The Synergy of Winning Managers and PD’s


(Mike McVay) One of my longtime friends in Programming once told me that he always wanted to be a Market Manager. Given that I was one of those that came up through programming, and went on to be a Market Manager, I asked “Why?” His response was that all he’d ever wanted to do was truly Program a Radio station and the only way to do what he wanted to do in programming was to become a market manager. A sad statement, but for this person it was true. I am sure that there are others who find themselves in that position. Fortunately, I always found myself working as a partner with the Market Managers who I worked under.

Much like the lyrics from the song “The End” by the Beatles … “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make…” In this case substitute the word Love with the word Respect. The respect you give your manager, the respect you’ll receive as the Program Director. If you don’t respect the person who is the manager, then at least respect the position and the job they have to execute.

Market Managers are saddled with generating revenue, often to accomplish budget goals that they didn’t set, managing expenses that they didn’t incur, working with programming to grow ratings to be able to grow revenue, interfacing with engineering to ensure the audience can hear the station on multiple platforms, and building esprit de corps.

Program Directors are often saddled with the same budget constraints as the Market Manager, magnified by being put in a position to multi-task in regard to their duties, and as such they seldom have time to engage the creative side of their brain. The performance of the PD, and talent, is measured by a rating system that is inconsistent and often influenced by insufficient sample sizes. Not always, but sometimes. That’s enough to give anyone in programming more than a few reasons to lay awake at night waiting for that nightmare to invade their dreams. Because of this sampling issue, bigger is always better, so that your cume is large enough to overcome occasional rating wobbles.

Respect is a two-way street. You as a Market Manager need to give your Program Director respect, as well as the tools they need to do their job, and encouragement to work collaboratively with the Sales, Engineering, Promotion and Marketing departments. Respect builds confidence. Programming remains a mix of Art & Science. If every move is questioned, and the PD loses the ability to trust in their art, then your station becomes dependent upon the performance of your competitors and not your own.

Communication is at the core of managing up and down successfully. No surprises from either side. There is absolutely no reason to have secrets from one another. Having been a General Manager, I hated surprises, because I never wanted to surprise those who I reported to. My style, as a PD, was to copy my market manager on all important memos. My experience as a PD is that when I communicated my challenges with my Market Manager, we collectively arrived at solutions to address the challenges that we faced.

Communicate the objective that is to be accomplished. That communication has to be clear so that there’s no confusion. Discuss the history of the station and the situation. What are your stations strengths and weaknesses? What are those of your primary competitors? How much audience do you share, in what dayparts, and what’s the location of your audience? How do they use your station versus your competitors? What’s the market manager’s ability to provide programming with the tools that they need?

If you are the program director, you need to understand the Market Managers objective for you to accomplish. What is their goal for your performance short-term and long-term? Is the goal to be accomplished one that is obtainable? If the goal is unrealistic, then you have to collaborate on designing a goal that is possible to accomplish, or you have to be given tools to achieve the goal. None of it “just happens.”

If you are the Market Manager, what about the program director’s objectives? Are the objectives of both positions aligned? What’s does the accomplishment of your objectives look like. You have to know what success looks like to accomplish it. If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there, but you’ll never know when you arrive.

Designing the strategy as to how you’re going to accomplish your objective should be an all-hands-on-deck discussion. Because most programmers come from the on-air side of the business and most managers come from the sales side of the business, it will sometimes put you at cross purposes. You will want to identify who on the overall team can help in accomplishing the objective, and they then become a part of your strategic discussion. I’m not saying that you should make a decision by committee, but rather that a committee can help you pull together many resources, which comes from a variety of perspectives.

The decision as to the approach you take to implementing the strategy is driven by leadership. Take on all of the input you can, but the decision comes down to the one made by the Market Manager and the Program Director, and the team is then charged with implementing it.

If you want to motivate your team, never ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. If you want to encourage others to follow you, then make sure that they know that you’re willing to put in the time and energy to accomplish the objectives for the station and you expect them to do likewise. We don’t have jobs. We have careers. Lead by example.

The synergy of the Market Manager and the Program Director should be rooted in trust. You have to know that you have each other’s backs. That comes with time. You have to really know each other to be able to trust in each other, but that trait of Trust will bond the two of you, and that bond will increase your odds of achieving success.

Reward success. Acknowledge your accomplishments. A radio station that I consulted went from nowhere to #1 and stayed at #1 for several years. The market manager never liked to celebrate by throwing a #1 party. The thinking of the manager was that it’s the team’s job to be #1 and that by celebrating it, it would encourage the staff to “take their foot off of the gas pedal.” Sometime after they were not #1 regularly, the manager confided in me that they wished we would have celebrated every #1. It’s not your birthright to be #1. When you reach that pinnacle, enjoy it, and acknowledge that it’s harder to stay #1 than to grow to #1.

Ten Steps for Manager-Programmer Synergy:

  • Recognize and understand the duties of each other’s’ jobs.
  • Respect each other and respect your team.
  • Understand the objective that is to be accomplished.
  • Strategize collaboratively and develop a plan to accomplish the objective.
  • Communicate to each other and your team/s the goal and the strategic plan to achieve the goal.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Lead by example. Leaders lead from the front.
  • Trust each other and trust the plan.
  • Acknowledge the accomplishments of your team. Rewarding good behavior encourages more good behavior.
  • Celebrate your victories.

Working as a team, collaboratively, always increases your chances for success.

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


  1. Mike’s last paragraph is immensely important. One of the hardest things a manager has to do is to get their people to BELIEVE they’re winners. To bathe in it, celebrate it, live it, eat it, and come out the next week thinking about the competitors….”No you don’t. There is no way you’re going to beat us. That is NOT going to happen.” Those #1 parties can totally install that if you revel in what your staff has accomplished when they climb up on top. Great article Mike.


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