Month: March 2014
Among the most satisfying functions of a radio station is audio production.
At the same time, this is one of the most frustrating jobs, particularly with commercials. You can crank that frustration level up a few more notches when producing underwriting announcements for a non-commercial station. The FCC guidelines are enough to cause bouts of heartburn with the “do’s and don’ts” that have a myriad of interpretations, depending on which FCC legal counsel or “so-called” station expert on the matter you’re speaking to.
The up-front work before a spot goes to production is critical to achieving excellence in the final product, before it goes to air. This begins in the sales department. Non-commercial stations sales people are typically referred to as underwriting representatives. How about we call them Sponsor Care Specialists? I like that. Anyway, the SCS has the power to make the difference between mediocre client service and care that speaks “excellence”.
This begins with how the SCS presents what we can and cannot say in their script. As a non-commercial, educationally licensed station, we provide acknowledgments or a“Thank You’” for the sponsor’s tax-deductible donation. Semantics play a key role in helping the donor understand the differences between commercials and underwriting spots. Though we will not address the FCC Underwriting Guidelines here, simply stated, we can provide acknowledgements similar to those heard on Public Broadcasting stations. It is incumbent on the SCS to know what these limitations are and how to navigate sponsor questions to arrive at a script that is agreed on by all parties.
With the Underwriting Agreement in hand and the Production/Insertion Order with approved script ready to go, these documents, including any special instructions, go to the Traffic Department for processing.
Phew!! That sounds like quite an ordeal! This phase of the production process is critical to excellence. Having a solid and sustainable means of communication between the Underwriting Department, Traffic and Production is paramount in the second phase. Having a work-flow that covers the necessary details for each Agreement and Order saves time and frustration.
Once Traffic enters all Agreement and Order information into the station traffic system, Spirit FM takes advantage of Google Spreadsheet to communicate the Production Order details, i.e., Business Partner, Start Date, End Date, Cart Number, Voice Talent/AGY, Date Sent to Talent, Date Completed, Underwriting Rep.
Now Production is ready to take it from here. The SCS tells the sponsor/client that it takes five (5) business days, typically, to process their order and have it ready for air. This keeps us in control of the procedure and minimizes rush jobs that threaten our ability to achieve excellence consistently. It is recommended that the Sponsor Care Specialist (SCS) not provide the mp3 file of the produced spot until the end of business the day prior to air. Remember, the script has already had prior client approval. This avoids giving the sponsor the time to have co-workers, friends, family and dog from giving their opinions that often lead to changes. Talk about a source of anxiety and frustration, for the Production Department especially! I worked at an AM/FM commercial property several years ago with six (6) sales people. Imagine the bottleneck if each of them had changes to scripts and spots that could have been avoided with prior, proper planning.
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, so there will be occasions when last minute changes and rush orders take place, but these should be the exception and not the rule.
Though the relationship between sales, programming and production has been challenging since the dawn of radio, following protocols such as these are some of the First Steps to Excellent Production. And, a much happier Team!
General Manager, Spirit FM
I wear more than a couple of hats at my station. As a result, I go through the internal struggles as the manager side of me argues with the underwriting side of my persona.
Sometimes the on-air side of me doesn’t want to “waste time” with all that legal stuff. The hardest part is taking that step back and asking, “What’s right?”
Let’s take that step back now. I remember when I first became a Christian I went to youth group and the pastor invited us to ask any question we had. After about a half hour of fielding various questions that were basically surrounding the issue of “how much can we get away with and still be a Christian”, the pastor told us to stop. He said, “You should be striving to see how much you can live for the Lord, not how close you can get to sinning without actually crossing that line.”
That line has stuck with me my whole life. Rather than seeing how much I can legally get away with in my underwriting script, I can set a higher standard where there is no doubt. Sure, my salesman side screams at this notion much like my sinful nature screams at me when I reject temptation.
In a similar manner, I like to have fun. Who doesn’t? For me, being on-air or doing a piece of production is fun. I get to talk with people, joke around, and tap into my creative side. Then I look at my FCC checklist. Ummmm. Let’s just say, it doesn’t scream “FUN!” I could choose to ignore those tedious tasks of being FCC compliant and filling out all the detailed paperwork. I mean, after all, there’s lots of fun stuff I could be doing. Of course, that can lead to the sting of an FCC fine.
It’s kind of like when I was a teenager and I could watch my favorite shows on TV or go do my homework. If I only chose to do what was fun, I would have never gained the education to achieve my goals.
The next time you’re tempted to neglect your FCC obligations, or you’re trying to see how close you can get to crossing that legal line, step back. Look at it through the eyes of integrity and make the right choice.
WJYW, General Manager
….Ever hear that question from a loyal listener at a concert or a treasured volunteer at Sharathon?
Perhaps the question is asked by our very own team members who are certain that more songs equals more impact and more listener satisfaction!
The temptation to believe this theory is even more compelling with the ever increasing technology before us. It is fuel for the well-intended argument that we must broaden our playlist now or face the consequences of defeat tomorrow. What about smart phones, Pandora and the digital dashboard?
No I haven’t bugged your office and I wish playing more songs with more variety would produce the results we are all striving for! BUT it’s not about me. It’s about maximum impact for Jesus Christ with our radio stations. So, in light of all the changes before us these two facts have not changed:
The #1 reason your listeners love your radio station is songs they know and love that inspire them to live passionately for Jesus Christ!
Lots of songs in rotation make it less likely they will ever hear their favorite songs enough!
The # 1 reason your listeners leave your radio station is you’re NOT playing the songs they know and love that inspire them to live passionately for Jesus Christ.
It’s that simple!!
If we insist on the more is more theory then we will have a small but loyal listener base and a limited measure of impact for success in the future.
If we embrace that less is more and play our listeners favorites over and over again we can see our impact for Christ explode and maximize our success.
Which do you choose?
VP of PAR Programming
What does it mean to be the leader in Christian media? Much has been said about how we go about being leaders for our teams within Positive Alternative Radio. We talk all the time about how to engage & encourage our team members to strive for excellence. We find innovative ways to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our listeners. However, what does it mean to be a leader & who are we leading? Are we just leading our listeners or are we leading the industry?
I had a great pleasure today to speak with a woman who works at another Christian radio station in a different state. She was having a technical difficulty with her online webstreaming service. She called our radio station to see how we liked our online webstreaming because she was thinking of switching.
I listened to the problems she was facing and gave her my honest opinion and expertise in the matter from my years of experience. I asked her what she didn’t like about her current service & I compared those experiences to that of our radio stations. We didn’t talk for a very long time – maybe 10 minutes – but that gave her the assurance she needed that she was making the best decision for her station & for her listeners.
So again, I’ll ask you, what are we doing to lead the industry? What happens to Christian media and the message of Jesus Christ if we can help other Christian radio stations to also better proclaim the Word? I think the answer is simple – we must lead in our industry to encourage & support other Christian media outlets. As team members at Positive Alternative Radio we have the expertise in our fields to help others. We should use that expertise for the glory of God.
Director of Engineering
Positive Alternative Radio
As I think about First Impressions, I think about the donor phone call I had first thing this morning. I could immediately sense this donor wasn’t in the best of humor and her mood didn’t improve when she learned that no gift had been given in 2013. (She thought for sure that she and her husband had given via credit card and thus she’d been expecting a year-end financial statement from us, giving them a tax credit.) I assured her that I only showed one donor account with gifts ending September, 2012; we were deeply grateful for her faithful support up to that point. Her tone changed. She grew quieter and explained that she was actually calling today to cancel their gift. “I’m so embarrassed. I really thought we were giving to you guys. We love your music but our situation has changed. My husband lost his job and we lost 75% of our income.” I told her that I was so sorry to hear that; we would be praying for her family and wanted God to bless them. I asked her to promise she will keep listening and hopefully we can provide some comfort to her during this time. With obvious emotion in her voice, she assured me that we always do.
…This call could have gone various directions. Had I been gruff in return, she might have never opened up to me about their recent struggles and honestly, she might have chosen to turn elsewhere for her music if I was a bad representation of the station.
As we move forward, we will be challenging ourselves as team members to always excel in that First Impression. We are blessed to have some AWESOME “Impressionistas” as Office Managers at each station! Won’t you join us as we strive to excel at: the human connection; empathizing with our listeners and donors; honoring and acknowledging them; showing appreciation; creating a spiritual and emotional bond and building community?
To quote Joseph Michelli from his book, Leading the Starbucks Way, “Imagine what knowledgeable and passionate employees can do, not only for your customers, but for the morale and enthusiasm associated with your business.”
Director of Partner Services Positive Alternative Radio
I want to share with you an example of creating experiences through concerts and events. We just had Casting Crowns, For King and Country and Laura Story come through the area in a concert provided by an outside promoter. It was a great night of music and ministry; a sell-out crowd!
This wasn’t our show, but by all appearances it might have seemed that it was to anyone who observed our input. We used our “being the standard” rules with the van; provided music to listen to while waiting in line. We worked the lines outside the venue; had a table, a great prize to register for as well as our mascot Danny the Lion who greeted kids. We also had the opportunity to greet the audience from the stage.
I was proud of my team for creating additional experiences for donors, underwriters and listeners. Let me share about that aspect…
• Hannah scheduled a lunch with artist Laura Story. Hannah secured a room right across the street from the venue and had Chick-Fil-A catered. We invited 50 friends who were a mix of listeners, volunteers, donors and underwriters. Laura was incredible! She sang and shared her heart and all were blessed (no pun intended) to be there. 50 incredible experiences, right there!
• Mike Riddles secured 20 meet and greet passes. We handed these out the night of the concert to donors, underwriters and unsuspecting listeners. They all got a chance to get pictures, autographs and personal attention from the artists performing that night. 20 additional incredible experiences, right there!
• We saved some of our normal giveaway tickets for some underwriters and even put a couple of our most faithful underwriters on the front row so they could enjoy the show front and center! 4 more incredible experiences, boom!
• This show was sold out but at the very last minute a major donor wanted to come to the show. He called me for tickets and I’m so glad I was able to actually buy 2 tickets the venue found for me for a cost of $52. The donor was thrilled; didn’t know I had paid for the tickets. When I saw him at intermission, he thanked me; shook my hand and slipped me a check for $1,000. Yet, more experiences and a huge blessing for WCQR!
I hope this encourages you and maybe gives you some ideas. The opportunities to create experiences for people are out there. It’s up to us to make them happen!
General Manager, WCQR
Every day, our underwriting directors present PAR’s ministry, mission and vision while building relationships in our community; securing and accepting donations from like-minded businesses and leaders who enjoy and desire Christian radio in their communities. We are here to serve, create, deliver and help fund experiences that inspire our listeners to live passionately for Jesus Christ. We do not sell radio. We do not sell advertising. We do not necessarily have rate sheets.
In return, the Federal Communication Commission, (FCC) allows non-profit broadcasters to thank those businesses on the air in the form of Underwriting Messages. It really is that simple.
We identify the business donor. “Positive Alternative Radio would like to thank ABC Office Supply, 123 Main Street in Hometown USA…
Sometimes we add “…for their support”, “…for their donation”, “…for standing in partnership with WXYZ”. These are ‘added words’. Shorter is always better. Again, we are not selling advertising so we do not have to necessarily develop a full thirty second announcement. Granted, there are those ‘network blocks’ that are time sensitive but that’s more the exception than the norm. We are not selling radio and crafting some creative radio announcement, but forming a Thank You message for the donor businesses.
We can mention non-descript, value neutral services offered to the general public, along with hours of operation, website address and phone numbers; things that are factual and could be helpful for our listeners.
The outline is clearly stated and summarized in the conclusion, point 21. Click Here to see PDF.
Director of Business Development
Jack Welch is a hero of mine. The iconic leader of GE is a legend in leadership / management circles. His practical advice on the use of candor, motivating the top 20% of your workforce, and removing the person who “poisons the well” have all become rules that I live and lead by.
Welch has another rule…
We play to win.
At this point, I expect those who don’t work for Positive Alternative Radio to begin emailing me a myriad of questions.
“You’re a ministry. How can you say it’s all about winning?”
“Aren’t we all in this thing together?”
“I can’t view that fellow Christian radio station across town as competition. That would be…unchristian.”
Yes, I believe we must have a strategy that will lead us to win. We must work with a goal of winning.
Let me ask you a question: What’s the opposite of winning? Surviving? Losing? Better yet, how much impact will your ministry have if it loses? How much impact will it have if it just survives?
That Christian radio station across town is your competitor. We share common values, strategies, tactics, and goals – but they are your competitor. You both may share a goal of seeing the Kingdom grow and believers encouraged – but you are both fighting for the same ears and the same dollars. Yet, I guarantee if your ministry falls on difficult financial times that the station across town will not bail you out. They will view it as an opportunity to seize the market…and they should.
At Positive Alternative Radio, we play to win. It is our vision statement to be the standard by which all Christian media is measured. We view being the standard as an opportunity to have enormous impact in the lives of those who listen and donate to PAR. Being the standard will allow those who work here to spend their lives in something that matters. Instead of making a small ripple in the pond, we have a great desire to make a massive dent in the world. Being the standard will allow us to influence the Christian radio industry that is longing for a leader in quality and impact, not just a leader who comes to town and buys every available signal.
In his book “Winning” Welch writes, “Winning in business is great because when companies win, people thrive and grow. There are more jobs and more opportunities everywhere and for everyone. People feel upbeat about the future; they have the resources to send their kids to college, get better health care, buy homes, and secure a comfortable retirement. And winning affords them the opportunity to give back to society in hugely important ways beyond just paying taxes – they can donate time and money to charities and mentor in inner-city schools, to name just two. Winning lifts everyone it touches – it just makes the world a better place.”
I’m braced for it.
Someone will call or email and say, “The Bible doesn’t say we should work to win. It says we should work as “unto the Lord.” My response to that concern? Tell me what working “unto the Lord” looks like. Is it just surviving? Is it losing? Or is it giving everything you have and winning?
At Positive Alternative Radio, we’re playing to win.
Does that mean we’re heartless? Nope.
Does it mean we will be unkind and rude? Not at all.
We will show grace and be kind…while playing hardball.
We believe winning opens doors, improves morale, unlocks passion, allows teams to innovate and creates opportunities for enormous gospel impact.
We’re not here to survive.
We’re in it to win it.
Talents who have been in a coaching session with me have received something like this as the foundation to be a highly effective radio personality. If you aspire to be the best talent you can be for your listener, this will bless you greatly! If your focus at PAR is not as an air talent I hope you will appreciate the effort, hard work and dedication it takes to be one!
Reflect then Prep
After each show take 10 minutes and make a plan for your next show and write down ideas while they are fresh. If you work with a co-host do this together.
A good way to start is to ask:
- What was effective about the show?
- What could I/we have done better with the topics we talked about?
- What should I/we do tomorrow?
Share your Life Experiences
Your life is the best prep so carry a pad & pen everywhere you go. Write down your thoughts and experiences and think about how you may share them in a relevant way. You can also use your smart phone and record your thoughts. With the right app, you can record and listen at a later time.
Focus on What Matters
Your show is for only one person … your listener! 100% of your focus should be on their needs! It’s so easy to get distracted by the needs of the station or your team. Those are important but they should be what you tend to after you’ve connected with the listener on-air.
Qualify your Topics
Rate what you talk about on a scale of 1-10. What is your listener’s interest in this topic? To make it on the air, stick with the topics that range from 7 – 10. You can also take some time to consider how to make a 5 into a 7 or 8.
Accomplish with Emotion
Now that you have a 7-10 topic, what are you trying to accomplish with your topic? After the break is finish, what do you want the listener to feel? Craft the break around the answer to that question.
Keep the break focused on topic and when possible end the break at the first “easy out”. This is a great concept! By practicing this, you won’t have to top what you already have accomplished! You can always pick up topic again on another break.
What Will They Remember?
How do you make it memorable? How your break ends is as important as the topic. How do we frame a break so that it becomes memorable for your listener? This is so much easier said than done but if you practice and make them a daily habit you will be more effective every day!
Vice-President of Programming