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Radio Interview

Joe Polek
 

Program Director/Music Director
 

WHCF
 

Bangor

To contact Joe click here
 

 

Joe's Career Capsule
During my senior year at Messiah College, I accepted the position of Promotions Director and Afternoon Drive host at WMSJ radio in Portland, Maine. I was at WMSJ for 6+ years, where I went from Afternoons/Promotions to Assistant PD/Mornings.  I learned a lot about life and radio during my time at WMSJ.  In August 2007, my wife was pregnant and we felt the Lord calling us to move on.  That’s when I accepted the position of Program Director/Music Director of WHCF in Bangor.  It’s been a fascinating two years, taking the station from a mostly Southern Gospel style to now a Soft AC station and a reporter to R&R and CRW.

 

1. How has WHCF evolved over the last few years.

When I was hired in August 2007 to be the PD/MD of WHCF I had the challenge of taking a station that had been around for 25 years, with a very loyal following, from its format of Southern Gospel to Soft AC, while keeping the listener support consistent at $500,000 a year. 

The Board of Directors, about a year before my hiring, had come to an agreement that the station needed to become more contemporary and lower the age of our demographic.  My General Manager sat down with them and described what was in the market and what some of the options were for the direction of WHCF to go.  The decision was made to make a slow transition to the Inspirational/Soft AC format.

As the Program Director things haven’t been easy.  We’ve had our share of complaints, but we are also seeing some great fruits from our labor.  The air staff is working hard on being real, relevant, relatable and local, along with connecting our listeners to many of our new artists.  As examples of that connection, our “featured artist of the week” has been a huge success during our morning show, along with our partnership with a local Christian concert promoter. 

We still hear from the older crowd who wants more of the Southern Gospel back, but we have seen a huge influx in the 35-54 year old demo.  We also reached our Pledge Drive goal of $530,000… the highest ever raised in the 27 year history of WHCF. 

 

2.  Has WHCF made any changes due to economic situation, been affected in any way?

Over the last 5 years, as a Ministry, we have had staff changes to better manage resources, but they were non-format related, or necessarily due to the economy. Bangor Baptist Church owns WHCF and WHMX.  Between the two stations, we are down to a total of 7 Full-Time staff, and 2 “part-time” voicetrackers.

 

3. How is Bangor a unique Christian market?

Let’s see… there are no Christian stations in Boston (MA), or Harford (CT), or Providence (RI)… much bigger cities in New England.  WHCF was the first full-time Christian station in the state of Maine over 27 years ago, and for some reason the stations are flocking to this year, instead of going for the masses of people in those bigger cities.  When I get in my car in the parking lot of WHCF, I can tune into 8 other Christian FM signals.  That’s a total of 9… in Bangor Maine!  That makes no sense to me, when major cities in New England don’t have 1.  I would say that makes Bangor a unique market.

 

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

This is always one of those tough questions to answer.  I don’t have a written checklist that each song must pass in order to get added. I look at national test scores.  I look at the charts.  I look at local and national sales numbers.  I listen to the sound of the song to see how it fits with WHCF’s unique music mix.  I also play songs for co-workers to get their opinions, and I go with my gut.

 

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

Honestly, I think anything!  Especially in this economy, they want anything free!  Free CDs, free concert tickets, free overnight stays, free gift certificates.  But obviously, the best promotions are the ones where real ministry is being done.

 

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

I think a struggle is what huge difference in musical styles across the country.  What works in Orlando doesn’t necessarily work in Bangor.  A lot of people working at the labels do not have any radio experience and that can make it hard to communicate some things. 

But I have noticed that some labels are now starting to get it.  INO sends me a “story behind the song” for nearly every song they release.  That is so important to my station… listeners want to know that stuff, and hear it from the artist themselves. Sending out artist tidbits and such are so important.

 

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

Finances.  I guess it can all come back to that.  We have such a small staff… 7 full time staff, and 2 voice trackers…. That’s our entire staff for 2 stations.  The toughest part is that we want to do so much, but don’t have the man power or financial ability to do it all… yet.  God continues to bless WHCF, and I see big things in our future.  As I said before, we had the biggest Pledge Drive ever last year, and we are in a better place financially than we’ve ever been. 

 

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

The station (not just the air personalities) need to be more Real, Relevant, and Relatable.  Some stations are doing very well at this, and some stations are not.  The more Real, Relevant, and Relatable that we have become in the past year, the more we are seeing our listeners consider us their family.  You never let family down.

 

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

I could mention some stations, but here’s the thing… I really think a lot of “small” stations are the ones who are really starting to do some great work.   I know everyone lists the same large market stations when asked this question, but I think a lot of great “small” stations are going unnoticed for the work that they do.

 

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

God has worked in this ministry for the last 27 years, and many stations just like WHCF are out there doing great things for the Kingdom.  I know there is a lot of “gloom and doom” thinking for terrestrial radio… but I am not one of them.  I am seeing people get real excited about the direction of this station, and I see a good future for radio.  People like their iPods and things, but after a while they miss their “family”.  As long as we keep working at that, we’ll be okay.

 

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