Q It Up: "How do you keep yourself or your department organized?"

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95by Sterling Tarrant

I was the reason the world started recycling. It's true. A decade ago, I wouldn't throw anything away. In my home state of Illinois, three of the tallest structures were the Sears Tower, a grain elevator just outside of Blue Mound, and my desk. Then I got married. My wife, Martha Stewart (well, that's what her friends call her), is the most organized person I know. Christmas is approaching and she's gluing fake snow onto styrofoam balls and putting them into a basket for a decoration. This in addition to cooking a whole week's worth of meals at once, preparing a party, and working forty hours over the past four days.

Yeah, when I married her, the world's recycling began. It was a big party. The first big kickoff to a global habit change. All the papers came off the desk and went in their proper places. I got a Daytimer for Christmas. I started writing things down, things like: "Take Chloe (our Basset Hound) to the vet." She had eaten a styrofoam snowball and was having trouble recycling it.

I was an organized man from then on. And I kept recycling this thought in my brain: good Production Directors are both creative and organized. Now, as the holidays rush to meet us, you'll have lots of opportunities to be creative, but dare I ask, "How do you keep yourself or your department organized?"

Suzanne Becker, Creative Services Director, WSBA-AM/WARM-FM in York, PA has four full-time copywriters, seventeen salespeople, and they turn out roughly sixty to seventy pieces of creative copy per week. Here's how she stays organized: I limit the salespeople's time with me to only two hours each day. One hour at the beginning and one hour at the end of the day. So that gives me time the rest of the day to sit down and concentrate on writing. After the morning meeting, the four writers and myself communicate what is going on, and I'll divvy up the workload. We then have the rest of the day to write. We all voice and produce too, along with the air talent. What's helped us organize is the Marketron system of scheduling commercials that our traffic department uses. It has a copy entry form which we use as our way of keeping track of what we have and what we don't. We don't enter a cart number into that system until we have a production completed and ready to go on the air, and we enter it only for as many days as it's going to be on the air. Then Marketron can print out reports that we can scan to find what is missing. It has really helped us to discover mistakes before the fact rather than after. It's funny, you know, creative people are not always the most organized, but in this business you have to be. If you're not organized, you have no time to be creative.

Willie Wells, Production Director at WKLH-FM in Milwaukee, WI: For us, the Continuity Director is our "Sheepdog" on the herd of salespeople. She keeps track of the contracts and generates a computer list of what's due when for the salespeople to see. When the contract and production order come in, the Continuity Director passes the contract on to the Traffic Director. She then takes the production order, assigns it a cart number, and attaches it to the copy and enters it into the production log.

Willie told me that the two production logs for their two stations have the following information on them: Date Assigned, Description, Dub or Full Produce, and a checkoff/initial area with the date it was completed. He says it provides a quick look for the talent to see what they have left to do. The production order contains who produced it, who voiced it, what master it's on, and music bed. He continues:

I do a lot of general hounding of the salespeople, not so much to get things in early, but to identify where emergencies are being created, specifically with new salespeople. Saga, our owners, likes all of our salespeople to be CRMCs (Certified Radio Marketing Consultants), and along with that, we like to instill upon them that they are essentially the "Executive Producer" for their client, and they should keep track of things, too. For instance, when you create your spot, why not give it a discernible name or number if you know the client's gonna keep advertising throughout the year. Thus it would be easier to find the spot again later. As CRMCs, they're supposed to be more than just an order taker for their clients. We try to instill in them the basics of production so they know through organization they will look better in front of the client, he's gonna be happier, we'll be happier, and we'll have successful "walletectomies" a lot more often.

Kay McClain, Production Director of KYTE-FM/KNPT-AM, Newport, OR: Because I'm basically lazy, I like to be really organized so I don't have to think so much. I'm a big list maker, so things like organizational software help a lot. I use "PackRat" personally at home. At the station, I use a form that tells me who's been assigned what, and I've been inputting it into a database. We have the standard production forms and a white board that helps everybody keep track of their productions. Basically, lists are my life. One of the things I've learned is that if you write things down too completely, your brain thinks you've done it. So, when you make your lists, make sure you only put enough down so that you remember what it is. Also, keep a memory page that you can dump things onto immediately. Then you transfer that onto your to-do list. That's so you're not carrying around so much stuff in your head. It is most helpful to develop a system to get things onto paper instead of keeping them in your head.

I totally agree! In fact I have been using a pocket "memo mate" for the past six months as my "memory page." It's a tapeless recorder that you can carry with you anywhere. It's great when a salesman comes up to you with a quick change to a production. I actually have him or her speak it into the memo mate, then I transfer it to my to-do list next time I'm at my desk. I've even held it up to the phone receiver and had a caller speak directly into it--perfect for those times when you have to be a temporary receptionist. If you want to know where to get one, three words: "The Sharper Image." They have all kinds. Get a catalog from them at 1-800-344-4444.

Next month I'll share how I'm getting myself more organized. It's part of my plan for the New Year. I'll also be asking you about your New Year's Resolutions. If you'd like to be included, E-mail or fax me before the 15th of this month, or pick up the phone when I call. Who knows, I may record you into that updated memo mate I'm asking for for Christmas. Until then, keep recycling!

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