Ahe Leoki Interview

Ahe Leoki
Program Director
KOAY (Project 88.7)
Boise

Career Capsule: I started at Barefoot Media Ministries straight out of high school. And This June, I’ll be celebrating 6 years at this awesome ministry. 5 of those years working specifically with Project.

 

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

Project 88.7 has gone through so many great changes this year. When you tackle a station like Project 88.7, there is a lot of unknowns. This audience is constantly changing, and we’ve been wrestling with whether we’re doing right by our listeners. I mean when you think about it, CHR is such an unknown beast, it sometimes feels like you’re blindly throwing darts and hoping it even lands on the board.

But I wouldn’t want to attack such an unknown audience with anyone else besides my team. This year has been a year of growth for our team, not only in numbers, but in the understanding of our product. It’s been a great year to learn, despite the craziness of the rest of the world, we’ve seen some amazing growth personally and within our audience.

Even with the cursed 2020/2021 Project’s numbers have been on the rise, we were blessed to end out Spring Pledge Drive at 257% of our original goal, becoming our biggest drive ever. We even had a donor step up and sponsor our first set of billboards for the station.

Honestly, it’s just humbling to see all the ways God has allowed us to grow, and we’re just thankful to be on this amazing journey.

Besides the excitement at the station, my husband and I welcomed our first baby boy back in October and have been loving getting to know life as a unit of three. Overall things are just great, and I just am overwhelmingly grateful for it all.

 

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

While the day-to-day responsibilities didn’t change much, the execution and my appreciation for technology changed dramatically. We work in a very collaborative office and to not have my daily access to my team members was really the biggest change!

But I also got a lot of time to think and create different ways for us to be accessible to our audience despite the pandemic. In fact, one of my favorite promotions was born from us trying to celebrate graduates that didn’t get in person graduations! We partnered up with our community and drove around to bring a graduation ceremony to a handful of our listeners. We had a flatbed truck that was used as a stage, and we even did a little speech and gave out a diploma.

You get creative when the world goes through something crazy, and that’s exactly what we did.

 

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

My favorite advice EVER actually comes from my GM, Brian Yeager, and it’s essentially this, “You don’t have to be the smartest in the room, but you should always try to surround yourself with people smarter than you”.

This has been such a freeing piece of advice. I’m a baby in the terms of the radio world. I’ve been in the industry for 6 years, and I’m not trying to be the smartest in the room, in fact, that’s probably never going to happen, and that’s okay with me. This piece of advice has given me the freedom to constantly be in a state of learning and seeking information.

Along those lines, my GM also likes to say that he’d rather have me push boundaries and need to pull me back than for me to not try and he has to push me to move forward.

This gives me the freedom to be willing to try different tactics in programming. When you have leadership that is willing to invest in you and push you to break out of the norms, it allows you to really seek more than what’s right in front of you. And I hope that by me being comfortable and supported in taking risks, will in turn benefit all of us as we’re able to take bigger steps in reaching more people.

And maybe this is a bit of a cop out answer, but I’ve actually never received a piece of advice that I’ve thought of as “bad”, so I’ll count that as an extra win!

 

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

What I love about radio is that each station is so different. Even if we collectively play similar music, each programmer, on-air talent, even down to our front desk receptionist, we’re all different and I think that is an actual benefit. I’m comforted knowing that if my CHR station isn’t sitting right with some, that they have plenty of opportunities to receive Jesus in a way that speaks best to them.

I also think it’s okay to have a healthy sense of competition. If I’m not able to see other stations absolutely killing it in the market, then I run the risk of being okay with where my station sits. I don’t want that. I don’t ever want to become content in what we’re doing. We have a big goal of reaching as many people for Christ as we can in front of us, and I want to be constantly moving forward to attain that goal and that means we must be pushing ourselves in the way we interact with our listeners, to the way we play music. And how am I going know how to grow if I don’t have others walking the journey with me and pushing me to grow.

I mean I’m constantly looking at the growth of NGEN and BOOST and I can say, if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t know what growth for us could look like. So, while I understand that oversaturation in a market is never what you want, I’m also thankful for the motivation that I get from being able to see all these other stations around me.

 

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

I’m a girl of way too many words. And is it radio if we don’t all think we have something super important to say? But I digress. I believe that podcasts allow us to expand on our content in a way that invites the listeners to go deeper into our brand than if you were just to hear a quick blurp on the radio that they may only hear a portion of.

Project doesn’t like to shy away from topics, but we also understand that the deep dive into tougher topics isn’t for everyone, so to be able to create a space for our listeners go deeper with us if they so choose is a reason, we’re looking podcasts. This would also allow our airwaves to maintain as inviting as possible to all.

As for if I believe they are necessary, I think that depends on the station and their values and goals. In the wise words of John Frost “What are you trying to accomplish” and I think that’s a question each station must answer for themselves.

 

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

As Cliché as this sounds, I truly believe it’s from wherever God sends them. I was a nursing major that totally got Jonah’d and ended up full time in radio. My current weekday evening shift, Jeff Turner, came to us out of a local recovery program here and worked his way up from being a volunteer on overnights to a consistent weekday show.

When God wants you to be on-air, he has a way of making it happen despite what you may want. And sometimes, those that come out of left field end up being some of my favorite people to work for.

 

Generally speaking, to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?

I mentioned it earlier, but I’ve only been in radio for about 6 years, so I’m really just guessing for this one. But what I’ve noticed, at least with my team, is the struggle to allow yourself to be authentic and transparent. We’ve learned that Project’s listeners need substance in their content. They want to know they are not alone in the crazy journey of life. I’ve found that it’s easier to be 1000% authentic with non-Christians than it is with my fellow believers. And I think a lot of on-air talent feel that as well. So when we are walking the line of authenticity, it often falls short because we ourselves have not allowed us to be honest with the true journey, whether that be due to ownership and regulations or your own personal boundaries that keep you guarded. And while I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong and I don’t think you need to live your life like an open scrapbook for all the world to see, I think people do crave knowing they’re not alone past the surface level issues of life.

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Radio is an absolute gold mine for influential people! I get to work with such incredible people, and those in the industry that have even given me the time of day have all had such a great influence on me.

I have start by saying though, Brian Yeager, my general manager is the most influential person to me. And no, I didn’t get asked to say this haha.  His leadership is unmatched. His care for his team is why I believe Barefoot Media Ministries is as successful as we have been. His ability to understand the importance of resourcing his team in coaching and consulting is praised by all who know him. Because of this, I’ve been able to meet legends like John Frost and Tommy Kramer. What other college student do you know that has gotten the opportunity to spend much time with these amazing guys? Not many, but I’m definitely one of them!

Don Godman has been such a big part in teaching me the ropes of radio, taking time to always answer my questions as well as allow me to process anything with him. His gentle leadership with his ever-present heart for his team has influenced the way I want to interact with my team. Not only that, but he is also a system creating genius and he has shown me the joys of systems and organization in the realm of programming.

In the world of CHR, Mike Couchman has just been so encouraging. Being able to work with him for that little time, was so beneficial. I’ve learned so much from him and continue to learn from him through the ways he is leading the CHR movement. His crew down at BOOST are lucky to have a leader who is taking risks and not afraid to put his all into something that not many would be willing to take on.

I’ve had so many wonderful consultants that have offered me advice and guidance and I’m just in awe of the fact they are willing to take a chance on me. Jeff Connell has really helped guide me over the past year, and his constant assurance along with his ever-steady guidance has helped me grow into a more confident programmer. With him allowing me to feel like there is never a “dumb” question, I’ve really been able to explore all the different aspects of programming with the confidence that he won’t let me falter too far from a successful path.

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