(By Mike McVay) Great Producers protect their talent. They do it by being uber prepared so that no “Big Event” story is missed. It is by executing the strategy that the station has and the vision that the host of the show has for the program. It is by being the filter, or voice of reason, for those that are free-wheeling and by assisting in managing the members of the team for an ensemble show.
Great producers are hard to find. Many are “grown” and trained versus being “hired from elsewhere.” I’m always impressed to learn about great show hosts who started as a producer, for another great show, and went on to become some of the most successful air talent performing today.
The very best producers understand who the audience is that their show is targeting and they focus on capturing information from all sources that are frequented by that audience. The anchor, (or co-hosts if the show has a team approach to the anchor position), should be confident that their producer will be prepared for their arrival in the morning. This means creating content and having the hot topics prepared to share, audio available to use and an idea of how social media will be used to engage the audience during the show. All before the host/co-hosts walk into the studio.
The producer follows the Road Map for the program as each days’ show is prepared. Knowing how many “Hot Sets” you have and how many “Cold Sets” have to be prepared for the show enables you to approach the days show prep process with a specific number of items needed. Some topics are so big that they consume the majority of a show, but days like that tend to be less frequent than what one might consider to be a normal day.
The producer should be aware of their specific audience’s time spent listening so that they know how many times their audience will turnover during a show. It is a mistake to assume that a topic that’s been presented earlier in the show should not be brought back later in the same program. Think about your life away from radio. Your family and friends talk about the hot topics repeatedly.
Show prep is an important part of the interaction that the producer has with the talent on the show. If the show is an ensemble program, then the various members of the show should know their role and their on-air character, and prepare to submit content that supports the show. There are two phases to the producers’ prep process. Phase one is what the team puts together as individuals in the late afternoon and early evening for tomorrows show. Phase two is what the producer captures from those suggestions and adds to them with relevant items that became newsworthy overnight. That information is shared before the program in a review of the run down for the day.
A program producers’ job doesn’t end at the close of a program. Immediately after the show, meet with the talent and talk about what worked and what didn’t work for that day’s show. What could have been better executed. What are you happy with and want to bring back in the future? A short meeting following the daily show is the best time to review everyone’s performance for the day. Learn from the good and bad of the show. Then … you move on. Yesterday is gone.
Protecting the talent is a difficult task, but a necessary one, in that it’s easy for the talents’ time to be diverted to things that have no impact on a show. That doesn’t mean that a talent shouldn’t work with sales to generate revenue. It doesn’t mean that a talent shouldn’t meet with an advertiser who has requested to meet the personality that will endorse their product or service. It certainly doesn’t mean that you shield a personality from their favorite charities or those charities that the station has embraced. Moderation is called for here.
In general, your tasks will include sourcing potential contributors and guests to be interviewed. Managing the logistics of getting people, resources and equipment together at the right place at the right time, as needed. You may be saddled with checking that copyrights are cleared for on-air and on-line. You should have the skills to convert text, graphics, video and audio files into other formats. Finding audio that has been archived or from other sources on-line, where you have permission to use them. Many producers are also responsible for responding to audience feedback, referring them to other departments and possibly to management at your station. Many show producers also participate in promotion meetings.
Being the voice of reason, if necessary, is a skill that the more experienced producer may employ. That producer, who is also on-air as part of a show, can be used to protect the freewheeling discussions that sometimes erupt during a show. Know when to interrupt, to enhance, to earmark audio to be used for a promo. That isn’t to say that the producer should be a filter, but one would hope that they have credibility to where the anchor/s of the show would listen to them and respect their opinions in regard to what content is used and isn’t used.
A thick skin must accompany your pride of authorship. The anchor/s have the last word. You should be willing to focus on the team’s direction for the show, and accept that focus as the direction in which the show will move forward, even if it means your suggestion has been rejected. Be heard, but be prepared to adapt and adjust, if you’re overruled.
The longer you work with the talent, the greater your credibility will be with them. That will lead to their dependence on you and your value increasing as does that dependence.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]