Why Your Radio Show Needs A Talent Coach

Why Your Radio Show Needs A Talent Coach

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. But still. Chances are your station, and the personalities on them, need a talent coach.

Jacobs Media recently released the results of their talent study, and it showed disturbing and shocking results. They found that 59% of all personalities surveyed are air checked less than 2 times per year. And 40% of the sample reported that they are never given feedback or critique.

Let that sink in. The most valuable assets of a radio station 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.

Talent Needs To Feel Appreciated

In the same study, 55% of all personalities said they feel under-appreciated. That, of course, leads to fear. The same number (55%) reported feeling angst and insecurity. To perform at the highest level requires confidence. That’s true for any job, but especially those in the entertainment business. And it’s management’s responsibility to inspire that confidence.

Perhaps the problem stems from management being spread too thin across multiple stations. Staffs have been whittled to a minimum and programmers have less time to listen to, let alone coach, talent.

Regardless of the cause, the industry has to fix this critical issue. Talent is the one thing that separates your station from all other sources of music and information. Personalities should be the #1 priority on the list.

All Personalities Need a Coach

This isn’t an infomercial for my services, though if you’re interested, I’d be glad to help. It’s more of a plea to all broadcasters to take immediate steps to strengthen the personality pool while we still can.

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 your behalf that will lead to success. A good talent coach is one of the most valuable assets for a program director, working with the team to drive innovation and inspire greater performance.

Personalities need a coach. The source could be a PD, GM VP/Programming or station consultant. 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.

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Hiring a Radio Talent Coach

A similar question was raised on Wise Brother Media’s Studio Think Tank, an outstanding show prep service that feature a talented network of personalities and producers sharing ideas. Check it out here.

A personality in a smaller 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 even 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, an edge that borders 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 talent coaches understand how to bring out the best out in a personality or show, while encouraging the talent. The relationship should b, fun and open. Fixing a personality takes time, patience and a lot of finesse. Each situation is different. Avoid the cookie cutter coaches who think they have it all figured out and come in with a “bag of tricks”. For every problem, there are many possible solutions. Great coaches find the right solution for your personalities.

Informed Opinions

Everyone has opinions, and much of the art of programming and personality is based on subjective reasoning. Personalities and programmers should challenge their coaches and consultants. Most broadcasters love to establish rules. They’re presented with authority, almost as if they’re sacred words handed down from the mountain by a radio god. Challenge those recommendations, because the basis for the advice is often rooted in outdated programming principles that no longer apply. Or they don’t fit your show/station/market/competitive situation. In other words, don’t accept feedback on face value. Learn why it’s valid and how the coach came to that conclusion.

Confident and Honest

Confidence is not arrogance, but rather the personal security to share ideas and input without fear. Talent coaches need to be confident and secure, but should also be honest. Nobody has all the answers, and any consultant or coach that claims to know it all should be avoided. The coach should present ideas honestly, yet with compassion. Performance on the air is hard, and a gentle approach to correction and growth goes much further than banging you over the head with mistakes.

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Positive Attitude

Look for a talent coach that builds on strengths without obsessing about beating personalities up over weaknesses. A great coach does not focus on shortcomings, but rather helps identify what personalities do well and help them become great those things. Harnessing and harvesting talents and gifts allow personalities to thrive by taking advantage of strengths.

Encourages Growth

Finally, find a coach that truly helps talent grow by instilling core entertainment values that sustain a career, show and station. Great talent coaches challenge personalities to fulfill their potential. They hold them accountable to be as great as they can be. And they never, ever bring out the cookie cutter formula scratched on a chalkboard.


Radio doesn’t have a shortage of talent. There is a wealth of amazing personalities in this industry. Most simply need inspiration to allow their personality to flourish. And that takes time. And based on the data in the Jacobs study, 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 their 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 help them stay focused on their goals.

The question isn’t whether it’d be nice to have a radio talent coach. It’s which one.

Get Tracy Johnson On Your Team – Now

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 almost every state in the US. Plus, nearly every province in Canada.

Every personality needs a coach. If you need help from the outside, let’s discuss.


Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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