by John Pellegrini

Over the past several months, Michigan Media, the parent company of WKLQ, has begun workshops and seminars for all employees on leadership, management, communication, and other seminars of this nature. The idea is that we, the employees, would get a better understanding of our jobs, our careers, and our day-to-day environment here at 'KLQ, WLAV, and WBBL. Yes, I know it sounds strange for a radio company to involve itself in this type of activity. Even stranger that this is an AOR-formatted group. But I'll have to admit, these seminars have been very helpful and, dare I say it, eye opening!

Now I can't go into all the details of all the seminars because there have been many and most have lasted a whole day or longer, but there are some key points that have made quite a difference in how I approach my job and my work relationships with sales and programming. The one I want to focus on for this article is becoming proactive as opposed to reactive.

Proactive seems to be one of those new "buzz words" that everyone talks about but very few do anything with. From what we have discussed in our seminars, the idea of being proactive is simply becoming more concerned about your career and your job by taking a better interest in your job. Notice I didn't say, bigger but better. You already have enormous amounts of interest in your job but, if it's not the right kind of interest, it isn't going to help your career.

What am I blabbering about? Okay, grab a sandwich and a pop and sit down. This may take a while. Becoming proactive instead of reactive means taking initiative, as well as responsibility, for the work you get. I can probably illustrate this with my own case history best. When I'm reactive, it means that anytime something came in (especially last-minute orders), I'd holler up a storm and then drop whatever I was doing and rush to get the late thing done which, of course, screwed up my whole schedule, which then caused me to be late getting home or wherever I was going and pretty much ruined my whole day, week, month, year, life, etc..

Now, I work toward becoming proactive, taking steps to ensure that late orders don't happen. How do I do this? By trying to meet each day with as many of the salespeople as I can, not for a huge amount of time, mind you, just long enough to find out what's coming up--today, tomorrow, end of the week, next week, next month, etc.. Asking them if there's going to be any specs, if there's any possible late or last minute problems they can think of, just simply trying to find out what the week ahead may bring. I also take notes. Then, I go twice a day (early and afternoon) to the Traffic Director and ask her if there's any new orders that I don't know about yet. If there are, then I write down what's coming and, perhaps, an idea or two on how I can handle it or who I can assign it to when it comes in. Then, when the order arrives, I just look at my notes and get it done without any problems. Heading off the problem before it becomes a problem is being proactive.

Another example: Friday afternoons about four p.m. usually became the time that I was ready to take an Uzi and visit the sales room. And I know that it's the same for almost all of us production folk. But, when I began looking at this from a proactive standpoint, my reasoning became, "Since it always happens this way every Friday, why should I be surprised?"

Instead, I began checking with the salespeople and the traffic department every Friday morning to find out what was coming in. After you've been at a particular radio station for a while and have done the prod job for a while, you learn that particular clients almost always send in the same type of production--a dub, a script, or an order for writing and production. Therefore, it is highly appropriate to use logic and say, "Okay, Big Deal Department Store's copy is late, but they usually send dubs. So I can pass it off to Biff Weekend, the part timer. Meanwhile, Massive Ego Advertising Agency usually sends a script for their client, so I'll have to make some time for that...," and so on.

The point being, if you schedule ahead for catastrophe, it is no longer catastrophe. Did you know that the highest paid fire fighter is not the bravest one or the most heroic one, but the one who goes out in the community and educates the public on how to prevent fires from happening in the first place? Preventing fires before they happen, rather than putting them out, costs the insurance companies and the taxpayers a lot less money. Preventing production fires before they happen, rather than spending all night putting them out, costs you a lot less stress and a lot less headaches.

Another way to become proactive is to take a better interest in how the sales staff do their jobs. Why? Because your job is directly affected by how they do their work. I have become convinced that the more we all know about the sales end of the business, the better off we will be and the more value we will have to the stations we work for. I've written about this in previous articles, but why not ask your PD or GSM or even the GM if you have to. Ask that the next time your sales staff takes one of those special selling and motivational seminars that you be allowed to attend.

Think about what that would do for you. Here you have a chance to get on the same wavelength as the rest of the sales staff. This will allow you to help them gain more respect for you, as well as give them a better opportunity to use your creative resources in client campaign strategies. Not all of the seminars apply, obviously, but ones dealing with getting new business, client and customer service, better promotions and so on are ideal seminars for production people to attend. In fact, I'd recommend that some PDs should attend these seminars, too.

We are in a communications business, yet ninety percent of the problems with regard to production and promotion lie in the fact that there is a big lack of proper communication within radio stations. In these seminars and training sessions that we are taking here at Michigan Media, we're learning how to improve those things and try to become a more efficient team. We're no longer using the programming versus sales attitudes, and, instead, we're working toward the true definition of teamwork.

The single biggest question that I get from that last paragraph is, "Why should Michigan Media be unique?" Out in the "REAL WORLD OF AMERICAN BIZNIZZ," thousands of corporations hold these types of seminars every day, even the most successful businesses. In fact, the most successful ones have these types of seminars twice as much as the less successful ones. Why? Because the only way you can improve is to learn more. The only way you get any better at something is to continually educate yourself on how to do better.

Sure, radio stations are in the "Entertainment Business," but it's still a business. The primary goal of a radio station is to make profits. Profits come from sales that are generated by ratings. Ratings (listeners) are the product the radio stations produce. Why do clients buy advertising? To sell their products to the audience that the station has. The age group (demographic) is what the client is looking for. But radio also sells itself to the listeners to ensure that they continue listening. Two customers, both equally important, and they should both be given priority. Ignore either, and you'll be out of business.

To GMs who might be reading this: How about it? Think you could gain anything by having your Production Director (and possibly even your Program Director) learn more about the sales end of the business? Remember that almost none of what I've discussed here is taught at broadcasting schools. If your Production Director is from a programming only background, more information on how the sales end of the business operates could be a real benefit.