The “Production” Rules of Wisdom

Wise-Owlby Neil Holmes

My father in law is an email nut - in as much as he forwards almost everything. A while back he sent these “Rules of Wisdom”, author unknown. It struck me today to adapt them to radio production. See if you agree:

Growing old is inevitable, growing UP is optional.

Production translation: We grew into a room with padded walls where we get to play with sound. We grew up and got older, and we are still a lot of fun.

There is no key to happiness. The door is always open.

Production translation: Don’t stay in your padded room forever. Get out, read anything and everything, explore more than pop culture, live and love your family and friends.

Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.

Production translation: Despite every Program Director’s desire to never have “dead air,” Dead Air can be a powerful tool to get attention and make a point. But as with any tool, overuse strips effectiveness.

Courage is the ability to not panic. Or, Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

Production translation: Seize the moment. Oftentimes the best spots come from pressure - having to go into production with nothing and come out 15 minutes later with a bizarre twist on reality. When orders come in late, there is a smaller chance your creativity will be shot down as over the line. When orders come in late, there isn’t usually enough time for client approval, just “get something on the air now.” Best of all, the salesperson who either couldn’t or wouldn’t get the information on time has to explain the spot. Of course, when it works, everyone is ecstatic.

Laugh every day, it’s like inner jogging.

Production translation: Enjoy your good fortune that you don’t have to leave the building to have fun. Enjoy your fortune that you love your job and don’t have to shovel coal or sell real estate. Other jobs may be fun for a while, but as you have different clients with different needs, you get to do something new and different, and to learn about new things everyday.

The most important things in life are people.

Production translation: One of my major themes. A lot of sales trainers and programs beat the drum that nothing is as important as sales. It is true no station will operate without salespeople. But no station will operate without engineers. Without programming. Without office staff. No station will operate without commercial producers. If just one of those elements is missing, nobody works or gets paid. Not the General Manager, the sales staff, the air staff, or producers. The long and the short: Nobody is more important than anybody else. (In “A Beautiful Mind,” John Nash calls an Adam Smith economics theory “incomplete.” In the same theme, Zig Ziglar gets an “incomplete” when he says everything starts with sales. Business continues with sales, it starts with a product to sell.)

A grudge is a heavy thing to carry.

Production translation: The Account Executive compromised on the creativity of the spot to get the sale. Hey, management is on their case for dollars NOW! So cut ‘em some slack. We’ve all experienced a client that “wants to be really creative,” then kills every spot idea as too risky. When it comes down to reality, they have to live in their industry, and “stepping out” can do a lot of damage, too. We get paid to be original and bring vastly different ideas together - but we also spend a lot of time in a padded room.

It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are done.

Production translation: Everyone gets spots shot down. Take that spot and use it for their competition. (Talk about a flush!)

Nothing is real to you until you experience it, otherwise its just hearsay.

Production translation: Help your audience experience the motorcycle, the swing set, the ice cream. Put your listeners in the position to experience feelings, accomplishments, realities that until they hear your work, are foreign to them. You can do this when you take the time to write relatable copy, add that extra sound or element, to re-cut the voice ‘til it is just right. Your rewards and joy will grow from your dedication and renewed abilities.

Surviving and living your life successfully requires courage. The goals and dreams you’re seeking require courage and risk taking. Learn from the turtle, it only makes progress when it sticks out its neck. We are continually faced with great opportunities disguised as unsolvable problems.

Production translation: We are armed with the ability to make every listeners image their own. Unencumbered by pictures (TV, outdoor, online), radio is a personally visual medium. My favorite example: A girl on a hill by a tree. You see her right now, and that image is your own, unique to you. Why only yours? The variables include time of year, temperature, the kind of vegetation covering the hill, the type of tree, etc.

Using this demonstration is a sales training session, I asked each AE to write down what the girl was wearing. Each head moved forward to scribble an item of clothing, except one of the newer sellers. “John” I said, “why aren’t you writing down what she’s wearing?” His response: “She’s naked.”

I had always pictured a young girl, 7 or 8, on a swing in a sundress. His vision of the girl on the hill was unique to him, as your sound images can be unique to each listener. Have the courage to make each spot outstanding. (OK, you still have to deal with the AE’s and client’s limits, but every spot can still shine.)

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Production translation: Do your best at everything. Read, learn, experience, grow, create, and speak. Take care of your character and your reputation will care for itself.

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