While the holidays can be the most wonderful time of year, too often they bring layoffs to the radio broadcasting industry. It's a hard situation to find yourself in, and one that many of us have been in at one time or another — including myself. Given the extraordinary circumstances of our current reality, however, the period of unemployment could be longer this time 'round.
What should you do with all that downtime? Once you've taken care of your immediate needs, I recommend investing in your skillset for the long haul. This is the time to pick up some new tricks that you were always too busy to learn while working.
I recommend starting with these skills:
A few years ago, podcasting was considered the domain of geeks huddled around a computer in their parents' basement. Today, it's become big business, as it is expect to pass the $1 billion mark in revenue next year. While that's still just a fraction of the overall revenue generated by the radio industry, podcasting is growing at a rapid clip. If you want to continue to make a living in the world of audio, it would be wise to embrace this medium.
While there are several skills that can be carried over from radio to podcasting — including things like mic technique and audio production — there are also key differences. For example, while radio broadcasters are encouraged to be tight to play to the ratings system, podcasts often have a more relaxed, more intimate aesthetic.
Don't assume that just because you're good at talking on the radio, you'll automatically be good at talking on a podcast. Use this time to experiment with podcasts so you can learn the nuances of the medium. Don't tell yourself that your first podcast needs to be a huge hit. It's okay to start with a pilot season with a finite number of episodes. Make your primary goal to learn about podcasting, not to become a millionaire. If your first season is a success, you can always come back for more. If it's not, you can always take things in a different direction.
Don't podcast alone. Even if you're hosting a solo show, there are a number of different active communities full of podcasters who are willing to offer helpful advice. For example, the Podcast Movement Facebook group is a very helpful resource for the new podcaster.
2. Video Livestreaming
Let's dispense with the obligatory Buggles reference and point out that in the internet age, every media personality needs to be a multimedia personality. While your primary form might be audio, it's wise to learn to produce video as well. Fortunately, the tools have become fairly inexpensive, enabling even the unemployed to build their own television studios at home if they want. Most of us carry smartphones that can be used to broadcast live to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and other destinations. Use your downtime to figure out how it's done.
While you'll eventually want to invest in some basic equipment, such as lighting gear, a suitable microphone, and perhaps even a video switcher, you can start with what you've already got: a laptop or phone with a video camera. As with podcasting, don't aim to hit a homerun your first time at bat. Start small, learn the ropes, and build from there.
You can begin by watching our Livestreaming 101 webinar.
Every radio personality ought to have their own website. If you don't, take this time to build one for yourself. While there are plenty of services out there that make website building easy, including Squarespace and Wix, I recommend that you teach yourself WordPress. WordPress is the free platform that is used by more than 20% of the world's websites, so knowing how to use it is a skill that is likely to transfer to many different employment opportunities. (Make sure you learn how to build self-hosted websites using the WordPress software found at WordPress.org, not the hosted blogs you can start at WordPress.com.)
WordPress is simple enough that you can pick it up even if you refuse to learn how to code, but powerful enough that you can expand its capabilities to do just about anything you want. I am a radio programmer, not a computer programmer, but I have taught myself enough WordPress to launch over a dozen different websites. You can, too. Start by picking up a beginning WordPress book and teach yourself.
4. A New Social Network
Employers increasingly expect public personalities to know social media management in the same way that they expect everybody else to know how to use Microsoft Word. Your extensive experience posting status updates on Facebook are no longer worthy of a bullet point on your resumé. If you want to impress future employers, you'll need to step up your game.
You've got two choices here: You can either learn a new social network, or master one that you're already on. Either way, I would rank them in this order:
If you already know the first network on the list, move on to the second. In addition to these platforms, you will also want to invest some time in LinkedIn. This, of course, is not because it will help you engage with your audience, but because it may help you find your next job.
Finding yourself out of work, particularly at time when there are so many other stressors in the world, can be extremely challenging. I empathize with anybody who's going through this right now. Once you've had an opportunity to absorb the shock and address your immediate needs, lay out a long-term plan to invest in your skillset. It may not get you back on your feet immediately, but in the long run, it will pay off.
If you are an unemployed broadcaster, you can add yourself to the Jacobs Media talent directory where potential employers can find you.