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Coaching Personalities; The Foundation to Winning Radio

Share with your Program Directors; The coaching of talent can make a big and immediate difference in a station’s ratings. Unfortunately, too many Program Directors either spend too little time coaching an on-air personality or they overcoach them and attempt to control every element of a show. Keep in mind that you’re not directing a movie. You’re guiding a personality as they work extemporaneously.

Coaching talent is not a short-term project. The approach has to be that it is a long-term project. You have to start by building trust as a two-way street. You need to understand who the person is that is a personality. It’s a good start to explain your coaching style to the talent and ask the personality how they like to be coached.

There are those Program Directors who like to share every opinion that comes to them from others. To do so serves no purpose beyond creating confusion. A funny thing about opinions regarding a radio personality. Everyone thinks they sound good when the ratings are good and they sound bad when the ratings are bad. Every station and every show have the occasional wobble. The PD should shield the talent from opinions and focus on building a performance that leads to consistently good ratings.

Tips to apply when coaching talent:

  • Focus on the forest and not the trees. When a PD is too far into basics and bits/features, the talent feels as if they’ve lost control of the shows content, and they stop being genuine and start to sound contrived or manufactured.

  • The show has to be about more than the basics. The basics are important, but no one listens for the basics. They listen to be entertained and to be put into a good mood. They want to start their day feeling alive and energized. Audio adrenaline. The same for an afternoon show. Make me feel good after a day of work. That comes from entertaining.

  • Focus on the content of the show. Is it fun, funny, interesting, emotion evoking and targeted properly to the station’s specific audience? What about the delivery? Is it clear that the talents are well prepared? A talent that rambles or talks too long is not prepared.

  • Listen to the talent. Make them a priority when you meet with them. Don’t be checking texts and interrupting the meeting to take calls. I repeat … Listen to them. I’ve sat in meetings between a PD and the talent before, heard a morning talent tell me what type of show they feel they do best, and the PD then suggested something that was 180-degrees away from what the morning talent believes to be what they do best. If a 180-degree change is needed, then you address the need for a change, but don’t offer a content suggestion that’s contrary to the talent’s personality.

  • When I start to coach a show, or specific talent, I begin by understanding who they are, who the audience is, what the objective is for the station and who is the competition. I never focus on the basics in the first few sessions. It’s like coaching a baseball pitcher. If they can throw fast, you work on that, then later you teach them control. So, a few batters get hit. You get there. Many PDs don’t coach their talent. It may be a time issue, it may be because of their multi-tasking responsibilities, but many fail to have regular coaching sessions.

  • Some PD’s coach with “What not to do” and don’t point out “what you did well.” If all you do is define the parameters of a show with negatives, it will be easier for the talent to do nothing, than risk getting into trouble for doing something.

  • The best morning shows are fun, funny, connected to the community, have a strong link to the listeners lifestyle, thinks like the audience thinks, is continually doing show prep and is anchored by an intelligent person. I’ve never seen a successful morning show that wasn’t anchored by someone smart.

  • The best on-air personalities can be difficult to coach. They can be difficult to keep focused. Some have issues that go far beyond anything in the average programmers scope of expertise. However, the very best air talents are intelligent, committed to excellence, have a strong work ethic, a keen sense of right versus wrong when it comes to their audience and they often hear a “party” in their head that no one else was invited to attend. Great and successful air-talent are involved in their community. They are everywhere and they are seen everywhere.

Always remember this; don’t fix what isn’t broken. Evolve and grow your talent before any ratings decline takes place, but don’t make dramatic changes without being prepared to run the risk of a significant loss of audience. I can put up with a lot of “stuff” to be number one.

Most importantly. When it comes to coaching air talent … apply the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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