I got my start in radio at
a high school in Seattle, WA. KNHC FM, a 30,000-watt student-run
radio station that actually got ratings, beating some of the
commercial stations in town. After high school, I knew I wanted
a college degree, plus I thought it would be fun to get away.
Arkansas was pretty far from Seattle, so I moved to Siloam
Springs to attend John Brown University. From Seattle to
Arkansas, now that’s cultural whiplash! By the way, after
college, I left Arkansas while managing to keep all my teeth and
not marrying my sister. Along the way, I have been a PD,
MD, Production Director, Imaging Director, News Director,
Station Manager, and Director of Tomfoolery, at 15 radio
stations. In addition to the morning show at KSBJ, I also have a
voice-over business, and I do some talent coaching.
1. How does a
Christian radio morning show set itself apart from mainstream
I think you can take “set
apart” as a biblical term. Depending on the radio station’s
mission and vision, set apart can mean you play the hits and are
simply positive and safe for the family or, like KSBJ you might
also talk about God. Don’t get me wrong, we have a fun, funny
morning show, however, when we feel led, we do talk about God
stuff, but in a seeker sensitive non-religious way. However, the
best God discussions come from the listener. Amazing phone calls
about changed lives that give you big time goose bumps!
2. How has your morning show evolved or changed
over the last few years?
The show’s evolution has
mainly come from focus groups. I encourage every station to use
focus groups. No budget? No problem. I have learned that core
listeners enjoy hearing relatable information about you!
If I were to poll your listeners what would they say about you,
about who you are? Our listeners say that I have a goofy last
name, I have a daughter diagnosed with special needs, I love my
family, and I am funny. Show prep services are a good tool, but
personal experiences are gold! I have come to learn the
value of this. Susan O’Donnell, my morning partner, already knew
and had been practicing this concept long before I came on board
almost 5 years ago.
3. What morning show topics seem to be hot right
Given the current economic
climate, anything that is positive is hot. People are looking
for something besides the prevalent doom and gloom. Also, the
more common and universal a topic, the bigger the response. If
you get listeners without prompting to say, “who hasn't been
there before”, or “I know exactly what you are talking about”,
then you are connecting! For example, Susan and I play up topics
that happen between my wife, Becky, and I. Relationship stuff is
huge; man vs. woman, kids and parents etc. We call up my wife
and put her on the air, I think she is funnier than I am!
4. What is the advantage of being live and local
such as your show is?
Live and local is the
advantage! You can react to anything as it happens. Weather,
major local headlines, things that effect Houstonians that
someone in Toledo could care less about. KSBJ, by design, is
very community-service oriented. Our listeners like to feel a
part of something that is bettering the community. So to be able
to take the show on the road, or at least talking about what is
happening in her own neighborhood makes you more relevant to her
5. What kind of promotions work best for
Christian morning shows?
Every promotion has to have
a purpose, otherwise you are just giving something away.
Universally with every promotion the goal should be at least one
of two things: 1. To get someone to listen longer (time spent
listening), or 2. to get more people to tune in (cume). Susan
and I have tried to make every promotion/contest entertaining,
fun, and compelling. I don’t think the entertainment value is so
much in the contest itself, but in the interaction with the
listener. You can just take Caller #7 and give her a prize or
you can take that opportunity to put the listener's life on the
radio. On our show, we take every opportunity to try to pry into
the life of the caller and get more than just the contest.
Anyone can give away tickets to the zoo or you can get to know
the caller and find out that her 5-year-old loves giraffes and
that, to me, is more compelling radio. The entertainment value
is not in the contest it is getting to know the listener.
6. Do you use any show prep services… tell why or
We do subscribe to two show
prep services. But, the most important show prep service is your
life, and what you experience every day. I call it Life-Prep. As
alluded to earlier with the focus groups, what are your
relatable experiences? For example, yesterday we took our son
Sam for his first haircut. Yep, lots of tears. But then, the
hairstylist whipped out a sucker. You would have thought she
gave him crack! Wow, everything changed. What is it about sugar
and kids? That’s material that she can relate to.
Now to the prep
services. We use Radioonline.com’s prep service and, within the
past year, we have used Beth Becall’s She Prep. However, these
services mostly help as thought-starters. We almost never take
something and rip and read. In fact, Susan and I hardly ever
read anything on the air. The goal is to tell the story!
I usually use only bits and pieces of the actual story. You
don’t want to get bogged down in the details when going through
7. What are the
biggest obstacles facing Christian morning radio today?
I don't know if
it's the biggest obstacle but one thing that most Christian air
personalities struggle with is dealing the crusaders and
developing thick enough skin to not be affected by their
constant complaints. The first few weeks I was full time at a
Christian station were awful! But, it seems like the first thing
we do with Christians after they get saved is teach them how to
sit around and judge others.
8. Do you think there will be more or less
morning syndication in the future of Christian radio?
I think it
depends on the level of available talent. Is the level of
syndicated talent really that much better than what you could
get with a local jock? Is it worth saving the money?
9. What (if any) Christian radio morning shows do
you consider as innovators today?
If you have not
heard Craig and Heather at KXOJ, you need to stream them
sometime! I think Craig is one of the most talented air talents
for any format. Lisa Williams has an amazing ability to sound
real, personable, like the girl next door. And, I have not seen
too many people that can connect with women like my own partner,
Susan O’Donnell. The ladies feel like she is their sister!
10. Where do you see Christian morning radio in 5
are improving and becoming more successful than the
secular/general market counterpart. Isn’t that what God would
want? Shouldn’t our best be better than what the world has to
offer? I am not sure if we will get there in 5 years, but it
seems as though we are making headway. Some stations are really
kicking butt in the ratings. Spirit105.3 in Seattle, (I grew up
in Seattle. It's not a Christian town!) is doing well.
WRBS, in Baltimore, has made some changes and have increased
their market share dramatically. Many other stations are
excelling in ratings. But, I am especially proud of us Texans.
KSBJ is pulling a 5.1 share for the month of July. And, hats off
to Mike and Frank and the crew in Dallas! KLTY has almost one
million in cume and they are third 6+ PPM for this past month!