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How to Succeed in Programming Today

11-25-2012

Brent Alberts has been on the programming side of the radio business for many years. It's been a labor of love for Alberts who knows what it takes to create a winning radio sound. We recently spoke to Alberts, who is in between gigs, to get his brutally honest opinion on the changing programming environment we now live in. He says, as a PD, your job is constantly redefined

Alberts has witnessed many changes to the programming side of radio. He shared his thoughts on those changes as well as great inside information on what the programmers need to do today if they plan to succeed and advance on the programming side of the radio business today.

What does it take to succeed as a programmer these days?
If you are in a PPM market, having experience is very helpful, it's very easy to be too conservative as a PD in PPM. Good compelling content still wins even in ppm. Growing cume and occasions will make you a winner. Whether you are a rated station or not, you still have to be where the audience is. Radio is not just AM and FM anymore.

We have many channels to serve, request lines, email, texting, twitter, web, streaming, podcasts, and Facebook are the basics in social media for radio. Working these assets will benefit the brand. Whether talent is live or tracked, they still have to connect and give the listener a reason to want to come back for more. Working with talent is a very important part of the job, they are on the front lines. Bottom line, give the best customer service possible on every channel we serve them on. Be THE Brand advocate for your format.
 
How stressful and challenging is the job?
When the ratings are good, less stress, but still challenging in today's environment. When your ratings are off, naturally there is more self imposed stress on everyone one on the team. I have never met a radio person that likes to lose. Competing and winning is in our blood. Multi-tasking is a must have skill for a PD, in many cases the PD is programming more than one station. And the PD is responsible for every asset of every station under their watch. Quality wins, it's hard work if you are doing it right.
 
What is the biggest evolution of being a PD from your first day wearing that hat?
It was 1979 when I became a PD the first time, and a lot has changed. There was no promotions department, no social media, no satellite, and we were live around the clock. Today there are a plethera of tools and data available that did not exist back then, And everything is now digital, all computers for everything, no more records, carts or cd's. Now there is AM/FM/HD. The request line has given way to social media. Much has changed, but some things remain the same. Radio is still very competitive, and the best products usually win.
 
Has the Rock format become impossible to win with?
Active Rock has it's success stories around the country, but it's also a format that struggles in many markets. The lack of quality new music has a lot to do with that. Classic Hits is a very strong format for rock today, right along with classic rock. CSX pulled off an 18 month run mostly top 5, with minimal marketing investment, and a great presentation. Good radio still wins. Classic Rock and Classic Hits still have quite a few successful years left in their life. And I think Active Rock will be around for a while too.

Why not move to the sales or GM side of the building? Ever think of that?
I enjoy working with sales, but it's not something I would like to do myself. I tried it back when I was quite young, was not good at it. Put me behind a mic, I can sell like crazy! Also while overseeing Lansing, I got a taste of being a GM. It's certainly not out of the picture.

How has the radio business changed? 
I am sad that radio has changed, as I was here when talent really mattered, and the product and serving the community was a matter of pride. And there are many places where pride and talent still matter today. Don't get me wrong, I understand change, it's always been a part of this business. Probably one of the things I like most about the business. Your job is being constantly redefined. Always new challenges, new hills to climb, and hills to defend. The respect for people has diminished in radio, and that makes me the most sad. This has always to me been an entertainment business, where people give their all, love to do it, respect others good at their craft, and enjoy making a difference in the lives of their audience. And our clients get to enjoy the good will we build with our listeners. Things in life always seems to happen in cycles, radio will have it's day again. Many of us believe that. We have always been good at reinventing ourselves in radio, we'll do it again. I have faith in radio.

You've been a successful PD for many years, what would you like to do next and where?
I really enjoyed the Operations side, working with many formats and PD's. I enjoy helping people grow, and achieve their goals. Plus there is a lot of variety in the job as you work with every department, every situation, you really get to move the needle in that position.

Alberts spent 8 years with Matt Hanlon and Judy Ellis at Citadel, as Director of Programming and Operations for the Midwest Region, and was the corporate director for rock. First time living in and working in two markets at the same time. "My last 3 years there I was based more out of Lansing and acting GM for a time. Came to Michigan from Nashville where I  launched WNRQ 105.9 The Rock, it went to the top out of the box. Prior to that 6 years in Dallas at KZPS, also Miami, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Atlanta are on the resume."

Brent Alberts can be reached via e-mail at brent@brentalberts.com



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