Cumulus/Westwood One Senior VP of Content & Programming Mike McVay says KRBE Houston Program Director Leslie Whittle is a role model and a model programmer. “Leslie has been able to accomplish with one radio station what takes most operators a large cluster. She manages a highly talented morning team, is blessed with great talent all day, connects to the market, and is intuitive as to what music to play.” Whittle will appear on Radio Ink‘s 2016 Best Program Directors in America list, which comes out on May 9.
Leslie Whittle is a programmer with an advertising background. A perfect mix to become a successful programmer in a sales-driven business like radio. In 1993, Whittle was an advertising major at the University of Texas when she applied for an internship, not at an agency, but at a Clear Channel station in Austin. After the internship Whittle worked part-time and after graduation was hired as the Assistant Promotion Director for the cluster. She then became the Research Director (they ran an in-house call center), Music Director and eventually was promoted to PD at KHFI.
In 2000 it was on to Houston as the APD for powerhouse KRBE. In 2006, she was promoted to the top programming job at the station. Cumulus Houston Market Manager Alex Cadelgo says Leslie is a passionate leader and a master of her trade. “Her extensive knowledge of music, meticulous attention to detail, business acumen, and ability to connect with our audience, makes her the best PD I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
Here’s our interview with one of Radio Ink‘s Best Programmers of 2016, KRBE Houston PD Leslie Whittle
What does your station mean to the community?
Whittle: Of course KRBE is where our listeners get their favorite music, learn about what’s going on in Houston and in pop culture, hopefully get a good laugh and occasionally even a good cry depending on the topic. KRBE is also a heritage station and has been a leader in the community for decades. We’ve been participating in the Pride Parade since 1988 — long before any other station in the market was part of the event. When Ike devastated several parts of our community and affected the entire listening area, KRBE was the station that maintained contact with Houstonians, both those who stayed and those who evacuated. We stayed on the air 24/7 with our local personalities, and updated those who left via text on current conditions as the storm moved through. After the storm we were able to customize our text alerts for listeners to text in and find out when their power was expected to return, when their schools would open, and even where they could find gas. Houston knows KRBE is here to serve and reassure our listeners no matter what is happening in our community. It’s the difference between a station that’s just liked by the community, and a station that’s beloved by the community.
RI: How has KRBE done in the ratings over the past year.
Whittle: We’ve seen KRBE show breakout growth over the last several months. We’ve been #1 in our target demo of W18-34 in a market where that demo is very competitive. One of the things I’m most proud of is how consistently well we do in both younger and older demos, not something you see from many CHRs. For example, last month KRBE was at least top four in adult and female 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54 demos, both Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to midday, and Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. We really are a station that all Houstonians relate to. It’s a tribute to the hard work and focus of the entire KRBE staff. We like to say 104.1 KRBE is where Houston Meets Music.
What are you most proud of?
Whittle: I’m most proud of my longevity in the markets where I’ve worked and the ability to adapt to change and to the cultures of different companies. I’ve been through several sales and mergers and have taken these opportunities to learn from many different management styles. There is always something to learn from change.
What is your biggest station accomplishment over the past year?
Whittle: KRBE launched our Bras for a Cause Campaign last October. It was a month-long campaign that celebrated women and raised funds and awareness for Susan G Komen and the Salvation Army. Listeners were asked to donate bras to be raised as a “Bra Wall of Hope” high into the skies of Houston. Many paid tribute by decorating these to honor those in their lives affected by breast cancer. We took pledges for each bra collected and at the end of the promotion donated the bras to the Salvation Army. Honorable mention goes to our current NCAA Final Four promotion. We are partnering with Coca Cola to give away tickets to one of the biggest events coming to Houston this year. KRBE is a stand-alone property without local sister stations, which is very unusual in today’s environment. Even though this is usually a promotion they do in Final Four markets with several stations in the same cluster, Coca Cola and the NCAA chose a single, female-targeted station as their vehicle to promote the Final Four to Houstonians because of our ability to reach a broad, valuable audience.
Describe the traits of a successful PD in 2016 and moving forward.
Whittle: Go into work every day knowing your job is about more than what comes out of the speakers. It’s about people. It’s about your brand. It’s about communicating, both with your listeners and your coworkers. Make sure your coworkers know the goals and how we are going to achieve them. Make sure they understand how the ratings process works. Know your market — every market is unique. Know your consumers — they will respect you for it. Be curious. Be passionate. Be open-minded. Most of all, be willing to listen to others and learn.
Reach out to Leslie to congratulate her on a job well done at [email protected]