give you a chance to think things through from a different perspective without the phone going off every 5 minutes.
Mark Fraser [fixitinthemix[at] hotmail.com], Metro Radio Group, Halifax, NS, Canada: To me, staying motivated and fresh is a big challenge. As everybody who’s been at this for a while can attest, as soon as you meet one deadline, the next is right in front of you, and you’re only as good as your latest spot/promo/id. I find that you have to really make a concerted effort to leave work at work. Just like your body needs rest to recover, so does your brain. We’ve heard time and time again in RAP, but I’ll say it again, a producer needs to have a variety of interests to keep from getting stale. For me, playing hockey is a huge stress reliever! Books and movies provide excellent entertainment and can be a great source of ideas for use when you’re back to work. Whatever it takes to keep your “production muscle” from getting worn out.
Brian Wilson [bwilson[at]dfwradio .com], KLIF, Dallas, TX: My greatest challenge is to stay motivated on a daily, even hourly basis. Water takes the path of least resistance, and so do I if I’m not careful. To keep from getting complacent, I need outside stimuli. Listening to competing stations, especially ones that are ripping off my promos, makes me turn green, shred my clothing and hurl cars across the studio, and gets me fired up to raise the bar a few pegs. Negative motivation? Yeah, but it works for me.
Now, Hulk go make promo.
Rich VanSlyke [richvs[at]bellsouth.net], Rich VanSlyke Productions, LLC, Suwanee, GA: Without a doubt my biggest challenge is time management. How to avoid spending too much time on a project, because I’m trying to make it perfect. The advice I give others is to pick one project and put all of your energy into that one, and get the others done as quickly as possible. This requires discipline, more discipline that I’ve got. But the payoff is that you WILL hit a couple of home runs and sometimes even a grand slam!
Bumper Morgan [bump[at]bumper morgan.com], WCOD/WXTK/WTWV, Cape Cod, MA: The biggest challenge I face everyday is the time crunch dilemma. While producing creative station imaging, a salesperson might want a creative spec, or promotions needs your undivided attention when creating a new campaign.
I seem to do my best work after hours and on the weekends when I am not distracted. Fortunately, this facility is about 200 yards from the beach, so inspiration amongst the seagulls, sandpipers and ocean waves is easily sought.
Recently, a station advertiser came in to cut their spot, she owned a greenhouse/nursery, real earthy, laid back, etc. She was blown away at how active we were in production, with electronics, computers and multitasking. This is what we do and we do it well, always juggling with our balls in the air.
And we had one late response to last month’s question regarding copywriting guidelines:
Tuna [tuna[at]radiotuna.com], Radio Tuna Productions: Focus! Find the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or the Focal Point or whatever quaint little name you want to slap onto the nail you’re going to hang your hat on in a given spot and hammer that sucker home.
Wade through the copy points that talk about how many years the client has been “serving the (insert town name here) area,” that they have “fast, friendly service” and a “friendly, knowledgeable sales staff” and “(insert number here) convenient locations” and a widget or gadget “for all your (insert business genre here) needs.” Get past ALL that and focus on just what is it that sets this product/service/client apart from everybody else.
Now, let’s be clear that all these things may be important considerations, but to whom? I will not bash the clients...THEY are the reason we all are doing what we’re doing. Sometimes, though, we need to show them how to keep their eye on the ball. Remind them (and remember this, yourself) who you’re selling to and, if it isn’t important to the target audience, don’t bother to include it...you’ll be wasting your client’s time.
Let me give an example. A buddy who works in the auto industry told me that October, 2001, was the best month for auto sales, ever — that this was industry-wide — and pointed out that the “greatest month ever” started less than three weeks after 9/11, during a time when everybody thought the economy was in the toilet.
Why do you think October was so good for auto sales? The “Zero Percent Financing” offer? You bet! And was an offer like this relegated to six words in the radio spots, sandwiched amongst a hodge-podge of drivel like “Owners Paul and Diane say come on down, have a hot dog and Coke, meet our kids and take home one of our handy refrigerator magnets...our friendly, knowledgeable staff has a combined 100 years of experience...blah, blah, blah....”?
No way, pal!
If you took nothing else away from hearing those spots last October (and many, many times since), you took away this: Your Car Loan Will Cost You Nothing! Zero. Zip. Nada. “Zero Percent Financing” stood front-and-center, bigger than life. It was all that mattered and, because of the offer’s perceived benefit, people responded. Simple.
That, my friends, is “focus.”