by John Pellegrini
For a long time now, I've seen the raging complaints over the war between production and sales here in the pages of Radio And Production. This war has been fought for centuries. Indeed, many historians believe that it originated between Gutenberg and his advance man. Regardless, it's always the same. The prod guy gets no respect or cooperation from the sales guy, and the sales guy is tired of the prod guy not appreciating the hard work he or she puts into getting clients on the air.
Both sides are right; both sides are wrong. As always, when examining arguments over personality clashes, the cause of the argument has been overlooked. It all comes down to one word: Professionalism. There is a major lack of professionalism in radio. We are encouraged from the very beginning to be creative, to be wacky. We thrive on spontaneity and the craziness that the entertainment industry causes, but what gets us in trouble is when we confuse creativity with immaturity.
Never forget that this is a business. You were hired to do a job. You get a paycheck just like the guy on the line at General Motors, or the UPS truck driver. The owners of the station have their names on a large note at the bank which allowed them to buy the station. You were selected by them, or their representative (your PD or GM) because they felt you had qualifications and abilities that would help them produce profits to pay off that note, for which you are compensated with paychecks. It doesn't get much simpler than that.
Professionalism is the ability to realize this, and to understand that while you may not agree with all of the corporate policies, it's still up to you to do your best, if for no other reason than to have a killer tape to get a job somewhere else.
I'm not saying that you should have your shorts permanently lined with K-Y Jelly. But, I do think that a lot of the complaints from both production and sales are unwarranted. For the most part, the sales side's arguments and complaints about our side come from a lack of knowledge about how we do our job. So, instead of getting pissed off, why not have a production room "open house" day? Give the folks a little tour of your world. Then, as a follow up, encourage the sales folk to work closer with you -- maybe not by standing right behind you during the recording session, but by sitting down and discussing copy ideas with you in advance. Explain to them how you translate the printed words into the aural image that goes on the air.
You can also accuse the production side of the same fault; i.e. not understanding how the sales side does its job. Sit down with the Sales Manager of your station. Tell him or her that you'd like to get a better look at how the sales staff does its job so you can offer a better working relationship with them. Chances are, the Sales Manager will want to hug you. You may even be given a day off from production so you can join some of the salespeople on a few sales calls just to observe. Now what's wrong with that? A Production Director with a good working knowledge of how the sales staff does its job is worth his or her weight in gold. Talk about job security! Make your "enemies" your best allies.
I'm able to suggest these alternatives as a result of a major rethinking of my career and where I want to be when I grow up. For better or worse, I've pretty much decided upon radio production as my chosen field. Also, I was getting endlessly tired of the frustration and paranoia over the lack of job security in radio. So, as A. Whitney Brown used to say, I began to look at the Big Picture. You know how worried you get when you've got financial troubles and you're not certain if your car or rent or house payment can be made? Well, the same goes for the corporate people at your station. Like your car loan, they've got a huge loan to pay off on the station. Not to mention electric and phone bills that could match the yearly budgets of some third world nations. Understanding what makes their minds tick and what trips their trigger is the key to getting what you want. Business must make profit to survive. Simple, no?
After all these years of dreaming of stardom and all that happy crap, I've decided that all I really want out of life is a job where I can have a reasonably good time, doing stuff I like, and enough money to pay the bills with some left for silliness. Not to say that I wouldn't still like to be world famous or be fabulously wealthy, but if it doesn't happen, I won't mind.
Arriving at this conclusion forced me to concentrate on the one most important thing: making my work environment more to my liking. This simply meant, "It's time to start acting like a pro." Lawrence Olivier once said something to the effect that the difference between the artiste and the professional is that the artiste starves, and the professional gets to live in a nice home and have lots of nice things while doing exactly the same thing the artiste does. Was Vincent Van Gogh a better artist than Pablo Picasso because he starved while Picasso lived like a king? In the end, art is art. The finished product is all that matters, not what went into creating it. Personally, I think the concept of the "starving artiste" is screwy -- makes good press, though.
We are in a business. We sell creativity to make a living. The station uses our creativity to generate product: The Listeners. The sales staff then takes the product to advertisers to get them to buy air time to sell their product to our product. Listeners = Consumers. As I said earlier, the professional does his best every day -- if for no other reason than to have a killer tape for the major market gig. The professional does his best every day because to do otherwise is the quickest way to find yourself out of a job. You can argue all you like about employers ripping off the workers and even discuss the pros and cons of unions and the like, but what it all comes down to is this: you are responsible for yourself. If you really don't like your work situation, then perhaps a re-evaluation of your career is in order because you'll find after a while that the things that pissed you off before will likely be in place at the next station you work for...and on and on and on.
The professional learns how the system operates, and then learns how to make the system work for him. You'll also notice that the professional is seldom out of work. If you can't make the system work where you are, then look for a workplace with a system that's more to your way of operating. No one's holding a gun to your head.
One of the best GMs I used to work for, Jim Davis, had a great line about all this: A team of the world's leading neurosurgeons had assembled at Johns Hopkins University Hospital for a radical new experiment in microscopic laser surgery. As the team leader concluded his briefing of the doctors involved, he said, "Now remember, this is brain surgery. This isn't radio; it's just brain surgery."