NOTE: I have started writing blogs about radio for a new site called Radio Twit. This article was written for that site, but I am posting it here on my personal blog, as well. As I will do for any post I write. please check it out. We are just starting up and it is going to be a great resource for anyone either in radio or interested in radio.
I’ve spent the better part of my career in radio promotions. I’ve worked in small markets (Danbury, CT), large markets (Hartford, CT), and major markets (Boston, MA). The one question that seems to be a constant throughout my career has been, “What exactly do you do?”
That’s actually not an easy question to answer. The thing that most people expect is that I’m the guy that just goes out and hangs banners and balloons. And yes, while that is a very small part of the job, there is so much more.
I guess the best way to start this discussion is that the Promotions Director is the person in the radio station that directly interacts with every single other department. From programming to sales, production, traffic, business, engineering, even reception. I also like to describe it as the person that the receptionist sends all the phone calls to when he/she has no idea where they are supposed to go.
Even though the jocks are the “faces” of the station, the promotion director is generally the mouth. When the jocks don’t want to answer an awkward question, it usually comes to the Promotions Director.
The Promotions Director generally works very closely with the General Manager and the Program Director to plot the marketing course for the station. Everything from how to brand the station, logo design, web presence, and so forth. You also have to work closely with the sales department to develop promotional programs for station clients. This is actually tricky because you have to make these programs fit in with the aforementioned branding and presence of the radio station. Here’s a simplistic example… You are a classic rock station, but your client wants you to give away tickets to, say, Britney Spears. How do you do this? Well, you don’t. This annoys not only the client, but the sales rep who already promised the client that we would do it. NOTE TO SALES… Please do NOT promise anything to a client until it has either passed through promotions or programming.
Most of the time, though, I’ve enjoyed putting together sales promotions. We usually have really cool prizes to give away, make much needed revenue for the station, and can look larger than life. While I was the Promotion Director in Danbury, I worked closely with a local travel agency who got us lots of trips to give away… cruises, Rio, a private concert with Jimmy Buffet in Anguilla. Plus we’ve given away backyard makeovers including new patios, grills, hot tubs, landscaping. Cars are always fun prizes to give away.
Sales promotions could also be very turn-key programs. The client places a buy and wants to give away tickets to their event. Simple enough. Divide the tickets up throughout the day. Usually with an emphasis on AM Drive and PM Drive. Have the jock take caller 9, include the :10 second tag and you’re done.
The problem with sales promotions is that in a lot of cases, the sales rep is focused on getting the sale and will promise the client things that are impossible to pull off, or are, quite frankly, not worth putting together based on the amount of the buy. Not true in all cases… I’ve certainly had my fair share of salespeople who “got it”. Who would sit down with me and discuss possibilities and what would work best for not only the client, but also the station. But it seems that at every station I’ve worked at, there was the one sales rep that made my life a living nightmare. Ironically, the one from my last station is someone I still keep in touch with and she will still come to me for ideas. Which I like. It helps keep my unemployed brain active.
Events: This is where a promotion director can really shine. I would say that about 80% of the events are pretty turn-key. Usually remote broadcasts where the station will show up at the client with the van, a tent, some prizes, and a jock who will do a series of 1:00 minute live spots imploring you to “Come down to XXXX Honda for Midnight Madness. The best deals of the year are here now!” But there are other events… festivals, consumer shows, seminars. I’ve loved working on each and every one of them.
Public Relations: Somebody has to get the word out to people outside of your listenership. My job consisted of writing press releases, being the station spokesperson, being interviewed, etc.
Community Relations: This warrants an entirely different blog post which will hopefully be coming soon.
Staff management: Weirdly enough, when I worked in a major market, I had an assistant. That’s it. And he split time between my station and the other AM station in the cluster. In the tiny market of Danbury, I had a full-time assistant, 8 per-diem part-timers, and at any given time 5 to 25 interns. Go figure. My job was to hire, in some cases fire, train, schedule (though I usually delegated that to the assistant), and try to keep everybody happy.
Vendor relations: I was responsible for seeking out and growing relationships with all kinds of vendors. People who made our t-shirts and premium items for giveaways, graphic designers, auto body shops (station vans get dinged), etc… Most of the time with little or no budget to work with. Advertising trade was my savior!
There is so much more to this job that I can ever put into one post. I’ll add more in the future. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please feel free to leave a comment.