by Tracy Johnson
Personalities who feel good about themselves and their show are more successful. There’s no study that proves this theory, but in working with thousands of radio personalities for decades, I am convinced it’s true. That’s why strong management works hard to help them stay confident by keeping them off the emotional roller coaster.
Perhaps the most important skill for anyone responsible for coaching talent is the ability to inspire great performance by helping talent feel both fearless on the air and grounded and focused off-air.
That’s not easy. Most great personalities are reactive, emotional, and sensitive folks who tend to experience high highs and low lows.
Lately, the lows have been hard to ignore. Radio, like many industries, is in the midst of tremendous financial pressure. Budget cuts and furloughs have caused many to lose confidence. And when their outlook is shaken to the core, little things become major distractions.
And that’s when they need a mentor, coach, and advisor.
Here are three ways program directors can help.
The radio rating system is volatile, unreliable, and severely flawed. Emphasizing great ratings over great radio isn’t fair. Most air personalities have no control over the fluctuations from quarter-to-quarter and month-to-month. Yet, they’re often judged by it.
Don’t let that happen.
Many factors influence the results. A weekly, monthly, or quarterly decline may be coincidental or it may be real. Don’t let talent obsess over a ratings decline. Acknowledge, discuss, and analyze it. Then move on.
Instead, focus on the process of creating great radio. Pursue the art of activating listeners and winning fans. Ratings will take care of themselves. Reducing this stress point helps talent relax and concentrate on things they can control.
It’s also important to be consistent. When ratings are great, enjoy it. Share great ratings. Celebrate great ratings. But don’t let that become the focal point. Instead, focus on excellence and the process of creating great radio that produces great ratings.
Basketball legend John Wooden never let his players revel in wins or be depressed over losses. He emphasized the process of winning. His philosophy was that the winning would happen by focusing on excellence.
Every show has bad days and bad segments. Every show has good days when everything goes well.
Nobody hits it out of the park every day. They usually feel terrible about a bad show. And that’s when they need support and guidance most.
Avoid being critical about a bad show or segment. When management freaks out, talent is afraid. And fear produces boring performances.
Look at it this way: A major league baseball team plays 162 games in a season. A smart manager realizes that every team wins 55 games and loses 55 games. The other 52 games determine a champion.
Don’t ignore poor performance. Just keep it in perspective. Analyze bad days. Discuss it. Try to identify the causes. But don’t obsess about it. Then get back to the process of creating great radio and look forward to tomorrow.
Similarly, appreciate those great days when everything goes perfectly. But there’s another show tomorrow.
This may be the most important area to consider when keeping talent off the emotional roller coaster.
High profile radio personalities generate complaints. Or at least they should. A lack of complaints is a sure sign the show is in the Zone of Mediocrity. That’s especially true in an era where everyone is anxious to scream about every little thing that bothers them.
Complaints hurt performance because personality radio is personal.
Perhaps the most important thing a programmer or manager can do for air personalities is to protect them from those complaints. That’s why every show should have a phone screener. And someone that monitors and responds to social media, text messages, and email.
Complaints shake performer confidence.
Good managers consider the value of each complaint but keep it in the context of the show’s purpose, position, and the talent’s individual personality brands. Some are valid, some are not.
Talent should never get the impression that their stabilizing force (you, the manager) is influenced by an email from a listener, a phone call from an advertiser, or a comment from an account executive.
When they step out of line, discuss it. But not because of a complaint or two.
Roller coasters are fun. An emotional roller coaster is not.
Coaching talent requires many skills. Some are more visible than others. This is a behind-the-scenes skill that most will never recognize or acknowledge. But maintaining a consistent perspective will build confidence and stability. And in doing so, will help them stay more consistent each day.
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