R.A.P. Forum: Protecting "The Park"

Welcome to the R.A.P. Forum, an open-format section of R.A.P. where everyone is invited to write about whatever their heart desires. This month, we hear from Monica L. Ballard, Creative Services Director at WMYI/102.5 "My FM" in Greenville, SC. Monica shares an interesting and effective "production philosophy."

Protecting "The Park"

Okay, so I'm not a Production Director. I let my very capable accomplice Tucker Redford handle the "Paramedic Equalizing." I am Creative Services Director for WMYI.

Tucker and I have a strange but common language. When I hear a commercial in my head, I can take the copy to him and say, "...then the door goes 'Thrummp-bump-bump-kushhhhh!' Got it?" And he makes it happen! As a result of this unusual dialogue, our talents are much sought after in the Western Carolinas, even by agencies! But what we do is only part of the WMYI success story.

As I read the Dave Foxx interview [June '91 RAP] and envied Z-100's three production rooms, I also applauded his attitude that the commercials are part of programming! Bravo! We at WMYI consider our station to be like an amusement park built by our listeners, so we're very careful about our programming -- not too many "beer stands" and not too many "first-aid centers" (recovery hospitals). After all, with two other AC stations in town, we've all got the same rides (songs); but our Park is cleaner, and the guests have more fun because the people running The Park have more fun! But keeping this Park clean is the responsibility of everyone working in The Park! If you're betting that your guests (the listeners) won't mind a little bit of trash here and there, a few screamers, a few inappropriate messages, you violate their expectations, and, in turn, lower your own standards!

Stuck with "hayseed furniture outlet spots?" Dave says, "You've got to play them, so bury them!" BULL! We set up a listener advisory board here, and when one of those ads comes along, we call 'em up and play it for them. Hell no, they won't sit through the stopset, much less patronize that client! Then the salesperson or GM tells the client, "I'm sorry. It isn't in your best interest to run a spot like that. Our listeners told us so!" Don't let these "drunks" in your Park! You're going to keep getting lousy production from other sources as long as you keep accepting it! Tell the client you can do it better! When we do that, we usually have the new spot cued and ready to play for them! Their reaction? "Wow! You're right!" No one has ever showed them it can be done better, or differently!

Now, as for this "No Copywriter" business. Well, if it works for Z-100, great. If your salespeople are able to write more than two sentences without five clichés like, "Arbor Day is just around the corner...," more power to you. Call me jaded, but most salespeople are in this game for the money, and that means, bottom line, they'll do whatever it takes to get a spot, ANY spot, on the air. To hell with the programming. Who keeps tabs on how many conversation spots are currently on the air? Or how many "testimonials?" Or how many spots are using marching bands or fireworks? These are areas of The Park your salespeople might not be aware of because they're concentrating only on their clients (and meeting their projections for the month)! Chances are, they're monitoring a competing station, so they're not even IN your Park.

Someone has to act as a buffer between the client/sales relations and the performers responsible for the sound of the radio station. And everything that goes on the air must earn its right to be there by contributing in a positive way to what the station is trying to project. WMYI limits avails, not only to avoid clutter, but because people will pay more to get into a park that won't be overcrowded by "drunks" and "obnoxious car dealers!"

There's nothing "Mickey Mouse" about The Park philosophy. It works! It's a pathway to success for stations consulted by George Johns and Mike McVay as well as major corporations who have sent their executives to Disney University to learn people management skills. It keeps a station's standards high and always mindful of the guests who have stopped in for some fun. It takes constant maintenance, but the result is a Park that's great fun to work in AND listen to! Too many of us think we're in radio, when actually we're all in the ENTERTAINMENT industry!

Don't sell your listeners short, folks! Always remember what business you're in! And Keep The Park Clean! _

Monica also sent along the following which was done in calligraphy on a paper cut-out of two "stone tablets." These "commandments" are posted in the window of the Creative/Production office at WMYI.

The Other Big Ten

I. This is WMYI... thy Park. Thou shalt have no other standards before thee!

II. Thou shalt not take the listeners for granted!

III. Keep holy the deadlines!

IV. Honor the talents around you!

V. Thou shalt not kill the mood "on stage" by disturbing on-air performers.

VI. Thou shalt not make requests of co-workers without backing them in writing.

VII. Thou shalt not let prospective clients steal ideas by leaving cassettes or scripts with them.

VIII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's accounts.

IX. Thou shalt not covet time in production for thy clients other than the third, fourth, and fifth day.

X. Be thou concise. Bear kind words and gifts often, but remember, we knowest a schmooze when we see-ith one!