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Feature Interview

Jim Marshall

Southeast Regional Manager

WAY FM

West Palm Beach

To contact Jim click here

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Jim's Career Capsule

Like many in our industry, I have enjoyed a lifelong fascination with radio.  I started on air as a teenager in 1978, working for a little AM radio station in my hometown in West Virginia, and I worked at several stations along the way in various formats.  I became a Believer in the 80ís, and left mainstream radio to make the switch to Christian radio.  In the Christian format, I have worked for the Moody Broadcasting Network in Chicago, WMHK in Columbia, SC, and, for the last nine years,  WAY-FM.  Most of my background has been in the programming and on-air product area, but the most recent chapters of my career have brought me into the management side of things.  My official title with WAY-FM is Southeast Regional Manager.



1. Tell us about your role at WAY-FM, your responsibilities etc... ?

Working with the station managers in each market, Iím responsible for four stations in Florida and one in South Carolina.  I oversee the general operation of each market, handling staffing needs, budgetary planning and reporting, and interaction with engineering on technical and physical plant issues.  I travel regularly to each market, to meet with staff and maintain key relationships with donors and clients.

 

2. How has WAY-FM evolved since youíve joined them?

WAY-FM works very hard at adapting to a changing consumer.  We are exploring ways to distribute our product using channels other than the traditional terrestrial FM radio pipeline.  We are also learning to leverage our human resources, centralizing where it makes sense to centralize, and leaving positions local where it makes sense to do that.

 

3. What is the best programming advice you've gotten?

The best programming advice Iíve ever gotten ó and I can't even remember the originator of this exercise ó was to put my station to the ďhair salonĒ test.  Find a hair salon that plays a radio station in the background for customers while they are getting their hair done.  Watch them, and note how much (or how little) attention they pay to the programming.  Sure, they will hum along with a song now and then.  Or chuckle at the punchline of a joke.  But itís a vivid, real-time snapshot of how our customers use our product.  We are a background medium.  And itís humbling and instructive to see that they donít hang on every word;  they donít catch every nuance.  As ďradio peopleĒ, we lack that perspective most of the time.

 

4. What are you most proud of in your career?

This answer may surprise you.  Like many of my colleagues, it has been a joy to be a part of teams that have won various accolades, seen impressive growth or gained the attention of the industry.  But, honestly, the thing Iím most proud of at this point in my career is that I try to embrace the future.  It sounds simple, right?  But, for anyone who has been in any industry for over 35 years like I have, there will always be the temptation to look in the rearview mirror more than through the windshield. I think itís human nature.  But I try to discipline myself to not do that.  So far, I feel I have not been afraid of embracing new technology or entertaining new ways of doing things.  I havenít fallen into the trap of thinking things were better back then.  That can be crippling for an industry that MUST change as our customers' needs change.  We tend to remember fondly the way this industry used to be, and time has caused us to forget the things we were doing poorly back then.  To quote that great theologian Billy Joel, ďĎCause the good olí days werenít always good, and tomorrow ainít as bad as it seems."

 

5. What is the one thing you must have to do your job every day?

Oh, Iím sure Iím not alone in saying that a smartphone is vital these days.  And, yes, Iím one of those poor souls that feels compelled to show up at 6:00 in the morning outside the Apple Store on ďrelease dayĒ every two years when my contract is up.

 

6. Where will future air talent come from?

In my mind, the best air personalities have always had three ingredients:  1)  Empathy with their audience  2)  The ability to tell a story  3)   A finger on the pulse of popular culture.  I canít think of an effective on-air communicator that doesn't possess those three traits.  And as I consider the media landscape today, Iím convinced that some of the most effective bloggers would make great air personalities.  They have all three of those qualities, and even though some of them may not translate to radio for one reason or another, as a category, it would not surprise me at all if the blogosphere became a source for the next generation of air talent. 

 

7. Do you feel syndication is good for Christian radio or bad for Christian radio?

Iíll answer from a listenerís perspective.  Good syndication is good for Christian radio.  Bad syndication is bad for Christian radio.  Honestly, in the mind of the listener, there is no syndication vs. non-syndication evaluation that takes place.  They just donít think that way.  Rather, the process in their minds is only this:  ďDoes what Iím hearing matter to me?Ē  If the tool of syndication provides a better experience for our listeners, then thatís a good thing for Christian radio.  

 

8. Who are your radio heroes and influences?  And why?

John Frost of Audience Development Group has been a friend of mine for a long time, and Iíve enjoyed watching him roll up his sleeves, dive in with air staffs and programmers, and make good stations even better.  His fingerprints are all over some of the most successful stations in our format.  In recent years, Mark Ramsey of Mark Ramsey Media also comes to mind.  He has a way of helping executives and decision makers digest data from research that makes the game plan understandable and actionable.  I have worked with him on a couple of projects, and I have really appreciated the way he makes me think strategically about our goals, rather than just the tactical part of the product.

 

 

 

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