Can You Relate?


Last week’s Editorial dealt with relatability…specifically how to get your air talent to to relate to their audience in a positive way. All of us want our talent to be perfect. All of us want to spend the time needed to make the talent perfect. And all of us think we have the ability to communicate with our talent in a positive way.

But do we?

Lorna Ozmon heads Ozmon Media, the industry’s premiere talent development firm. She has developed coaching techniques based on the theatre arts and psychology disciplines. Her clients include program directors, morning show producers and air personalites.

I received a newsletter that outlines her objectives in coaching air personality development. She’s given me permission to share those ideas.

“Effectively managing creative people differes greatly from managing people in task-oriented jobs. A person who is hired to do physical labor or perform clerical services needs only to understand the specific tasks he or she is paid to perform and do them well. Creative people, such as actors, musicians and radio personalities must put part of themselves at risk personalities must put part of themselves at risk in order to succeed. Successful creative people use personal experience and perspective as stimulus for their creative process. This blending of the person into the professional makes directing the effective on-air performance of radio personalities a complex process which should not include antiquated industrial management techniques. Here are seven ways to help you more effectively coach air personality performance and development:

1)     For every “don’t,” have a “do.” Many radio personalities are managed exclusively by a daily dose of don’ts. Don’t talk so long. You don’t edit well. Don’t dominate conversations with callers. Don’t! Don’t! Don’! While creative people need to know the boundaries, they also need direction as to what to do within those boundaries. Every time you tell an air personality what not to do, always give them an alternative as to how it might be done in the future.

2)     Separate the person from the performance. Avoid attacking the motives you perceive the talent had for doing something you did not like. Focus only on the behavior you wish to change. If you want an air personality to edit better, talk only about the process of editing. Steer clear of language and issues which will be interpreted as a personal attack by the personality.

3)     Don’t take things personally. All radio personalities do what they do on the air because they think it is the right thing to do. Radio personalities do not spend time plotting to do things on the radio just to annoy you. When approaching a problem with an air personality, ask questions before you make accusations. For example, “I heard you put a caller on the air this afternoon and since we don’t put callers on the air in this format, I’m curious as to why it happened.” By opening the conversation with a question, you allow the jock to plead his case before he is judged. In the end, you may find that his reason for doing the unexpected on the air makes sense and paves the way for positive change.

4)     Focus on the future, not the past. Most radio personalities are fully aware of what did not go well on their show on any given day. So, it is counter-productive to pour salt into the wound by spending excessive time talking about what went wrong. Make the corrective part of your critique sessions the first and shortest part of each meeting. Once you have made a corrective point and receive confirmation from the personality that he understands and accepts your position, move on. Do not over-explain or belabor corrective issues. Spend the last and the majority of each meeting discussing areas of professional growth and brainstorming for future shows and promotions. Your primary goal for each critique session should be to motivate and inspire future performance. Yesterday’s show is history!

5)     Be assertive, not aggressive. The difference between an assertive and an aggressive statement are two words, “you idiot,” that can be added to the end of an aggressive statement. Aggressive statements lead to unnecessary conflict. “Why did you go on for over five minutes this morning at 7:20 (you idiot)” is an aggressive statement. “Were you aware that the 7:20 break was excessively long this morning?” is an assertive statement. A little thought about how you say something to an air personality can make a difference between just getting it said and getting it to happen on the air.

6)     Don’t lie. When confronted with questions you are not able to answer for whatever reason, don’t lie. If you cannot tell an air personality the whole truth, explain that you can’t. Don’t fabricate a story. This most-often asked questions managers don’t want to answer are about future employment and contract renewals. It is better to tell a personality that you cannot make any guarantees at this moment than to say, “everything will be fine.” Once an air personality discovered you lied, you lose the trust that is critical to keeping air talent open to your input.

7)     Encourage questions. Give your air personalities license to question anything and everything! Empower them to scrutinize everything that happens at the radio station. Reward them when they discover an error or oversight in your memos and other communications. When you discourage air personalities to challenge or question your directives, you instill a sense of responsibility for the station’s overall success and prevent the myopic “my show” mentality on your air staff. You also build in safety nets to catch the occasional human error before it can do any serious damage.

Effective talent managers have the qualities of good parents. They set their own egos aside and openly approach each problem or challenge that faces their professional families. Air personalities respond best to and respect managers who are fair, honest and consistent. In the final analysis, the most effective way to tap the maximum creative potential of a radio station’s air personalities is by improving the quality of the creative support environment. When your air personalities trust you and feel safe exposing parts of who they are to you every day, you have succeeded in constructing a healthy support environment. Only then can you truly begin the process of effectively coaching maximum air personality performance.”

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