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Radio Interview

Kenny Woods
 

Assistant Operations Manager

 

WORD
 

Pittsburgh

To contact Kenny click here
 

 

Kenny's Career Capsule
1980 -- Graduated from Westminster College with a degree in Communications. 

1982-89 -- Afternoon drive (then added MD, then PD, then OM) at WVAQ-FM, Morgantown, WV (West Virginia Radio Corp.)

1989-2001 -- APD/MD (and later mid-day host) at WWSW AM/FM, Pittsburgh (Clear Channel)

2001-Present – OM/PD at WORD-FM/WPIT Pittsburgh (Salem Communications).  In August of 2008 I dropped the OM, but retained positions as Morning Drive host, AOM/APD, MD, Webmaster, weekend host. 



1. How has 101.5 WORD-FM evolved over the last few years?

101.5 WORD-FM is in a bit of unique situation for a primarily talk-teaching station in that, with the exception of a few low power translators on our periphery, there is no Christian music station in the market and certainly none done locally.  Although we won’t be giving up the heart of our station, our ministry programs, we are able to program CCM on the weekends with our own local announcers.  That was an addition to our station after I came aboard.  Prior to that, the Christian concert traffic in Pittsburgh was practically non-existent.   Since we’ve begun playing music (Spring of 2002), we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of artists who now stop regularly in Pittsburgh.  We’ve also benefited as a station, financially from those concerts advertising with us, and promotionally with the ability to tie-in with those shows.

 

2.  Has 101.5 WORD-FM made any changes due to the economic situation, been affected in any way?

Through attrition, we have not replaced our departed Promotions Director, but we’re still doing the same amount of station promotions.  Those duties have been split between OM Gary Dickson and me.  Other than the already documented company-wide measures taken by Salem Communications corporately, WORD-FM has remained fairly well intact, especially in comparison to our Clear Channel and CBS counterparts in town.

 

3.  How is your coverage area a unique Christian market?

The greater Pittsburgh area, especially Allegheny County, is decidedly Democratic (often there is no Republican on many local ballots!) politically, but still retains very conservative values, socially.  That has worked to our benefit in that we can be a voice for those viewpoints, but also look at them through a Christian world view.  There are no “mega-churches” here; our largest sanctuaries hold 1200-1400 people.  But there’s a small church on every block in some suburban areas.  We hold a Pastors Appreciation Luncheon featuring a nationally-known speaker every October at a ballroom at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, as a very cool way to say “thank you” to our many area pastors who, in turn, remain or become big fans of the station. 

 

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

Being a talk station primarily, we have no budget for music research.  I use MediaBase information from the top rated Christian stations in the country to get a general idea of how songs are trending.  But I’ve been programming music most of my adult life, at some very successful stations, and have developed an ear for what’s going to be a hit.  The same principles apply to CCM as they would to secular music.  A hit is a hit!   I’ve also learned from some great programmers along the way how to use whatever research I can get my hands on and implement it in our rotations. 

We often get requests from local performers to play their music.  While I have a heart for them, being a musician myself, I also know that each unfamiliar song is a potential for tune-out.  If I ever play anything from a local artist, it has to have Nashville studio-like quality and it has to be someone who has paid their dues, built up a following, and listeners are asking me to play some of their stuff.  Some of our local artist favorites include The Sparks and B.E. Taylor.

 

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

As with any format, the best promotions involve doing something for the listener that he or she can’t do or obtain for themselves.  Free CDs and concert tickets are great, but a chance to go back stage and meet the artist is much better!  We’ve given away things like chances to sing on stage with Steven Curtis Chapman and a private breakfast with the members of Third Day.  You can’t go to the Christian book store and buy a ticket for that!

 

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

There are some great promoters out there: Kai Emler at INO comes to mind as one of the best.  He never fails to follow up when I send him my playlist, thanking me for adds, asking if I need anything, etc.  There are others that don’t even return my requests; even a “no” would be better than a non-reply.  At least I’d know they got the message!  I try not to let that affect my music decisions, but it certainly makes it easier to conduct promotions for the more cooperative labels when boxes of product arrive within days of a request!

To be honest, since we play music only two days a week, it used to be difficult to get singles service from everyone, not being an R&R reporting station.  But now that most music is distributed via Play MPE or TMStudios PraiseDiscs, that’s not really a problem at all anymore.

 

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

For some Christian stations, particularly non-music stations, I know it’s difficult to attract top-notch talent.  We have no lack of great performers here, however.  Our Production Director, Darren Eliker, has won countless awards for his commercial writing and production.  Our Program Director, Gary Dickson, has won morning show awards and shared in winning several Marconi Awards for his previous station. 

Our biggest obstacle, probably one we share with many stations, is a lack of promotional funds.  It’s forced us to be very creative in marketing the station outside of our own airwaves.  We try to have a presence at every Christian event that comes through town, from concerts to marriage conferences, just to keep our calls top of mind.  We’ve developed a group of loyal listener “ambassadors” who help us publicize station events within their own churches. 

 

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

An air personality’s role is to build and satisfy audience, no matter what the format.  My philosophy has always been, whether it’s introducing Chuck Swindoll or setting up the new Third Day hit -- let the pastors do the preaching.  Your job is to keep people listening.  Do some show prep and know the topics of your upcoming ministry programs.  Tease these to encourage recycled listening.  Find some facts about the artists your playing.  Rather than say “Ayiesha Woods is next,” say “Comin up, an artist whose music is featured in the new movie ‘My Life In Ruins.’  We’ll tell you who that is NEXT.”  Keep ‘em tuned in through the break.  And sound like you’re enjoying your job.  There’s still some bad Christian radio out there, but there’s lots of good Christian radio, too!  Our overall product is definitely improving!

 

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

Actually, if I can say so without sounding prideful, I’ve often wondered why other Christian stations aren’t paying attention to us!  We’ve been so successful for so long for a station in our format.  We’re consistently among Salem Communications’ top-rated talk-teaching stations, our on-line email database, now over 10,000 listeners, is the largest of any of the non-music stations in the company, and we have other promotions directors within Salem calling us to ask why we always seem to have so much going on and what ideas they can adapt from our success.

 

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

In a day where people are seeking the Truth more than ever before, Christian radio is positioned to be a lighthouse for that search.  We can be used by God to point people to Christ.  What an amazing privilege that is!  Satan will always be trying to stop us, but I suppose that means he’s worried about our influence.  The Performance tax bill and so-called Fairness Doctrine, if either or both should pass, would have a grave effect on our industry.  But we will adapt and God is in control!  So He already knows where we’ll be in 5 years, what advances in technology we’ll be using, and how He will best use is to continue spreading His message.

  

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