by Sterling Tarrant
The value of time. Time is valuable because it subscribes to the law of supply and demand. If time were plentiful, it would be cheap. But it's not plentiful. There's never enough of it when you are a Production Director. So to help you get more of it, I offer you these top ten timesaving techniques.
10. Production Schedule/Delegation. Get others to do the work, and make sure they do it when they're supposed to. Each announcer should have their own studio time, and you as the Production Director need to hold them to both their time and to making sure their work gets done. A schedule enables you to quickly get production orders out to the staff person who can complete them with time to spare. Chris Adams, the Production Director of KCIX-FM and KANR-AM in Boise, Idaho says, "Each announcer has their own scheduled times which means that I can pretty much decide who's going to do a commercial at any time." On a timesaving scale of one to ten, with one being the least efficient and ten being the most, a schedule is a five. Delegation is a ten.
9. Well trained people. Delegation only works if your people are competent enough to handle what you give them. It's up to you to make sure that they are. Here's a series of "Production Master Classes" I'm working on for my staff. It's full of topics like "Elements of a good promo. How to tug on a person's heartstrings. How to motivate people to buy. How a DAT machine works. How to generate ideas. Why salespeople act the way they do." By the way, well trained people means salespeople, too. Once again, Chris Adams says: "Our salespeople are highly trained. They know how much work it's gonna take to redo a commercial at five o'clock. They know that they're not gonna have a selection of voices if they bring something in at five or six p.m. on a Friday, and they understand the cause and effect of everything we do." If a salesperson hands you an order and says, "Write me a spot that will make the phone ring," they need to know what kind of information you need to get that phone to ring, and that comes from training them.
8. Evaluation of what does and doesn't work. How old is the production order you're using? Every year you need to take a long, hard look at your systems and see if they're serving your purpose and getting you the information you need. For instance, I have different ideas on copywriting than I did three years ago. I'm making a new production worksheet to allow for that. For the longest time, we did customized liners for our network affiliates a certain way. A month ago, we changed it. My receptionist now archives audio files. My business manager is learning my scheduling software. Don't be afraid to change!
7. Write things down. Mark McKay, Production Manager of KIIM/KCUB/KHYT in Tucson, Arizona says: "As a solo Production Director who writes, produces and goes out with the AEs one-on-one with clients, I'm constantly being bombarded with every time robber imaginable. Impromptu meetings, missing spots, end date changes, etc.. For me it's imperative to write everything down...then prioritize."
I agree. I like to have a paper trail. One of my standard rules is, "If I don't have paper on it, it doesn't get done. What about those things that can't get written down? Say the boss is rushing to meet the VP and has asked you to get some demos of your latest awards on cassette by the time he gets back. For those things I use my digital pocket reminder. It's one of those things you can record a memo into and take it back to the desk to write it down.
6. A place to store the things you wrote down. For me, it's scheduling software in my computer. Or it may be a system of folders. I have a folder for each announcer in a sorter on my desk. When I'm sorting through a bunch of production orders, I can quickly place them in an appropriate folder. For instance, I have a free-lance copywriter. Orders I fax to him go in his folder. Once I get copy back from him, it goes in a "pending approval" folder. Then twice a day, I go through that and assign it out to the appropriate announcer or producer. Mark McKay says, "If I'm asked in the hallway about something, I politely ask them to write it down and place it in my box. Write it down, then prioritize. I'd die without my Daytimer."
5. A computer. I find that one of the biggest time wasters is tracking down information. That's where a computer comes in handy. I have most of my productions entered in one of three databases. There's the one for stuff over two years old. There's the one for the last year, and there's the one for all of the production parts. That's the most helpful one. I have most of my productions for the past five years saved as easy to construct "parts." Say a dentist wants to use an ad from three years ago, but he's got some new copy points. I know where to go to get the parts to load it in and change it. Since I do production for about a dozen stations, I have my production parts classified by product type. If Billings, Montana needs a gift shop spot, I look through that category to find a gift shop spot from Houston. It provides a good place to start.
Other kinds of information a computer is helpful for: Surfing the Net. If you need information on Chinese Weather Balloons, you can probably find it.
4. An Archiving System. My next big project is to use a scanner to scan as much old copy into a 100 megabyte Zip Disk as I can, so that I can call up actual pieces of copy quickly. Actually, that will probably be the receptionist's next big project. (See #10 - Delegation) Just like Delegation, being able to call up old copy quickly is a ten on the timesaving scale.
3. A deadline policy. When salespeople know that you won't accept orders after a certain time each day, it lessens the instances of last-minute productions. I say "lessens" knowing full well that this policy would only be one hundred percent effective in a perfect world. Chris Adams says, "They call me the curmudgeon around here because I have a tendency to yell at the sales guys when they bring things in at five o'clock. But I think that I'm fair when I yell. I always try to find what the reason is. We try to live by the axiom that a mistake on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." The salespeople have to know that a deadline policy is for fostering cooperation between all departments. Everybody's trying to get home at a decent hour, including the traffic folks. The deadline policy helps to ensure that everyone somewhat enjoys their work. For my department, our deadline is two p.m. Mountain Time. After two p.m., orders won't be placed into the system until the next day. After they're in the system, we strive for one business day turnaround in copywriting and one to three days turnaround after approval for production, depending on the number and type of voices and the complexity of production.
2. An organized boss. Quoting my favorite proverb: When the person who pays you can plan ahead, you have found a great blessing, and yet, a boss who asks for everything last minute is like a dog who returns to his vomit. I'm not sure what that means, but I get the general idea. I've been fortunate that most of my bosses had it together. Mark McKay says, "You should say 'no' sometimes when your plate is full...unless it's the GM. You can tell him 'no,' but it's a good idea to take him to lunch after you do."
And #1. A Digital Sound Editor. They are the greatest time-savers Production Directors have ever received. No doubt about it. Thanks to Chris Adams and Mark McKay who took the time to be a part of this month's column. Chris went on about how much time his Session 8 had saved him. Chuck Miller of KIOZ-FM in San Diego said his digital editor was his biggest time saver. He didn't have any time to say anything else.
If you have any other timesavers you'd like to mention, fax or email me at the places below. Also, if you have any battle stories let me know. Next month's topic will be on "The Success of Perseverance. When was one time you had to do battle with an idea, either to get it to production or sell it to a client?" See you then.