Career Capsule: Grew up listening to A/C music and actually listened to the station I have been with for 36 years as mom had it on in the house. I wanted to go into Christian radio as it was in need of help back in the mid 70’s because it didn’t sound like it does today. Got involved in broadcasting while in high school as we had our announcements delivered via tv so I was running audio, writing scripts, behind the camera and then on air hosting. I followed it up with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Radio TV/Film at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. First paid radio gig was with WMKC-Oshkosh (home of the Great Ones-a Drake/Chenault format), playing Adult Contemporary pop music in 1978, followed by weekends at WHBY-Appleton 1979-1980 (news/talk), then to WEMI in 1981 and I have been here ever since. Began as part-timer, eventually was music director, production director, program director, operations director, executive director and now COO! We now have 3 stations as part of The Family, 88.5-Wausau/Stevens Point, 91.5-Green Bay and 91.9-Appleton/Oshkosh. Also go on the road as a host with ShareMedia and help stations raise money to keep broadcasting.
- Paul, Tell us what’s new at The Family… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
In June of this year we welcomed Sonia Barham as our CEO of The Family, and I have transitioned to Chief Operating Officer/General Manager. For the prior 15 years I was the Executive Director for the Family as well as General Manager. This is part of planning for the future for this ministry as we look ahead for the next 30 years. I am in my 36th year with the organization and love what I do and had approached our board a few years ago about needing help and planning for the future as I didn’t see myself being able to put in another 30 years.
2. What is your typical day like regarding getting ready to go on the air?
At the present time I host Sunday Morning Praise from 5:30 to Noon on 91.9/91.5 in the Appleton/Oshkosh and Green Bay markets. I also am the morning drive and afternoon drive fill in as needed and did plenty of that with vacations this summer. As I prepare to go on air, I have a host of human interest stories that I have found interesting and believe the listener will as well. At the same time scouring the latest news of the day to see about things to tie into on air and in her life. I picture myself speaking one on one to that individual. With our target being a 42 year old female, who may or not be married, with 2 kids, and drives a SUV/Mini-van, I keep in mind things that matter to her and the world she lives in. Run it through the filter. Seek to put a smile on her face and at the same time, give her something to think about and process. If she has time, she may even respond via text, a phone call or FB, but that is not the priority. Connecting is. I preview any features that we may be airing so I can tease them if possible in a creative way that gets her to keep listening for that help, hope or encouragement she is seeking. It is very important to pray and thank God for allowing me to do something I love. (Psalm 37:4– Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.)
3. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
When I was the music director I think the best advice was go with your gut. Sometimes you will make the right call and sometimes you won’t. I remember when I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me was released. I heard it and put it into hot rotation. It had hit written all over it. At that time I was told by a reporting publication that by doing that it would skew the song chart as we were the only ones playing it in that rotation. While that may have been, I knew the audience would connect with that song and back then, we didn’t have all the research tools we have today to test and also didn’t have the music scheduling software to really start it in light and work it through a great system. Today we do and our Network Program Director Garrett Michaels is doing a fantastic job in placing our music and guiding our Music Director Todd Christopher in the finer points of music scheduling.
At the same time, going with your gut could be the worst. It is important to do the research you can, with the budget and resources you have as it provides you with solid reasoning to make crucial decisions regarding “programming.”
4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
Iron sharpens iron comes to mind. The reality is that Christian stations in theory are working for the same CEO (GOD) and we can do a better job working together than we can apart. If it is a competition thing, we don’t just compete with the Christian stations in our market, but all stations. We are all vying for the ear of the listener. If having multiple stations in a market causes us to do what we do even better, that to me is a plus. Some might look at it as a threat, but it truly is a matter of perception. In or Appleton/Oshkosh & Green Bay market area, we have a total of 6 different religious stations to choose from, not including our 91.9 and 91.5. Each station is decidedly different in a variety of ways, yet there are similarities and cross over as seen when looking through Nielsen ratings.
5. What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your show?
An open heart and mind to see God at work around us and His direction for us. That means time with God.
6. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I have posed this question more than once through the years at Momentum, NCRS and GMA (for the old timers.) I believe that talent may walk through your doors working for someone else in an unrelated or related field. For example, this morning we met with someone that we are working with on social media. After that face to face meeting, Garrett and I chatted afterwards that he gets it. He understands what we are trying to do and has a skill set we need and we see his personality fitting in. Does that person have radio experience? Probably not. Life experience? Yes and we can train him how to combine that with his passion for ministry to make a great communicator. Future talent will come from us intentionally keeping our antenna up and looking outside of our current sphere of influence and venturing into others. Future talent can also be cultivated and it takes time.
7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
- I think the biggest is the people that call themselves Christian, but don’t listen to “Christian radio.” I once shared that if all the people that say they are Christians in our various markets actually listened and reported that when they were surveyed, we would be Number One in each of our markets, but unfortunately they are not filling their hearts and minds with things that will bring them hope and encouragement and reinforce God’s word in their hearts. They have a preconceived notion that we have to overcome. 5 years ago we changed our name from Christian Family Radio to The Family. The idea to do so was around 10 years before we changed it. Did our mission, vision and foundational principles change? Nope. Our name did and we think it continues to open doors as a result.
- Not investing enough in a consistent marketing plan to bring about TOMA (top of the mind awareness) in the market.
- A dwindling group of core artists, that actually stick around longer than 5 years. I asked one of the Mercy Me band members to name off the top 5 Christian artists. I called them A-listers. He said, Third Day, Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, Chris Tomlin and Toby Mac. After that, you might be able to name a few more, but you will struggle to get 5. Then you have the B-list and the up and comers. Don’t get me wrong, the artists are great, but I am seeing fewer and fewer lasting longer and longer that have a library of hits to play.
- Ourselves. We need to be patient and trust God. We need to be open to new ideas and opportunities, but not just jump right in. Timing is everything.
8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
- Larry Black-he hosted a mainstream radio show that aired in the market I lived in and I remember him saying something about The Alan Parsons Project and the song Eye in the Sky and that there is an eye in the sky that is watching everything you say and do and he loves you. That grabbed me. I knew that this was a guy sharing his faith using the tools that were available. Christian music at that time would have only been just being birthed. I wanted to do the same thing and that was radio. ( I found this on line about Larry: http://greatgreatjoy.com/radiosources/the-larry-black-show/)
- Bob Augsburg, Joe Battaglia, Lloyd Parker, Jon Hull, Tim McDermott, Wayne Pederson, Chris Lemke, Jon Engen, Roger Lonnquist. Each of them has stayed the course and been a living example of how to be a great broadcaster in a very trying world.
- My team. I love The Family Team and the passion for touching the lives of the listeners.