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Radio Interview
 

 

 

Sean Sawatzky

 

General Manager

 

KLRC

 

Siloam Springs, AR
 

 

     

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Sean's Career Capsule
Iíve had a passion for radio for as long as I can remember.  Thankfully, there were stations along the way that allowed me to pursue this interest while still in high school.  Those include KBXR, KWEY, and KECO, all in Western Oklahoma.  During my college years, I worked as a student on KLRC and did a short stint on overnights on KEZA in Fayetteville, AR before joining the morning show at KEZA for a year.  I served as KLRCís PD for four years before moving into the GM slot in 2000.  God has allowed me to continue in this role for the past ten years and I still canít believe I get paid to ďworkĒ at such an amazing place with such great people.  When Iím not in the office, I get to do some voice tracking and voice work from a 3x4ft closet my wife graciously allowed me to turn into a home studio.  

 

1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the ďbusinessĒ?

I think this all comes down to your mission as a radio station.  The central part of our mission at KLRC is to share Hope in Christ.  All decisions, ministry or business, are run through the filter of that overall mission. 

I understand the heart of this question is how to prevent the business (or even busy-ness) of our jobs from minimizing whatís happening on a ministry level. The business and ministry of our station are not mutually exclusive.  The best advice I could give is to spend some time with your stationís listeners.  Attend station events, interact with listeners wherever that might be, take the time to answer the phone and actually listen to the caller, read listener email and share those life-change stories with the whole team, and take time to faithfully pray for each listener need that is submitted.  Itís so much easier to keep your focus on the ministry when you get to see first-hand the impact it is having on peopleís lives.

 

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

Itís better, itís reaching more people and doing so more effectively, and there a number of markets where it is actually setting the standard.  Iím seeing more examples now of mainstream radio watching what weíre doing and implementing some of the strategies we once thought were exclusively ours.  (We have more stations in our market that are ďsafeĒ for the family to listen to than ever.  We just have very different definitions on what this means).  I think this speaks to the level of excellence many stations in our format are achieving. 

 

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

I think the qualities to be an effective GM in Christian radio are the same qualities you would look for in any Christian leader Ė and I present this short list with full disclosure that Iím still working on these!:

∑         The GM sets the spiritual tone for the organization.  A true and obvious love for the Lord is critical here, as is evidence that nothing (radio included) is more important than this relationship and the one you have with your spouse and family.

∑         The heart of a servant and a teacher.

∑         Ability to effectively communicate the vision and mission both internally and externally.

∑         Transparency.  Honesty.  Trust (which includes trusting your people to do the jobs youíve hired them for and not micro-manage them).

∑         Hire people that are smarter than you are and let them celebrate their victories by only taking the credit when things donít go as planned.

 

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

Serve them.  Make sure theyíre in the right roles in your organization, let them take ownership of their responsibilities and celebrate their ďwinsĒ.  Give them the freedom to try new things and to fail without fear.    Make sure they never lose sight of the role they play in each life-change story we are allowed to be a part of.

 

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

Any promotion that connects deeply with or helps meet the needs of our listeners.  Some of our best promotions involve finding a need in the community and pointing people to the resources to help address the need.  Of course, sometimes that need may be for something thatís just simply fun, creative, and engaging and thatís cool, too.

 

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

Honestly, I think overall that the labels are serving Christian radio pretty well.  Weíre getting better singles today than ever before and Iíve always felt that one thing that makes Christian radio unique is that many of our artists do see this as a partnership with radio.  Theyíre generally quite accessible and willing to help. 

On a more global scale, I am concerned with the growing rift between the recording industry and radio.  We need each other.  Things are changing rapidly and we all stand a better chance of coming out unscathed if we acknowledge that and work on solutions together.  Iím sure Iím being a bit naÔve, but canít we all just get along?    

 

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

Radio in general needs to do a better job of marketing itself.  How is it that a medium that reaches more than 90% of the public can so often be referred to as irrelevant, outdated, and ineffective? Indeed, weíre partially to blame for this as an industry, but radio has far more potential than it is given credit for.

Christian radio should be applauded for the overall progress weíve made.  I just hope that in our quest to do great radio, we donít stop taking risks, being creative and fun, and creating unique listening experiences. 

 

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

To help create a product in our stations that is so compelling that listeners actually choose to spend time with us. We have enough competition now through online, ipods, etc. that we must develop a personality for our station.  Being authentic, transparent, and real on air has never been so important. 

 

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

There are so many stations now doing really great Christian radio.  I love what KCMS is doing and all theyíve accomplished in Seattle.  There are some really creative people behind the imaging at New Life 91.9.  KTIS is setting an example in what it really means to serve your community, as is WPOZ and KSBJ.  Way-FM is setting a standard in what it looks like to be real and authentic, especially in morning drive.  While Iím mentioning a lot of bigger markets, there are some really innovative things happening in smaller / medium market stations.  And of course, Iím incredibly proud of our team at KLRC.

 

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

 If the last five years are any indication, the next 5 years could be really great for Christian radio.  Weíve all seen examples of Christian stations that are now setting standards in our markets.  While Christian radio has been steadily improving, our mainstream & corporate competition has been making cuts in everything from talent to research.  We have a great opportunity ahead of us if we continue to learn, grown, and invest in our stations (especially if weíre the only ones in our market doing this!).  If we continue to do so, while also embracing the opportunities provided in new technologies, then weíre just now scratching the surface on what God might choose to do through us in our communities.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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