When I arrived with my wife, dog, cat and Ryder truck in San Francisco in September of 1991 I was in less-than-a-great mood. The truck had blown tires in Illinois and Iowa. Our golden retriever had come down with a kidney infection somewhere between Nebraska and Nevada. And United Broadcasting had hopelessly screwed up my moving arrangements. Which is actually a warning sign: if they can’t handle basic details like temp housing and reimbursement for expenses, they’re going to probably eff up a lot more down the line.
So, a couple of days late I carry my Jim Beam box of office accoutrement from the hotel over to the radio station and discover that I have inherited the worst Promotion Coordinator in Radio.
I walk into the office, put down my box and introduce myself to the young woman who had been holding down the promo fort for about six months.
Her first words of greeting were “You’re not going to be one of those people who tells me to do shit, are you?”
I really didn’t have a ready response to that but she saved us an awkward pause by diving right into a litany of complaints. She’d had to work weekends and overtime while the station was without a director and she’d added up all of the hours and submitted them and “they’re not going to pay me. Is that fucked up or what? But they gave me 22 comp days so I want to take off Thanksgiving through New Year.”
Ah…I get it now. She’s got a twisted sense of humor. THAT is something that I can appreciate.
“Sure, absolutely. It’s not like there are any promotions in December.” Ha ha.
Oh crap, she was serious.
I won’t get into the graphic details at her disappointment that I would continue to expect her to work weekends and that she couldn’t take off the busiest month of the year. She hated me from that moment on.
She also, well, hated people. And was pretty non-discriminatory. She hated people and she hated working with people and hated dealing with people. Which made her overly qualified to work in Radio Promotions. At least once a week I’d get a call from a listener who had been screamed at when they came to pick up their prize at the station.
Two years later she was still there because of UBC’s fear of terminating employees. When the morning show got leaked news from someone in Monterey that they were going to be let go and replaced by Mancow, they spent four days on the air calling various people in management coke heads, thieves, adulterers…and we were not allowed to pull them off the air. “We’re working on the paperwork.”
So it came to pass that I had an offer to seg into this job that I have now and the next day, there were a dozen Fed Ex packages at the station from people wanting to be the next Promotion Director at Wild 107. During the thirty days that the position was open, employees from all of the departments at Wild made a point to pull me aside and say “If you give the job to Arlyn, we’re going to kill you.” And they were serious.
The day before the application period closed Arlyn walked up and said, and I quote, “So am I getting the job or what?” I explained that she had to apply like everyone else. She replied “Well, that’s fucked up.” So she gave the GM a handwritten note stating her interest in the job.
The following week the GM and the new PD and I sat down with her for her interview. Scott asked “Well, the station has really grown over the past couple of years. What would be the biggest or most important thing that you would do or implement if you were the Promotion Director?”
“I’d organize the prize closet. There’s no system to it now. AE’s come in and ask for stuff for clients and Paige just gives them shit. And people are always touching stuff on my desk.”
“So, you would initiate a system of prize management?,”the General Manager asked. “Anything else?”
“Nope. That’s it.”
Surprisingly she was not hired.
It takes a special kind of person to work in Promotions. You should have a sense of humor. You should have an insane work ethic. You should be creative but also have mad detail skillz™. You should be willing and able to call an audible and change the game plan on a moments’ notice. And you should be able to mold and motivate people to get them to do things you want them to do while having them believe it was their idea all along.
Over the years I’ve refined four questions to put to a candidate for Promotion Director. Some are subjective and you can take the response and see if it meets what you’re station needs in that position.
Great people tend to have dreams and aspirations. Things that they always wanted to do and now, maybe, they could. And their answer will show whether they would be a great fit for your specific need. If they say “I’ve always wanted to do a database campaign that would allow the station to partner with a TV affiliate and also a third party client that provides the opportunity for in-store signage…” and you need someone who will be a street warrior and get the station out in the community, than this might not be your person.
This gives insight to what their priorities and strengths are.
If they say “I’ve never done a promotion that failed”, then, they are lying or aren’t trying hard enough.
If they say ANYTHING other than, “Sit down with the Sales Manager and Program Director and try to create an alternative that will work for both the client and the station.”, move on.
It’s a very unusual position in this industry. It answers to two masters, Sales and Programming, and it usually requires a pretty unique individual. But not unique in an Arlyn kind of way.
Knowing that, you need to approach the hiring process a little differently. Draw them out. Gauge their personality. Because Promotions is such a huge part of a brand’s stationality. Just as stations will take on the persona of the PD, what you hear between the songs will often reflect directly on the persona of the Promotion Director.