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How to Hire Radio Talent


This week I was called by a radio industry trade and asked an interesting question:

How should radio stations hire differently in this new age?

In other words, what qualifications should we be looking for in talent, programming, and sales that are different from today’s conventional qualifications?

This is a great question, so let me provide some answers. Today I’ll tackle how to hire radio talent. In a later post I’ll take on how to hire radio programmers and sellers.

First, let’s consider it a given that talent is hired in no small part for their ability to generate and grow traditional ratings because he or she actually possesses talent.

But what else? What are the hiring criteria that will be most valuable in the future?

For talent, nothing else will be more important than that talent’s skill and engagement with social media and digital platforms.


Indeed, if I were hiring a radio talent I would ask them questions like these:

  1. How big is your personal audience, the one you have direct relationships with, as measured by social media?

  2. How many Twitter followers do you have?

  3. How big is your Facebook fan page, and how strong is your engagement?

  4. How many Instagram followers and likes do you have?

  5. How many YouTube subscribers and total views do you have?

  6. Do you have a website for your own brand?

  7. How big is your brand’s personal email list? How often do you send out email? What do you send?

  8. What podcasts do you produce? How much listenership do they receive? How many podcast subscribers do you have?

In other words, to what degree do you – the talent – take responsibility for building your own personal brand? And how can you demonstrate the power of that brand to me?

If you approach a publisher with a book idea, one of the first questions they will ask you will be: How big is your audience? Publishers want authors with a built in audience. That is, they want authors who are famous, not authors who want to become famous.

Some talents are like Keith Olbermann. Keith doesn’t need to answer all these questions because everybody knows that Keith is a star with a built-in audience who will follow him wherever he goes (and goes again). Ditto for Howard Stern. But for lesser mortals, proof is required. Show me your proof.

Even today, too many talents see these social media obligations as distractions – time-wasters – things they are not hired or paid for. What they don’t get is that audience attention will flow to the entertainment brands they care about and can engage directly with. At this moment there are more than 130,000 people down the street from me at San Diego’s annual Comic-Con for exactly that reason.

When I was talking with iHeartMedia’s Dennis Clark at hivio about what skills talent of the future needs, he told me offstage that talent should imagine that their success is measured by subscription. What are you doing that your fans will subscribe to? What will fans actually pay for? As Netflix and SiriusXM continue to prove, subscription will become more important in the future than it is today.

Meanwhile, this means that management must both hire and pay for social media and digital metrics. Most stations have ratings bonuses, but how many have social media bonuses? You will get the behaviors you incentivize – you will get the talent you deserve.

Radio talent of the future will be social media and digital talents, too.

Because being a wizard with social media means being in touch with your audience and having an audience which wants to be in touch.

And if you want your brand to rise about the noise, you will have to win that attention in the places and platforms where consumers spend their time.

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