I love working with talent. It is rewarding to see an average presenter become good, and a good presenter become a great. Becoming on-air ‘fit’ is a process, and it requires a change in habit, diet, discipline and levels of activity. You get the odd unfit athlete that pulls off a half-marathon, but they usually only have a medal or two for the time they’ve spent in their running shoes. Performance coaching is about patience and gradual, yet continual, improvement.
As an industry we’ve been talking about talent development and the next generation of media professionals. It’s one of those conversations that is like an athletics track, it just goes round and round. We can add another analogy and say as broadcast management it seems that the talent baton seems to be passed around quite often but rarely passes the finish line.
So, what should we be doing to be developing our next breakfast show, news reader and multi-media content producer?
Firstly, we need to stop talking and start doing, actions literally speak louder than words. Within our own stations we need to spend more time with new and junior talent, we need to cultivate a relationship. You’ve already gone to all the effort to identify someone and get them to work for you. Ask them about their career plan, what they are doing working for your station, how you can get them to their next goal and importantly what you expect from them.
These relationships need to be symbiotic with a clear understanding of expectations from both sides. How often do I hear from young talent seeking career advice that say they have virtually no relationship with the programme manager. Is it any wonder that as programmers we are not sure who our next breakfast show is? We need to develop careers and not just give people jobs.
Listening to a variety of regional and national stations in the last two weeks it is clear that Programme Managers aren’t coaching Radio 101. From “you guys”, “I’ll be with you till 2pm”, “that was music by” and “we were speaking off air” to not listening to the answers a guest is giving in an interview and being more self-absorbed than a sponge in water.
The basics make a broadcaster
The basics make a broadcaster. You’re not coaching the basics because you’re not meeting the talent. If you’re not coaching, you’re definitely not developing the team. So what are you doing besides missing airchecks and not replying to e-mails? Your number one priority is to make what comes out of the speaker (the product) better for the listener. We can only do this by working with the people creating the product. Stop making excuses and work with your team.
Don’t approach and poach too soon. Identify and work with talent at their current station. Good talent is often very involved in different aspects of the broadcast value chain, let them learn, experiment and fail. Experience and time in the job are critical in building a solid foundation and a long lasting career. The nature of public and commercial environments differ vastly from the community sector and by removing someone too quickly from their five shows a week on a community station to two shows on a commercial station you are taking away from the critical exposure they need to grow and mature.
Don’t be so precious that they can’t broadcast for you on the weekends but still work on a smaller station in the week, I think we’ve moved past the need to be exclusive especially if we’re not sure we want to commit.
To execute a plan, you need a plan. What is your talent strategy? What kind of talent do you need? What skills do you require to execute your plan? Where are the gaps and what is the potential in your current line-up? Knowing where you are and what you need is the first step in finding the right people. It makes replying to demo mails easier, simply share what you’re looking for and ask aspiring talent how they can add value to what you’re looking for. You’ll waste less time wading through hours of manufactured demo’s and at the same time, you’ll be educating broadcasting job seekers into a way of showing off their skills and talent.
Let’s be honest we don’t need to know that you can read and speak, so why are we listening to live reads and back announcements, being able to communicate is a basic fundamental of the job.
Don’t stop investing in your own career and make sure you’re also on a continual learning curve. How do we train, uplift and educate young broadcasters if our experience is aging, not relevant and linear? Immerse yourself in technology, media trends, music, current affairs and formalised learning programmes. Observe, ask and listen. Be interested in the world around you and continually challenge your thinking as a media leader. We need to be able to add value to our talent in a multiple of ways.
Lastly, talent development is about ego, but not your ego. Our job isn’t to shine, it’s to make the talent shine. Great teachers know when to step back and let the student become the master. If you’re looking for a medal, take up running but remember like in broadcasting many run but not all are coached.
Tim Zunckel is an audio ambassador, creative and trainer at Tuned Media. Zunckel has extensive experience in the radio industry and works locally and internationally. He is a judge for the New York Radio Festival and is on the advisory panel of The Radio Awards. His passion lies in training and development and works with several universities and educational institutions in their radio departments and regularly lectures to media students. As a lover of good ideas he consults agencies on creative concepts and ideas. He is also the director of Radio Days Africa, Africa’s largest radio conference. Connect with him on social media @timzunckel.co.za or email@example.com
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