The Pros Take Pictures


(Mike McVay) Professional football is always a great inspiration to me in how to direct a radio station’s programming or sales departments. Watching the NFL, I noticed the announcers on the network detailing the attention paid to each individual player by the coaches who are located in the booth above the playing field. Not all coaches are on the field. They have a better view from a sky box.

The coaches have cameras and actually take digital pictures of the on-field action and then E-mail the photos to the sideline coaches who view them on digital tablets. The coaches’ look at every detail of the play, they look at what the competition is doing to them, and what they are doing to the competition. They try to catch the players doing something right as well as catch them doing something wrong. They are teaching the players, in real time, by using examples.

Programmers coach and direct air personalities, or Managers review the performance of sales people, to specifically help them improve their performance. It is not always to point out the negatives or indicate to them where they have failed, but rather to show them how to improve and to encourage them to do better. Catching your personalities doing something right gives the talent gratification. This is because they’ve perfected that part of their craft. It also tells them what to do more of to stay on your “good side.” Almost all professionals always want to improve their performance.

Lately, we seem to be running into too many Program Directors who are reluctant to coach their air talent. Maybe they’re too busy due to multitasking or dealing with the influx of new media platforms, maybe they’re simply shy, or maybe they fear confrontation. I remember one major market PD that I worked telling me that “by the time an air-talent gets to this level, they don’t need coaching.” Amazing!

The classic situations are those PDs who make statements like “our disc jockeys know how they need to sound. If they don’t know how to do a great show, then they don’t belong here.” That approach sounds like a great way to encourage an aspiring personality to hang him or herself once you have given him/her enough rope. It’s an irresponsible approach. It encourages failure. It leads to the termination of a talent, and often, the PD.

It’s sometimes too easy to terminate a personality. As Program Director’s we need to realize that when we terminate a personality, we have in fact failed. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but if you hire wisely, then you increase the odds that you won’t have to terminate that talent. You should try your best to hire wisely and then fire reluctantly. You owe it to the employee, and your employer, to work with talent to improve their performance to a level that’s more acceptable. Termination is the last thing that you do … after all of options have been exhausted.

Let’s start with coaching. I used to use the word “Critique” when it came to coaching sessions, but I came to realize quickly that critiquing is all about finding fault, being critical, and not positive. No one wants to be critiqued. We all want to be encouraged and that’s what coaching can do for a talent.

There are three styles of coaching that I like program directors to employ in a rotating fashion. I’d like to suggest that you use these coaching techniques to help guide your air-staff.

They are as follows:

This method of critique reviews every frame in which the personality talks. Call-letter placement, basics, for example, time-checks and weather, etc., are all analyzed. Does the content disseminated by the PERSONALITY pass the WHO CARES test? Information talked about should be of interest to the target audience, one thought per frame. Does the PERSONALITY sound natural as he/she delivers liners? These frame-by-frame critiques should be returned to the PERSONALITY in written form, along with a link to the audio, that they can review each frame and read along. The PD should be available for questions and should explain EXACTLY what is meant by comments in the coaching memo.

This coaching tactic is presented in written paragraph form and discussed with the personality. The content, flow of the music, and basics are all analyzed. This form of coaching is not as critical as a frame-by-frame review, but gives more of an impression of what a listener may hear and feel. You’re considering the overall feeling of the show.

The personality operates the audio and hits pause after each frame telling the PD how they feel about that break. This form of review is very interesting in that you will find most personalities are harder on themselves than you as a PD would ever be. Most talent, not all, will tell you what they feel they need to do to improve their show. You need only guide them as they determine if there is anything that they can improve upon. You want to be encouraging as you guide the talent in this self-help method.

Apply the Golden Rule to how you coach. Remember that humor is subjective. Just because you don’t think it’s funny, doesn’t mean that it isn’t funny. Allow your talent to do their job and guide them with coaching. Don’t critique them.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


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