by Tracy Johnson
Ask any sports coach, teacher or parent about their biggest challenge, and it won’t take long for them to say something about working with people who aren’t motivated. You can add radio program director to that list, too. It’s hard to inspire air personalities when they hit those unavoidable slumps.
Almost every PD has been in that situation. If you haven’t, you will be. The grind of cranking out 3 or 4 hours of original content day after day is taxing. And after awhile it becomes routine. As the coach for each personality on your team, one of your most important jobs is to stay close to each individual and keep it interesting.
Sometimes personalities are just tired. They’re fried from the pace of the show over a long period of time. This often happens just after a ratings period ends and they start to relax. If they’re just burned out, give them a break. Give them a Monday off, and make it a long weekend from right after the show on Friday until Tuesday. It’s just one day, and this gesture will often leave them grateful and rejuvenated.
It’s even better if you can set them up at a 5-star hotel or spa for a couple of days.
One sure way to know you may have a problem is if the personality shows signs of boredom. Even on good days, there’s no excitement or celebration of a show well done. And bad days don’t seem to upset them.
When there’s just no energy, it could be a personal problem that’s affecting their performance or they might just be bored. If you have young kids, you probably run into the same issues as their winter break or summer vacation goes on and on.
Managing air talent is also a lot like raising puppies. They need to be stimulated and constantly challenged. Puppies need new toys, or at least new things to do with their old toys. And that’s an area you can manage.
When air personalities start feeling that they’re not moving forward, they can become discouraged. And that often results in a feeling that they’re bored.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do.
Start by giving them a new goal to work toward. Make sure the goals are not ratings based goals. That can be even more frustrating because there are so many things you (and the talent) can’t control. Instead, focus on creating goals that help each individual reach the next level of development.
In my online Audience Magnet course, I call it the Personality Success Path. It’s the progression of growing through 5 stages of growth (Introduction, Familiarity, Growth, Like, Love). For each stage of growth, you can create goals that will advance their career and your station.
You can download an infographic of the 5 stages here:
As you work with the talent to create new goals, make sure they are achievable and measurable. And each should be based on things they can control in their performance each day.
Another way to shake up the routine is to conduct a zero-based analysis of the show. This is something you should be doing for your station at least twice a year, but a deep-dive into every aspect of the talent’s show is a great way to re-engage their creativity.
Sometimes, all it takes is a new feature, or reworking something they’re already doing to get moving in the right direction. When I was programming stations, I regularly changed the clocks, just to keep it a little more interesting and make the personalities think as they perform. It was a little thing, but it worked.
Sometimes personalities get down on themselves when they don’t feel that they’re growing. They feel stuck. Sometimes talent feels they’re not improving, because they don’t have a perspective of growth.
That’s why I recommend archiving at least an hour of their show every month or so. There are a lot of uses for keeping the old audio around, but you can bring out the air checks when you need to, and let them hear how they’ve grown. Point out the specific areas that this how has improved. It will surprise them, and may help you feel better about them, too.
When comparing old audio to today’s show, focus your attention on current goals. If you’re working on teases, play audio of weak tease segments from the past. Then play what they sound like now. Play recent breaks that sound great, pointing out things they’ve learned.
This builds confidence and keeps them upbeat. It will also reinforces their training.
In most cases, creative managers and coaches can get bored air personalities moving in the right direction. But there are times that nothing you try will work.
At the end of the day, you can inspire those who are already motivated. But it’s not possible to motivate someone who’s not. Motivation comes from within. When a person lacks motivation or has lost their motivation, there’s not much you can do but move on. It won’t get better.
But before you get to that point, try everything to turn the attitude around. You’ll be surprised how many problems you can fix with the right approach.
Being a great program director isn’t just about managing the music scheduling and writing promos for the weekend promotion. At least half of the job is inspiring air personalities and others that are responsible for your station’s success.
It’s the coach’s job to get the best from everyone on the staff, and that takes some creativity.
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