Meet One Of The Best Program Directors In America

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Leslie Whittles’ job for Cumulus in Houston is to grow the KRBE product and brand with a focus on how the station can best serve the community. That, of course, includes all facets of what comes out of the speakers as well as the overall image of the station. The most important part of her responsibility is to make sure her entire team understands and is focused on the goals.

On May 8, Whittle will be featured in Radio Ink Magazine as one of Radio’s Best Program Directors in America. In that issue, we interview every PD about how they manage on-air talent, who they admire, and what advice they have for the PDs of the future. It’s a programmer’s training manual for sure. Where else are you going to get expert advice from radio’s best programmers?

A colleague who nominated Whittle said it perfectly: Leslie is exceptional. “Houston hasn’t seen anything like the growth KRBE has achieved. Leslie is a team player. She looks at everything with a programming eye…she’s very analytical – and yet totally unafraid to take a chance on something new that she sees as an opportunity for KRBE to grow and that will increase KRBE’s loyalty in the audience and create more community involvement. We’ve had some new and different sales opportunities here that Leslie has immediately seen could be great for programming, and her professionalism and passion to KRBE made them huge successes. She works hard and she is very creative, helping to find solutions that have helped KRBE rocket to the top of Houston in sales. She is the best and very deserving of accolades.”

Here’s our extended interview with one of the best.

Radio Ink: What is your day like, and how are you able to accomplish it all?
Leslie Whittle: I think if you’re “doing it right,” no day should be exactly like any other. Of course, there are the daily and weekly things that always need to be accomplished, but it’s most important to know you made the station better than the day before. Hopefully you can point to something each day. Did you take the time to brainstorm new ideas? Did you learn something new about Nielsen methodology? Were you nimble and able to take advantage of a timely idea/event? Did you connect individually with a listener? Did you listen to and embrace a great idea from a coworker? Two things I do daily: come in with a game plan of what I need to accomplish, and work ahead. Working ahead allows me time to devote to things that “come up.” I don’t leave until I complete what I set out to accomplish that day.

Radio Ink: Who do/did you look up to or admire, and why?
Leslie Whittle: My parents. There are a lot of people who have guided me through my education and career (too many to mention), but my parents guided and prepared me for life. They instilled in both their children a dedicated work ethic, that we need to be kind to others and part of our community, and we always knew we could be anything we wanted to be. I can’t think of better gifts.

Radio Ink: How do you manage talent so you can get the most out of them every day?
Leslie Whittle: I believe any relationship is about communication and respect. It’s so important to give your talent the knowledge and education they need to succeed. They have to know the “why’s” and “how’s.” You also have to realize there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Everyone responds differently. Do these things and trust your talent to make good decisions based on the foundation you’ve built.

Radio Ink: What is your biggest station accomplishment (outside of ratings) over the past year?
Leslie Whittle: In September, the Houston market (KRBE – we are a standalone property), received Cumulus’ first-ever HABU Heroes Operating Award. This award is given out once a quarter to a Cumulus market or Westwood One division that delivers the greatest performance against budget, as well as demonstrates great cultural strength. I’m so proud of this because the award is based on performance at every level- sales, engineering, business, promotions, and programming. It is the very definition of the culture our Market Manager, Alex Cadelago, has instilled. Success only comes if we ALL work together collaboratively. And the best part? After the award was announced Mary Berner flew in for the day and spent time with our entire staff. It’s a great example of the culture she has worked so hard to establish.

Radio Ink: Tell all the young broadcasters reading this who want to be successful PDs exactly what they have to do to make that happen.
Leslie Whittle: Be curious! Curiosity leads to knowledge and creativity. Use all the resources you have to never stop learning. Make sure you ask questions and listen to others. You may not always agree, but different points of view are important. Once you realize you are no longer curious about something you should probably look for something else to do.

Reach out to Leslie to congratulate her on being on of the best programmers in the business at [email protected].

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