Finding strong part-timers can be a challenge, especially when a departing weekender was self-motivated, did their share and more.
I turned to the wisdom of my high school buddy and former co-worker Stefan Rybak who's programmed stations like KC101/New Haven, KZZP/Phoenix and WBLI/Nassau-Suffolk, NY. These days, Stefan is a Senior Sales and Marketing Executive for Long Island 360 Media.
Talent is only one thing Rybak takes into account when hiring part-timers. He says "The two 'A's', attitude and availability are really important. My part-timers are always on standby to act as subs for full timers. Their attitude has to be good or the concept wouldn't work. They are all eager for more on air time."
Rybak stressed the need to pay part-timers well. "One of my part-timers worked for Zenith during the week. I offered him a fulltime slot, and he passed because he made more money at his weekday job. He had it made, so why would he want to go fulltime?"
On-air consistency is also critical. Rybak always works closely with his part-timers to perfect their talent he explained, "I am a big believer in critiquing their tapes as often as possible, because we want consistency on the weekends. The trick is finding part-timers who are compatible with the rest of the station. Another way we keep a consistent weekend sound is by mixing full timers with part-timers on-air Saturdays and Sundays. To familiarize them with the audience I also send part-timers to outside appearances and promotions. This attitude makes for a winning spirit."
And where do you look for good weekend talent? If you're near a military base, that's one place where there are usually good prospects. You may also be to able recruit weekenders from nearby colleges and universities. If they have strong radio and TV curriculum consider advertising part-time openings there.
You may also find freelance voice talent in your market that would be interested in working weekends and could use the station as sort of a base for themselves. There are many people who have left the business following consolidation and restructuring who have full-time jobs in other fields now. They would welcome the opportunity of keeping a hand in the business.
Other places to look for talent would be at small stations or in adjacent markets within driving distance. If you pay better than your competitors, you could raid from their staff. And look within your own stations. Perhaps your morning show producer, promotions people or sales people have prior on-air experience.
Consider hiring graduates from area broadcasting schools (insert groans here). You may find yourself pleasantly surprised by some of the candidates they have to offer. Certainly, you will find a lot of rocks before that one diamond in the rough surfaces.
Several years ago I surprised myself by hiring such a person for weekends. She had done some Internet radio and public radio, without the dull presentation usually associated with non-commercial radio. This person was an enthusiastic go-getter who wanted a career in radio bad enough to have worked very hard on her skills. She took direction extremely well and had an amazingly polished sound unlike most beginners. We were glad to have her and she was thrilled to get her first big break.
Beyond everything, you need to spend the time training young people. If you can't make the time, perhaps someone on your staff; like an assistant PD or a veteran jock that has coaching skills can help out. Someone needs to work with less seasoned talents to help them develop their potential and grow. We aren't going to find talent unless we start training them. That's the commitment we owe to the industry and to ourselves.
Radio Consulting Services specializes in programming advice to radio stations in multiple formats.
Jon Holiday of Radio Consulting Services was a top programming executive at Jones Radio Networks for 15 years, providing radio consulting since 1998. In addition to overseeing the programming for the Jones 24/7 formats; he also supervised the production and promotions departments.
Prior to that, Holiday programmed and/or was on-air at Boston, Miami, Denver, Tampa, Providence and Hartford. He was PD of one of the 25 Highest Rated AC/Hot AC Stations in the nation according to industry publication Radio & Records.