New Rules For Radio PDs

An ex-program director is like an ex-Marine.

There are no such things.

Like the Marine, once a PD always a PD. We have worked in the trenches. We performed well before consolidation and we know what is working about today's radio content.

I'm one. Many of my friends are one -- some still have jobs in radio. There is a reason why three people make or break the management of a radio station -- the general manager, sales manager and program director.

During the Dark Ages -- 1996-present AD (After Deregulation) managers holding these critical positions were lured, then forced, then threatened with taking on responsibility for more stations than they could handle. Of course this was done to save money. Why? Because the consolidators who led the smaller more independent owners set the pace for Wall Street.


Quarterly reports promising more profits.

And year end results promising even more ... well, you get it.

In the process one critical position -- that of the program director was bastardized. So, I'd like to offer my thoughts on an easy-to-implement way to restore the power of the PD to help build audiences and create ratings so that their employers can go brag about them to investors.

Here are my New Rules For Radio PDs (addressed to consolidators or other serial abusers):

1. One PD per station. It used to be that a successful program director lived, breathed and experienced his or her one radio station 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This was an acknowledgment that the program director of a successful radio station is a specialist not a generalist. Consolidators anxious to get the most bang for the buck have spread otherwise qualified PDs beyond their core competency. If you want great radio stations that can program to the available market (which does not include the next generation), then suck it up and pay for one quarterback per station. Stop with the shortcuts and you'll see a better return on your investment. And don't tell me about the handful of PDs who are programming more than one station for you -- imagine what they could do with one?

2. No airshift. (Does anyone know CPR for our consolidator friends?). The PD is responsible for talent, commercials, promotions, music or content, audience and community relations. Need I go on. If yours is a small market, an exception is allowed. Bigger markets -- no exceptions. You don't need your brain surgeons cleaning up the operating room at the end of the day. I know you don't like this one but look at the results you are not getting by repurposing your PD. If you accept the suggestions so far, read on.

3. Outline goals and expectations on one page. How do you expect your content quarterback to do that which you ask him or her to do if you don't articulate your goals and expectations on a piece of paper? I know. I know. Legal told you not to so when you fire an otherwise good PD who has achieved their goals you won't have to lose the ensuing lawsuit. But really, put the items on a list. Make the program director sign off. Then, proceed to step four.

4. Give full authority to the PD to do his/her job. No meddling. No backseat programming. Leave your PD to either do what they promise or risk being replaced at the end of the year. Oh, no changing the rules in mid-stream. No using "corporate is making us cutback" as an excuse to stay involved. Warren Buffett, the billionaire who knows a little bit more than the Mays family about making money gives the people who run the companies he acquires full autonomy to do their jobs. Unlike the geniuses in radio, the Oracle from Omaha butts out. In fact, legend has it he only meets in person once a year for about two hours for an accounting of goals.

5. Fully fund the programming budget. Too many PDs have no real budget or the budget they have looks like Swiss cheese. If you suspect that corporate is going to ask for further givebacks during the year, under budget programming by the percentage of cutback you anticipate. You can't expect a PD to do their job without knowing how much money they have to spend. In fact, put the amount on the goal sheet(#3 above) and make him or her sign off on it. Channel your inner Warren Buffett.

There's more, but that's a starter list.

Now, I know some of you consolidators are going to say I'm nuts and unrealistic to propose these five first steps to unscrewing-up your station's programming, but I'm not really. A little crazy after all these years but not nuts.

You're the ones with devalued penny stocks. You're the ones who have lost audience, advertisers and the next generation.

Call me a Pollyanna, but this plan has been proven to work. Your plan has been failing for the past 12 years.

More of the same or time for a change?

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