This Much I Know

By Sheldon Hovde

I’m not a genius.

But what I want to share with you has nothing to do with being smart, just experienced.

There really are some things you can only learn by doing… and I’m going to share a few of my experiences with you from my Creative Director’s chair, that will hopefully get you a bit closer to being a genius.
This much I know:

Come In Early

I get to work at 6:30 every day, and I don’t know how I could survive my day without being early. I’ve never actually counted the interruptions in a day, but I do know that at some point there’s a lineup of people who need something. That doesn’t mean I’m important. It just means they all need something that only my Production studio can give them. So, having even two hours of uninterrupted time first thing to write, produce spots, sit and think… whatever, has been invaluable. And if I was a betting man, I would wager that most of the work I’m especially proud of, came from an early morning idea.

You Suck… and That’s Okay

I think this one falls under the 70-10-20 rule. 70 percent of the time you’re good. 10 percent of the time you’re brilliant, and 20 percent of the time, you’re horrible. There’s no way to get around it, so you just have to accept the fact that sometimes you’re going to put out utter shit, and that’s okay. I’ve been guilty of getting a piece of copy out late because I was waiting for the next brilliant idea to fall out of the sky… and it never did. Get the job done… and if it’s not the next “Gone with the Wind”… that’s okay. I’m not saying that we should accept mediocrity; I’m saying that it’s going to happen. It’s radio and we all have 50 projects to complete in a day. The key is to take that 10 percent of brilliance, and milk it for everything you’ve got.

Be Nice

I know I’ve mentioned this in articles I’ve done in the past… but a lot of producers and writers out there really don’t get it, so I’ll say it again.

Don’t be a dick.

I think the problem stems from the fact that nobody really thinks they’re a jerk. It’s always somebody else’s fault. Or the other guy was the rude one. Or some people even think they’re being a rebel or a tortured genius and have a valid excuse to be an asshole.

I know, I know… there are a lot of people in your office who could probably use a verbal punch in the face. I get it. But if you’re a jerk, you will miss opportunities you never even knew were available because no one’s going to tell you about them. There have been producers I was interested in hiring, but once I dug a bit deeper, I realized that their temperament wasn’t suited to my work environment. So… I passed on offering them the job.
By the way, if you’re really a hard-ass, and need to get your way all the time, run your own company. There is a place for dickheads in this world, but only if you’re at the very top of the food chain. Even then, you will have masters you must answer to.

Try Stand-Up

A lot of radio imaging and advertising is comedy so, you better be funny. I know, I know… you’re already funny. However, if you’d like to be really, really sure you’re funny, try a couple nights of open mic stand up. Then you’ll see if your sense of humor and writing abilities make the grade. There’s nothing more unforgiving than a room full of strangers, who know nothing about you, don’t care about you, and are waiting for you to make them laugh. A lot of them are even saying to themselves, “You can’t make me laugh”. So to take your writing into that environment, and own the room… THEN you’ll be a comedy writer.

They’ll Never Understand the Script

Writers and Producers think like Writers and Producers. Business owners, for the most part, do not. So to get them to understand your audio concept off of a word document is pretty tough. Whenever possible, as much as possible, give them the finished product first. No script, just a finished mp3 with an ironclad rationale about why you chose the approach you did. I started doing this a long time ago, and my approval rate on ads I was doing went through the roof. Sure, there were changes here and there, but they were minor. Nothing like having to start from the beginning and work from scratch. If you don’t have time to do that very often, just do it for the clients who deserve it. You know the ones. If you don’t have time to work like that at all, insist your writers explain their premise to the client over the phone before the client reads the script. That way, at least they’ll fully understand the idea and how it’s going to sound, before they read the script. Remember, you’re the only one working from the listener’s point of view. The client cares about his business and what’s said about it. The sales rep cares about how happy their client is. And you, you care about how the listener thinks, feels and reacts. The commercial that the client loves and also makes a great ad, takes care of all these things at the same time.

Read, Read, Read

I’m sure I don’t need to go into the benefits of reading as much as you can about advertising, sales, marketing. It’s going to benefit you in every aspect of your job. The more you know, the more you’re respected, and can persuade others on your ideas.

You’re in Sales, Too

If there’s only one thing you actually pay attention to in this article, this would be it.

At almost every radio station, ad agency, etc., the creative people don’t get along with the sales folks. It’s almost like they both think they’re above the other one. I think it just comes from having to represent different interests. Creative people usually have to think about the listener or viewer or reader, and Sales needs to worry about keeping their client happy. Conflict is bound to happen when you represent different interests. The thing every creative person needs to know is that they’re also in sales, and the sooner they realize it the better.

What is an ad? It’s a sales pitch, and hopefully a clever one to get past all the other hundreds, if not thousands, of other sales pitches out there trying to get a hand in your wallet. Every job you’ve ever gotten has been you selling yourself to the person doing the interview. Every script and every idea needs to be sold to another human being in one way or another. So guess what, fellow creative writers and producers… you’re in sales, and perhaps your life would be easier if you went up to a salesperson you respect, bought them a cup of coffee, and asked them how to be successful at sales. You’re not against them. You’re not better than them. You ARE them. Know that, and you’ll be successful.

That’s It

I told you, I’m not a genius. Not by a long shot. But there are a few things I know to be true in my job, and I hope you found even a sliver of what you just read to be helpful in yours.

So come into work early, suck at it nicely after a night of stand-up comedy, then read a book and have a cup of coffee with someone in sales.

Makes sense right?

Sheldon Hovde is owner of Nonick Productions in Victoria, BC, Canada, as well as Creative Director for 100.3 The Q and The Zone at 91 3. He welcomes all your comments good or bad at Sheldon@nonickproductions.com or Sheldon@theq.fm.

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