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Helping PD's Succeed Sooner


I have great respect for the value of excellent program directors and for the difficult job they do. PDs have to balance many different areas, from executing a strategic plan to managing the day-to-day performance of their key on-air talent. Since you cant expect your station to be anything but average without great air talent, the pressure on the PD is even greater. So if youre a general manager, how do you orchestrate the extremely important area of content, as well as the business side, and make it all come together in a single great chord? Heres how.

Set Parameters For Performance
For many reasons, valid and not, turnover in the PD ranks has been high through the years. Add in the uncertain nature of todays business environment, and, not surprisingly, you have a high level of insecurity among even the best PDs. And thats not an environment that facilitates optimum performance.

Frankly, Im not sure GMs have done enough to minimize this problem. The best PDs want clarity and transparency. The GM needs to spell out and discuss all the rules and expectations during the interview process, or immediately after a PD is hired. That includes ratings goals, rules on controversial and edgy content, and, most importantly, accountability.

The blame game has always been rampant in radio. Minimize its destructive effects on your stations by spelling things out up front. I think we would all be surprised at how often this doesnt happen. On-air talent exist in an even more insecure world than programmers, and they need and want clarity even more. Make your expectations clear so the PD can be clear. And be reasonable: Dont hire a funny morning guy and then have the program director muzzle him. Dont hire Stern and then demand he do family talk. (Dont laugh -- Ive seen it happen.)

And remember that much of a PDs success or failure is determined by Arbitron. Thats like having a rattlesnake as your best friend. Sooner or later, well, you get the gist. My point is, make your PD more secure and you will be repaid with better performance. Were All Wired Differently Program Directors dont have the same skill set and DNA as sales managers or general managers, especially GMs with a sales background. Dont expect a programmer to think like you; the creative process is different from the sales and business process. The PD was hired to build and protect the product and to coach and develop talent. So, within the parameters above, let them do what they were hired to do.

Conversation And Collaboration
Youve taken the steps to make your PD feel more secure, and youve recognized that he or she probably has different personality traits from your sales manager. But that doesnt mean that youve just put the PD on his or her own island, protected from the realities of our business. In todays world, everyone has to think big picture, and that means PDs have to have more empathy and insight into the sales and business side, even as sales managers have to do the same on the content side. The way Ive seen that work best is by getting everyone in the same room and talking to each other on a regular basis. I was in the business during the church and state days of programming vs. sales. It didnt work then, and it makes even less sense today.

I remember hearing a story about someone asking one of the head honchos at Sony -- given the fact that Sony invented the Walkman -- why Sony didnt invent the iPod. His answer was to the effect of because my people didnt talk to each other. Create an environment where people talk, and youll be amazed at the return you get.

A lot of what Ive written here sounds simple, even simplistic. Most good solutions are obvious. But Im sure that for a good part of my radio career, I ignored every suggestion made here. The sooner you execute these suggestions, the sooner you will be successful.

Marc Morgan is the former SVP and chief revenue officer for Cox Media Group; he retired in 2011. He can be reached at

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(2 part comment below - the bottom one is first)

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