My first two jobs in Radio were minimum wage and I had gotten them the way I had gotten all of my other previous minimum wage jobs: I walked in. Applied. And waited. Or in the case of WLOL, someone at the college station stopped me before I went over and applied at KQRS and said “You know Swedberg works at WLOL? Go there first.” I did and Gregg said, “I don’t have anything but Tom upstairs in Promotions might.”
There came a time when I decided that I was going to take off the training wheels and see if I could actually do this. I’d been unbelievably fortunate to have spent five years working with and surrounded by some amazingly talented people. Hopefully some of it had rubbed off and there was no way to know unless I took a big flying leap.
I’d watched hundreds, no, thousands of people apply for jobs at WLOL and their tapes and resumes ended up in this giant pile.
Piles suck. Except for this one time in Edmonton but that’s for another time.
I’d also seen labels and artists, unsolicited, inundate Programming with product. And most of it ended up in a pile.
I didn’t want to end up in a pile. I wanted just eight seconds of their attention. That’s all. Eight seconds. If I got eight seconds, I was going to be doing better than all of the people in the pile.
Promotions is the Art of Getting People’s Attention. Later, when I was in Charlotte and Jo Jo Wright was our roommate, he would mail live lobsters to PD’s with the note, “I’m not afraid of hot water. In fact, I like to dive in head first.” His theory was that if he could just get them to listen to his cassette, his talent would seal the deal.
I obviously have no talent, but I give good phone. All I wanted was a call back. And people in piles don’t usually get call backs.
Outside of lunchboxes, few things give a better look into the person and personality of someone, more than what’s on their desk.
I didn’t have a desk. I had a study carrel. So I waited for the Promotion Director to vacate his office for an afternoon and staged his desk with lots of things. Tums. Betting stubs from the race track. A half-eaten piece of pizza. A Thor comic book. A Jimmy Buffett 45. Phone messages from hookers and drug dealers. I had my friend Chris come over, stand on a chair, snap a pic and along with some creative copy I took it to EZ Print and had it turned into a mailer that opened up kind of like a menu.
On the front, the cover was the photo of the desk. Inside was a plea and a special offer.
And then….I mailed them out.
I got my share of form letters, and to those I replied WITH a form letter and the recipients name typed in at just a tiny angle to the rest of the note. I thanked them for their rejection letter but at this time I was not accepting any rejection letters. I gladly would hold their rejection letter for 90 days should the opportunity to be rejected present itself. And I wished them good luck with their future rejections.
I got an almost 80% personal reply to that. And thats ALL I wanted.
Almost every single reply was a laughing note, thanking me for making their day, they’d showed it to everyone. It was great. And sorry about the impersonal note, but, “I’m sure you know how it it…”
And there were three where CLEARLY parody was lost on them. I mean, they were mad and/or, simply didn’t “get it.”. Which is fine. They would really have not enjoyed working with me.
And I also got a lot of really nice personal notes saying that they loved the desk and wishing me luck. Great. I got my eight seconds and “Paige Nienaber” was going to be stuck in their brain like a tumah.
And I got a phone interview, which led to a fly-in, which led to an amazing job at Kiss 102 in Charlotte.
In 1995 I was at a Cubs game and Tom Bersanti walked over and said “The guy with the desk! I loved that!” Boom. I avoided the pile.