Q It Up: Time-Wasters and How to Deal With Them – Part 1

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95This month, we poll the RAP Network about time-wasters in production. As expected, we received a lot of great responses and will serve them up in two parts with the rest of them next month. Read on…you’re not alone!

Q It Up: There are lots of time-wasters in production-revisions to copy after it’s produced, revisions to the production itself (music, voice, sfx), waiting for voice talent to arrive, waiting for copy approval, phones calls, etc.. What is the biggest and/or most common time-waster you deal with (or dealt with in the past), and how do you (or did you) deal with this time-waster?

Jon Hogan [jhogan[at]Radioworks .co.nz]: The whole day is filled with “time wasters.” The trick is to utilize your time to accomplish others tasks while waiting, waiting, waiting for that other thing to happen. Oh, and to count to ten and breath deeply!

I know that email has certainly sped up the “client approval” aspect of script writing. My pet hate for time wasting however is Reps who don’t tell you the whole story or give an incomplete brief. Instances that spring to mind are: after you’ve written the script and sent it for approval, the client calls back and says “but I told the Rep I wanted to voice it myself. You’ll have to rewrite this!” Or “...but we’re having Seminars in (pick a number) of different venues. We’ll need all the locations and dates listed, plus updates as we get closer to the date. Didn’t the Rep tell you this??!” Or “I love this script. Great Creative concept, excellent attention grabbing opening that builds and holds the listener, then you come back with that lovely twist and finally hit them with our name. It’s great!! But, can we really fit all of this into 30 seconds. You do know we’re cutting back to 30s don’t you??!”

Dave Green [DaveGreen[at]CC ORLANDO.com], Clear Channel Broadcasting-Orlando: I can think of really only one major way we’ve been able to cut down on a production time waster...it’s the dreaded “client coming in to voice and/or produce their own commercial” scenario.

How many times have you had this happen to you? A client is supposed to be coming in to record their commercial. They show up...late...with only half a script written, informing you that they’ve decided to use a special cut of music and add another voice...that of a small girl...yeah, that’s it...between 3 and 4 years old...with a cold...and now that they think about it...she should have the hiccups, too...but, remember, she needs to sound believable...and oh, we have to have this together in a couple of hours, ‘cause the big cheese who has to approve it is leaving for a business meeting outside the country...phew! You get the idea.

Well, because clients so often don’t really know what they really want or know just enough about producing a commercial to get into trouble, we now require that our clients, who insist upon coming in for a studio session to record their own spot, do THREE THINGS FIRST: 1) call their A/E and have them contact production to check on an available time for scheduling a studio. 2) fax their complete script(s) ahead, as early as possible, so we can look it over, make corrections, see what they’re proposing, etc. and 3) advise us before arriving as to any special sfx or music requirements, so we can gather it together and have ready.

As you can see, it really helps a lot to know what to expect before they show up, If you force your A/E and the client to plan ahead and prepare, most of the studio chaos can be avoided.

Hope this helps someone with a similar time wasting problem.

Andrew Murdoch [andrew[at]silk.net], Silk FM: Well, time is definitely not on our side in production. Being a lean mean time management machine is one of the keys for survival and actually eating supper with your family.

Some of the things that work for me are: First thing in the morning and last thing in the day, talk to the writers and see what is in the cooker (having a heads up on those pesky last minutes really saves the large vein in my forehead). This allows me to get music and sfx ready and also to plan what each announcer will be on. Controlling the amount and time of client/agency sessions in one day is another key. You need to service these people professionally, but having too many in one day doesn’t allow any time to mix down the spots that start tomorrow! I have my own limit to what I can achieve. You will have yours. But you need to sell the benefits to your sales team, not your negativity. Try this on: “I’m really excited about that project Bob, but we don’t have enough time today to put together a campaign that will bring the intended results for our client. Tomorrow is wide open. Let me call the client to set up a time. (If the spot is a one day blitz, your screwed. But I tend to often see the “my hairs on fire” approach from reps even if its a 2 week campaign!) Move it out of breakfast and I’ll do a great spot and get it in the system by lunch tomorrow!” If you let yourself get walked on, that will be what is expected! But, you need to be reasonable and when you can, really dig in and take care of business.

 We make sure all scripts have been approved by the client before they get voiced; enough said. When I have completed a spot, I keep the session on hand as long as I can—hey, clients can be fickle, and it’s easier to just drop in a new music bed or change the voice talent than it is to whine about it.

 Finally, be a pack rat, meaning if you create anything that takes time, save it, save it, save it! Put it on Jaz. Put it on DAT. Put it on CD, whatever you want! I have created my own library of stuff that I dig into at least 2 or 3 times a week, and it does help me save time. Keep a positive attitude and people will respect your quest for quality and time management.

Libby York, WKML: Truthfully, the biggest wasters of my time are the salespeople. They’re great folks, but very one-track-minded. When they’re fixated on a particular client’s spot, it’s irrelevant to them if the spot doesn’t start for 3 months, or I’m fully embroiled in a script or other project. They want my undivided attention to discuss it NOW! Many of them are also not very concise (in person and in voicemail!). They ramble endlessly about something that should only take two sentences. To combat this, I try to diplomatically explain that I have more immediate fish to fry; that they should re-approach me at a later time. With extremely stubborn, relentless salespeople, I just give them a “look” that sends them running!

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at] cjay92.com] CJAY 92/CKMX, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: There are a plethora of time wasters in the production studio on a daily basis. Most CANNOT be solved, (unless you have a gun. “Go Ahead, make a change”) A few others can be alleviated. We get clients to sign approved scripts back to us when they approve them, and if they want a change, they know it will not be done ASAP. Finding the right piece of music for a promo or ID can take a lot of time. One thing I have started is a log (OK, a piece of paper). While I am looking for one bed, for a promo or ID, if I stumble along one that might work on another piece, I write it down.  Forwarding the phone and locking the door can get rid of most interruptions. The Internet can really eat up a ton of time too, finding the perfect clip or bed you need for a promo. Perhaps Radio And Production can start a column called “The Hot Internet Site List” where the best drops can be found, and all of us can contribute some of the ones we have found. Here’s a couple of great cartoon sites I’ve found, www.soundamerica.com and www.non stick.com.

Darren Marlar [darren[at]marlar house.com] KCWJ Radio, Kansas City, MO: Ooooooohhhh don’t get me STARTED! I am currently the Production Director for a small AM Christian Hit Music station as well as wearing the hats of Music Director and Afternoon Drive Personality. With all of these hats balancing on top of my head, you can imagine how time management would be important. However, even an expert time manager would have a difficult time here because of the constant interruptions. Funny how we’re in the “communications” business, yet the people in the office don’t communicate with each other. On more than one occasion, I’ve received a production order, finished it, and then the very next day the sales rep will come up to me and say, “Oh, Darren, I’m sorry; I forgot to tell you that (insert client) called me last week and wanted to change the information on their ad. It won’t be hard to change, will it?” Hmm, let me think... YES!

My biggest problem right now is getting any time whatsoever in the production room to do what I’m paid to do... produce. Everyone and their dog seem to have a reason to use the production room. The sales rep needs it to record a half-hour infomercial for one of their clients. Our daily programs need the room to record their shows. We’re dubbing something from the production room to the on-air computer, etc. I have approximately two hours a day now to get everything done in the production studio. During that time, I am continually interrupted with phone calls, salespeople asking me questions and opinions, the Promotions people coming in to bounce ideas off of me, the GM coming in to tell me that my priorities for the day need to change yet again because he has an important client that needs to be on the air in ten minutes, and clients walking in the door needing to talk to “whoever is in charge.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that I do not have an uninterrupted fifteen minutes in the production room. Unfortunately, I have no answers to the dilemma. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know! It’d be nice to be able to do my job every once in a while.

Greg Williams [frithfamily[at] tnknowms1.iol24.com], TurtleDove Productions: This is an easy one to answer. The WORST time waster is the client who wants to write his own copy, waits until he’s in your studio to even start that process, then thinks he can do the voice-over as well. Salespeople are afraid to say to the client, “You know how to do your job, but you do not know how to do ours.” We would never go into a furniture store and expect to tell the floor person how to upholster a sofa, or a restaurant owner how to cook the best meals. That’s what we’re paying THEM to do. I wish station sales would say to clients, “Let us do our job. That’s what you’re paying us to do.”

Steve Herring [matt_s_mark[at] yahoo.com], Matt-Mark Audio Productions: As a full-service production house with studios and copywriters in-house, our BIGGEST complaint is that too many of our clients write their own scripts. Each one of them is stiff, hard to read, and unable to be convinced that we could write better copy.

Deadlines: We ask our clients to fax or e-mail us the copy at least 7-days before air date. Sounds great! They usually get it to us on a Friday afternoon due for airing on the following Monday. This has been going on for years. Sometimes they comply, but most of the time they don’t. For the late ones, we use FedEx.

(Part 2 next month!)

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