The Steps to Winning Prgramming

By – Mike McVay

To program a great radio station, you must have many different components working together harmoniously. The following are the components that I most strongly believe in. I believe in this formula, given my 40 years of consulting and my most recent experiences working inside a major broadcast company


MUSIC: I feel as though music is the most important part of a music driven radio station. Music selected for the station should be a group decision among the program director, music director, and the VP/Format. Your market’s VPPO should be involved with you (the PD) in setting the stations music direction and essence. It should be a collaborative decision. Your music choices should be based upon local callout (if you have it), the National Research and chart from your VP/Formats, M-Score, Airplay Intel, tracking on-line exposure and trends as well as using BDS for the monitoring of stations similar to the dynamics of your station.  All of our stations have BDS accessible to them. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter hour is representative of the format.


ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: Developing an emotional connection between your on-air personalities and listeners (without increasing the amount of talk) is an effective way of ingraining the station’s brand into the listener’s memory.  On-air personalities need to be disciplined hosts who are providing relatable content to the target audience while keeping the music moving. The more real you are, the better connection you’ll have with your audience. You need to have personalities that the listener can identify with or be greatly entertained by when they listen.


PROMOTIONS: Promotions are one of the most important parts of station awareness. A station needs to be highly visible around town in order to be as successful as possible. When it is time for listeners to fill out their Nielsen diary, they won’t go to the radio and see what station is on, they will recall it from memory. If you’re a PPM market, then you want to develop contests and content that create repeat tune-in. This is why I feel it is so important to always be on the streets, being seen and talked about is what keeps a good radio station on peoples’ minds.  You will need more than on-air promotions, though, if you plan to grow your cume. You will want need marketing to do that. That means on-line marketing via website ads, social media, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as the more traditional platform of transit and billboards. I’m not a big fan of TV for marketing as it isn’t cost effective. If you can advertise on Cable or Digital TV platforms, then maybe, but as far as local TV … news is the only thing worth investing in and that’s best for marketing spoken word stations


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Getting a station with organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, Salvation Army, local food banks, and Toys for Tots are great ways to tug at the emotions of listeners, and it makes the on-air personalities “human” and clearly local. A station who takes every opportunity to celebrate the community in which they live in will accomplish much more than a station that is syndicated or voiced tracked.  If you are using syndicated programming, network programming or are voice-tracked, then work hard to be local sounding and really focus on what is important to your market. Do NOT “flip the switch and walk away.” These simple things don’t take up much airtime, they sound great on the air, and most of the time lead to free local press coverage. 


LISTENERS AND THE ADVERTISERS: If you keep harmony with both, then the reward is increased share and increased revenue. When your station is on the air, it should be the one that listeners and advertisers say is their radio station. This is because it not only satisfies their radio listening needs, but also properly reflects the community.


A program director needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of every one of their staff members and use them accordingly. The program director must see to it that the air staff has the coaching and direction it needs to be the best in town. By working with and knowing the goals, personalities and skills of each on-air personality, she/he will send the message that you not only care about the product but most importantly that you care about the individuals’ careers. 


Maybe the biggest most important thing for a Program Director is to keep it fun!  Without fun, morale slips and on-air personalities move on. If you’re having fun, it is reflected on the air. Never forget … a radio stations “personality” is that of the Program Director.