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Radio Interview

                                     

Chris Lemke

GM/PD

WCSG

Grand Rapids

 

 

Chris's Career Capsule
My dream was to either play in a rock band or to be involved with film production, but it was radio that caught me in college. I began at WCSG in 1980 as a volunteer, working my way "up the food chain" on and off air in various capacities, and eventually was hired full time in December of '84.

Over the next 7-8 years, I covered every shift there is to cover, landing as PD by ‘91 and Ops Manager in ’93. In ‘95, I added “Adjunct Instructor” at Cornerstone University, teaching basic media for five years. At the same time, I also began an Internet forum (eventually called GoodRadio.net) designed to discuss what I thought to be the “deeper” questions not necessarily addressed by the industry.

Since the fall of 2004, I now serve as WCSG’s GM and PD. WCSG continues to receive God’s blessing in sustaining a top-five market share for P12+, and a top-three market share for W35-54, financial stability and national recognition, but most importantly as evidenced in the thousands of changed lives in the people we reach every day. I’m actively involved (planning and sometimes speaking) at radio conferences (NRB, GMA, Conclave) and assist other Christian stations with short and long term planning, most notably KGCB/Radio Shine in Prescott, AZ where I serve as consultant and board member.



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

I believe practicing good ministry is also good business. That sounds a bit cliche'-ish and oversimplified, but it's true more times than not. Ministry is about service, and for business to have the edge on its competitor, it appears that customer service provides that edge. Seems to me if we do that right, the "business" side of "business" almost takes care of itself.

 

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

It's become more interactive and interpersonal - at least the good stations are. It's engaging the listener to become more involved as opposed to remaining passive. And more and more stations are asking for help, and listening to good counsel. The good ones are making better choices about investing in the future - not just in technology, but in personnel - the hiring and training of staff (on and off air) to develop compelling content.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of a Christian radio GM?

I wish I were better at it, but a GM must, imho be the team's top server, encourager, empowerer, visionary. Service in all things thru humility; it truly is amazing when a GM diverts the credit from himself to his team.

Verbalizing timely and appropriate encouragement and affirmation is huge; be your team's biggest cheerleader. Delegation and trust of your team is essential if the team is ever going to move past where any one person could take the station. And helping the team see what the future could provides hope and fuels passion for the station's mission to be fulfilled.

 

4. What ways or methods do you think work best to keep your staff motivated?

I try and talk with each person every day - even for five minutes - talk about something other than work. And when I say "talking," I really mean it's as much about listening as talking; truly being interested in each team member goes a long way. That, and finding ways to appreciate each staff person to let her know how much I, the other staff and listeners value her contributions (hand-written notes really go a long way in saying, "thank you.")

 

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

I think the best ones are ones that validate your target's shared values. We've recently done a couple of times "the Drive Thru Difference," inviting listeners going thru a fast-food drive thru to pay for the person behind them. There's more to it than that (station tie-in that I won't take time to explain), but it's things like that. Things like S.O.A.P. for your neighbor (Step Out And Pray) for your neighbor; World's Biggest Baby Showers (for pregnancy care centers), "Class Act BackPack drives" (collecting backpacks and school supplies for needy kids, the "Cool Crew" (your staff goes out and gives away free bottled water in a very busy public area. In other words, polarizing your listeners (and their shared values) to do things like this that are not only inexpensive but create an incredible amount of community buzz (and curiousity) about your station.

 

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

I really appreciate the service we get from the labels. I know many don't get what we do, but we also give the labels a sizeable audience. I appreciate the comradery and shared perspectives, even with somewhat differing agendas. Keeping the artists real and available is a huge plus for us, as is the willingness to work together on creating shared plans that mutually benefit both the station and label.

 

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

Staying relevant, especially when it seems more and more stations struggle with the ability to service the listener not only with what she wants but when and how she wants it delivered. Add to that the understanding that it's not just about keeping pace with technology, it's keeping pace with her expectation for instant gratification and your ability to provide it. More than anyone else, especially because we represent *the* customer Servant, need to excel in this.

 

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

Sounds over-simplified, but really, it's offering compelling communication that connects in a way that engages the listener to a deeper relationship with Christ. That doesn't happen every break, but, with initiative and intention, it can happen every shift.

 

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

WPOZ/Orlando. I know they get a lot of kudos, and rightfully so. Their service to the community is unparalleled, especially when it comes to what counts for the community. KSBJ/Houston... same story. I've always been impressed with KTSY in Boise as well. Amazing what you can do with such a small staff. The same is true of our sister station, WaYG/WaYK. I love the mission and the heart with which this staff reaches kids, and just as cool is the way they do it.

 

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

(I hope) much more involved with if not hand-in-hand with the internet. I think WiFi and cellphone integration is where our minds are setting, and how we can best involve ourselves in making the most out of these means of delivery. I'm also hoping and believing that more stations will tap into the greatest resource we have - people. Not necessarily employees, but people involved with the station: donors, street teams, congregations, business professionals. Radio was once passive, and may still be, but I sense it has the potential to be much more a presence and part of every day life than ever.

  

 

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