The Radio Promotions Director – An (abbreviated) Job Description

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.

33 comments on “The Radio Promotions Director – An (abbreviated) Job Description

  1. Pingback: Site Seeing – Worthwhile Web Sites « The College Radio Zone

  2. Wow thats great experience man.Ive just been promoted to a promotions director at my station in kampala called radio simba but want to learn more about radio promotions coz its not an easy job.

  3. About 9 years ago…I was on a Promo Team in a major market in DC. Loved it. But as you mentioned….its all part timers and the money sucked. So I spent 8 years chasing another job in radio and last year was picked up by 2 stations in a mid-level market operating out of the same building (an AM and FM station). Both are market leaders but neither of them had a Promo Dir. or even a Promo Team for that matter. I was hired in a sales capacity. I pitched the idea of a Promo Dir. to our GM and or Prog. Dir. and both took to the idea. So now I am writing my own job description for the job I’ve always wanted! Came across your post in doing research on others in the industry. Very well laid out! Thanks!

  4. Thanks, that was totally helpful…. I interview with the owner of 5 Stations Tuesday…..I have worked at many radio promotions…and advertised on many stations, writing my own ads on occasion…. all of this in Dallas, DC, Arkansas, and Maui over 30 years……I have had to do everything you mentioned at different times…. I would love to read anything more that you have written on the subject….. ;^)
    Thanks again

    • I won’t speak about my personal salary. It all depends on the size of the market. But generally, radio doesn’t pay very well. I’ve always pretty much said that the Promotions Director probably would make double for a similar job in almost any other industry.

  5. I’ve been a PD for 6 months now. The program
    director actually found me at my job during a live remote he was doing and said he loved my personality (who knew being a smarta$$ would pay off, take that every school teacher that I ever had!). 4 years later he finds me again, remembered me and offers me the job of PD. I must say I had no clue what I was getting into. I honestly thought I would sit around listening to music and making jokes all day with the occasional concert. I have worked so hard and the best part about it is that no matter how much stress I am in or how bad I would much rather be somewhere other than a state fair concert, I must do it with a smile. I really live for this job now and I look forward to diving deeper into the sandpit each and every day. I have a pretty good sales back ground, even for my youth which I have been able to use to my advantage. The only problem I have is knowing where to start in giving myself that extra “bang” in the business. Any help/advice for a newbie?

  6. Would you reccomend having a college background in order to become a Programs Director and if so what should I major in?

  7. Hi, you have such an interesting background and it’s motivating to me. Everyone knows (I assume) that getting into radio is hard work and all starts with some motivation and a passion for it. I have had many people tell me “Intern.” I did intern. I loved it!! I went back to school for a Marketing/Advertising cert. because I have other degrees and thought it would give me some knowledge and also show my potential employer in radio that I’m taking my career moves seriously. I’ve focused my past 2-3 years of work on anything music or promotions related also doing some work for free. I am in the process *potentially* working for a station as a promotions person, which is PAID! It’s crazy to me that I will get paid to talk to people and be in a good mood which is incredibly hard to do and be geniune, haha, and I like to think it’s my calling. NOW, the question I have for you now that you have some of my background; I have done some searching and see all stations are different, but my ideal job is an assistant to the PD. Is this a thing? I know there are the people that go out and promote the station, host events etc, then the PD. It seems like a heck of a lot more responsibility in the PD’s corner, so how is that transition made? It would be nice if I could hope to someday do the assistant job if there is one other than the remote events, set up and tear down person. If you would like to answer and need more clarification, let me know!! Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Ange! It sounds like you are on the right track. I have always been a proponent of interning. I know as a hiring manager, I always preferred to hire somebody out of an internship than off the street. I already know them. And in answer to your question, yes… There is a position called Assistant Program Director. Many times it’s combined with a Music Director position. However… This is a position that has been phased out in most cases. Now that we are in the days of automation and sy dictation, there isn’t a lot of call for an APD. Some places still have them, so keep your eyes open. In the meantime… Go for the paid promotions position. The Promotons department I’d the only department that pretty much interacts with every other department at a radio station, soit’s a good way to get to know everybody. Thank you for sharing your story. Radio is tough… But if you’re passionate about it, there is no other career like it.

  8. Thank you for an awesome article. I’m entering college as a freshman this fall, and being a radio promotions director is my absolute dream job. What would you recommend majoring in to pursue this type of career?

    • Hi Sarah! Thank you for reading and for your very nice comment. As far as a major, either communications or marketing are probably the best majors for a job such as Promotions Director. Also, take any classes in broadcasting that your college might offer. And most importantly… If they have a radio station, join! Even if you are to interested in being “on-air”, you should have a background in it anyway. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  9. Thanks Eric for your great incite. I have been an Executive Assistant for a long time. Normally our job responsibilities are everywhere from managing others, taking company calls, scheduling, vendor relations, knowing people in each department, being a liaison, the voice of the company or executive, coordinating events, etc. I just got laid off in November and was called up by a radio station to interview for a Part Time Promotions Director. I was so excited to get the call. It is a small station on AM, so hopefully part time will be enough time to get the job done. What do you think? I believe my experience parallels very well with the job description of Promotions Director, yet it’s a whole different world for me and I’m quite nervous about the responsibilities!
    Do you have any suggestions or ideas of certain questions I need to ask in the interview?
    Thanks for your help- Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer! Thank you for reading and commenting. First, I’m sorry you were laid off. But this does sometimes open the door for new opportunities. I think it’s great that you were called for this job. I think most of the background you have is well suited to a Promotions Director position. In the interview, I would really focus on your “people” skills. Everything about marketing is relationships and how you develop and maintain them. Also, your event background is key. Getting the station out into the public eye through events is paramount.

      As far as questions to ask… Find out what kind of promotions they normally do. Ask about the sales staff… How many are here? How are they to work with? Ask if you’d be managing people such as a “street team”. One of my favorite questions to ask in any interview is what happened to the last person? I would also find out how “part-time” the position really is. A part-time promotions director is rare because here are so many hours done outside of 9 to 5.

      Don’t forget to go through the station’s website beforehand. And make sure you listen to the station prior. Get to know the personalities. Are hey local or syndicated (I’m guessing if its a small AM station, most of the programming is probably syndicated). Listen to the commercials and figure out what kind of clients they work with.

      Good luck with the interview. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I’d be glad to help!


  10. Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up fast!

    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

    • As much as I’d love to take credit or even say that I hired someone… I didn’t. This is a template provided by WordPress.

      But thank you for the very nice response. I appreciate your thoughts and hank you for visiting. I’m hopefully going to be putting some more posts up soon.


  11. I currently host the morning show and have taken on the job of promotion director for a small station in Tennessee. I would like to have your email so I could pick your brain a bit.

    • For the most part, you can’t. You generally don’t get that many in the first place and those are generally earmarked for giveaway through contests. That being said, there are sometimes exceptions. If I could I would sometimes stash a few away to use for staff or as sales incentives.

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