(By Gary Begin) For Program Directors to be successful air-talent coaches, it’s important to stop thinking in terms of the process as a critique, but rather as advice. It is critical to do the following:
- Ascertain Vital Subjects — Take the time to get out of the station and listen to the CDs of your talent’s shows. Listening in real time doesn’t allow you to go back and hear breaks a second or third time. After listening to the CD, make a request list of the vital issues you’d like to address with that air personality.
- Arrange Issues by Impression — Ask yourself: Which one issue will ensure improvement in the air personality’s ratings beginning today? Start your coaching session with the items on the top of your list.
- Choose one or two vital subject issues — Pick no more than two issues to work on in each advice session. Don’t bring a long laundry list of issues to the air-check session. People have a hard enough time dealing with change overall. The more changes you ask for at one time, the less likely you’ll get any.
- Identify Objective — Radio air personalities perform with good intentions. Sadly, as they say, the way to hell is paved with good intentions. We all can have good intentions and obtain bad results. One of the ways to understand why the air personality is performing in a way you wish to change is to prevent defensive behavior from your coaching session. Once you express understanding for your air talent’s good intentions it demonstrates you see them as well-meaning people.
- Search for “Big Picture” Perspective — How you present each coaching point will go a long way to determining the success or failure of your advice. Make sure you think this part of the process through very carefully before each coaching session. Try to find a way to direct your coaching points that establishes the big picture of building ratings, revenue, community goodwill, etc. One of the most common challenges Program Directors experience with air talent is too much material or words crammed into single sets. Outlining this issue from the perspective of the listeners, and how challenging it is for them to comprehend unfocused sets, makes it much easier to understand why improved editing matters.
- Formulate Details — Transcribe at least one hour of the talent’s show, on paper, for each coaching session. This accomplishes two things. First, you have indisputable evidence of what occurred on the air. Highly creative people, such as radio air talent, are always focused on the future. They have no clear sense of what happened in the past. The second thing you accomplish has to do with basic human emotion. When we comprehend words on paper, we need to use the part of our brain that’s rooted in logic. This helps avoid emotional hijacking from happening as often as air-check sessions.
- Construct Your Example — Examine your transcriptions and choose several examples that support your coaching point. If you only bring one example, you run the risk of being rebuffed with a response like, “Well, you just picked a bad break.” Collect any other data that supports your point. One of the big components of advice is the perception of your level of expertise.
- Think Progression, Not Product — During your coaching sessions, think in terms of changing the talent’s progression, not their product. Concentrate on possibilities rather than solutions. When you change the procedure, the product follows. Learning for a lifetime occurs when we change how someone thinks. No one wishes to be told exactly how to do their job.
- Presume Success — Approach every coaching session with the presumption that what you’ve asked the talent will happen on the air. Say to them things like, “I have total faith in your talent and abilities, and know you’ll make this happen on your show.” This requires a leap of faith for programmers. But, people tend to rise or fall in an organization contingent upon how management treats them. If you treat people as though they cannot fail, they rarely do. If they’re treated as if they can never succeed, they never will.
- Screen for Progress — After every coaching session, make a sincere effort to find your talent doing something right. Too much criticism demotivates people and will cause what I call “creative paralysis.” Suitable encouragement is your most powerful and cheapest motivational tool. Too many managers don’t take the time to use it. Just noticing will help make you a more efficient radio air-talent coach.
Gary Begin is the founder and president of Sound Advantage Media, a radio programming consulting firm. He has over 30 years programming experience. His book Radio Programming and Branding—The Ultimate Podcasting and Radio Branding Guide is available on amazon.com. Contact Gary at [email protected]; www.soundadvantagemedia.com; 731-437-0536