(By Jeff McHugh) A young El Paso woman wrote to me about her first radio job. “I want to give it my all,” she said and asked my advice on what to read, learn and study.
It has been 39 years since I stood where this young person is, but I remember what being new in broadcasting felt like. You want to learn everything now and to be really good immediately, but it takes time.
I came up with four big-picture essentials that are helpful to know. No one masters everything but learning as much as you can about each will help guide a long and successful media career.
1. LEARN CONTENT
The art of storytelling goes back to Aristotle in 300 BC. Good stories are still the best content, and the most difficult to master. Consider books and classes on storytelling, like the ones I teach.
Read Hollywood Reporter for new content trends in entertainment. Watch great stand-up comedy and appreciate their precise word choice, voice inflection, facial expression, and body language. Take improvisational theatre classes to learn how listening is first and reacting is second. Learn how structure, execution, and production can elevate good content into great. Consider the difference between content with powerful emotional impact and content with a yawn and ho-hum.
2. LEARN MULTIPLE PLATFORMS
You are a media personality. Study every platform you can. Consider how your personality brand might connect beyond AM/FM. Follow podcasting experts like Steve Goldstein and James Cridland’s Podnews. Watch innovative companies like my clients at SXM Media, with success stories like Sirius XM, Stitcher and AdsWizz. Follow the footsteps of multi-media presenters like Howard Stern, Charlamagne Tha God, Ryan Seacrest and Steve Harvey. Learn how each medium works technically, every button, mic, camera and knob. Learn each platform’s strengths, limitations, competitors, regulations and trends.
3. LEARN THE BUSINESS
Follow the money. Learn what differentiates profitable media companies from bankrupt ones. How does your work result in your employer making money? Learn what the sales department does and why ad clients keep coming back. Understanding revenue, profit, and loss may help you avoid poorly run dumpster fire companies where layoffs are expected. Staying happily employed and financially secure helps keep you focused on improving your craft.
4. LEARN YOURSELF
Bob Odenkirk, the talented actor from Better Call Saul once worked in a restaurant where waiters insulted customers for laughs. Odenkirk found that no matter how hard he tried to insult people well, his customers always became offended. It was an early lesson in finding how/when/where his natural talent could work or not work. All of us have natural strengths we can lean into, skills that we can improve with practice, and a few that we cannot. Identifying what you really good at helps focus on what to build on first.
Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected]