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25 TRAITS OF A GOOD RADIO PROGRAM DIRECTOR

A Loyal Reader Asks:

“You’ve written a lot about what to look for in employees. What do you think desirable qualities are in a program director?”

1.  A good radio program director is a strategist. He studies the market, evaluates his competitors’ relative strengths and weaknesses, and adjusts the station’s programming accordingly.

2.  A good PD respects her staff and is careful always to treat them respectfully.

3.  A good PD is a perpetual student. He’s not ignorant enough to think he knows it all.

4.  A good PD respects her audience. She understands that the radio station’s mission is to serve its listeners.

5.  A good PD teaches his air staff to respect the audience. He teaches them how to talk to listeners on the phone and at personal appearances. He never speaks disparagingly of listeners, because he knows the air staff will follow his example.

6.  A good PD becomes an expert in the community her station serves. Not just in her “target demo” but in the community at large: the neighborhoods, the schools, recreation, local politics.

7.  A good PD does not allow anyone else to mess with her air talents.

Station manager is offended by something a jock said? Tell it to the PD, not to the jock.

Salesperson got a complaint from a client about something happened on-air? Take it to the PD, not to the jock.

8.  A good PD is consistent in his approach to programming and in his style of interacting with air talents. Before going to talk to the PD about something, the jocks don’t ask each other, “Is he in a good mood day?”

9.  A good PD develops healthy working relationships with the Station Manager, the Sales Manager, and the Engineer.

10.  A good PD understands that all air talents are eager for feedback.

11.  A good PD regularly schedules aircheck critique sessions with all on-air people — including part-timers.

12.  A good PD expects each air personality to be better today than he or she was six months ago.

13.  A good PD goes to her staff and asks, “What can I do to make it easier for you to do a great job every day?”

14.  A good PD is a seer. Rarely is he surprised by a major shift in listener attitudes, because he pays more attention to his listeners than he does to other radio or record industry people.

15.  A good PD is a coach. The team gets the credit when they win in the ratings; she shoulders most of the blame when they lose.

16.  A good PD inspires.

Radio legend Chuck Blore had an all-star air staff when he took L.A.’s KFWB — then a Top 40 station — to unimaginable heights several decades ago.

Many years later another broadcast legend, Gary Owens, was a guest speaker at PD Grad School. I asked Gary what it was like to work for Chuck.

“He made us feel as though we could accomplish anything,” Gary said.

17.  A good PD motivates. Some people respond well to being shouted at. Others require more gentle treatment. A good PD does not have only one way (his way) of motivating people, because that would limit his potential as a PD.

18.  A good PD is Protector of the Brand. She dedicates herself to maintaining the programming promises the station makes to its listeners, and she fights against attempts squander listener goodwill (a successful station’s biggest asset) for a few easy Sales dollars.

19.  A good PD challenges his staff to improve, to try new things, to take risks — to discover new and better ways of delighting the audience.

20.  A good PD helps staff members reach their potentials. If after five years a jock leaves the station with no improvement in her ability to communicate to listeners over the radio and with with no clearer career path, the PD has failed her.

21.  A good PD creates the kind of atmosphere that makes people want be there — even if it’s for too many hours per week for too little pay.

22.  A good PD has the loneliest job in the building.

Although she can act as friend and advisor to her jocks, she can’t be their buddy. She can’t party with them. She can’t be “one of the guys,” because there will be times when her duty as PD would conflict with her role as close friend.

When she has no idea what to do in a programming situation, she can’t admit it to the jocks because she’ll lose their confidence. And she can’t admit it to upper management, because they foolishly expert her to have all the answers.

23.  A good PD never lets anyone in the building forget that it’s all about the listener, not about us.

24.  A good PD wants to win and understands that “winning” is not “beating the competition.” For as long as success is measured in ratings points, the radio station that wins is the one that earns the largest number of loyal listeners and rabid fans.

25.  A good PD makes the air staff glad they chose radio as a career.

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  • Doug Hess April 30, 2013, 9:52 am

    What do you say to the PD’s who want to be that way, but can’t because the large corporation they work for has an area manager or regional folks who undermine or don’t allow the PD to be one.

  • MAC April 30, 2013, 9:56 am

    A good PD is the person who has ideas, passion, is willing to work their ass off, does what needs to be done and says what needs to be said.

    Unfortunately, that person might never get to be a PD because she’s a woman. Radio always has been, and to this day remains, one of the most sexist white-collar businesses around.

    Yes, there are female Program Directors, but we’ve hovered at the same low percentage for decades.

  • Christian Gomis May 27, 2013, 6:18 am

    Thanks for all thoses advices but what do you mean by:
    A good PD has the loneliest job in the building.