Q It Up: What’s one of the most important lessons, or one of the biggest things you’ve learned about your job?
Blaine Parker [blaine.parker[at]salem la.com]: Couldn’t pick one. Had to pick three: one personal, one interpersonal, and one practical.
1) Ultimately, Trophies Don’t Matter. Early on, I was determined to win a Mercury. And did. A slew of others, too. (The RAP is still the best. Thank you all.) But the armchair capitalist in me has prevailed. Now, it’s a bigger gas to see a client get 2000% ROI. Watch his radio outperform all his other ad media combined. Get him more new business than he can handle. And frankly, that’s what the job is supposed to be about. (The downside? Nobody writes press releases about client successes, and it’s tough to bronze a happy client and stick him on the trophy shelf.)
2) Saving My Sanity. Some people want to learn more and grow (see also: the readership of this magazine). Others are determined to remain in their comfort zone, regardless of the outcome. Like reps who insist on writing commercials Their Way… until The Crisis. Their “strategy” isn’t working. They come running for help. We talk about how to fix it. They do it. It works. Crisis averted. The client’s getting phone calls. Then, two weeks later, you hear a brand-new, strategy-free ad that sounds exactly like the ones that weren’t working. Maybe it’s just the Peter Principle realized. But I’ve finally learned that no matter how gentle or overt the persuasions, few are likely to change their habits. Then, it’s a pleasant surprise to discover the ones who do listen, think, understand, and in turn make me better at what I do.
3) Almost Nobody Can Hear a Radio Script. Whenever it seems prudent, I submit a demo version of the new commercial. (Yes, a copywriter producing spots. Yikes.) Clients are less likely to micromanage the life out of the copy, and it makes me look like a hero who jumps through flaming hoops. (We all know the truth.) On a tangential note, it seems that some folks (reps and clients alike) are scared to death of recorded material. Like, somehow, it’s cast in concrete and no changes can be made. (Tough. They get demos anyway.)
Cooper Fox [cooper[at]conwaymagic. com]: Always go the extra mile and be sure to take that extra time to get the inflection, SFX placement, and music mixing right. It may not seem as though it makes a difference at 6:30 on a Friday night when you told your significant other you’d be home at 6 PM, but what about when you go for that next big job? When you’re just about ready to do the final mixdown, turn down the monitors and listen to the spot/sweeper/promo in cue. Most people are NOT going to be listening on a pimped out car stereo — more likely to be a small radio. A cue speaker, however, resembles that small radio that sits on the coffee stained beige filing cabinet that sits in the corner of the office/store. Also, I’ve found that, assuming that it isn’t client written or co-op copy, most AEs are willing to accept suggestions on their spots.
Glenn Nobel [Glenn[at]NobelNOISE .com], NobelNOISE!: I’ve learned that regardless of how much I may dislike doing re-takes and re-cuts and re-writes, the customer IS always right! Now, I ain’t happy ‘till they’re happy... even if that means several re-takes, re-cuts or re-writes.
Monica Ballard [nlpmuse[at]hotmail. com], OnHold Exchange Productions, Austin, TX: I know what my late husband Jim would have said. Each morning as he drove to work in the pre-dawn hours, he would say a prayer that his work would give someone enjoyment in some way, be it laughter or information they need or something to think about. He was passionate about radio and was quick to stand up to anyone who might have mistaken it for anything other than show business. When he went on to “massage the playlist” on the other side, naturally, I heard from the people he worked with, but what surprised me was how many people he inspired because of the enthusiasm he showed toward the business. By simply doing his job and having fun doing it, many interns went on to become radio professionals, listeners became more loyal, and radio’s true purpose as entertainment was fulfilled.
But radio as an industry (and you know the difference) is a fickle mistress.
Don’t ever delude yourself into thinking radio will always believe in you; believe in yourself and your gifts. List your skills and attributes. You’ll probably surprise yourself with your abilities! When anything stops being fun, don’t burn any bridges, but do something positive and find a new crowd to have fun with - no matter WHAT business it is. And keep that same prayer in mind when you start each day: Here I am. If there’s some way I can make someone’s day a little better, let it be so. I don’t even have to know about it until I get to the other side and they hit rewind and playback on my life. Now, THAT’S entertainment!
Troy Duran [TD[at]TroyDuran.com], Speed of Sound Production: My most important lesson came when, as a burnt-out Production Director, I decided to jump out on my own as a freelance voice. It’s a pretty scary decision to jump out on your own, so I decided to get the feel for being an entrepreneur by treating the people at my station like customers instead of co-workers. My logic was that, if I acted as if every request for a dub or a last minute voicer or promo was a paid project, I’d be more accessible, which would force me to prioritize my schedule, and deal with challenges better. I thought “what if I gave every salesperson, Promotion Director and Program Director the same kind of service that I receive, at, say, FedEx?” Kind of like a Customer Service Boot Camp. I was trying to become the service provider I wanted to be.
The result of that exercise paid off in so many ways, that I was astounded.
Now, the instant tension I experienced when a salesperson walked into my studio was gone - he or she was now a customer. I was actually glad to see them! And since they were glad to see me, we became closer friends, which meant they were more considerate of my time. And since I sincerely wanted the best for them, the feeling was generally reciprocated. Now salespeople were pimping me to their clients - active advertisers and agencies who were advertising… in Radio -- who didn’t need a lot of convincing that a couple of Ben Franks was a small price to pay for consistently great spots on every station.
Because I gladly accepted promo assignments and offered to write or re-write my PD’s copy, the imaging on the station improved. People were jockin’ my style.
Then something funny happened; when my contract was up and I decided to take off, the station came to me with an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I was able to negotiate a ten-thousand dollar per year raise, more vacation, and additional help. At the end of that contract, another group in town contacted me to head up creative at their three station cluster with a five-person full-time creative staff, better bennies and ten-thousand more per year!
And when my wife received a job offer she couldn’t refuse in another city, I had two job offers waiting for me when I pulled into town with the rest of our stuff. I got to choose between two stations, and chose the legendary one. Again, I put off my freelance dream because I received a new challenge that was just too interesting and rewarding to pass up.
Six years after I decided to go independent, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I finally made the leap and became a full-time freelancer. But it really wasn’t much of a leap. Number one, because I had been acting like an entrepreneur all those years prior - doing everything I could to become more valuable to my “clients.” Number two, because I had enough agency and radio clients that I was running out of time to do both, and the radio station for which I was working decided to become a client as well.
So my biggest lesson was in learning to change my perspective. Instead of seeing demanding PDs, clueless promotions people and inconsiderate salespeople — in other words, co-workers — I saw people who needed support, help, advice and a partner in Production. It made my job exciting again. It made me want to learn more about my craft and to apply that knowledge to helping people solve their problems. It turns out that’s a pretty valuable commodity.
The only thing I regret is not seeing it that way from the beginning!
Rich VanSlyke [richvs[at]bellsouth.net], Rich VanSlyke Productions, LLC, Suwanee, GA: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is: Effort Equals Results.
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com], Rogers Media, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: The most important thing I’ve learned about my job is that it comes second to the rest of my life. It’s all about perspective and priority. Sure, radio’s important to me, and I give my clients and the station all that I can every day. After 20 years, I’m still passionate in my belief that I have the best job in the world. I get up in the morning looking forward to get into the station to get paid to play with someone else’s toys. At the end of the day however, what is most important is NOT that I put together a dozen amazing splitters, or award winning spots for clients. What IS most important is that I go home and be a father to my daughter and a husband to my wife, as they will be there long after the radio part of my life is done.
Laurent “Kiwi” Boulet [kiwi[at]choi radiox.com],j CHOI 98-1: Very Simple: don’t take it for granted and have fun while it lasts!
Johnny George [jg[at]johnnygeorge .com], Susquehanna, Indianapolis, IN: Since I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in this industry for over 30 years, the simple answer in this changing landscape is to be adaptable. Try and challenge yourself to avoid complacency in your production arena and be ready FOR those changes so you can be ahead of the curve and help LEAD these changes.
Additionally, the second biggest item that comes to mind is to always be a sponge. I know I’ve said it before, but it just can’t be stressed enough. Learn from those around you. And don’t discount the younger ones just coming into this business. THEY are from a different perspective and should always be heard because they are living the formative years that helped develop YOU originally. Everyone you work with can add to your value if you are smart enough to see it, learn it and use it.
Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com], 100.7 Heart FM: Back up and archive everything! Especially now, we’re all relying on computers. I created a whole archive system in Microsoft Access so I can archive, back up and recall old sessions if needed. It has saved me several times, once or twice following computer crashes, but more often when I need to change one word or phrase in a script and can’t get hold of our voice-over. I can go into the search facility I designed, put in the name of the voice artist I need, and do a search for my missing word or phrase. Chances are I’ve recorded it in a session at some point over the last 5 years!