Career Capsule: New Life 91.9, WRCM, Charlotte, NC. 89.7 WMHK, Columbia SC , Word FM, Pittsburgh, PA 2009-2012, Spirit FM, PAR Network 2013-2016, HIS Radio 2016-present
Erica, tell us what’s new at His Radio… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
We just celebrated His Radio’s 35th anniversary! Jim Campbell (our founder), and Allen Henderson (our GM), have been on staff since 1983. There’s all this longevity and yet we’re on the cutting edge. Our team is led by “out of the box” thinkers. There’s a “What’s next?” mentality that’s refreshing and keeps you on your toes, on and off the air.
Personally, life has been challenging since I moved south to do afternoons on His Radio. My partner began a new chapter in his life shortly after we were hired as a team. Then, my 17 year old son was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and suffered greatly through multiple surgeries. Josh now has a plastic colon called a J pouch and a new lease on life, praise God! But it was something I had to walk out on the air. There would be days I’d see Josh on my lunch break and he looked like he was dying, which he WAS. I’d sit in the station parking lot and say, “God, unless you show up, I can’t go in there and encourage Your people. Help me.” He did. It couldn’t ever be about the problem – it had to be about how to push through the problem. My son’s story inspired our listening family to persevere through their own problems.
Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?
Candles! Let me explain… I do a show called “The Living Room,” which offers our listening family a breath of fresh air on the way home. I light a different scented candle every day and we talk about the fun and the meaningful. A candle company called Modern Forestry actually sponsors the show.
To this day, I believe the Living Room concept was God’s gift to me. When my partner moved on, I was solo for the first time in my career and it felt like trying to breathe on Mars. One day, I said, “You’re in the Living Room with Erica.” I believe God put the words in my mouth! Growing up, Mom always made our living room warm and cozy. It was inviting. That’s how I want folks to feel when they listen, welcome – like they’re home long before the garage door opens.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I can only remember the best advice…
When I first got into radio, John Frost rightly called me “Church Lady.” I felt like it was my job to save every listener! Then one day John said, “When you’re holding a baby chick, you don’t say, ‘Come here and look at this baby chick! Isn’t it soft? Isn’t it cute? Don’t you want to hold it?!’ No. You just hold it out for others to see.” I understood. I simply needed to live out my faith naturally on the air. It was a huge paradigm shift for me.
Flying solo is one thing. Flying the ship is quite another! When I didn’t think I could learn to run the board, Rob Dempsey looked at me with conviction and said, “It’s not rocket science.” He was right, along with his prediction that I’d love it. I do! Rob believed in me as a programmer, which taught me to believe in myself as a radio personality.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
I learned so much from Marc Tischart, who was my GM at Spirit FM. When this subject came up, he’d say, “They’re HIS sheep.” I feel peace when I think about those words… and a desire to offer God’s people the most encouraging show in town every day.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job/show?
My iPhone. Every nook and cranny is filled with conversation topics, inspiring and funny quotes, and breaks that I jot down in the middle of the night… or while waiting for my tall dark roast with a shot of cinnamon dolce.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Vince Coakley is a former TV personality who’s now doing a talk radio show in the Carolinas. He’s behind the mic because he grew tired of telling terrible news stories day in and day out. Vince needed a place he could share his views on the news and perhaps make an impact on the communities he was reaching. Radio was the answer for him. As social media continues to grow, I think others in the TV industry will want to connect on a more personal level. I believe radio will always be the most intimate and effective form of communication.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I believe it’s an unwillingness to reveal our real selves. In a world of polished-up Facebook posts, I think humans are craving to hear what other humans truly think and feel.
John Hancock is a popular talk radio host in Charlotte and has been for about 20 years. It was a rocky start, though. People truly hated him until his cat died and he cried on the air. John won their hearts that day because they saw into his. I think we need to draw the curtain back a little more.
C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’”
I also think it can be easy to “throw away a break.” Sometimes I have to step back and remember what a privilege it is to have a mic in front of me every day. I don’t believe our listening family wants facts and information. They’re thirsty for hope. Like Chuck Finney says, they come to us mainly for encouragement. They want to hear miracle stories. I want to spill every ounce of encouragement I’ve got into the speakers. At the end of every show and the end of my life, like Erma Bombeck, I want to say I used every scrap of talent God gave me.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Last year at Momentum, I sat at a table with Brant Hansen and Beth Bacall. I was so excited that I maybe ate two bites. OK, 3.
I so appreciate Brant Hansen’s willingness to think out loud on the radio. And to write a book like “Unoffendable.” And how he’s open about his affinity for toast and accordions. Brant is himself. That’s the lesson in my book.
I so admire Beth Bacall. On the air, she’s so natural and breezy and inviting. She sounds like a person who’s learned how to take deep breaths on and off the air. Maybe it’s the yoga, haha.
Her coaching literally opened new paths of thinking in my brain. Quick example: When I was doing mornings, I’d occasionally say, “Welcome to the party!” Then Beth asked me… “What PARTY?!!!” She went on to describe a typical morning for our listeners… lost shoes, burnt toast, red lights, etc. That was a wake up call for me.
Brian Sanders runs Positive Alternative Radio. Every year, just before Thanksgiving, he CALLS every member of his team at every station and thanks them personally for their efforts at PAR. I remember getting the call one year in Costco and I was blown away. It meant a lot. It still does!