At different points throughout the ages, on-air talent has needed different skillsets to connect with an audience. What you needed to succeed in the Boss Radio era of the 60s was different than what you needed in the Shock Jock era of the 90s.
Some might argue that in the PPM era, the most important skill for a jock is to “be tight” — in other words, to have an efficient word economy. I think this is an important skill, but not the most important skill. No, I would argue that we are now in the Internet Age, and the most important quality to look for when hiring jocks is the ability to create multimedia content that can be used online as well as on the air.
If I were hiring jocks today, I would look for these five skills in addition to the usual on-air proficiency:
1. Writing for the Web.
Many of us got into radio because we’re good talkers, not necessarily good writers. That’s a problem in the internet age. You see, audio doesn’t go viral the way text, photos, and video do. So if you want to make a big splash with your audience, you’re going to need to get good at all of them. Let’s start with writing:
Writing for the web is different than other forms of writing (journalism, novels, poetry, etc.). Competent website writers understand that on the internet, people tend to scan rather than read. You need to be good at writing headlines that draw people in. After all, it doesn’t matter how good your writing is if nobody clicks on the link to your article. These headlines need to catch people’s attention in less that 140 characters so they can be shared on social media. There are a number of tried and true formulas. Look ’em up.
Once you’re good at writing headlines, you also need to excel at writing excerpts. These short descriptions are often used by social networks, search engines, blogposts, and email newsletters. Like the headlines, they encourage people to click on the article and come to your website.
Once people do click through to your article, you want something that’s fun and easy to read. Avoid long sentences. Commas are not your friend. Instead, opt for simple, straight-forward vocabulary.
Avoid long paragraphs. Long paragraphs intimidate people. Break them up more frequently than you would if you were writing for print.
And embrace short stand-alone sentences.
Since people scan, it’s often useful to format key phrases in bold. This way, people will catch them even if they are just skimming.
Somebody who not only understands how to write well, but also understands how to write for the web, is extremely valuable. Today’s on-air talent must master online writing if they want to connect with their audiences.
2. Video Production.
Like many of you, I have a face for radio. But that’s not an excuse anymore. We live in a YouTube world, and if you want to stay competitive, you need to be a player here. Not only is YouTube an enormous and active social network, it is also the world’s second largest search engine behind Google (and yes, YouTube is owned by Google).
Program Directors should expect their jocks to regularly churn out video content. This means they need to be able to perform on camera and produce behind the camera. Fortunately, editing video is not all that different from editing audio, which most jocks already know how to do. So get a program like iMovie and start messing around. If necessary, pick up a book or take a course to teach you the basics.
3. Social Media Management.
To be competitive today, you need to be up to speed on the major social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram (LinkedIn is important for business networking, but less important for engaging with your audience). You should know the difference between a Facebook profile and a Facebook page. You should know the difference between a reply and a retweet on Twitter. And you should understand how to use hashtags.
Ideally, you will be proficient in social media management tools like Hootsuite. If not, you will at least know how to post to all of the major networks from within each.
It’s not enough to be able to post messages on social media. You also need to know how to respond to other people appropriately. You should have a good grasp on how to seek out and engage with other effectively, but also understand what is inappropriate behavior on social media.
Most importantly, you need to understand how social media connects to the larger goals of the radio station. You shouldn’t be using social media “just to do it.” You need to understand why sharing links back to your radio station’s website is more valuable than sharing links to content on other websites. You should understand the basics of social media metrics, and know how to measure the effectiveness of your station’s social media presence. Of course, some of this depends on your station’s overall strategy, but you should be well-informed enough to have an intelligent conversation about it.
You want a job creating audio content for a living, so you need to know how to get that audio content online. You should understand what a podcast is, and be familiar with the two most popular podcast hosting services, Libsyn and Blubrry. You should also know how to upload audio content to Soundcloud, and know that this services biggest advantage is its excellent social media integration. If you spend time in the major podcasting forums on Google+ like Podcasters and Podcasting Technology Resources, that’s an even bigger plus.
5. Image Editing.
I went back and forth on what should be number five on this list. I was tempted to include “the ability to understand web analytics.” After all, it’s good to have a jock that understands which online content is connecting with an audience. But ultimately, this responsibility lies with the Program Director (or webmaster), in the same way that understanding the Nielsen ratings lies with the Program Director. It’s great to have a jock who can read a ratings book, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Ultimately, image editing isn’t a dealbreaker either. It falls under the “nice to have” category. Here’s why: few if any radio stations can justify the cost of an in-house graphic designer, but as I mentioned earlier, images are far more likely to go viral than audio. They also make a big difference in getting people to click on and read your content, and they can help your website with search engine rankings. Hopefully, your station’s webmaster or Promotions Director have some proficiency with image editing, but they may not, and even if they do, it’s a pain if you’re constantly going to them every time you need a photo resized.
You don’t need to be a Photoshop master. In fact, you don’t need the full-blown version of Photoshop at all. Just pick up the pared-down Photoshop Elements for less than $100 and learn these basic skills:
- How to crop an image
- How to brighten an image
- How to resize an image
- How to add text to an image
- How to add your station’s logo to an image
- How to take a big, high-resolution image and convert it into a 72-dots per inch, web-ready image
Any book or 2-hour class on Photoshop will cover the things you need to know, and it will enable you to create much more engaging web content without outside assistance. The only non-Photoshop skill I would really want to see is a basic understanding of fair use of images. I don’t want to see your station get sued because you violated copyright laws.
These are the skills I would want my jocks to possess in addition to being great on the air. As you can see, we are living in a multimedia era, and it’s not enough to have jocks that are only capable of producing compelling audio.
One more thing: If you are paying to attend a broadcasting school, and they are not teaching you all of these skills, you should ask for a refund.Please share: