R&R ‘The Industry’s Newspaper’
New PD in Town: Programming In an Unfamiliar Market
By Walt Love
It’s always challenging to start a new PD job. But when you’re new to the market, it can be a particularly tricky predicament. Long time programmer and former WQMG-FM/Greensboro OM/PD Sam Weaver, who’s faced that situation several times, offers some sage advice.
Weaver’s been in Greensboro just ten months, but each book has been an improvement over the previous one. His formula for success relies on simple but important rules.
First: (Don’t) go into a new situation and automatically start dismantling things because you want them to the way you want them. You have to be sure your way is what’s correct for that particular station in that specific market. If you’re an OM as well, you oversee engineering, promotions, programming, and work very closely with the sales department. You may know something about all these areas, but you don’t know about them at this new station. If you’re intelligent, you won’t talk as much as you listen. Then you can begin to observe what tools are already available to help you. According to Weaver, PDs should ask these crucial questions: Is there any outside research? Is there any in-house research? Does the station do music as well as lifestyle research?
Said Weaver, It’s very helpful when the station already has research for you to look at when you first arrive. Get someone to assist with your in-house callout research. I believe in going to local colleges and employing students who want to learn about radio business. You can learn a lot from students who are majoring in communications, journalism, computer science, or public relations. You can never have enough input, and these people are average listeners.
Another question new PDs should ask: Is there anyone who can give me an historical perspective on the station and the market? Admonished Weaver, Listen to everyone from the owner to the janitor. Bits and pieces of information will help you in your overall goal: knowing the market, its people, and the station.
“Checking to see if sales and programming have a good working relationship. Try to determine the best production person on your staff. He or she will help create the on-air image you’d like to convey to your audience. Next, make sure the station is visible in the community on a regular basis. Outside contest will help. Also, travel to high-density black areas. If there’s a station van, wonderful. Knock on doors and shake hands like it’s a political campaign.
“A new PD should also quickly become acquainted with local political and civic leaders. It’s important to determine who’s in control at the local concert venues, indoor and outdoor.”
Also familiarize yourself with the budget. Weaver suggested, “Determine how much money the station has for billboards, and television. Find out what type of budget there is for T-shirts, visors, etc. After you’ve checked everything and listened to the station, take all that information and combined it with your radio IQ. What is your radio IQ? Your experience, good and bad. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of people in a number of different formats and situations. I’ve worked in everything from CHR to Country- a varied background. Variety helps.”
Weaver has developed a simple equation for achieving ratings: (music) x (community action) x (political awareness) = image (the image you want to project to the community). Add time, and Weaver maintains winning ratings will follow.