4 minute read

Being a radio content director is not easy and it’s not for everyone.

It requires a combination of really specific skills and whilst there’s a lot that’s been said and written about the CDs who have been successful, very little is spoken of the ones who didn’t make it.

This has been difficult for me to write because every time I placed a new CD into a radio station I was always full of hope that he or she would be successful. Unfortunately there were many CDs during my time who despite their best efforts couldn’t do the job.

Here are some of the reasons, obviously I’ve removed any names from these assessments.

Communication skills. Low on courage, narrow in his thought process. A natural follower, not a leader.

Not decisive enough. Poor communication skills both in managing up and down. Low on courage. Lacked the urgency needed for the role.

Low on courage. Not persuasive. Unsure of himself. Never really comfortable in the leader role, always felt like he was doing a version of himself.

Low courage. Wanted to be liked. Struggled with tough talent conversations. Talent always felt like they had the upper hand with him. Poor communication skills.

Lost the trust of the talent. Incredibly insecure. Incredibly rigid-it had to be his idea or not at all. Wanted to be seen as having all the answers.

Couldn’t see the wood from the trees. Gained comfort in fixing the small issues, didn’t know how to deal with larger strategic issues.

Rigid thinking. Refused to accept concepts or ideas from others. Didn’t communicate enough on the ground, didn’t create a sense of team. Considered taking advice and falling in line with the group a sign of weakness.

Communication, the courage to have difficult conversations and a lack of urgency are the obvious themes here, let’s discuss them further.

Communication skills are critical in this role.

Your harshest critic when you’re a CD is your product team. You need to be sharing with them a clear vision for the station and stepping through, in as much detail as possible, your short-term and long-term plans.

If there is a vacuum of leadership and information flow from the top you can be guaranteed that this will lead to unrest on the factory floor.

A good way to approach communication as a leader is to think of it like one of your on-air campaigns, for you to achieve cut-through with your messages you need a combination of frequency and creativity.

And remember this, the day you stop giving feedback is the day you’ve stopped caring about your team.

This is your job.

What does courage look like?

Putting it simply, CDs who are courageous will deal with difficult situations and have challenging conversations, particularly with their breakfast shows, in a timely manner.

For new CDs who haven’t navigated their way through a tough feedback session with a breakfast show or a recalcitrant product team member, this is tough stuff.

If you can be courageous enough to say what needs to be said and deliver the message with honesty and authenticity, then you’ll find that with continued practise you’ll become more comfortable managing these moments.

Brendon Burchard talks about the X, Y and Z of tough conversations.

I saw or heard X.

When I saw or heard X, it made me feel Y.

and Z is let’s have a conversation about it.

When you break it down into those 3 elements-what happened, how it made you feel and what to do about it, the challenge of having a tough conversation with someone is suddenly not so challenging.

And, by the way, this is your job.

And finally, a lack of urgency is a deal breaker in this role too.

The 24 hour media cycle that we all compete inside means that if you snooze, you lose. You get one chance to win the day with better content and smarter ideas than your opposition. As I’ve said often, the CD sets the tone and tempo for his or her radio station, and in my opinion you’ll do your best work when your team is on edge, never completely satisfied and always looking for any advantage they can take.

This is your job.

By the way, did you notice that there’s no mention anywhere of a lack of radio technique in these assessments?

If you’re in this business long enough you’ll learn everything you need to know about the fundamentals of radio but what separates the great CDs from the average ones is their ability to impact their teams through effective leadership.