Q It Up: Do you let sales reps sit in on production sessions? - Part 2

q-it-up-logo2Q It Up: Do you let sales reps sit in on production sessions for their clients’ commercials and help direct the talent, coach the client (if he/she is the talent), help pick music, and/or sit in on the post-editing process? Do you believe this helps or hinders you or the producer? Give an example of how this has been a good or bad thing. What is your policy regarding sales reps in the production session? Feel free to add any other thoughts you might have on the subject.

Laurent “Kiwi” Boulet [kiwi@radiox.com]: I would like to say: {font=Courier/Bold/font size =72} N-E-V-E-R.

Although there are some clients I know that will help speed up things so I can get it over with sooner rather than later.

Andrew Frame [andrew@bafsoundworks.com], BAF SoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: Yes, I encourage them to sit in, and yes they are allowed to participate in the creative process. I however am the final word on the production, talent direction, or the like.

Some reps gain a better understanding of what we do for a living, and in some cases, I’ve had hard-core pain in the butt reps become much more hands-off and reasonable once they had a little time “in the kitchen.”

If I don’t use their suggestions, I do my best to explain why not, discussing it in terms they can relate to. Sometimes they’re just curious, and sometimes they have a really good idea that adds to the production.

I really never had a rep get obnoxious, so I never had to throw anyone out. I did occasionally have to ask them to settle down if they got too chatty with the client during the session.

And, often they brought snacks.

Alan White [alan.white@citcomm.com], Citadel Broadcasting, Colorado Springs, Colorado: Good question. We have a high number of clients who voice all or part of their commercials. For the most part, AE’s don’t participate in the recording session. However, we do have some fairly new people who like to sit in on the process... as long as they’re quiet that’s fine. Mostly for first time clients, I like to have the salesperson greet the client and give me an overview of what their needs are. I excuse them and handle the session with the client. The less people in studio, the better to calms nerves and put them at ease. We have quite a few clients that are the voice of their business, from Bank Presidents to Carpet store owners, and we have a great relationship. It all comes down to customer service and sometimes it gets sticky. There is a sense in the industry that they shouldn’t do their own spots, but I think that with coaching they can deliver a strong message. I work out all the details with the client as far as the image, music, and FX and do the production usually on my own.

Richard Stroobant [richard.stroobant @sait.ca]: OK, I know I have been out of radio for the last 3 years, teaching radio at a college… BUT God help me NO!!!!! Suits in the studio? I’d rather have red hot pokers thrust repeatedly in my eye than deal with a sales weasel and their infantile comments on what they think a better music bed to use, or maybe their thoughts on what inflection to use in voicing based on their vast experience selling for the Yellow Pages or a car dealership where they were the employee of the month.

Now, don’t get me wrong, maybe there are the rare suits that have some valuable input, but I cannot honestly say I worked with any of them. All I ever had to do is ask a salesperson how close they were to their budget to get them out of the studio. Maybe it was a trust thing, they trusted me with their client’s spots, and I trusted them to give me a last minute spec spot at 4:45pm every Friday before a long weekend. In hindsight, maybe when I was doing a commercial on a brand new $65,000 shiny BMW, could they offer some input what it was like to drive such a finely crafted automobile, but in most cases the salespeople I worked with were scrolling the hallway looking for change under the pop machine.

Just kidding… sort of. In my time, I never found it to be a valuable use of their or my time to bring them into the studio and get their input. But maybe there are some that have had some positive experiences.

Jim Kipping [jim@jimkipping.com], Jim Kipping Creative, www.JimKipping.com, Emmis Radio, Austin, Texas: Oh good heavens, what a question, and I sum in up with three words: Command And Control! Think of it like this: on every shuttle mission, you have a team of people who have responsibilities and or tasks at hand to make that bird fly, HOWEVER, you must have one flight director that has ultimate Command and Control over the operation. Same for any of our (now shrinking) staff here at Emmis Austin Radio. Yes, the AE is there to “handle” the client. Get them water, coffee, make them feel comfortable, but ultimately the producer has to do what they do best... PRODUCE. That means gleaning the information from the client, from either an interview spot, or say a script that they are about to be part of. All too often, when that chain of command breaks down, or ultimately there is no accountability set up and everyone is just running around in a sheer panic mode, that command and control just doesn’t exist. Then what you get is clients that say the spots didn’t work, obviously because radio doesn’t work, and they’ll never be back again.

Every sales person that works here in the station knows that if we’re bringing a client in, there better be a good reason, and not just to play on their ego. We only have an hour to do the spot including laying down voices and post production. If you don’t have a pre-session meeting and map out what you are going to be doing, it could be a fiasco. It’s also about managing expectations as well. If they client thinks they are going to get 4 voices, 1st person testimonials and them coming in and just watching the whole process, and it’s free to take the spot and run it across town... they are mistaken. That is something we can’t deliver in our a allotted time we have to get the session done. And everything that leaves the building… there are talent and prod fees for each of those.

Also think of it this way, we have 50% LESS staff than we did a couple of years ago, yet the sales staff, actually increased in size. That, and now we have streaming orders where we just produce on those new venues too, and in our building, that’s like adding 6 new stations, with less staff. How long before the dam breaks? So given the above info, if there is no one Command and Control per session like this, it would just be a free for all. Sheer pandemonium. We strive hard and, successfully, maintain a level of quality work that gets results for the clients again and again. In light of the current climate, the question is how long we can keep up the sprint. Eventually, energy is consumed and that is that. It’s my hopes, that we never have to just keep sprinting, but a nice steady run that keeps us fit, financially and physically.

Travis “JT” McGinnis [travis@aimstudios.net ], Leighton Broadcasting, St. Cloud, Minnesota: Our sales reps sit in on client record sessions all the time. Our reps understand what it means to get the client to give a good delivery -- upbeat, natural, etc. They also contribute if the client wants to make last minute changes to the script, so we collaborate as producer and sales rep to make sure the changes are in the client’s best interest. As for coaching, they usually leave that to us, but when they do chime in, the information they have is always spot on. We’re lucky to have sales reps who are trained to know what makes a good and bad commercial, so their contributions are helpful.

The production is always left to the producer. The reps will often let us know what kind of music they’re looking for or request a particular talent’s voice, but overall the process is left in our hands. They trust us to do a good job for their clients... and we do.

Steve Cook [audioads@bellsouth.net]: When I was in radio full time, it would depend on the rep. Believe it or not, most of them respected my space and vice versa, so when they did hang around, I knew they were just trying to super serve the client and show them they were willing to take time out to “make sure we got it right.” They rarely, if ever, elongated the process with too many suggestions or direction and generally acted as a nice confirmation for the clients of what I was doing (and planning to do) creatively. It was only the inexperienced reps who didn’t manage their accounts very well that got in my way by leading clients down creative rabbit holes or reinforcing their misguided concepts, or, WORST WORST WORST OF ALL... encouraging real time choosing of music with the client right then and there or insisting on mixing the spot with the client still in the room. This would always lead to a worse sounding spot that took 3 times as long to produce and always would re-prove the old cliché: “Too many cooks in the kitchen... blah blah BLECH!”

Jim Knight [jckradio@yahoo.com], www.jimknightaudio.com: I’ve seen the good and bad side of having the sales rep in the studio with the client. The good side is when the client is hesitant, unsure or shy, and it’s the first time you’ve met the client. The bad side is when the sales rep agrees with whatever the client says, right or wrong, just to keep the client happy, not to achieve the overall goal of an effective spot. I believe the producer and the rep should discuss this first before the client arrives. I have no problem with it if the rep can sit quietly and speak only when spoken to, and then be honest.

Bill Downs III [billdowns@clearchannel.com], Clear Channel, Little Rock, Arkansas: I actually prefer that a rep be in the studio when their client is in for production. The rep is the one who’s built a relationship with a client, and I think it helps to set a client more at ease when they’re otherwise in the unfamiliar territory of a production studio.

As far as letting them direct, pick music and stuff like that, I welcome their input, as, again, they know their client better than I do, but I always maintain control in my studio. I will direct as seems necessary, and most of my reps are all too happy to let me do so. (As to those few who have insisted otherwise, well… all I can do is recommend. Ultimately, I’m not the one losing commission when the spot flops and the client decides “radio doesn’t work,” so if you want to have it your way, have at, I say….) I also think it’s all to the good that a rep be in the studio during the actual production process. I believe, the more they know about how the process actually works, the better we can work together to be sure we’re both doing everything we can for the client.

What I tend to really enjoy is when I’ve worked with a client long enough to know what they want in the first place. At that point, the rep, while welcome in the studio, usually steps back and lets us do what we do. A case in point is a local gospel church, whose pastor loves all the little “zippy zap” sound effects and overblown dramatics on his spot. At this point, I know exactly what’s in his head, so once he lays down voice tracks, he can chit-chat with his rep while I put together his spot using elements and styles I know he likes. Doesn’t take long, client is happy, and we look like a million bucks!

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