R.A.P. Interview: Tom Barnes

R.A.P.: How does the problem of many stations being over-leveraged affect this "big buck" plan?
Tom: This problem is going to affect everybody's paycheck in the short term. People need to realize this. While I might be painting a picture of utopia in the future for production people, the short term is going to be tough. Guys that are in the trenches don't realize this, but there are a lot of GM's and owners who are really sweating bullets right now.

Once we get over all this over-leveraged crap, things are going to be great. That will be the time when production people make the big bucks. The key now is to bring the writing into the production. Bring that symbolism and that creativity into it. Then Program Directors will begin to hear how much a Production Director can really do for radio stations, and they'll begin to demand those skills for their radio stations. Then the production guys will start making the big bucks, after we get over the effect the Wall Street guys had on our industry.

R.A.P.: You've put a lot of emphasis on the importance of production people to a station's morning show. What thoughts do you have regarding the more common tasks of the Production Director of producing spots and promos?
Tom: It's interesting. I don't know how many production people really make an effort to go out and meet their clients, but that is something that is really important. Every business has a culture, and if you're trying to produce a commercial for a business -- I don't care if it's a two man shop -- it's going to have a culture. It's incumbent upon a good Production Director to go in and learn the culture of the business they're creating an advertisement for so they can reflect the culture of the business in the ad. It's not only a vanity thing for the business -- the business will go, "God, I loved your spot! You were very flattering and had fun with my culture and my business and I love that!" -- but it's also very endearing to the listener to know about the culture of a business because everybody is sensitive to it. If you can reflect the culture of a business and have fun with it, if that culture allows it, ads can be very effective. I think guys really miss that, and I know that the client appreciates it for the most part.

Most clients are happy to have you come and patronize their businesses. You have a responsibility as the employee of a radio station to patronize advertisers, but it's even more than that. It's going in and saying, "Hi, I'm the Production Director for WXXX. Mr. Pizza Guy, tell me how long you've been here. Tell me what kind of cheese you use. Tell me about who works here." You're going to find something. You're going to find a hook. You're going to find something that is endearing about the company, something that's cool, something you can really grab on to and utilize and bring out. Advertising really works effectively when you get to know who your client is.

I know people are going to read this and go, "Man, I don't have time to do that. I've got too much going on. I've got salespeople jumping down my throat. I've got a Program Director jumping down my throat, and I just don't have the time to do that stuff." You've got to make the time. If you're really committed to making the big bucks in this business, you've got to make the time.

R.A.P.: That sounds good, but for many Production Directors there just simply isn't the time to spend an hour traveling to and from a client's business, then another hour with the client. Where's the compromise?
Tom: Maybe you don't go to the client that's a half-hour away. You see the client that's ten minutes away and have lunch with him. Get a salesperson to throw a party for her clients at a bar where she's got trade. Go to that party and get the salesperson to introduce you to all her clients and talk with them. Or just call them on the phone. There's a lot of ways to contact them and get close to them.

Guys that have been doing this for a long time know that it works. These have got to be goals that everybody makes for themselves. Maybe you do it on the weekends. It's a very easy thing to do, and it's really painless because all you're doing is going out to meet somebody and talk about what they do. It's one of the easiest parts of the job there is. Then, once you demonstrate the power of getting close to the clients and what it really means to the business, you can go to the GM and say, "Boy! PR is really becoming an important component of my job, and I'm really getting bogged down with all these dubs. Do you think I could bring an intern in to do dubs for me or help me with my filing and clerical things?" Then, just build it up from there. Extend yourself and create the need, and demonstrate how it will pay for itself. I think you'll find that General Managers are a lot easier to deal with in that environment.

Tell your GM, "You know, I've gone to these two clients and they went from being $450 a month clients to $900 a month clients, and that was just the two guys I went and visited. Mr. GM, if I could go and visit four, by having a little help, who knows what that would bring? I think it's pretty clear what I've demonstrated and what I can do on my own. What I really need is some help so I can do more of this and bring more money into the radio station." You've got to be a salesman, understand the process of sales and speak the GM's language.

Of course, everything I'm talking about means more work, but that's going to be the difference between making the big bucks in the big markets and just being a tape head for the rest of your gig until you finally just hate it, get pissed off, and get into something else.

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