programing to win

To kick off 2016, Robby Bridges has crafted a New Year’s Checklist. Bridges gives both programmers and air talent a list of things to think about and ways to stay focused in the months ahead.

Robby Bridges

Robby Bridges

By: Robby Bridges

If I might, I’d like to thank Kal Rudman and the great team at FMQB for inviting me back for my twelfth year as a contributing columnist. It’s been very rewarding to share ideas and opinions both in the pages of the magazine, online and with readers who’ve reached out to me via email.
For programmers, here are a few ideas on ways to stay focused and win in this New Year

1. Time Management: Prioritize each day. The most important thing we do as program directors is to create great content that has value for our advertisers (without violating our FCC regulations). Listen to your station(s) and direct competitors every day and all day. Meet with talent, even if it’s just a quick check in. Whether you’re the one scheduling it day to day or not, look at every hour of the music log and review rotations. Lastly, read/answer all email promptly—especially from listeners (I can’t tell you how many complaints I’ve turned around just from engaging them and responding to thoughts) and from talent sending audio (it’s respectful and you never know what you discover).

2. Live in the moment all while keeping the long game in mind. You can do this pretty easily when you have the stationality or brand definition in mind at all times—“What is my audience plugged into right now?” “What is important to them universally?” “What matters to them at Christmas, in the summer months, on a Tuesday afternoon?” You can navigate the deluge of requests from clients/AEs we all get for promotions, needs, events. You can work with your promotions/marketing team on both immediate and major quarterly promotions most effectively if you know the answer to these at any given moment. It also helps you know which battles are important to engage in and which really don’t matter in protecting brand integrity—that’s the integration of living in the moment while thinking long game. To the listener, the given station continually meets an expectation whilst also “living and breathing,” or evolving thru the world like they do.

3. Accept that anyone you manage is only going to meet you at maximum 80 percent of the way to what you ask for most of the time. People you must work with who you do not directly manage, it’s about 60 percent. Much of what I mention above applies here. What is critical to protecting the brand and meeting the stationality expectation? The best talent are creative, out of the box brains. That’s good—they should bend the rules with the best of intention (that is when lightening hits). Most talent feel compelled to make everything their own, which is also good. Of course, regularly reviewing content and providing clear directives and formatic structure is key, but certainly when they are on air it should have to be a major deviation from the mission to interrupt them. It should take 2-3 similar breaks done differently than asked before bringing it up – talent are their own worst critics. When a QB throws a pass and it’s fumbled, they know. If throwing long would fix it, a coach should work that play out with them, but not break apart their performance on a few bad throws. Over time talent will respond better to what matters when you build that trust with them. It’s much the same with digital and promotion directors. As far as people who do not report to you with whom you must work? When you need their help ask for 120 percent so if you get 90 percent of what you needed it’s a win—they’ll only go above half for you most of the time as they, rightly, are worried about what they need. Knowing this makes navigating the day far simpler.

4. Care. Have passion. The rest will follow—really, this is a special intimate medium and we are awfully lucky to be able to mold the content on it in our own markets.

For air talent:

1. Prepare, but be prepared to throw it all out or use another show. Live talent ought to be of the moment; the personal immediacy is what keeps radio vibrant in this fragmented media world we’re now in.

2. Never forget who your audience is, when you are with them and what they care about fundamentally, usually and right this moment. For example, CHR listeners always care about artists/concerts/gossip; usually movies, cool stuff to do/win; and at the moment—what’s trending? You’ll know—Star Wars is opening? Bieber got arrested?

3. Talk to people. Everywhere. You’ll know how to relate to them on the air when you do it in life. People will marvel at long-time, mass appeal talent like Elvis Duran, Dale Dorman, Giovanni, John Lander, Matty Siegel, Scott Shannon and Bill Lee and wonder, how do they stay relevant? They remember what mattered to people at all stages of life. They’ve been around the block and have experienced it all personally. They live in the moment within the realm of the long game: who they are as a talent. Work to do the same.

4. Have fun, damn it! This is show business! Its entertainment on a mass medium. In the context of the format, come out of the radio three-dimensionally. Have presence. Make it count. You win fans by doing that meaningfully.

Robby Bridges is the Program Director for Cumulus Detroit/WDRQ-FM and Detroit’s NASH ICON, previously programming WEBE/Bridgeport and WFAS/Westchester, he has also been a host on WPLJ/New York and the True Oldies Channel on Cumulus Media Networks. He is President of BBOR Productions, developing and marketing syndication, music and production pieces nationally. Previously Bridges has worked in various capacities at WCTK/Providence, Z100/New York, Q102/Philadelphia, WODS and WBMX/Boston and elsewhere in New England. Robby can be reached at 203-333-9108 or Email.