The Production S.O.P. - How To Write One, And Why You Need One

by R. Dennis Steele

My first job as a Production Director was at KGGO in Des Moines, Iowa in 1978. KGGO was switching from a music-intensive CHR to AOR. And believe it or not, it was the first time Des Moines had an AOR station on FM. (They had an AM AOR station and a cable progressive station.) It was also the first time the FM had ever had its own Production Director.

Before KGGO, I had been a Production Assistant at WEBN in Cincinnati, working at the station part-time, and going to the University of Cincinnati full-time. WEBN was (and still is) deeply committed to creative production, and I learned a lot in my 14 months there. So, upon arriving in Des Moines, I was anxious to show off what I could do, and was more than a little cocky.

The first thing I noticed was how "corporate" the place was. There were policies and forms for everything. Each employee received a written, itemized "job description" which he had to sign and return to the General Manager. Only certain kinds of pictures could be hung on the walls. There were memos on how to fill out a time card. Each department head (and that included me) had to attend a seminar on "Time Management." We actually had a memo that described how to properly apply "Discwasher" to an album! (Remember Discwasher? Remember albums?)

My first impression was that the atmosphere was more akin to a bank or an insurance company. Where was the fun, the loose, wise-ass attitude of the other AOR station at which I had worked? Then, my very first assignment was given to me by my General Manager: write an S.O.P. -- a Standard Operating Procedure for the production department. Now I was sure I was working for "Mutual of Des Moines."

But you know what? As I began to put the S.O.P. together, I realized that this was something the station really needed, and something I needed as well. And every station at which I've worked since then, I've adapted that KGGO S.O.P. for the needs of each new place. And I think that the first thing every new Production Director should do is write one for their station, too.