I joined the
“Radio Club” in 9th grade at Savannah Christian Prep School. That
was it. I was hooked. I went on
to work part-time as a High School student, and even started my own
CCM radio show on WKBX 630 AM, a 5k
flame-thrower in Savannah, GA. My younger brother and I produced the
show and sold the spots on it too. I went
on to work for Chuck Finney at WKZL in Winston-Salem, NC while I
attended UNC-G.. and then nights and APD
at 95SX in Charleston, SC. From there I did mornings and programmed
a mainstream CHR in Saginaw, MI, then
moved back to Savannah where I was the 1st “Director of Marketing &
Promotions” for a 6-station group that is
now Clear Channel Savannah, followed by a similar position in
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC for Entercom
(where I worked right across the hall from Jim Kirkland, now at Blue
back into the PD/Mornings chair for Entercom in Greensboro, and then
did the same at Qantum Myrtle Beach
before landing here in the Christian radio world at J93.3. One thing
has not changed. I am still hooked. I love
radio. It is still what I would do if I was independently wealthy,
and didn't need to make a living. I'll never forget
while I was at Entercom Greensboro, the Operations Manager stopped
as we were walking through building,
turned to me and said, “Steve, thank GOD for radio! What would any
of us do?!?” and then resumed walking.
1. How has WVFJ evolved over the last few years?
Well it is still evolving, but the station started
out hanging its image on “The Family Station” slogan. Then we began
to realize that the Mainstream AC station here could just as easily
say the same thing. At that point, we began focusing more on who we
really are. We are the station that gives Christians the support
they need through their day, and potential Christians, a look at
what living as a Christian is all about, warts and all. Well, that's
what we try to do.
2. Has WVFJ made any changes due to economic
situation, been affected in any way?
We have become more streamlined. Fewer people doing
more. The cool thing is that our listeners are going through the
same thing where they work too, so they are right there with us. We
also have Jayar from the Joy FM voice-tracking middays from Florida.
He is like a breath of fresh air on the station. He sounds really
honest and engaging.
3. What do you think are the main characteristics of
a Christian radio Promotion Director?
A passion for the product (what goes over the air)
and a desire to share that with as many people as possible would be
the foundation. From there, it's making sure that of all the things
that one CAN do, the promotions that one actually does make sense
for goals of the station. Cool-headed, creative problem-solving is
one of the most important
tools a promotions director can have in their toolbox.
4. What criteria do you require for a promotion to
air on your station?
a) It has to have heart. This format is unique
because it is all about the lyrics. That means listeners are not
listening to our music for a mood boost, to dance to it, or to “rock
out.” They are looking for music that touches their hearts. That's
what promotions should do too. b) It should be sellable. We are a
commercial station, so whenever possible, we need promotions to
result in revenue. Helps keep the power on at the transmitter. c)
Keep it simple. d) Does it pass the “who cares?” test? Promotions
have to be relevant to listeners before they can even give them room
in their consciousness to consider them. We've all got WAY too much
rattling around upstairs these days, competing for our attention, so
our mental filters are working overtime to determine what gets
through and what doesn't.
5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian
In my experience, it is the promotions that give
listeners an opportunity to help a friend, or a child while
glorifying God in the process. It took me a little while to
understand that, coming from mainstream radio, but our listeners
really want to help someone else more than they want to win $100.
6. How do you think Christian Record labels can
better serve Christian radio?
Just keep producing better and better music with
good, clear Gospel messages. That's really the key when it comes
down to it.
7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles
facing Christian radio today?
I think that there are two “audiences” that we can
serve, There is the audience that listens now, and the audience that
might potentially listen in the future. The first audience is much
smaller than the second one, in my opinion. We in the CCM format
tend to serve the people who listen now, because those are the
people who we interact with on the phone and at remotes, that listen
through the share-a-thons, and they are a comfortable and safe
audience. In doing that, I think that we can sometimes turn our back
on the potential listeners, the ones who might give Christian radio
a chance if it were more relevant-sounding, more authentic, or in
some way broke through the stereotypes that
surround Christians and their music (i.e.,Ned Flanders, the Church
Lady, the Seinfeld “Christian Rock” episode). I am not claiming to
have the easy solution to this obstacle, but it is, I believe, a
very big, very important obstacle for us to cross. It's a Great
Commission thing. And it 's a matter of opening up and being
accessible to not only seekers, but Christians who are not in the
“Christian clique',” if you know what I mean. All radio formats must
continually get “younger” in how they sound, or at least it seems
that way, because we are all getting older. In other words, if you
target 25-44 year olds, after about 5 years, 25% or your audience is
new, having moved up from the 18-24 demo. Their tastes don't change
too much as they age, so you have to change how you reach them. That
means, we need to keep moving, and not let music styles, or how we
relate to listeners stagnate if we are to remain relevant. If you
don't keep up with that, you can end up with a very old, stale
8. What do you believe is the primary role of the
Christian radio air personality?
All of the above. I think Christian jocks should be
as real as possible, and that means talking about the blemishes in
their lives along with the uplifting things. It means not living in
fear of those super-conservative listeners who love to judge
people's hearts. I think the most difficult thing about being in
Christian radio is hanging on to the “real you” on the air. What
does Casting Crowns call them? “Happy plastic people?” That's not
what we want on the radio, if we are to truly be relevant.
9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do
you consider as innovators today?
I am not just saying this because they are my sister
stations – The Joy FM's (Florida) morning show rocks. It is real,
fun, touching, all of the things that any mainstream morning show
would be doing well to accomplish. Come to think of it, the rest of
that station is also, pretty awesome. Rob & Kristen at His Radio in
Greenville do an EXCELLENT job of taking on issues that many morning
shows would never touch, and turning them into ministry
Axxess Live is also a fantastic show, that really is fun,
entertaining, and real.
10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?
My favorite answer to that question is, “God knows!”
I sure don't. I hope that the format continues to focus on listeners
and what we are actually doing in their lives. When I first arrived
here at J93.3 exactly 5 years ago, I thought about the high value
that Clear Channel and Entercom had put on increasing listenership,
because it affected their stockholders, which was their #1 priority
as a public company. And then I thought, “Wow, if they were willing
to put that much into making money, imagine the stakes here in
Christian radio! We are competing for souls, not dollars. We are
building the Kingdom, not just a stock portfolio.” I try to keep
that in mind, because I don't want to lose that perspective.