Q It Up - "The RAP Network Speaks!": Training New People in Production

by Sterling Tarrant

Take the word "Internet" and divide it into two. You get "Intern" as in "free help" and "et" as in "That was the best meal I ever et." Right now I am "et-ting" everything I can get my hands on when it comes to the Internet and feeling like a real intern in the process. I have this wide-eyed, innocent view of the Internet now, just like a radio intern has the first time they produce a spot. I've gone through setting up an Internet account, getting signed on, looking for items of interest, sending e-mail, etc, etc.. More than once I've found myself asking, "What's this do?" or "Where does this go?" The same kind of questions I'm hearing everyday from our new intern, Curtis Brown, and our new salesperson, Carol Decker.

Curtis and Carol have had to be trained in the ways of production, and that's where this month's question comes in. When you have to train a new person in production, what are the things that you want them to remember more than anything else? I asked that question to quite a few people this month. Here are the answers:

The Real Bob James, WOKY-AM / WMIL-FM, Milwaukee, WI: In a new salesperson's haste to "get the money," which they're often being trained first and foremost to do by management, they forget that they have to service the client as well. In radio, it's "relationship selling." You're out "pressing the flesh" and getting to know your clients. I tell new salespeople that you have to get the basics right first. How do you say their name or the name of their business. Check it for me. An example of that is, I received copy recently, and I did six commercials using the name "The Golf Club." The name of the guys place is "Club Golf." You know, it's just poor salesmanship and hard to establish a relationship with a client when you can't even get their name right or a spot goes over the air with the wrong address. I tell them to fax the copy, get it approved first, and couch it in the language of, "We're gonna make you look great on the radio."

Larry Thompson, President of the Jingle/Production house "Thompson Creative", and Creative Services Director for KLTY-FM, Dallas, TX: Some salespeople don't understand right off the bat that the Production Director's or the CSD's deal is to create commercials from the ground up. A lot of times a new salesperson will come in and start writing the spot. It seems, though, to work a lot better if they just give us the information and let us run with it. What we did not too long ago that was a pretty eye opening thing was have the production people go into a sales meeting that had some new people in it. We played a tape with a bunch of our creative stuff on it. They were all saying "Wow, how can we get spots done like that?" We told em', "Just let us write 'em." It's important to let new salespeople know your capabilities. Just give 'em an example right up front.

Casey Van Allen, Production Director of KMOX-AM/KLOU-FM, St. Louis, MO, and owner of KBMX, Osage Beach, MO: My thought would be twofold. One, not only don't bring your deadline copy to me at 5 o'clock on Friday, bring it to me at 10 o'clock on Friday. And two, more importantly, in equal proportion bring your creative ideas and ways of selling product to me before you call on the client so that I can help the sales department through some of the barriers that they may encounter as far as rejection is concerned.

I think what I'm looking for is balance. Salespeople can always bring us work, and they can often bring us work at the last minute. We won't mind, as long as they also bring with them, on occasion, some good creative energy to make radio better as a vehicle of selling product. I mean, good advertising is advertising that sells, and it doesn't sell unless it's creative. That's what I could take to a new salesperson.

After the phone calls, I attended a meeting of local Production Directors in my market, and I asked them the same question. The following are some of the suggestions from Dick Chase, KKLI-FM, Pete May, KKCS-FM/KIKX-FM, George Worden KKFM-FM/KKMG-FM, in Colorado Springs, and Billy Kidd, KCCY in Pueblo, CO:

Dick: I think the first thing that a new salesperson has to do is discipline their time to insure that what they want gets to us in plenty of time to get written, approved, produced, and on the air. Discipline is the key.

Pete: I think also quality control is as important as time management. You know, it's the same things that we have to learn--how to organize things. We all have salespeople who turn in orders that aren't filled out completely. They don't have the start date, the end date, and such. It's a matter of getting them involved in the system as soon as possible.

Dick: For sure we need to know the who, what, where, when. We also need to know if the copy's gonna change, do you need dubs, what about coop?

Billy: It's just a mindset of continually educating them.

George: And helping them know what are the right questions to ask.

With our new people, after they're finished their sales training, I run over my copywriting and production systems with them. I teach them the questions to ask a client. Questions like, "What are you really selling? Who are you trying to reach? What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to get there? What other advertising is the client doing? What are some starting ideas you have? What has the client tried before?" I think the one thing I want them to remember more than anything else is that the more information I have at the beginning, the better and more effective their productions will be.

Andy Capp e-mailed me a great question for next month. We're going to ask Program Directors what they look for in a good Production Director.

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