by Tracy Johnson
Does your station need a radio talent coach?
The answer is,
Well, yes…Of course you do.
Of course, I’m a bit biased. I’m a talent coach. But chances are your station, and the personalities on them, need a talent coach.
Jacobs Media released results of a talent study, and it showed disturbing and shocking results. 59% of all personalities surveyed are air checked less than 2 times per year.
And here’s something even more alarming: 40% of the sample reported that they are never given feedback or critique.
Let that sink in. Radio’s most valuable assets aren’t getting feedback, critique, inspiration or input from management.
That’s like owning a Ferrari but never taking it in for a tune up.
Or raising a puppy with champion blood lines and not taking it to the vet. Or feeding it.
Many broadcasters seem to think that highly talented personalities can be left to sort it out themselves. They feel they don’t need or want coaching. They couldn’t be more wrong. Personalities don’t want to be left alone. They want to be inspired. And they want to grow.
The same study revealed 55% of all personalities said they feel under-appreciated.
The same number (55%) reported feeling angst and insecurity. To perform at a high level requires confidence. That’s true for any job, but especially those in the entertainment business. And it’s management’s responsibility to inspire confidence.
Perhaps the problem stems from management being spread thin across multiple stations. Staffs have been whittled to a minimum and programmers have less time to listen to, let alone coach, talent.
Regardless, this is a critical problem.
Talent is the one thing that separates a radio station from all other sources of music and information.
Personalities should be the #1 priority.
Personalities need a coach to reach their potential. That goes for Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Elvis Duran, Ryan Seacrest, and Scott Shannon.
It’s true for actors, singers, athletes, and executives. And it’s true for anyone who needs to be inspired. LeBron James. Ashton Kutcher. Bruce Springsteen.
Tom Hanks needs a coach. So do Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and James Corden.
And Kristi Yamaguchi needs a coach. She is an Olympic champion skater with natural talent. But she didn’t become a Hall of Fame athlete on talent alone.
She had help. The thousands of hours that go into becoming the best are inspired by her coach.
Kristi credits her coach with unlocking her talent:
[my coach] was great because she knew how to read me, and if i started to get frustrated, she knew how to turn it around or back off.
I learned first-hand that there are no shortcuts. My coaches inspired me to strive for excellence every day. It’s pure and simple hard work.
Great talent can’t be managed. That’s why they frustrate broadcasters and administrative types. Great talent must be coached. There’s a big difference.
A manager tells the staff what to do and where to do it. What and where are the operative words. A manager is mostly interested in execution. It’s all about getting things done. A manager is happy when everyone shows up on time, puts in the effort, and leaves at a certain time. They love it when everyone implements the formula.
A coach is different. They teach how to do what you do. They specialize in tactics designed to help talent perform at a high level. A coach helps establish self-worth and provides direction to achieve goals.
Businesses need both managers and coaches, but most stations are filled with administrators more skilled in management techniques than coaching techniques.
Like Yamaguchi’s coach, a good talent coach keeps personalities on a successful path, knowing when to demand more, and when to back off. If Kristi’s coach had tried to teach her everything about being an Olympic champion at once, she would have failed. In fact, she probably would have become frustrated and stopped skating.
So how can a broadcaster find the right coach?
Effective training comes with repetition and a long-term approach. That can be frustrating for the talent and the trainer. Coaches often can’t understand why it is so hard to get simple concepts. We want to explain it on Tuesday and hear it on the air Wednesday. But it doesn’t work like that.
Coaches inspire, provide perspective, point out better ways to solve problems or address issues, share ideas, identify and accent your strengths and is invested in pursuing excellence on your behalf that will lead to success.
Without guidance, growth will stall and they will hit a creative wall. It may be next week, or next month, or next year. but it will happen.
On Wise Brother Media’s Studio Think Tank, a personality in a small market asked:
Just curious if you’ve worked with a talent coach or does that fall under your consultant’s responsibilities? Seems consultants sometimes bite off more than they can chew and can’t (don’t) spend the time (never listen) fine tuning a show (don’t tell you anything new or contradict themselves from meeting to meeting)… not that this has happened in our market.. but I’m..uh…asking for a friend.
I’ll take a crack at this answer.
When seeking a talent coach, find one that fits these 6 criteria:
Loves Talent: Some consultants, and some talent coaches, don’t really love talent. Some are former personalities that aren’t or can’t perform any longer. There’s a bitterness bordering on jealousy. These coaches are harsh, almost mean at times. Look for a talent coach that loves talent, enjoys working with them, and looks for their personal gratification when the personalities succeed.
Focus on Your Needs, Not Theirs: Great coaches understand how to bring out the best in a personality. The relationship should be fun and open. Avoid cookie-cutter coaches who think they have it all figured out and come in with a “bag of tricks”. Great coaches find the right solution for your personalities.
Informed Opinions: Everyone has opinions, but success is based on subjective reasoning. Personalities should challenge coaches and consultants. Most broadcasters love to establish rules. They’re presented as if sacred words handed down from by a radio god. Don’t accept feedback at face value. Learn why it’s valid and how the coach came to that conclusion.
Confident and Honest: Confidence is the personal security to share ideas and input without fear. The coach should present opinions honestly, yet with compassion. Performance is hard, and a gentle approach to correction and growth goes further than banging you over the head with mistakes.
Positive Attitude: Look for a talent coach that builds on strengths without obsessing about weaknesses. Never focuses on shortcomings,. Identify what personalities do well. Harnessing and harvesting gifts allow personalities to thrive by taking advantage of strengths.
Encourages Growth: Find a coach that instills core entertainment values that sustain a career, show, and station. He or she should challenge personalities, then hold them accountable to reach their potential.
There is no shortage of talent. Radio is filled with a wealth of amazing personalities. Most simply need inspiration to allow their personality to flourish. And that takes time. And based on the data, that time is not being invested in coaching.
Good coaching is essential to short-term and long-term success. Radio personalities need consistent feedback on performance.
They already get plenty of input from listeners, friends, family, managers, advertisers, and coworkers who provide a variety of conflicting and confusing messages that create self-doubt and fear. They need a voice of calm reason to stay focused on goals.
Sure, it would be nice to have a radio talent coach. But it’s not so much whether to add one. The question is who to choose.
I’ve spent three decades working with talent and management. I’ve helped shows merge and grow to #1 positions on several continents, over 50 countries, and in almost every state in the US. Plus, nearly every province in Canada.
Every personality needs a coach. You need outside help. Let’s talk.
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