Right after the most recent wave of layoffs and “downsizing,” our Digital Dot Connector, Seth Resler, wrote a great blog post – “Is There Life After Radio?” We all know many people that have given up on broadcast radio, pursuing new careers in other industries. But most of the “dislocated” people I talk to indicate they want to stay in the game, and continue to work in radio.
At last year's Morning Show Boot Camp, WMYX/Milwaukee morning show host, Elizabeth Kaye, asked our panel about how “veteran” radio pros could stay relevant as the industry adapts. I'm not sure we gave her the most thoughtful answer, and it remains a good question especially as so many find themselves “on the beach.”
In today's post, Seth Resler did his due diligence and asked the most influential people in the process – those who make talent hiring decisions – about the digital skills they're looking for. I think you'll find it to be another substantive read. – FJ
In recent weeks, we've seen a record number of radio personalities lose their jobs. Many are having to update their resumés for the first time in years, if not decades. In that time, the skill sets companies are looking for in air talent have changed — particularly when it comes to the digital arena.
Which skills and areas of expertise are most important to potential employers in the broadcasting space these days? I asked some of the top minds in radio programming that question, and I hope their perspectives are helpful to those of you who are looking, as well as those in hiring positions looking to revisit your priorities.
They represent big and small markets, multiple formats, as well as commercial and public radio.
Here's what they told me:
When you are hiring on-air talent, which digital skills have the biggest impact on your decision?
“Hiring on air talent is quite different than it used to be. Having responsible, creative social media managers is now an essential part of talent’s on air presence.
First thing is how important do they view their online presence? It is quite easy to spot who is on brand and who is not based on a potential employees ‘self- brand.' If they are a brand ambassador for themselves chances are they will be excited to be one for your station. What good are 50k followers if all they hear about is complaining, redundancy, and lack of creativity?
Even if the person is presently unemployed, my radar is up, as are my red flags. I look for content rather than complaints. Monetization opportunities rather than moaning, emoji’s not emotions, relevance, writing skills, and a video presence and how they present themselves while on camera. Are they engaging? Are they selling themselves with sincerity? Do they respond when responded to? What is the frequency of their story?
WDHA is also very involved in the community, so do their social skills have a sense of connectivity to community and potential clients? While we look for stars in artists of our music formats to carry the torch, we should also be looking for stars of our station brands to engage our ever-growing online presence.”
—Terrie Carr, PD and Midday Host, WDHA-FM (Beasley)
“Some of the best marketing and customer engagement today is executed via social media. We look for thought leaders and evangelists in the social arena. Masters of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and other platforms bring intrinsic value to the team when it comes to audience engagement and promotion through stories, images and conversations.
An accelerated interest and fearless approach to video is another attribute that elevates on-air job applicants. Video as content is much more entertaining and easier to consume than a standard blog post. Hosts should have a highly positive outlook on participating in the process of conceptualizing, writing, producing, and starring in video content that enhances the audio product.
We are also always in search of something different. When faced with a crowded field of applicants with similar work experience, the unique perspective or distinctive take on emerging technology and digital applications generate extra attention in the hiring process.”
—Rob Cressman, Managing Director of Branding / Content at 97.1 FM The Drive in Chicago (Hubbard)
“Every day the job becomes less about being on the radio and more about delivering great content. If we make that the job description, a candidate could have the greatest content in the world; however, if they do not have the ability to deliver that content through multiple platforms, in the proper way, it truly becomes content wasted. Therefore all candidates must have a diverse digital skill set.
Jacobs Media's Techsurvey aids us in knowing what platform matters most to what format. For example, if I am looking for someone at my sports brand, I need them to be a beast on Twitter first.
Being able to edit video and use Photoshop is almost the new ‘How many words can you type?‘ (Yes I am that old!) Radio is evolving into an omnichannel content delivery platform, the talent must have a wide range of skills to match that evolution.”
—Randy Hawke, VP/Programming for Mid-West Family Broadcasting in Madison
“When I’m hiring air talent, that’s exactly what I’m looking for: Air Talent. Solid on-air skills cannot be compromised, nor can they be done by a producer. Digital duties can be passed off to someone else. Digital skills are certainly a plus and if push comes to shove, if all the general qualifications are equal, I’d probably lean toward the individual with the stronger digital skills. I’m also not going to pass up on the next Howard Stern (a general use of the term) because an applicant doesn’t like to post on Twitter.
A general competency and awareness of the technology and its capabilities is the primary need. A mindset that keeps all digital opportunities top of mind is probably the most important factor. I have on-air people who do social posts while sitting at the board, while other hosts assigned other people do it, and still others hosts have developed ideas for on-air program extension through podcasts. In our business, it’s best to be a self-contained Swiss Army Knife, meaning as efficient as possible, but we can flex based on the people involved.
In our house, the most important digital function is understanding how to write for digital print platforms. The digital writing style is different than broadcast and it’s important to be able to quickly adapt a story for that type of consumption. While this isn’t a ‘technical' skill, it is a vital need for populating an accompanying text based digital platform quickly.
As we rapidly continue to move into the digital, on-demand landscape, it would make sense for all existing and aspiring on-air talent to become as savvy as possible with digital skills and opportunities, while not forgetting for one moment how to be a great communicator.”
—Sal LoCurto, Program Director at KPCC in Los Angeles (Southern California Public Radio)
“At this point, I expect all talent to have a strong grasp of social media and how to engage with friends and fans there. They should appreciate the value of social as a brand-builder for the station and themselves as personalities. Blogging is also an important part of what we do.
As for other digital properties, it's all about playing to strengths. Do you have a podcast idea you're passionate about? Are you great at conceptualizing and editing video content? All of these things and more are vital to brand-building and can help round out a team.”
—Leslie Scott, Program Director of 107.7 The End in Seattle (Entercom)
“When all the first tier questions are answered — i.e. the questions about work ethic, on-air skills, promotional appearance skills, production/editing, technical knowledge, plays well with others …and the #1 concern: never let crazy into the building — then I look for overall digital literacy.
Does the candidate just know how to behave on social media? Being inclusive not divisive, knows how to write for online, knows how much detail is enough, can use the power of the tease, no politics, no trolling, etc. Basic good social behavior, Facebook rules, and maybe a touch of video prowess.”
—Bill Weston, Program Director of WMMR and WMGK in Philadelphia (Beasley)
Weston photo: © 2015 – www.chorusphotography.com
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Along with Buzz Knight and Richard Zakon, I'll be participating in a free webinar, Friday, 2/28 at 1pm ET. It's about recognizing job pivot potentials, and learning new skills. I'll be talking about how personalities can capitalize on the podcasting space. You can register for it here.
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