What IS a Program Director?

Like the title, “Broadcasting” clings to archaic terms and titles. At a time when defining a position and modernizing its meaning seem critical we sleepwalk through history with little coruscating innovation.

Somewhere in time someone decided program directors directed…well, “programs.” Radio archives tell of auditoriums filled with an audience watching a live radio show. Not that long ago, if you toured WTMJ’s facilities on Milwaukee’s Capitol Drive, you’d eventually see their auditorium where long before WTMJ Television, radio personalities hosted live shows. It must have been fun for Milwaukee’s great grandparents and their friends. Possibly those times were the early inspiration for the term “program director.” In 2020 that title has as much impact as an Oldsmobile.

“Program Directors” have great responsibility yet with little authority. They’re held accountable for Nielsen performance, music design and management, talent procurement and their supervision. Yet in many places, “PDs” are becoming as expendable as paper towels. What’s wrong with this picture?

Within massive radio groups born from the Telecom Act, year by year “programming” has been subordinated to a second-tier emphasis making the title even less definitive. In many places people with great potential are billeted in their building as caretakers charged with ratings, yet mainly role players on the organizational chart, personifying the adage “all of the responsibility but with little of the authority”.

As we interact with some PD’s we witness what has become a false message, so we remind them “you can’t do anything without aggressively pushing your own limitations.” To a Program Director working under an anachronistic title, we ask: “what advice would you give an aspiring, bright, aggressive college student pursuing radio?” For example, “In the last five years, what company innovation or strategic breakthrough have you experienced?” “What are the best and most useful recommendations from your leadership?” And, “how has a mentor or supervisor helped you benefit from a failure?”

If you’re a PD ask yourself: in the last year, which corporate leaders have talked with you, or offered you a performance assessment followed with guidance to improve?

If you’re coming up with blanks, it’s possible you need to look ahead toward a stronger, more enlightened company where people are welcome to shine in important moment s (as if you’re actually meant to be there)…setting trends, instead of following them.

I offer the motion Radio surrender its hold on the title “Program Director” giving way to a descriptor that actually suggests innovation, creativity, and appreciation for your audience. You know; something “corporate” like, “Chief Listener Engagement Officer?” Eventually there will come a time when radio leaders accept that everything old is finished. And that will be the beginning!

Kevin Robinson

Kevin Robinson is a passionate, record setting and award-winning 35-year broadcast veteran, having experienced programming success with teams in Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis, Louisville, Buffalo and Lansing in quality companies like CBS Radio, Bonneville International, Hubbard Radio, Infinity Broadcasting, Salem Media Group and others.

With his company Robinson | Media and partnership with the Audience Development Group, , Kevin has advised companies all over America including Entercom Communications, Beasley Broadcast Group, Westwood One, Midwest Communications, Triad Broadcasting, Townsquare Media, Midwest Family Broadcasting Group, Grand Canyon Broadcasters, LaSalle County Broadcasting, EG Media Group and more. Kevin is often asked to be a featured speaker with broadcast state associations from Michigan, Indiana, Missouri and the NAB.

As former Vice-President of Hot AC for CBS Radio, Kevin counseled 15 brands coast-to-coast in the format, in addition to coaching Leeza Gibbons, Randy Jackson and Billy Bush through his partnership with Westwood One. Kevin’s varied format expertise is deep and includes Hot AC, Oldies, Christian AC, Mainstream AC, CHR, Adult Hits, Classic Hits, Country and Talk. Kevin’s brands consistently perform in the Top 3 of the target – often times as the list leader.

Known largely as a trusted talent coach, Kevin is the only personality mentor who’s coached three different morning shows on three different stations in the same major market to the #1 position. His efforts have been recognized by The Worldwide Radio Summit, Radio & Records, NAB’s Marconi, Radio Ink and has coached CMA, ACM and Marconi Award-winning talent.

Kevin lives in Whitestown, Indiana with his wife of 33 years, Monica. Reach Kevin at (314) 882-2148 or kevin@robinsonmedia.fm.

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