Stan Preist, PD, WKSS-FM/Hartford & Programming Coordinator KC101/New Haven
&
Keith Allen, PD, WQEN & WVVB/Birmingham & WZBQ/Tuscaloosa

Keith: Youíre a big proponent of talent, whatís your take on the ever shrinking ďproving groundĒ for new talent?
Stan: Yes I am a fan of personality on the radio. Thatís what initially caught my attention about radio as a kid. The music was always cool but the stuff between the music was the real attraction. The economic realities of today mandate different solutions to our delivery and we would be remiss if we didnít utilize the technologies available to us. Why would you give your competitor an advantage by underutilizing the resources you have available? For me a goal is to spend time every week seeking out the next batch of stars no matter where they are coming from. I do appreciate talent.


Keith: What is the best piece of advice you could give to a PD going from a diary market to a PPM market?
 
Stan: Start learning now! Read all you can, call other PDís that have been in PPM markets, ask questions and take notes. PPM has been around for a while now but I sense that Arbitron is still making adjustments to the way PPM works. Your panel can have the slightest change and you will see some things move fast from one week to the next. Brace yourself for the shockingly low numbers of meters that will be on at any given time.


Keith: I know you work with some great talent at WKSS! What would you say is the biggest challenge in coaching them?
Stan: Time. For them and for me. We are all doing more these days and our goal is to maintain the optimal level of performance in everything we do. This takes time. Leaving very little time for the ever important coaching, but we make it a point to meet daily and to regularly go over best practices. Helping our talent get better is one of the most rewarding parts of this job to me.

Keith: Who is your favorite air talent currently on the air that has never worked for you? 
Stan: Wow tough question. Mojo on Channel in Detroit is pretty amazing as well as Elvis Duran on Z in NYC, but this is such a tough question for me simply because Iím such a fan of great talent Iím not sure there is one answer for me.

Keith: You and I have talked a lot about how important the stuff in between the records is to your success in Hartford? Where do you get your creative inspiration from? 
Stan: Real life is where I find the most relatable content. After you identify that target listener you learn what resonates with them and stay focused. Make sure you connect with them on a very personal level. One important point, while there people have routines, everyone has a ďrangeĒ of interests and the subjects that matter most to them. These change at any given time based on the world they live in. We as programmers need to be aware of the lifestyle of our target audience and the things impacting them and or affecting their lives. If all of our listeners started to stare at trees, I would start climbing trees. As Chevy Chase said in Caddyshack, ďBe the ball.Ē Inspiration can be as easy as your next conversation if you keep your mind open.

Keith: Name one artist you have never had the opportunity to meet but really want too? Conversely who are the most memorable artists youíve ever met? 
Stan: Peter Frampton is the guy I would want to meet and hopefully have a meaningful conversation with. He made amazing music and is an impressive guitar player but I want to talk to him about the stock market. He has quite a story, made a massive pile of money from one of the biggest Live albums in history and his financial guys lost it all in a market crash. Frampton brought himself back and those kinds of stories have real value to me. There is a lesson in there, never stay down, keep getting back up when you are knocked down. Plus I loved Humble Pie!  I met Jimmy Page, Elton John, Steven Tyler, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Lady Gaga and Mick Jagger, and all have been really cool experiences. I have some great stories from those encounters.

Keith:  After years in bright sunny Florida how is the snow treating you? What is this about you and bad weather?
Stan: I grew up in St. Louis, actually Bridgeton, MO. The devastating tornados there this year hit four streets from my childhood home. Iím familiar with snow and cold winters, took some getting used to again. This last winter was a little stronger than the past four weíve had here. In Florida we had Hurricanes, it happens there. Hmmm, the weather thing with me came from conversations with friends pointing out that Iím usually near interesting weather anomalies. When I was moving from Tampa to Evansville (during the actual move) we got popped by a hurricane that knocked the power out in mid move. The power stayed out for seven days! In Evansville they had one of the biggest blizzards the area has ever seen and it made global headlines. Unfortunately they also had the devastating tornado that cost lives. While the conversation came from friends razzing each other in good fun, weather happens everywhere in some shape or form, never underestimate the power of the weather. I learned some valuable broadcasting lessons in those experiences in Tampa with frequent Hurricane activity and in Evansville when a freak tornado broke the heart of our community on a Sunday morning. In those wee hours driving into the station and turning on the mic and flying by the seat of my pants on air trying to do anything I could to help our community find our way through a challenge I hope never touches any of our lives.

Keith: With such a focus on social media how do you determine the line between communicating and strengthening your relationship with your audience vs. over communicating and annoying your audience? 
Stan: Great question. I actually have a strong personal desire to keep my personal time as personal and private as I can. Social time is fun and healthy in reasonable doses, not a huge fan of 100% social all the time. We should be where the listeners are and give them the information or entertainment they will find the most value in. Itís crucial to take the time to think out your message and make sure it is being delivered in a way that will cut through. There are some obviously easy ways to know when itís too much, monitor opt out rates. Read all listener emails and monitor the listenersí comments when and where you can.

Keith: If your stations could only use one: Facebook, Twitter, or Text messaging, which one and why?
Stan: I want Ďem all and whatever else matters to my listeners! But if I could only have one, based on the numbers of users on Facebook and the amount of time spent on the site this would be an easy choice for me. When the record books are written Facebook could have its own chapter.

Keith: Any great story to share from your Power Pig days? 
Stan: How long does it take for the statute of limitations to run out? Seriously it was fun. We worked hard and played hard. We made history and at the time I was initially a mixer and it was my first radio station experience so I didnít understand that it isnít like this everywhere else. I thought this is just how radio is and it really pulled me in. I was hooked on radio at my first exposure. While most of the folks that were there may have a hard time remembering those stories, my favorite is one that may seem less glamorous and wouldnít wow the crowd at a party but it meant a great deal to me. As the mixer I nagged the local management team to let me join the music meetings until they finally relented and let me be in the same room. In time it became more common to have me in the same room with Marc Chase, B.J. Harris, Jeff Kapugi and Dom Theodore, as they crafted the sound for the Power Pig. I remember those days as the training ground for me to cut my teeth and start to learn the art of crafting great radio. It was a real honor to have been a part of such a legendary station, but being in the company of broadcasting legends everyday was something special. I will always cherish the lessons I learned and the memories we created together.


 



 

Stan: You oversee much of Alabamaís current music formatted radio stations, so which is it? Auburn or Crimson Tide?

Keith: You had to go there, didnít you?  That is the million dollar question!  It has divided families and caused fights for fifty years. When I first got here, I tried to stay neutral as long as I could, but that only lasted about four days! Since one of the stations where I am the PD is actually in Tuscaloosa (where the University of Alabama is!), I am kind of hog tied into routing for Alabama. (Please donít tell my wife!  Sheís a huge Auburn Fan!) In my heart, though, Iím a Michigan guyÖGO BLUE!


Stan: Werenít you an OM before? What was the take away from that experience
?  
Keith: Yes, I did oversee a number of stations in Panama City, FL and Dothan, AL before joining Clear Channel, and I loved it. It was a great experience to be able to work with a number of different formats I had not really worked with before at that point in my career. I enjoyed taking my CHR and Hot AC background and learning the similarities and differences in the Country, Rock, News/Talk, AC, and Urban worlds. What I enjoyed most was getting to work with a few young PDís and helping them grow.  Some of them have really gone on to be strong programmers, which makes me very proud!  Overall, it was a great experience!


Stan: What do you do to get the most out of your talent? 

Keith: The key is to really take the time to share your vision with your talent and truly give them input into the plan. I find that when I give my staff the opportunity to take ownership in the radio station, they really take it to another level. I also believe it is important to be open and encourage ideas from my staff.  Some of the best things we have ever done started with a crazy idea the night guy had! 

Stan: What advice do you have for anyone that aspires to be a Program Director?
Keith: Learn as much as you can! Find a PD who is willing to mentor you and bug the crap out of them, but donít stop there. See if one of the sales managers in your building is willing to chat with you, too.  Meet and talk to your traffic manager, your engineer, your production director, everyone!  Identify the people that contribute to all aspects of your radio station - go outside the programming department and learn from them. A lot of young PDís have a great grasp on the music and promotional side of things, but these days, PDís need to be able to really work with the sales department and be a Jack of all trades. The more you know, the better chance you have to succeed.


Stan:
Since you have been a PD what has been the most rewarding part of the job for you?
Keith: Seeing our listeners respond! Whether itís by raising a ton of money for tornado relief here in Alabama during our broadcast or seeing hundreds of people show up when we promote an event. It is a great feeling to know that so many people not only listen, but they trust us! When we tell them someone needs help or that something cool is happening, itís amazing to watch them respond. I am so thankful to all of our listeners!  


Stan: The PD model has evolved and now the PD is also on air and has in many cases a much smaller staff, if they even have a staff. How do you prioritize your focus for optimal results?

Keith: You hit the nail on the head! As PDís today, we really need to prioritize what is going to get us ratings and revenue, and spend our time on those things! For me, music comes first.  However long it takes, getting the music right is the most important thing I do everyday. After that, I spend time making sure our presentation is on target and working with sales to maximize revenue, while best serving our listeners. If I can find a way to do a really good job in those three areas, I know my stations are going to succeed.


Stan: If you werenít doing what we do today what would you do?

Keith: I was thinking I might take a shot at professional basketball, because if I were the only 5í4Ē player in the NBA, Iím thinking there could be crazy endorsement opportunities. If I hadnít found a career in radio, I would likely be coaching swimming at a university. Before my radio career really took off, I spent six years coaching both large age-group and high school programs in Michigan and Ohio. As much as I love what I am doing, I have days when I miss being around the pool and working with the kids.  


Stan: Alabama has been through a great deal of painful experiences in 2011, ones I hope nobody else ever has to experience and radio has been a bright shining beacon through it all, congratulations on the nice job. Can you share insight you gained through this experience?

Keith: It really has been a difficult time for a big chunk of Alabama. The destruction is just incredible, and what is even more shocking is the way areas still look a month later in both the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas! While there have been many sad stories, it has been nothing short of amazing to see the resilience shown by people, and to see the way people all around the country have reached out to help.  From a planning perspective, you can make all the plans you want in advanced for a situation like this, and while they are helpful, it really comes down to evaluating the communityís needs hour by hour and trying serve the community. I am so proud of everyone on our team. Our News department was providing us all information, Ace & TJ who helped to raise over $60,000 in four hours, the team in Tuscaloosa was wall to wall with coverage of the storm for a week serving the community, and all the air staff here in Birmingham logged tremendous hours in a very difficult environment.  Across the board, everyone really stepped up! I almost forgot the most important thing. While some of our employees here did lose their homes, no one was injured.


Stan: We are here for ratings and revenue. Whatís the most important thing to do to get either?

Keith: Always remember who is listening and what is important to them! On the ratings side, narrow focus equals wide results. Make sure the music is right and that you are really focused on your target listener, and you are 90 percent of the way there! On the revenue side, truly understanding your audience is so important. By knowing what is important to your listener, you can really help your sales staff to create promotions and advertising campaigns that will get results for the clients. When we get results for our clients, we get return business! 


Stan: On-air, PD, doing production, doing gigs, doing the Idol report on Fox TVÖyou have a lot on your plate and you have a very young child. How do you balance radio and family?

Keith: I am very blessed to have a beautiful 2 year-old daughter named Madison - she looks just like her mom (letís hope my wife reads this part!). Managing the demands of the job and my family is certainly a challenge, but I love what I do and my family is really understanding, which is huge!  I just try to get as much done as I can during the day, and then finish up whatís left over at home after she goes to bed. I try to cook dinner for the family as often as possible, and spend some time in the evenings with each of them. Not to mention, I have a TV in my office, we have long hallways at the station for Madison to run down, and lots of buttons she can press. Itís like a playground for her when she comes to work with me!  (Donít let the engineer read this!)
 

[FMQB ORIGINAL CONTENT, published June 2011, please do not republish or reprint without the express consent of FMQB. Make sure you visit us on the Web at www.fmqb.com]


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