I read an interesting quote the other day, by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp…”Perfectionism is slow death *by self.*It will kill your skill, your spark, your art, your soul.” I am a huge fan of Ann’s writings but I have to admit this quote wasn’t my favorite mainly because it made me squirm in my chair, stepped on my toes! I struggle with my own perfectionism, every.single.day! I do grasp the value of her words and there’s great wisdom in what she says. Perhaps for me the goal should become pursuing excellence rather than being perfection-driven. I am (slowly) grasping that as much as we’d like to deliver a perfect experience for our donors every time they interact with us, sadly we will fail. We can come mighty close to that goal though if we consistently strive for excellence and pay attention to details!
So, where am I going with this? What I can’t stress enough is the emphasis on striving for excellence (I so want to say perfection!) when handling donor information. There’s such value in sending out correspondence in which the donor’s name is correctly spelled and we include the correct last gift information, if pertinent. Does it ever irk you to receive mail in which your name is misspelled or even the wrong name, but your address? When a donor calls with an inquiry about their pledge or gift information we want them to hear the correct pledge amount or to be assured that we are drafting their account on the day they requested, using the proper payment information. If we promise a certain premium or giveaway, it matters that we fulfill that promise in a timely manner, sending the correct item. In situations like these, details truly matter; are the things we should strive to get right, every time! Now do you see why I’m driven to perfection??
The bottom line is this…although it may sound as boring as watching paint dry; data entry is a key element in delivering a great experience for our donors. See, I’m learning…I didn’t say perfect that time! Getting it right might generate enough trust for the donor to call us with yet another gift or even make the jump to trusting us with monthly automatic payment information. “Suzy Jones” receiving a piece of mail addressed to “Suzy Owns” isn’t likely going to create the experience we were hoping for! A single gift of $100 being charged $100 monthly could cause quite the angst for a donor! Imagine the disappointment when a family receives an XL shirt after the mom requested a small shirt for her little boy, at the time she made their pledge. My goal in sharing these examples is to help you appreciate why we data entry types focus so much on details and why they are important to our donors. I leave you with this point to ponder…As you staff your phone rooms for Sharathon, hire your office staff you likely want to choose people who have an eye (and ear!) for details and perhaps a small bent towards perfection.
Director of Partner Services
I am going to write this article with as much generality as possible. One day, a few more miles down the road from here, I’ll be more specific.
The place where I serve is in a double, or even triple, sub cultural environment, religiously speaking. The listeners, the team members, the colleagues who help us deliver our product — most are in a subculture of a subculture (as if ONE subculture isn’t tough enough!).
To clarify what I’m talking about: being Christian is in itself a subculture. If Christians were unified with no disagreements, denominations, or digressions, we would be one happy, powerful, subculture. But, alas, we have many flavors of Christianity. Thus, enters another level of subcultural-ness.
Just today, I heard a principle: the deeper a subculture grows and communicates only to and with itself, the further away from truth it gets. The answer here is that we need other voices to keep us from getting weird. And worse: “far from the truth.”
Now, I could camp out on the theological implications, but there are better trained teachers to do that. I will, however, use that principle to speak to the mixture of religion and our craft.
Because our business is about spreading God’s love (something sacred) through technology and media (okay, we’ll call that secular), we sometimes are tempted to put a guilt-tag onto something that is counter to a “best practice” in our industry. And maybe there are some God-inspired cases where you push conventional thinking aside for the awesome work of the Holy Spirit.
(Just be careful not to confuse that with indigestion from last night’s pizza.)
What am I talking about?
As I mentioned, dealing with people who are passionate about a faith defined by a subculture-within-a-subculture often screams in the face of what we know to be a best-practice. If we simply argue and put up a fight that “research proves this” or “the entire radio industry operates successfully by these principles” and give it a “so, there!” attitude — what does that accomplish?
Bonus point for assertiveness and unwavering. Subtract two points for creating a divide and three points for a missed opportunity to teach.
If you encounter someone who challenges conventional thinking, I’ve found it is always helpful to give ear — hear them out. Make sure you aren’t interjecting too soon, devaluing their opinions, or jumping to conclusions. After you’ve really listened, and only after, maybe you’ll have earned the right to carefully explain the differences. On occasion, they may have a valid point, an outside-the-box approach, or they may simply be speaking a different language than you. Dealing with vastly different approaches to business, ministry, tactics, and strategy are part of what makes life fun!
Culture Integration is taking all walks of life, all opinions and experience levels and carefully weaving them together under patient (but focused) leadership that can bring the strengths of everyone on your team along to victory.
Oh, and don’t get discouraged if change doesn’t happen overnight, or after one staff meeting. It will take consistency in walking out your mission, showing compassion for people, and passion for the vision; for the future that is the secret “simmering recipe” for harmony and unity.
P.S. One day, more specific examples. Patience, patience…
Daniel Britt .::. VP of Culture Integration
I’m a fan of Andy and Barney. Millions love the Andy Griffith show and its iconic whistling theme song, including myself. The show is clean, moral, fun, humorous and non-offensive. Filmed in the 1960’s, Griffith was once asked about the family-friendly, clean-cut view of the world the show presented. He said, “We were trying to reflect the morals of the 1930’s.”
Those are all well-intentioned qualities. Yet, they fall short.
One of my greatest fears is that Christian radio is the Andy Griffith show. We’re “safe for little ears”, positive, uplifting, encouraging, moral, clean, humorous and good. But that isn’t enough.
It isn’t enough to be morality radio. It isn’t enough to be the station that doesn’t use four letter words.
We must be gospel-centered.
Morality never rescued anyone from his or her shattered self-image.
Family-friendly never offered the solution to a broken marriage.
Safe and clean never delivered someone from the crushing weight of guilt.
The gospel does.
At Positive Alternative Radio we have begun a quest. Our goal is to be gospel-centered. We want to live our lives in the light of the gospel and in so doing share our struggles, failures, and successes with our listeners and allow them to see us being changed by Jesus.
At this moment, program directors who are reading this post are about to set their hair on fire.
I’m not saying we bring in Rev. Fred and give him the microphone for 30 minutes and let him scream his guts out.
I am advocating we have authentic conversations with our audience. And never doubt that your audience WANTS and DESIRES authentic interaction.
Continue to be funny.
Keep doing the “What’s the worst pet name you’ve ever heard?” bits.
But – there are times when life demands you be authentic.
Share your parenting struggles – because your listener is struggling as well.
Talk about how Jesus gives us a new identity – because those who listen to us need to be reminded that they are not defined by their past but by the cross and the resurrection.
But do it in an authentic and relevant manner.
One final thing, we have made a commitment to be more intentional with the gospel.
When it is appropriate and natural, we will share the gospel on-air. We won’t preach. But we will simply share the message of Jesus in 60-90 seconds and invite those listening to follow this Jesus that has transformed our lives.
Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
I say, “What does it profit us as Christian media if we have 1 million in weekly cume, and never share the gospel?”
Let us be authentic.
Let us be unashamedly Christian.
Let us be gospel-centered.
Positive Alternative Radio
The two words, “reliability” and “redundancy” are the key principals behind assuring that your radio station is broadcasting twenty-four hours per day. Ideally, our radio stations would be on the air every second of every day but that is never physically possible. However, there are many steps that can be taken and systems that can be built to reduce the amount of time off the air.
Reliability is measured by the amount of time “on the air” at your radio station. For our radio stations, we want that number to be somewhere between 99.9% and 99.99% on the air. That corresponds to between four and forty-four minutes of downtime on average per month. 99.9% is very good but 99.99% would be considered about the highest echelon of reliability that we can achieve.
We achieve redundancy through two different methods: having good quality equipment/systems that we can trust and building redundant backup systems to our main operations.
High quality equipment and systems is paramount to providing a high level of reliability. To do so, we must invest in equipment that is robust and not prone to failures. Equipment and systems that are prone to failure should be replaced with improved systems or redundant backup systems. High quality equipment in the main air chain of the radio station should be business class quality and not consumer grade.
Redundancy is the next step to providing a high level of reliability for your radio station. Redundancy systems at the radio station will increase your reliability by providing an alternate system to your normal operations, to compensate for a failure. One common example is an emergency standby generator at your studio or transmitter site. A generator system will monitor your power provided by the power company and in the event of a failure, it will start the generator. The generator will provide an alternate source of electrical power to your location until the power company can restore service.
In addition to backup generators, there are many other systems that can be built to increase reliability through redundancy to your radio station:
a) Backup studios in which to broadcast in the event of a major failure in your main studio
b) Backup programming on CD or computer that can be played in the event of an automation computer failure
c) An auxiliary broadcast antenna and/or transmitter site in the event of a major failure at your main transmitter site
d) Backup transmitter at your main transmitter site in the event of a failure on your broadcast transmitter
e) Alternate signal delivery methods from the studio to your transmitter site such as an Internet backup to your microwave audio delivery, satellite or telephone line
f) Audio switchers in your studios that can bypass a console or piece of equipment in the event of a broadcast console failure
All of these systems have the same purpose — to keep you on the air. These systems can seamlessly and automatically switch to backup systems in the event of a failure which will greatly reduce the amount of time off the air and improve your reliability.
David Hodges, Director of Engineering
Positive Alternative Radio
Every station is required to serve the public they are licensed to. This requires special programming that is beneficial to and serves our community’s interests. At the end of every quarter, we are required to fill out a report that shows we have effectively fulfilled our public issues requirements. Here are some things you can do to fulfill those requirements and things that you may be doing, that really don’t count:
The easiest way to show you are meeting the needs of your community:
- By doing a half-hour issues oriented program every weekend. It’s as simple as interviewing your mayor, economic development director, Chamber director or any non-profit organization that is having a positive impact on your community.
- You can also use any remotes where you are interviewing non-profit organizations that are benefiting the community. If you were at a Red Cross event to raise funds for families whose homes have been burned down, that would count.
What doesn’t count?
- Church programs. This was something that stations used to do all the time on Sunday mornings to fulfill their requirements. However, it was later ruled that church programs are too limited in terms of fulfilling the needs of the entire community.
- If you’re airing a one minute “health tip” or “family minute”, that doesn’t count either. The feeling is that you can’t adequately cover/discuss a topic of local interest in just a minute. The program needs to be at least ten minutes in length for consideration.
How much time should you devote to public issues every quarter? You should do at a minimum, 10 hours of issues programming. If you air a half hour program on Saturday and repeat that program on Sunday morning that would be one hour per week. Over the course of three months, you will have at least 12 hours of issues-oriented programming. It’s that simple.
Programmers have a hard time breaking format to provide this programming but remember this isn’t a choice you get to make. It’s a requirement of the FCC. An hour interruption each week in your typical programming is far less painful than an FCC fine.
One final note on your public issues report: make sure it’s filed no later than the 10th day after the quarter is completed. This means your report should be in your public file no later than April 10th, July 10th, October 10th and January 10th (for 4th quarter of the prior year).
Joy FM General Manager
A passion for what you do is critical to achieving excellence consistently. It is the difference between one who is all “In” and another who is just “Clockin’ In.”
If audio production is not your “passion” and you’re charged with that responsibility at your radio station, it can be an overwhelmingly heavy weight. In small market radio and many medium market stations, you may wear multiple hats. Someone must be in charge of production. Tag, you’re it!
Okay, so audio production is not your passion. Perhaps you are proficient with the administrative side of this vital area of operations, but you lack some of the skills to really do masterful audio work. A few pointers of how to approach this creative and subjective craft could help develop the “must do” part of your work into a real “passion” for it.
Isaiah “Izzy” Knight, Afternoon Host and Media Director at Spirit FM in Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia, has some tips that just may be what the doctor ordered.
Knight says, “Creating efficiencies and working smarter will provide you time to create a more effective and compelling product.” Here’s what he recommends:
“Audition CC and CS6 have a feature called ‘Templates.’ It is an easy way to have your toolbox of SFX and Beds automatically loaded with your rack presets ready to go. Just set up your session and export it as a template. If you have an older version, just set up a blank session and save it to your desktop. Just remember to hit ‘Save As.’
Set up a rack for each voice-over person you have. Unless they’re voicing a spot in another studio, you should never have to tweak their audio again after it is set (unless you’re going for a new effect, of course).
Have a voice tracker or other outside dry voice audio? Batch process their files using your settings to give them a bit more punch and match your station.
There are several ways to approach this workflow. It needs to be simple, provide accountability and include enforceable deadlines for each person in the process. Knight prefers paperless. If budget is an issue for you, going digital can be done FREE by using Google Docs. Create a form with the fields you need and it will automatically populate the spreadsheet. This operation is working very well at Spirit FM. If you have a budget for third party vendor software, Vcreative is a good tool at www.vcreativeinc.com.
Make these deadlines, presets and templates standard operating procedure. Standardizing your work flow will save you time in the long run and the continuity will make your station(s) sound significantly better.”
You never know…what is a “just get it done” drudgery to you now, may grow into a passion you never dreamed of, bringing all your hidden creative talents into full bloom. And that’s excellence!