Q It Up: Time-Wasters and How to Deal With Them - Part 2

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95This month, we get part 2 of our poll of the RAP Network about time-wasters in production.

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?

Dennis Coleman [denman[at]cbsaustin .com], Infinity Broadcasting-Austin, TX: The biggest time wasters we have around here are two-fold: Lack of cooperation/communication between sales staffs, and irresponsibility. First, we have four stations with separate sales staffs, an NTR Department, and an Internet sales staff, yet a lot of them share the same clients—especially agencies. Now, I’m not saying they should share EVERYTHING with their competitors, but it would sure make things smoother if they at least spoke to the folks in the next cubicle. If one person gets a buy, most of the time another person gets the same buy as well. When we have to track down 4 different people for one order, it takes a lot of time (especially if they’re at the mall or at the movies).

The main thing that wastes our time though, is irresponsibility. If you want to make the salary, do the work. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “The copy will be faxed to us sometime Friday. Can you call the client for me? I’ll be leaving early to go pick up my new car/go on vacation/meet friends for happy hour.” (Choose the one that best applies.) Man, that really irks me! Sorry for the gripe session, but thanks for the forum. I feel much better now.

Mike Carta [kcarta[at]supersweepers .com], Mike Carta Productions/Super Sweepers: Although the following doesn’t occur on a too frequent basis for me, it does happen from time to time. Time-wasters: Client stations faxing “time sensitive” projects and not including any phonetics for regional/local pronunciations, and you having to call for that info because they assumed you know what the #$%[at]&^!!** they meant ( :-)! What about trying to call and going through the automated voice mail “Hell” to get the info you need?

And of course those gosh-awful last minute copy revisions from a client after they’ve “OK’d” that perfectly voiced & produced spot you just sent out over DGS/DCI to a dozen or so stations to meet the clients “same-day” delivery deadline? UGH!

Remedy: Stay on the stations’ butts about including any regional/local pronunciations. For commercial clients (agency or other) an additional charge per spot for any redos or revisions they make after the spot is completed. Total redo is full price, only a few word changes, usually 50% of the spot rate. Rates and all additional charges are discussed and agreed upon in a signed production agreement before the session starts.

Jeff Berlin [jberlin[at]jberlin.com], Kiss 108/Boston: In order to save time, my top ten list only has four items: Time-waster #1: Meetings. An unexpected two-hour meeting in the morning guarantees I’ll be working late that night.  Time-waster #2: Hanging out. The people I work with at Kiss108 are a lot of fun, and it’s easy to kill a half-hour just shooting the sh*t. Time-waster #3: E-mail. Most of the email I get is peripheral to work. Time-waster #4: Revisions. Lack of preparation, stupid oversights, cantankerous clients, or even an innocent typo, forcing us to go back and fix something.

The pace of work for me (and everyone I know) has increased exponentially ever since the fax machine came along. In 1984, the book “Megatrends” predicted that, in the future, one’s wealth would be a measure of leisure time, not money. If that’s true, dealing with “time wasters” is a way to boost your personal wealth.

Craig Debolt [CRAIGMARYD[at]aol .com], WESC/WTPT, Greenville, SC: The time-wasters that irritate me the most are the ones that can be controlled, i.e. copy revisions that could have been avoided—had the AE actually been listening to the client the first time they gave them the information...that’s my favorite. But lately, I have to say inadequate facilities is beginning to send me over the edge. If we could actually get someone to own these damn stations for more than two months, maybe that would be corrected. Although that’s out of my control, one way we’ve cut down on a significant amount of re-do’s is by having scripts pre-approved. That is, they’re approved by the client before it gets to the production room. Also, digital mastering has allowed for easier editing and quick fixes to simple changes.

Jack Steele [jack.steele[at]cumulusb .com], Cumulus Montgomery: There are several big ones that cause me to have headaches. Primarily, clients that want to be KNITPICKY about words like “it.” We also have an occasional problem with AEs giving the old sad story of, “I tried to get hold of client so and so, but they were gone to Atlanta.” Or, “I called them three times.”

First person is an issue that plagues me. The OM here will hammer me on this. Some agencies in this market don’t want you to change “I” or “We” on their copy. And then there’s your OM boss who’s gonna e-mail or voice mail about first person reference. We normally don’t use the first person unless the agency requests it, and sometimes we’ll even ask for a talent fee where applicable for the jock or talent using first person reference.

The last thing that is a time waster to me is AEs who turn in spots to be written that are :60 in length, and they give you two lines. We’ve gotten to where give ‘em back to the Account Rep and say give us more!

Geoffrey Erb [geoffrey[at]dancris.com], E.R.B. - Exciting Reasons to Broadcast, Scottsdale, AZ: As a Production/Creative Director for radio stations, I used to be concerned that I wasn’t the most organized person in the world. Whereas my colleagues seemed to focus on one project, complete it, and then move on to the next, I found myself shifting from one project to another in the course of a day. But the jobs always got done in a timely manner. I later learned that my technique has a name. It’s now referred to as multi-tasking, and it effectively fills those times when you’re waiting for a copy approval call, the talent hasn’t arrived, you can’t get in a studio, etc. I usually have everything that I am working on during a day handy so that if there is a lull I can immediately shift gears to work on something else (however small it may be). Now that I’m working on my own, I use this technique to my benefit daily. While the dubs are being made, I’m printing invoices. While I wait for copy approval, I’m making script changes on another spot. While I’m typing out a proposal, I’m listening for the right music bed for my next project. The important aspect of all this is that you’re always moving forward no matter how you get there.

Tom Richards [TomR[at]101-fm.com]: Oh, don’t get me started! There’s nothing I resent more than having my time wasted (and nothing I regret more than wasting someone else’s), and the number one offender is SPEC SPOTS, followed closely by the salesperson who doesn’t have the order yet, “but the client’s gonna sign as soon as he hears the creative.” I’ve brought in outside talent and blown off other important business in the spirit of helping to make the sale, only to have it bite me on the ass. I hate it.

What do I do? I make the salesperson understand in no uncertain terms just what a loss they’ve dumped on the company, all in the name of their “hunch.” Am I cranky? You bet! Do they think twice about coming to me with half-baked ideas? Sure do!

Ahhhh—I feel better now! Thanks!

Jim Kipping [jkipping[at]texas.net], LBJS Broadasting Col, Austin, TX: Hurry up and wait. Can you hold? Stand by! SIT BY! WHERE’S THE PAPERWORK? AAAAAAHHHHHHAAAAA! Sure there are a TON of time wasters in our business, especially here at the LBJS Broadcasting Company. However, to borrow a phrase from a real crappy fast food job I had at the ripe old age of 13, “...if there’s time enough to lean, there’s time enough to clean.” Subsequently, that is the only thing beneficial that came from that piece of *%[at]#* job that I have taken with me in life. But trust me, with the amount of work that comes through our department for a multi-million dollar generating station group, you don’t see us scrubbing the counters very much.

My favorite time waster was in the days when sales folks would come down to the production department to play a spot for the client, then after it was finished ask the death question, “…well what did you think?!?” Again, as I stated above, AAAAAAHHHHAAAAAAAA! Why don’t you just bend us over, and make us work an extra 3 hours to totally redo the spot that would have worked the first time!! What are they, nuts? Pre-sell the spot. Hype it. Get the client jazzed, then when finished: “Wow, did you hear that? Did that kick ass or what?” Blah, blah, blah.. With upwards of 40 sales folks under one roof, there’s not that many times that this type of situation rears its ugly head! It just can’t. That’s why I implemented a system called “dial a spot” about 4 years ago where we utilize about 50 mail boxes on our voice mail system were we dub the spot to, and then give the client a phone number, with the appropriate pre-sell coaching from the AE, and send them on their merry way. We do give them a 24 hour window to catch it before the next client is dubbed for a little sense of urgency. This has been a real TIME SAVER, since our jobs can continue, without stopping what we are doing just to play one commercial, then to listen to the AE yap about the pending golf game and how they “think” we should “tweak” this or that.

Now, we have an influx of Newbie sales folks that have NEVER SOLD! Where are these coming from? Or “Newbies” that have sold “for 20 years” and of course they do know everything about creating the best spots. Okay, sure. Recently we had a situation where a new AE came down requesting a spot for a client that has “never used radio before” (okay, that was the warning sign) and wanted a “creative, funny spot” Great, my very talented and creative staff busted ass on it, got the copy done within a 24 hour period, then passed it to the AE where they sat on it until the day before the spot went on. (I might add, it was about 3 weeks). Then the AE comes down and literally says, “The client thinks this SUCKS. You need to re-do it.” This was a classic case of a dump and run, with no other creative input from the AE except a few copy points, which where all incorporated into the copy. HORSE PUCKEY! (Thanks colonel Potter; I love that one.) The AE was then asked to bring us the copy to be cut, which this veteran of 20 years of radio experience could not write to save their life. We then cut exactly what “the client” wanted. Well as you may have guessed, today at 10:00 AM I am meeting with the client personally, to show the veteran of 20 years how to “pull and sell.” Pull: To pull the correct info out of the client’s mouth. Sell: To make an effective spot or campaign that will keep the client coming back for more!

This tragic story above is probably not new to most of you out there. And let me tell you this is not the first for me. Do the math: 40 sales folks with an average of 20 clients each. That’s more than  800 things happening at once. And with the game of Monopoly, whoops, I’m sorry, I mean RADIO, the way it is growing, it’s not going to get any better or easier. The AE, no matter what size the company, is the direct liaison between you and the client. Selling is Relationships, remember? The folks in the sub (Sound Design has no windows to the outside world; it’s like a sub.) don’t, and can’t have a personal relationship with 800 plus clients. There’s no way. That’s why each Account Exec HAS to be responsible for most of the campaign ideas for the client. We are just the facilitators, the hired voices. If we were to do more than that, we would each have our own “agency.” I believe that commission is what, 18%?

Here’s the solution. No sales folk, especially one that has been doing this for “20 years” wants to be shown up by the guy or gal that pushes the buttons. You do your dog and pony show that just has the client in awe. This will really make the AE look incompetent. After the success of the campaign is underway, you go to their supervisor and politely ask that if you will be having to the job of the AE, you either want a sales person number so you can become the next “sales golden child,” or you would like a piece of the commission for each client that you have hand walked for this account exec. You see where I’m going?

This is one of the biggest time SAVERS. I know because it works. All of a sudden we have incredibly creative sales folks. It’s Great! Try it; you’ll like it. HEY MIKEY!

Steve Cunningham [synthman[at] loop.com]: Revisions in copy and copy approval are certainly time-wasters, but in my opinion the worst time-waster is... e-mail!

I’m subscribed to several broadcast-related mailing lists, and while some of the information is useful, much is not. Sifting through the stupid stuff and the “yeah, me too” messages to find the good ones takes time.

I’ve established a schedule whereby I spend 30 minutes each morning going through the mail list stuff. As that period comes to an end, I find myself deleting messages wholesale, just to save the time.

Oh yeah, I try to stay off the Web. That’s another guaranteed time-sink.

Dave Shropshire [ShropMan[at]aol .com], Quad City Radio Group: Dave Shropshire here from the Quad City Radio group (5FM’s-3AM’s) . The biggest waste of time and most infuriating for me, the production slave (LOL), would have to be, Incorrect Copy—slaving over a particularly difficult piece of copy with lots of sound effects and edits, then finding out the day after that it has to be redone because someone (usually the salesperson) has not taken the time to read over the copy. Our Audicy makes redoing the spots somewhat easy, but still, copy errors chap my ass!

Thanks. Love the magazine!

Johnny George [HOTAUDIO[at] aol.com], Susquehanna Indianapolis, IN: “Hey.....that’s radio!” How many times do you hear that? Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the animal when you produce as many promos or commercials as an average production guy does each week. However, revisions are certainly much easier to deal with in today’s technology than they were less than 10 years ago.

Copy changes after the piece is produced and on-the-air are one of the biggest frustrations we face. I plan out all three of our stations timescape on my weekly outline that I list on my studio dry-erase board. When one thing stops the machine, it sets a whole stream of gears in motion.

Take the re-write and filter my voice into the promo. (I normally use 3 outside VO talents.) Or if their schedule is flexible enough to honor my request, (usually can) I hook back up via ISDN and have the correction re-voiced, edited and on the air within the hour.

Before digital, you could pull out the change and re-mix your audio, but calling your VO talent and having new tracks cut and FedEx’d to me “next day” was a royal pain in the ass.

Additionally, the other great tragedies in our biz is a “sick” VO guy. Bad cold, the flu, dental emergencies, etc., or even the dreaded vacation. <G> These can be quite challenging when you can’t plan for them.

But, “Hey...that’s radio!” (Still better than a 9-5 desk gig any day, right?)

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