What It Takes To Be A Great Leader


47 year veteran programmer Chris Kampmeier is retiring from the radio business in less than two weeks. His final position in the business was Region VP of Programming for iHeartMedia’s North Florida Region. Before he sprints out the door into retirement, we had a chance to ask him about his career as a star programmer and leader. In part two of our interview we asked Chris if he would share some secrets that lead to his many years of management success. And he said yes.

Radio Ink: What’s your philosophy on managing people?
Kampmeier: The first and biggest step happens over the hiring table. I take a fairly contrarian approach. Let’s say one is getting ready to cast for a new morning show launch. Historically I think our industry has kind of tied itself after the TV model in terms of staffing a multi-player morning show, for example. So the programmer typically conjures up in his mind what each of the roles should be for the kind of show he’s going to launch and then goes about trying to find people to fill those roles. But I’ve had the most success over a long period of time by simply trying to attract the most talented and creative and honest people I can find and then building my strategy around what their strengths are, what they love doing most. If I can get one of my morning show talent, whether it’s the lead talent or any of the other players that are on that show, spending the majority of their time doing what turns them on the most, they will need the least direction from me, they will need the least policing from me, which I don’t ever want to have to be doing. And they are going to have the most fun in their job and want to stay here the longest time possible.

Radio Ink: How important is the relationship between programming and sales and how do you make that perfect?
Kampmeier: It’s critically important. At the end of the day, we are a for-profit business. Generating revenue is tied for job number one with generating great ratings for them to sell. We are often the area where they will come for ideas and we have to play a key role in that. I think great operators have always known, but it has certainly become fashionable with all operators in recent years, that endorsement spots are probably the best revenue that we sell and represent some of the best client relationships that we have over a long period of time. The reason is because of the personal relationship that develops between the talent and the client decision-maker. When one of my air talent goes on a sales call and sits down with the advertiser and can get a relationship going with that advertiser, and then maintains good regular contact with them over the course of the schedule, that’s unbelievably powerful and certainly plays a key role in how we generate revenue in our building. But it takes a program director that’s going to build a non-combative relationship with their sales counterpart; and then for their talent team and the account executive team to understand that we have the best success when we have a strong partnership between both sets of people.

Radio Ink: If somebody reading this wants to be a manager, in sales or programming, what would you tell them they need to do to make sure they succeed?
Kampmeier: First and foremost, pursue a path that really interests you and really turns you on. If you’re an account executive and you think you should be a sales manager, make sure you really want to be a sales manager. It’s quite a different job. Being a great seller is not necessarily a great requisite for being a great sales manager. Same for air talent. If you’re on the air and you fantasize about being a program director, first make sure that’s what you really want to do. If it is in fact what you really want to do, then in all cases get to know your program director now. Spend as much time as you can with your program director or your sales manager. Get a mentor and reach out to other people that have those jobs. Learn as much as you can from them and get yourself into the position to pursue that path. Disclaimer: With enthusiasm, most air talent probably shouldn’t be program directors, and many great account executives would waste an awful lot of their passion and energy on the necessary duties of being a sales manager. It’s not an automatic path for anybody.

Part one of our interview: Of Course Radio is Playing Too May Commercials

Reach out to Chris and wish him well on his retirement by e-mail at [email protected]


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