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Mark Michaels Interview

Mark Michaels
Program Director/mornings
KLRC
Siloam Springs, AR

Career Capsule: Started working at KLRC (back then a student-run station at John Brown University) in the mid 90’s, got to spin some Oldies at KLDZ (Lincoln) overnights for a summer, and landed at KGBI (Omaha) after graduation.  Spent about 10 years in Omaha before getting the chance to come back to KLRC (by then the station had grown a whole lot since those student-run radio days).  I’ve had the honor of leading the programming team at KLRC for the last 12 years and also get to help serve at My Bridge Radio in Nebraska as well.

 

Mark, tell us what’s new at KLRC … news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

The NW Arkansas market continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the country so we’re just doing our best to keep up!  Caring for our community is a core value in our DNA so we’re always looking for more ways to serve our neighbors and expand our offerings of impactful content.  Last year we launched a podcast network that continues to grow rapidly, along with our team’s development of our alternate format Real FM.  This next month we’ll add a new translator for KLRC to expand our coverage area.  All of that, and 4 teenagers at home, keeps me more than busy… and ready for a nap. 

 

How has your KLRC show changed during the pandemic?

In some ways our area has had it easier than many, but we’re definitely adjusting to part of our staff working remotely, dealing with realities of less commuter traffic (repurposing some morning show content later in the morning), aggressively promoting at-home online listening, and taking advantage of our strong partnerships in the community to highlight what God is doing and how we can all help.  We’ve tried to keep imaging really fresh and adjust our content/tone to match the transitions of our audience as we walk through this journey together.  Like many we’ve tried to highlight all the good news with our “Positive-Difference-Story-Of-the Day” and launched a “One Thing Prayer” initiative to help unite the listening family around praying for one thing together each day.

 

What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?

My first GM Tom Sommerville would always remind us to “start with the listener and work backwards”.  He preached becoming a student of the audience.  I think it all starts there.

The worst was a few coaching sessions that completely shut me down and got me to only worry about not screwing up.  After a little therapy I seemed to recover ok.

 

Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?

There’s no question that with the growth and success of the Christian AC format there is increased interest by a lot of parties to jump into more markets… ultimately if there is a strong performing, locally-focused Christian AC in the market, I believe the Kingdom is best served by a diversity of formats under the “Christian” umbrella.  I love seeing some of the innovation by formats like Boost, NGEN, Worship, Hispanic, etc.

 

What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?

We made a big investment in podcasting and launched our network in January of 2019, so we’re believers in the power of additional on-demand audio.  With the limitations of our size of staff (most wearing multiple hats already) we decided to build the strategy by partnering with strong communicators/content creators in our area to host a diverse group of podcasts that are under the KLRC brand.  Our lead podcast “More Than Small Talk” just passed 200,000 downloads and we love hearing the impact stories from around our listening area and beyond.  Part of our strategy is a “cycle” that allows us to use the radio station to highlight key podcast content (through imaging) that then invites the radio station audience to experience the podcast.  We also brand the podcasts in ways to help draw new listening and exposure to the radio station.  

 

Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

As part of John Brown University there is a rich history of talent coming from the communications program here, and we still benefit from interns and work-study who come to KLRC to get industry training.  We’ve learned that the recruitment focus has needed to expand to help students see that their skills and interest in Social Media, video, etc.  can very much find a home in a ministry like KLRC.  Interestingly, once they get here and are exposed to the stories of lives changed, and get some hands-on experience, we find that the “radio bug” still bites.

 

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

I really do believe that innovation of both content creation and delivery will be what defines our growth or decline.  The message we have to share is as relevant and hopeful as it’s ever been, we just need to continue to develop the craft of sharing the content in the most accessible and memorable ways.

In many ways this pandemic has given us an early taste of life with declining in car listening and the impact of a diverse landscape of listening/watching options at home/work.  More than ever we’re going to have to fight for each minute we get and make a memorable moment.

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

I’m not always sure why God has allowed this to happen so richly in my life, but I’ve had the gift of some pretty remarkable people pour into my life and career.  I already mentioned Tom Sommerville who saw something in me 20 years ago I didn’t know I had.  I also could never fully explain how valuable it’s been to have guys like Alan Mason, Chuck Finny, Jon Hull, John Brock and others invest in me over the years.  They not only have taught me the craft of radio but modeled the intangibles of integrity, wisdom, servanthood, passion, humility, and so much more.

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