Jeff Catlin is the Program Director for Cumulus Media’s KTCK FM/AM The Ticket and KESN FM ESPN Radio 103.3 in Dallas. The 17-year PD has a radio career spanning 25 years and he is, of course, on Radio Ink’s 2017 Best PDs in America list, which comes out in four days. In addition to the hefty responsibility of programming KTCK and KESN, Jeff also has supervisory responsibilities over five other stations: two News/Talk; two Country, and a CHR. Here is what one of Cumulus’ Dallas salespeople said about Jeff…
“The entire presentation of the station is top notch, and unique. And Jeff sticks to his guns. Even though I’m in sales, he makes sure the station doesn’t sound like one big commercial, however, advertisers do kind of blend in with the content of the station, which is great for advertisers. For example, an advertiser may be included in an on-air prank and they get tons of organic mentions. Or the on-air guys might find a particular spot to be funny, silly, or stupid, so they’ll dissect it on the air. Because of the phenomenal content Jeff gives us, The Ticket has been the highest-billing station in the market for two years in a row. Jeff is the wizard behind the current, pulling the strings and pushing the buttons.”
Now wouldn’t it be cool if every salesperson in America thought that highly of their PD?
Here’s is our extended interview with one of radio’s Best PDs, Jeff Catlin.
Radio Ink: What is your day like, and how are you able to accomplish it all?
Jeff Catlin: I don’t. Tomorrow is another day and while I try to get as much “done” as I can each day, its never all accomplished. I generally get into the radio station just after 7 a.m. and I don’t leave until after 5:30. I catch up on random e-mails at night and on weekends. And if there is breaking news or severe weather at any time, then I direct the programming of the stations first-hand.
I eat lunch at my desk nearly every day. My days are filled with air-talent show meetings, creative image writing, promotions meetings, brainstorming the next great programming or event idea, helping the other PDs in the cluster, or working with the Market Manager on hot issues in the building. Leading any cluster programming initiatives or events, coming up with our programming plans for special events like the NFL Draft, Spring Training, and Super Bowl Week.
Last, and certainly not least, I listen to the two stations I program back and forth all day long. I think sometimes listening critically to our brands can get lost in the shuffle as PDs get busier and have more meetings and responsibilities that take their time and attention away from actual programming. Spending that time with your station, listening to talent so you can give helpful, meaningful feedback is just as important as it’s ever been. Maybe its more important as radio stations have to battle the shortening attention spans and distractions that listeners have at their fingertips that weren’t there even 10 years ago.
Radio Ink: Who do/did you look up to or admire, and why?
Jeff Catlin: Howard Stern because he has the talent to understand what his audience is thinking and the guts to actually say it out loud on the air. Dan Bennett, our Dallas Market Manager and Cumulus Regional VP, because he continues to push me to improve my abilities and for his singular driven focus. Any one of our very successful talent on the Ticket who never let their success go to their heads, and they hold me accountable in my role just as much as I do them in theirs.
Radio Ink: How do you manage talent to get the most out of them every day?
Jeff Catlin: Respect them, respect their shows, let them perform and do their job. I work hard to provide an environment where they feel safe to create and take new chances. I communicate very openly about the ratings and how they work. I try to help them understand how what they do on air and the content choices they make translate to shares. It is also my job to hold all talent and programming employees accountable for the ratings and for the business end of things. We are in a results-oriented business and these days that means both ratings and revenue, and we all have to do our part on both sides of the operation.
Radio Ink: What’s your biggest accomplishment (outside ratings) the past year?
Jeff Catlin: On ESPN we revamped our station lineup after the Mike and Mike show starting at 9 a.m., and changed both of our local shows. It immediately made a difference across the board. Not just ratings, but in the vibe and sound of the station, the confidence went up in the programming staff and teamwork feeling improved. Sales confidence level increased. The moves completely changed the feel of the station in a positive way, even though at the time they were hard decisions to make.
On The Ticket (outside of being number 1 Men 25-54 for 15 straight months and counting in all three of the weekly day parts!) I am really proud of how much our staff works to help various charities and how our listeners contribute every time we ask them to. Last year, in 2016, we raised nearly one million dollars for the North Texas Community. That shows the strength of the bond the Ticket has with its audience outside of the hot sports opinions, funny bits, and wheels-off characters were also known for.
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.
Jeff Catlin: It’s cliché, but true. Once you’ve got any job in radio you start by working your tail off. Make the most of every opportunity you are given and then ask for more. Don’t say no to any extra work. Set a goal of being a PD and then work towards getting there. Find a good PD that you can learn from. Talk to PDs. Learn about programming as many formats as you can. Note the similarities between them all. Good radio is good radio. Educate yourself on the ratings. Act like a mini PD every day. You could be the producer (PD) of the show you work on. Or the PD of your shift, making sure everything is running like it should be. Do every programming job you can: run the board, producer, anchor, do an air shift, traffic reporting etc. And finally, teach yourself how to listen to a station and talent critically.
Reach out to Jeff to congratulate him on being one of Radio’s Best PDs at [email protected].