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Radio Interview

                                     

Carmen Brown

Program Director

WJIS

Sarasota

 

 

Carmen's Career Capsule
Carmen began her radio career in Tampa at Q105.  She started out as a producer for the Cooper and Ritter Morning Show shortly after graduating from The University of South Alabama.  Quickly, she became a third leg of the morning show, and the threesome had a very popular, family friendly morning show in the Tampa market for many years.  After a format "tweak" in late 2003, Carmen left Q105.  A few months later she joined The JOY FM as Promotions Director.  After a couple of years as promotions director, she was promoted to Program Director in September of this year.  Carmen is also a regular on The Morning Cruise with Dave Cruse and Bill Martin.

 

1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”? 

I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive.  Therefore, I won’t draw a line between “sacred” and “secular”.  Without that line, all of life can be a place for the application of faith and we won’t limit ourselves.  If you are a believer, ministry should be in every business – it’s just a different mission field, so to speak.  Our station is people – focused.  Some of the most “ministry” things that we do are very non-religious.  I’ve been involved in YoungLife for years, and in a lot of ways, I use the same approach on-air, in programming, and in promotions.  I believe in building bridges and finding common ground – whether it is with believers or non-believers.

Of course, we have to be business savvy, and I think this is where we miss the boat lots of times.  For some reason Christians have confused doing the hard thing with doing the right thing.

 

2. Overall, how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?  

Though, I’ve been in radio for 11 years, I’ve only been in the CCM format for the last 2 ½.  So, by industry standards, I’m a newcomer!   I have seen, however, in my short time, a move towards more “realness”.  I don’t think that there is as much pressure to be Super-Christian.  I think the Steve Brown’s, Donald Miller’s, Rob Bell’s and Louie Giglio’s have given us permission to be courageous with our honesty and transparency.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of today’s Christian radio PD?

Today’s Christian radio PD has to have fortitude.  They have to be business savvy in today’s competitive environment as well as people-sensitive to keep their team motivated.  These traits are as important (more!) than mastery of clocks, music rotation and technology.  However, they also have to evaluate all the technical aspects of their station over against the costs and benefits of investing in emerging technologies and various competitive strategies. For example, do we try to own the image that we are “local?” Is it important in today’s environment? Do we try to own the image that we play the new music before the station down the street? These answers are no longer “givens.”

 

4. What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?

There are lots of criteria for adding a song.  You have to have a pulse on your audience, and know what will win with them.   I am a fan and believe in music testing.   One of the most exciting times in my job is when I get the tests back, and I can study them.  One of the hardest things is feeling the pressure of adding a song - for various reasons - when you don’t feel the song will go over very well.  But at the end of the day, I still believe in “gut level research”, too.   I am a HUGE fan of all kinds of music, and I recognize what connects or moves me.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?

The promotions that work best are the ones that create community.  Any station can have “fly-a-ways, song or key word of the days” – and those are all good.  However, they don’t create community.  One of our biggest promotions each year is T-Shirts for Turkeys.  We collect frozen turkeys in exchange for a station T-Shirt.  It’s a win/win for everyone.  We help food banks stock their freezers, listeners have a tangible way to help, we’re out in highly visible places (grocery stores), and we have almost 6,000 people as walking billboards.  As my GM stated, “the level of giving is amazing”.  Meaning the connection at which folks come out and give. 

Another promotion that we did this year was 20 Wishes! in celebration of our 20 years on the air.  It was a small scale “Extreme Makeover Home Edition”.  We built community with the wish recipients, and those who nominated them. The listeners got to hear 20 “episodes”, as well as help make the wish come true.

The year before it was a wedding, and the listeners got to vote on the details of the wedding. They got to know the couple, and they felt like it was one of their relatives getting married.  Community is the key!  Can you tell I feel strongly about this?

 

6. How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?

My background is major market country radio.  We got very spoiled.  The labels had more “pull”.  For example, we had Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, etc. singing our station jingles/morning show jingles.  We were able to get them on the phone or fly them in for big promotions, as well as private events.   From what I understand it’s a different culture in CCM, and there is significantly less money, etc.   Christian labels don’t seem to be able to deliver as much with the artists.   Promotions are smaller.   It seems they are at the mercy of management, and my perception is that management does not have the same appreciation for radio.  Christian artists play smaller venues, in closer proximity (by other genres’ standards), and many times it’s more about the “routing” and having to watch the dollars.  However, we have had some successes, and for those I am grateful.  As a whole, there’s just less money, and that is a huge factor.   I think the label reps are in a hard place.

 

7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

The biggest challenge I see is format competition.  I think we would all agree that the CCM format is in some ways still being discovered.  I’m certainly no authority, but from my vantage point, I think CCM has been flying “under the radar” for so many years, that we’ve always been able to do what we’ve always done.

Mainstream companies have noticed, and many are launching CCM formats, especially with the advent of multicasting opportunities on HD channels.  We cannot just sit with our feelings hurt, and lament about ‘how could they do this to us.’  We must commit to aggressive excellence and not deliver a sub-standard product. It’s definitely a new day! We need to look seriously as ways to stay competitive and at the same time be true to our mission of spreading the gospel. 

 

8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality?

As the folks that I work with will tell you, the two words that irk me the most are “compelling” and “transparent”.   We radio nerds (myself included) always have to have buzz words that we way overuse!!!  But – with that being said, I believe as a personality, you must be compelling and transparent.  You have to be vulnerable enough to allow your audience to connect with you, but balanced enough that it’s not all about you.  As with any genre, you must deliver in a way that will cause them to “lean in”.   The overwhelming response that we get from listeners is that we are “real people”.   I don’t believe in planned “spiritual breaks” and I don’t believe you have to spin everything from a “spiritual” angle.  That is not the way we communicate, and that does not make you relatable.  I am a regular on The Morning Cruise with Dave Cruse and Bill Martin.  They totally “get it” when it comes to this.  They understand the balance.  One minute we can be arguing over who “left the milk out on the counter”, and the very next break is me telling about something I learned in my bible study the previous night.  We are real friends having genuine conversation over a cup of coffee.  Anyone can join in, and that is what our audience does.

 

9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

Again, only being in this format for 2 ½ years, I don’t have much perspective on who the innovators are within our industry.  I know that they are out there because our format is viable and touching lots of lives.  I would say that anyone who is willing to take a risk, not do formula radio, and is delivering a great product while loving God, and loving people at the same time, is an innovator in our genre.

 

10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

I don’t think local broadcast stations will be irrelevant or unviable. I do, however, believe that we must continue to challenge ourselves to be more than we have been. We must re-think our whole approach to how we are organized, operated, funded and positioned. We must learn to thrive in a more competitive, “secularized” environment. We must exploit (in the best sense) the popularity of our artists, helping them and us to gain a larger market-share.  We must think bigger, from emerging technologies to promotions to advertising in our metro. We must be willing to be both more business savvy and more Christian in the way we hire and deal with the stations as companies.

 

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