As you're reading this, I'm actually writing a questionnaire designed for air talent. It's the third study in our AQ series, a collaboration between Jacobs Media and Don Anthony's Morning Show Boot Camp. It's the only research study of its kind – an in-depth look at the pros behind the mic, plying their craft on commercial radio stations all over the U.S.
We took last year off, but the first two studies in 2018 and 2019 were eye-openers. They revealed the mindset of air talent, how they felt about their jobs, their careers, and the companies that employ them.
But this year's study, more than one year into the pandemic, is requiring a lot of questionnaire “surgery.” As you might expect, we're repeating a number of questions for tracking purposes from the years past. But for this 2021 version, we're asking all sorts of new questions about work from home, employment disruptions, and attitudes about how COVID may or may not be changing their outlooks.
Another question in this new study will address the number of jobs many hosts are now holding down – and I'm not talking about moonlighting outside the station. In my conversations with air talent as well as Jacobs Media staffers, I've detected interest in learning how job responsibilities have expanded – off-air duties, voicetracking on other stations in the building – or on stations anywhere in the U.S. Of course, many are both on the air and programming their own stations.
Fred Jacobs shows radio personalities how to take their game to the next level in this webinar recording.
So, how many “hats” are they wearing – whether they are PDs, on the air, or both? And has that changed since the onset of the pandemic?
And then there are the other duties foisted upon many air personalities – production, social media posting, podcasts, video production, sales appearances, and other content creation responsibilities.
Of course, this raises questions about compensation and time management. But it also brings to mind productivity, creativity, and innovation. At what point do people get so busy that their ability to invent and ideate erodes?
That's the question Dr. Bashar Salame, a Detroit-based chiropractor, asked in a recent Medium think piece. In “The Constant Pursuit for Productivity is Heavily Impacting Out Creativity,” Salame acknowledge we're living in a capitalistic world where productivity and results aren't just a desire – they're an ongoing demand.
Salame quotes a recent moment on Joe Rogan's podcast where Neal deGrasse Tyson made this simple and non-scientific declaration:
To be more creative, you have to be less productive.
He would know.
In fact, Salame makes the argument that idleness – daydreaming, even boredom – plays a role in innovation. Down time is the respite that fuels creativity. And when was the last time you spoke to anyone in radio who admitted they had too much time on their hands?
If anything, the mantra is that entire radio stations are running with just a couple of live bodies on hand locally. That doesn't describe an environment where new thinking naturally flows.
Of course, there is an “on the other hand” case to be made for multitasking. A University of North Carolina team of business school researchers conducted a study last year that produced a paper: “A benefit of multitasking.”
The researchers ran two different studies. One asked a group of students to take part in a conference call while sending email (sound familiar?). They were then tasked with coming up with a creative idea revolving around the topic of the call they were on.
A second group performed these functions one at a time.
Wouldn't you know it – the multitaskers actually generated more creative ideas than those who more methodically completed the tasks sequentially.
A second study conducted among restaurant servers – some on busy weekend nights, and others on more laid back weekday evenings – yielded the same result – spurts of creativity in the form of “higher levels of activation and cognitive flexibility.”
The research thus produced startling findings that for most people in the scientific and business communities in certain situations, a little multitasking can actually stimulate more creative, right-brain thinking.
But that's a lot different than doing multiple jobs – and doing them all the time. When you hear those around you complain they “don't have time to think,” it begs the question whether burdensome workloads actually lead to more creative output.
There's no simple solution. Radio broadcasters may do some hiring this year to replenish the thinning herds of workers who were let go last year or who called it quits.
But if anything, we're going to see more “hub hiring,” where fewer people will be assigned multiple tasks.
Finding myself in this same situation (mostly of my own making) almost all the time, I've developed “antidotes” that sometimes work for me. Maybe some will work for you. And I'd love to hear your ideas.
- Turn it off – Turn everything off. I never thought I could drive in silence, but I do it from time to time. It helps me recognize the world around me, while clearing the decks, so to speak.
- Put your phone down – Just a quarter hour of not looking at my phone (not easy, mind you), is an effective way of killing the input for a few minutes, while stopping multi-tasking altogether. Oh, and silence it.
- Take a power nap – Yes, I'm an older guy, but a 20 minute nap in the middle of a long day can be rejuvenating. Close the door, turn out all the lights, and yes, shut off your phone.
- Pick up the phone and talk to someone outside the business – It could be a relative or a friend. It helps to become immersed in someone else's world for a few minutes instead of always being obsessed with yours. These days, you can even take them out to lunch.
- Read something (again, unrelated to your work) – Whether it's fiction, a biography, or an interesting story or article, reading takes us away from our little worlds quickly and effectively.
- Sit in someone else's meetings – I often find that when I get the chance to spend time with people outside of my world, it can jumpstart the creative process. For me, Hip-Hop, Country, or Talk work best.
- Go somewhere – Even for a long weekend, get out of Dodge and spend time with people you love and care about (who aren't on the air). After a year of mostly being isolated, a little time away from it all might be helpful on many fronts.
The creative demands on all of us aren't going to change. If anything, they're amping up as the business world recovers from the shock of 2020. Balancing those work and live spheres is challenging in a normal year. In 2021, it's a whole other thing.
And it might not be a bad idea to take off a hat (or two).
To be sure your voice is heard for our AQ3 study, send an email to Jason Hollins – email@example.com
You must be on the air (or a producer) on a commercial station(s) in the U.S. to participate.
For more information on Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago this August, click here.
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