Thursday, July 2, 2015

We're All Born Creative

From a very young age we all have a quiet little voice in our heads that comes from somewhere deep inside. It whispers unique and amazing thoughts and ideas to us. In the beginning, we all hear these ideas, get excited, and do something about them. Unfortunately, the bigger and more unusual the ideas, the more resistance we encounter when we try to bring them to life. Eventually, most of us stop listening to that quiet little voice, dismiss its thoughts and ideas, and just try to fit in because it's too damn hard to do otherwise.

The most successful radio personalities and great artists of all kinds never stop listening to that quiet little voice in their heads no matter how tough it gets. I just watched an interview Charlie Rose did with James Taylor a couple of years ago. He talked about how hard it was for him early on in his life.

"I was born with a difficulty of being in my own skin. Living in human society I just ran into trouble. I think everybody does to a greater or lesser extent. I did feel as though I was born on the dark side of the Moon and that I didn't have a place in this world when I was 15."

James Taylor's troubles living in this world inspired that quiet little voice in his head to help him write some amazing songs. Here's how James described the process to Charlie:

"I don't really feel as though I write songs. I feel as though I hear them first and remember them and get them down. It's such a mysterious and subconscious process that I couldn't really say that I wrote those songs. I just channeled them or they happened to me first. There is a sort of lightning bolt kind of moment when you're visited by a song and you get, hopefully, as much as you can. Sometimes it's a whole song, but sometimes it's just a fragment. Then you have to collect those fragments and often later on you sequester yourself and hide away somewhere and work 'em."

That little voice in James Taylor’s head reacting to the suicide of a childhood friend named Suzanne, the failure of his early band “Flying Machine” and his struggles to overcome drug addiction helped him write “Fire and Rain”. James paid attention to the thoughts and feelings that flowed from these experiences that rang his emotional bell. He listened to that little voice in his head expressing his joys and sorrows. It helped him create a song that produces a powerful and memorable emotional experience.

The best radio is all about creating meaningful emotional experiences for listeners. If you’re a radio personality or anyone involved in creating radio content, don't stop listening to that quiet little voice in your head. It's your genius. It will provide the material that will cause your listeners to laugh, marvel, or understand something meaningful and important and help develop a lasting emotional connection with you. Write down everything it says no matter how weird, nonsensical, or fragmentary it may seem at the time. If you don't write it down you'll forget it. Then, like James Taylor, spend time with the stuff you collect. Work it and shape it. Figure out what you were born to create. Build it. Publish it. The world is waiting for you to make a difference like James Taylor has with his songs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What Radio Personalities Want and Need Most

It’s not easy being a radio personality. They work in relative isolation far from their listeners. They can’t see or hear them. Most radio studios don’t even have an outside window. The only immediate feedback personalities get on their performance is from those working with them in the studio. If they work alone, there is no feedback in the moment.

Oh, radio personalities get plenty of delayed reaction to their work, but it often does more harm than good. The phone lines light up or they don’t. Texts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails deliver all kinds of mixed messages. Some are glowing with praise and love. Others state clearly and unequivocally, “you suck!” After the show, the confusion continues. An enthusiastic PD might proclaim he loves a bit the personality hated, usually without offering specifics about what made it so good. Later, the GM weighs in saying, “I didn’t get that phone segment you did in the 8 o’clock hour and I don’t think it was relevant to our listeners.” Problem is the personality thinks it’s the best thing he did all morning and his followers on Twitter and Facebook seem to agree. This is the real world of a radio personality where everyone has an opinion on what they do and the opinions are anything but unanimous.

It’s no wonder even the most successful radio personalities with consistently high ratings can be very insecure. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a personality in Los Angeles 25 years ago. It was shortly after I began consulting his station. It was our second or third meeting. We were still in the “getting to know you” stage, sizing each other up. He had just signed a five-year no cut $850,000 per year contract. A well-deserved reward for his talk show being number one in its time period. Yet, he seemed as anxious and insecure as a guy with no ratings or track record of success. 

I had to know where his fear was coming from. It was incomprehensible to me. I asked him if he ever imagined the success he was experiencing. In a moment of complete candor he told me, “I had no idea I’d ever achieve this kind of success on the radio. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t really understand why people listen to me.” So then I asked him how he felt about the future. He answered, “I’m worried I could lose it all just the way I got it, without knowing how or why or when it might happen.” Wow! Talk about an epiphany.

My experience in Los Angeles that day and with hundreds of radio personalities ever since has made me realize that good coaching is not only hugely important to a personality’s development, but also vital to their well-being. It’s not easy being a radio personality. 

Every radio personality I’ve ever met wants to get better, no matter what their level of talent or stage of development. They’re hungry for constructive feedback and ideas that will help them learn how to be the best they can be. Deep down, every radio personality wants a coach. Here are the things they want and need most from that coach:

·         Someone who “gets me” and “believes in me.” This is the foundation of a coaching relationship. The coach must be able to regularly and consistently recognize and articulate what makes the personality special and appealing to listeners. Most importantly, he must be able to demonstrate why he believes the personality will succeed. Nothing inspires and motivates a personality more than a coach who believes in him and can explain why. Nothing helps a personality overcome their doubts and fears and set aside all the confusing and conflicting opinions about their work more than recognizing their own strengths and fully understanding what makes them appealing to listeners.

·         Someone “I can trust and respect”. Trust is a function of genuine concern about the well-being and best interests of the radio personality. It’s about being honest at all times. Radio personalities can spot BS and manipulation a mile away. They hate it. There is no relationship without trust. Respect is earned by demonstrating an ability to help the radio personality recognize, refine, and more effectively present their best ideas on the radio. In other words, by helping them acquire the skills and techniques that will make them better. Trust and respect flow from showing that you truly care and can help them be the best they can be.

It’s not easy being a radio personality, but a good coach can make it much less difficult and far more satisfying.