The Station In My Head

20 Apr

Several years ago, the late Don Clifton of SRI/Gallup created a way for us to identify and measure Program Director talents.

You may be familiar with this approach through books like “First Break All The Rules” and “Go Put Your Strengths To Work”.

Clifton’s team studied a group of the most successful PDs by observing their work and asking lots of questions.

The result was an hour long interview that we could use to evaluate PD skills. This became a fairly reliable way of identifying strong applicants for our openings.

One of the most interesting findings was how successful Program Directors talked about the station they heard in their head. In almost every case they described the station they wanted or heard in extreme detail.

Over the years, I’ve only really found a few PDs who talked about their station in this way. But in every case they were a breed apart from the average PD.

This type of talent often showed itself when the station was off track to the PD’s ears. Many of us seem to have an internal ‘something’ that knows when the station is right and when it is not firing on all eight.

In my experience, a PD with this ability will be edgy and unhappy until the station is right to his ears.

Recently, I’ve been surprised by PDs who tell me they don’t listen to their station. They’re too busy.


Frankly it shows. Many of these stations sound sloppy and unfocused.

I don’t think they’re too busy. Today’s software has made them lazy.

Automation and voice tracking is no reason to think that everything is running properly on your station.

These systems require tremendous attention to detail.

Every PD should make time to be a listener. It’s part of the job.

Spend time away from the station focused on the morning show or listening to the night talent. Have a notebook in hand and use it.

Even network shows need attention. Listen for the crossfades, liners, IDs–and how the whole package goes together.

Listen for the music mix. Make sure you are getting the tempos and textures you want all of the time. Sit with the log. Take notes.

Listen carefully to your imaging and talent presentation. Make sure the right message is on air often enough, in the right way.

Paul drew was famous for listening to KHJ all day with a transistor radio. Sony makes several models that cost under $25 that are perfect for this purpose.

The PD is responsible for every element on the air. Take the time to make sure all of them are working as intended.

Review the music log every single day before you load it to the automation system.

Review the entire log for music, spots, sweepers and voicetracks before leaving each night. Reposition tracks or add crossfades where needed. Be tight. Make it flow.

Pay attention to the smallest detail.

Take time to create systems that will make sure your station sounds right all of the the time.

No job in the world shows how well or how poorly you perform like that of Program Director. Your work is on display for all to hear 24/7.

Make sure you are making a great impression.

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Posted by on April 20, 2008 in Radio programming


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