R.A.P. Interview: Tom Barnes

R.A.P.: What do you have to say about clients and salespeople that don't give their production people the time necessary to create a good spot?
Tom: That's the most common thing I hear when I go out and do production seminars: "Dammit, I wish the salespeople would just give me another day. They would be blown away by the stuff they'd get!" One thing we try to do is show the salespeople how much more their client gets for their money if they give the production people an extra day. "I know you're getting ready to have a sale, Mr. Advertiser. If I can get that order in now, three days in advance, my creative team will be able to work on this and will be able to bring you an amazing spot. If you're going to wait until Friday, when the sale starts on Saturday, they're going to give you a good spot, but it won't be as kick ass as it would if they had a couple of extra days."

This is all an education process. Even though the salespeople kind of know this in the back of their heads, they're not really fully cognitive of it when they're involved in the sales process. This is another place where the responsibility falls on the Production Director to repeatedly remind salespeople of your need for extra time. Don't do it in an angry way though -- "I can't believe you always wait until the last minute to bring your orders in!" That'll never work. You'll never get your message across if you handle your salespeople that way. You've got to work with them as soon as they come on board at the radio station. Explain things to them in a real clear way: "Hey, Joe Salesguy. Come into the studio for a second before you go on your first training calls with the Sales Manager. There's something I want to show you." Have a couple of spots ready, then say, "This is spot number one. This is a spot I had three days to make. This is spot number two. This is a spot I had one day to make. I want you to listen to them." Boom, boom. Play the spots and go back at the salesman again: "Now, I don't want to keep you from making any money, Mr. Salesguy, but I will assure you that in the long run, if you give me three days and I can create spots like this one for you all the time, in two years you're going to be making a lot more money than you would be making if you make me make spots for you like this other one all the time."

You've got to get them up front, when they come on board. If you can't, you've got to really spend some time with them to remind them of your needs. Take them out for a drink, or whatever. Again, surprise and repetition. Use it, not only in your spots, but in the education of your salespeople. For the most part, they're just victims of their own ignorance. They just don't understand the importance of time to creative people. Creative people and salespeople are diametrically opposed personality types. You've got to play their game up front and show them how their going to make more money because that's really what they're interested in.

R.A.P.: We have many Program Directors who read R.A.P.. What advice do you have for them regarding their production departments?
Tom: Pay close attention to the production process and learn to speak the language of production. Learn to identify and discuss the way equalization works, the way the digital delay works, the way the editing process goes. Learn with your Production Director about the process because you can never know enough. Guys will sit there and go, "I've been splicing tape for fifty years. There's nothing anybody is going to tell me about production." That's a bunch of crap. I'd like to see those guys go in there and do digital sampling and know how that stuff works.

Program Directors really need to understand what's going on in terms of technology and in terms of communicating with their audience and building that stationality. Their right hand man should be the Production Director. Those guys should be best buddies and work together all the time. The Program Director that hears something on the air, calls his Production Director and says, "That promo sucks! Get it off and do it again," is never going to get the sound he wants out of his production guy. It is the responsibility of the Program Director to be able to express, in clear terms, what he wants from the Production Director. This idea of saying, "I know what I want in my head, and this isn't it," is just a load of crap. A Program Director should understand how impossible that kind of communication is to work with. A Program Director has to be really aware of being specific with what's wrong with spots, and the only way to do that is to be able to speak the language of production. You have to be aware of the process that the Production Director is going through. You have to be sensitive to his creative process as well. Don't come down on your Production Director when he splits in the middle of the afternoon because he's wiggin' out. Let him go. Teach him discipline skills, and then let him discipline himself. You're in the Program Director's chair. You need to be a manager of people. The way to manage people is to speak to them in a language they understand, and teach them specifically what it is you want them to do.

R.A.P.: Any parting words for the Production Directors of the world?
Tom: Look for a really bright future, because I believe the future is brighter for the production people than almost any other job in the radio station. Marketers and production people are the ones on the fast track. There's also going to be a lot of movement from production into programming, just like you see a lot of Program Directors becoming GM's.

Also, when you're moving to a new job, demand that you have the equipment you want. You have the most leverage when you're starting a new job. That's when they really need you. Don't just think about the money. Think about your future career. Think about the step you're on and the next step. Consider taking less money than they're offering with the condition that you get the equipment you want. That will make you better and help you get to the next market. People are going to hire you in the big markets in the future because of your technological understanding. Think about that when you're changing jobs. It's not only going to help you, but it will help your fellow production people, too.

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