JV: Let’s talk about those production orders. What have you done to streamline that process?
Terry: What I’ve done is I’ve created a form that can be emailed, an electronic production order if you will. It allows the salesperson to fill out the production order on their computer wherever they are — on the road, at home, at their desk — and then email that production order to traffic. Traffic then applies the cart number to that same form and forwards it on to production where I take it, tweak it, and assign it. Then it goes to production from there. I actually print it out at that point and jam it into their box.
The form is done in Microsoft Word. It includes drop down menus, check boxes and things like that. The problem has always been difficulty reading peoples’ handwriting, or they didn’t fill it out all the way or whatever. So a fair portion of the production order is just drop down menus, you know, choose from these selections. How can you get that wrong, people?
What I’m talking about here is kind of controlling how we produce a commercial and how the salesperson fills out the production order — something you’ve not been able to do before. People have always just kind of slopped their way through it and turned it in. They say, “Well I turned it in on time.” Yeah, but it’s only half filled out. This way, being electronic, it forces you to fill it out all the way because I can set it up so that if you don’t fill out a certain column, it won’t let you save it or send it, which is nice. And the form also requires them to save it to their computer before they can send it to the traffic department. Basically, that means they have a copy of the last PO they sent for a client, so they don’t need to call me to ask what ad is currently running for them. You don’t need to call me to ask what you ran two months ago because you have a copy of it on your computer. You can simply go into Windows Explorer and do a little search for it, a search for all the production orders you have for Coca Cola, for example. That saves a ton of time because you’re not on the phone or busy tracking down something for them. They have that information right there on their computers, and it helps them do their jobs better also.
You know the old joke about copy points on the back of a matchbook or on a napkin. Well I’ve eliminated that. They have to type it out, and they have to put it on this production order form. So one, it’s typed so you can read it, and two, it makes them more aware of what they’re doing instead of taking the copy points from the client and then just giving them to me without even looking at the copy points. Perhaps when they are typing it out they might notice that the client didn’t include an address on the copy points, and so they’ll catch things like that.
Plus, when they put a partial script on the form, which is pretty frequent, you can copy and paste it into your script form and then alter it as you need to. There’s no transcription anymore, which saves you a little more time. You just cut and paste.
JV: What other streamlining techniques are you employing?
Terry: We master everything to CD-ROM, which isn’t too unusual in today’s production. I have a program that reads the titles of everything on that CD-ROM — the folders and everything included in the folders — and it remembers what’s on that CD so you don’t have to have the CD sitting around in your computer all the time. You just file it with all your masters, and when you need to find an old spot from a year ago, two years ago, five years, you simply type it in and do a search, and the program tells you what disk it’s located on. The program is called MaxLister. MaxLister is a freeware program and it works pretty well, but I’m developing a program that will do it better.
JV: I hope you’ll let us know when it’s done.
Terry: Oh I certainly will. There’s another program I work with as well. When all the production orders come down to you and end up in your inbox, you can save that production order into a folder either on a network or on your local computer — whatever your resources are at your station or your group. Then I use a program that indexes. This program is called X1 and it monitors a particular folder, like for example the folder where I put the electronic production orders. It monitors everything that goes into that folder and memorizes the title you give it AND the content of that form. So if somebody types in cart number C4246 on the production order, X1 will remember that C4246 is located on this file. And it does it as fast as you can type it. It’s instant. For example, a salesperson says, “Hey, remember that spot we did two weeks ago, I think you called it Temporary Sale?” I can just type in temporary sale, and as I’m typing, it’s narrowing down the options to where it finally is. And I can actually look at the production order that they gave me two weeks ago and say, “Yeah, you turned that production order in on the 29th and said, this and this and this, and the spot is located here.”
JV: Is this more freeware?
Terry: No, it’s not. This is something I resell actually, and it’s about $100. And it’s simply one of the most amazing programs I’ve ever seen for Windows-based computers. Simply amazing.
JV: Have any problems come up since you’ve installed this system?
Terry: Periodically email systems will crash as they do. We’ve been using this system since September of 2003, and our email crashed last week, as a matter of fact, for the first time. It was down for about two hours. But it doesn’t matter because when it comes back up, all the emails come through. So we didn’t lose a single PO.
Having all these emails really helps. For example, people sometimes, unintentionally I’m sure, will say they turned something in when they actually haven’t. I’d say, “Well, I don’t have it here in my emails.” And they go, “Well you better ask traffic,” and traffic will look and go, “No, I never got it.” And then they’ll say, “Oh, then I must not have sent it.” It’s nice not having that argument anymore. I mean, you have proof. You did not send it. Sorry.
Many times we’ve all been called into the General Manager’s office because of an argument between sales and production, an argument that there is no proof for anymore, and it’s all my opinion versus your opinion. Now everything is documented, and if you have an issue with a particular individual who’s been filling out production orders incorrectly or poorly or anything like that, you simply take that production order that was sent to you and forward it on to your General Manager and say, “Look, this is what they sent me.” And you can even set up your emails to automatically reply when they’ve read it, and it tells you what time they read it and everything. So if you have copy deadlines of 2:00 the day before, and they send it at 2:30, the email is going to tell you… it was sent at 2:30. You really didn’t meet the deadline. I’m sorry. Right there, you don’t have that argument anymore, so it saves you a lot of time.
And we’re not talking about using anything you don’t already have for the most part. I mean, you can implement this system simply using an electronic production order and email, which I believe most radio groups have. If you don’t have email, you’re not receiving spots from national agencies.