by Sterling Tarrant
Production Directors have to carry the weight of stress every single day. These days, station owners aren't making it any easier. I don't blame them. If I had money and a good rapport with a bank, I'd be buying as many stations as I could. For now, like many of you, I'm spending the day getting through the beaver dam full of production orders on my desk, hoping that nothing seeps through unexpected, and that my chops remain sharp and my tail doesn't get flattened any more.
My current load includes various production for seven different entities, but that could be peanuts compared to what's coming. If you've been reading my column for a while, you may remember eight months ago when I mentioned my station was sold. Now it has happened with my network. It was sold to the same group that bought our station. This group owns at least thirty-nine stations and two networks. We're deciding how my creative services department fits into it all. Needless to say, my workload is increasing more. To top it off, my wife and I are in the process of adopting a newborn baby that's due this month. There's paperwork and examinations, home inspections, evaluations, fingerprint and credit checks. It's like the bad dream where you're running through the middle of town naked. Everybody, it seems, gets to know you intimately.
It's plain old stress. And we all got it. Here's how a few ProdDirs on the RAP Network deal with it.
Jim Vox, WKQL-FM, Jacksonville, FL. As far as handling the stress during the day, I have actually learned to enjoy it. I enjoy the adrenaline rush that runs through when something pops up at the last minute. The way I look at it, your typical production system is the largest system in radio. Each production order may have ten different people touch it. If any one of them decides to cut corners, take a short cut, screw up, it's a domino effect of problems. So there's no way you're gonna have a stress free, problem free job. So you've got to learn it, live it, love it, or go back to being a DJ or waiting tables or whatever else you do.
As far as after work, I surf. If we have a really good swell come up, I'll leave during the day and come back and finish up later. I find that the calmer I am, the calmer others are. If anyone's leading a stress free, problem free production gig, I'd like to know what planet they're working on. Like I said, I enjoy the problems and stress that pops up. It gives me a good feeling to know that at the end of the day I've actually taken care of some things instead of talking to twelve-year-olds on the phone who want to hear Madonna over and over and over again.
I asked Jim what kind of additional stresses Hurricane Bertha brought about when it paralleled the Florida coast in July. He said: We have four stations here, only one production guy and one continuity guy, and really only four people I can assign production to. At that time, a lot of insurance companies wanted to get on the air immediately. They had spots telling their customers what to do and who to call. We had other problems with spots that were scratched because of the news reports. Lots of make good situations. Lots of one day flights that have to be reproduced because they were bumped. It brings forth a whole new set of problems. But I do enjoy it. I wouldn't be in this gig if I didn't.
Thaddeus K. McNamara, Production Director, KUIC-FM, Vacaville, CA. Remember that this is just a job. What I've learned though is as long as everybody in management understands these things, one, that the cup is only so big; two, we are definitely going to do whatever we can to solve emergencies; and three, there will be times when things will be asked of us that we can't take care of, then they are able to back you up and help you through the stressful times.
For instance, today I had a new Account Executive who had been working with a client for at least three weeks. We were ahead of schedule for writing and getting a spec spot produced. We got it done. They came back and asked for a rewrite, said the co-op had changed. We did that. Now the spot is gonna be scheduled for on air and she calls me and says the client wants this and that, more changes, etc.. I'm thinking, "Isn't it a little late for this?" Instead of getting her and me more stressed out about this, I have her go to the Sales Manager. You see, I have built up the trust with management to the point where I don't have to solve all of the Account Executive's problems. Both the salespeople and management know that when I send someone to their boss, it's a legitimate problem for management to take care of.
I've learned along the way that to reduce stress, you need to manage yourself out of a job. You need to have people in place who you can rely on to do the job. On top of that, I've learned that if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. So, I had to find the balance. Unfortunately, it started off with me trying to do everything and working eighteen hour days. That was not setting well with my wife. I realized that I was ruining my life while making the company a lot of money. So I started reorganizing a lot of things, and Radio And Production was one of the main things that helped me. I'd look at a situation, then say to myself, "Shouldn't we try it this way?" And, sure enough, I'd find out in RAP that was the way it was done. So I could see that we were on the right track. I can read how others are having the same problems I am, and then see how they handle them.
The bottom line is that I had to come to the realization that I'm in this building for a certain amount of time so that I can own a home and feed and clothe my family. If I'm putting everything in this job, then what's the point of having a family. I had to learn to shift from my job being a priority to my family being the priority. Fortunately, though, my job is one that I enjoy. It's different every single day and every single hour. It allows me to be creative and do detail oriented stuff at the same time. I've learned that you don't have to win every single battle, just make general progress in the war. Once I got all of that stuff into place along with the mutual respect between programming and sales, it all became a lot easier to deal with.
Next month the topic involves something in your work that actually relieves stress...perks. If you have an unusual perk that you enjoy with your job, call, fax or e-mail me. Or drop a line about it on the Radio and Production Web site at www.rapmag.com. Until then, may the weight you carry be light.