(Mike McVay) The NFL returned this past week. Thursday night kicked off the season and the weekend had a full schedule of games. It was a huge “Couch Potato Moment” for me and many North Americans. No team gets a “Bye” week the first week of the season. Despite this month signaling that winter is on the way, I love September. College Football on Saturday and the NFL on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.
Professional football is always a great inspiration to me in how to direct a radio station’s programming, coach their talent or guide podcasters. It was some years ago that I first 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.
As recent as 20 years ago, photographers in the skyboxes took pictures of each play, faxed them to the position coaches in the boxes, and they sometimes faxed them to the sideline. Players picked-up a sideline phone and spoke to the coach. It was very 2000 technology. That technology upgraded quickly and today coaches see digital pictures on Smart Tablets and speak to the players through the same device. All while they look at the same images. This is real time coaching.
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 reviewing actions and they using examples as teaching tools.
Programmers coach and direct air personalities, or Managers review the performance of sales people, to specifically help them improve their performance. It shouldn’t be to point out the negatives or indicate to the subject where they have failed, but rather to show them how to improve while offering them encouragement 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 as we all want to satisfy our superiors by preforming at a high level. True committed professionals always want to improve their performance.
Research conduct among air talent from two different sources show that on-air personalities want to be coached … and in many cases … are not being coached. Program Directors who are reluctant to coach their air talent could be because they’re too busy due to multitasking. They could be 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 with telling me that “by the time an air-talent gets to this level, they don’t need coaching.” Who doesn’t want to be continually improving. We’ve all heard the story that even Tiger Woods had a coach. Athletes at the highest level have coaches. On-air performers also need coaches.
The classic situations are those PDs who make statements like “our air-talent 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 make a mistake that costs them their job, or damages their career, and maybe even destroys their brand. It’s an irresponsible approach on the part of the program director. It encourages failure. It leads to the termination of the 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, while they may have failed, we have surely 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 than acceptable. Termination is the last thing that you don after all other options have been exhausted.
Let’s start with coaching. Decades ago, I used the word “Critique” when it came to coaching sessions. 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. If you define the parameters for a program with negatives, you discourage the talent from trying anything. The talent starts to thing that It is better to do nothing than risk getting into trouble by doing something.
There are three methods 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 on-air team of performers.
They are as follows:
This method of coaching reviews every frame in which the personality talks. Call-letter placement, basics, for example, service elements, etc., are all analyzed. Does the content presented by the personality create a level of interest from the target audience? Information talked about should be of interest to the target audience, one major thought per/break, but that’s not because of the talent. It’s because of the loud noise level in most every market. Does the personality sound natural as he/she delivers content?
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. Don’t be nebulous. Be specific.
- THE OVERVIEW:
This coaching tactic is presented in written paragraph form and discussed with the personality. The content, flow of the music (or topics for spoken word), 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. Requires the same level of specificity as the Frame-by-Frame method.
The personality operates the audio and hits pause after each frame telling the PD (or whoever is coaching them) 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 on them. 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, if you have a fun & funny show, that humor is subjective. Just because you don’t think something isn’t funny, doesn’t mean that it isn’t funny. Repeating what I noted earlier; If you define the parameters for a program with negatives, you discourage the talent from trying anything. The talent starts to thing that It is better to do nothing than risk getting into trouble by doing something.
Allow your talent to do their job and guide them with coaching. Don’t critique them. Don’t stifle them. Let them be who they are. Coach them.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]