Career capsule: I started in radio in ’99 working as an on air announcer at WOCG, my then college’s radio station. After graduating, I was fortunate to get hired full-time as the production director and morning show host. I’m from the DC area, so I was itching to be back home and all throughout college would work during winter/summer breaks at WGTS. I’d fill in for anyone who was out. I decided to move back to Maryland and began working part-time at WGTS in the evenings. I’ve been at WGTS ever since working in just about every job – outside of donations. I’ve been program director for about 5 years now. I realize it’s a rare thing to have spent so much time at one place. I joke that I moved around a lot as a kid so I was determined not to do it upon getting in radio.
Brennan, tell us what’s new at WGTS … news, changes, & new with YOU… etc?
Wow…quite a bit actually. It’s been WGTS’ desire and dream to expand the signal to Ocean City going back 20 years. At least it’s what I remember our late General Manager John Konrad and board members talking about ever since I started working here. Prayerfully, by this summer that will be a reality. Our staff is getting a bit larger as well with the addition of Brandi Lanai joining us for the live evening shift, 7-midnight. It feels like things are starting to open up – safely – in the DC area which means a lot more cars on the road. That’s good for the local communities. It also means more opportunities for people to be encouraged through the music and conversations on WGTS.
On the personal front, I’m healing up from a fractured ankle (guess that’s what I get for running outside in the winter…black ice is no joke). My wife and I just bought a home and are preparing for the birth of our daughter while navigating the teenage years with my son. So, yeah, it’s busy but good things all around.
How has WGTS reacted to the pandemic, on and off the air?
I feel like WGTS has reacted well to the pandemic. Management was going through the ‘what-if’ scenarios in January 2020. We were concerned for our safety, our listeners, the financial security of the organization – all things most stations went through. Yet each member of the team chose to lean into the situation and found new ways to connect with listeners and create community – safely. From daily check-ins on Facebook for prayer and a quick devotional thought, features like ‘Virtual Homeroom’, and turning community outreach into drive-thru and drop off food stops, it’s been a real privilege to work with a team who really want to serve others. One of the ideas we kicked around was the thought that, at the other side of the pandemic, we would tell the stories of how we served our listeners well. It’s been a time to step up, not shrink back.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best show advice: If you’re in a two-person show, make your partner look good. I think that translates to programming and team management. Work with your team members’ strengths, give them tools, constructive feedback and remove roadblocks to help them achieve sets them up to perform their best. With programming, I’d say play the music your listener loves, connect by relating to shared experiences or common touchpoints. In all cases, the emphasis is on the other person. It’s all about being others- focused. I miss the mark often but that’s what I’m striving for. I’ve been fortunate to have some good mentors around, so I’ve not had any advice I’d consider ‘the worst’.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
It’s ironic answering this question now versus a few years ago. WGTS was on the receiving end of another CCM station coming into the market. Now, WGTS is about to do something similar. From a programming standpoint, more competition makes you better and forces you to identify what differentiates your station from the next. That can lead to a laser focus on providing your listener what they expect/want from you. From a business standpoint, more CCM competition can begin to erode the financial support of each station fundraising from the same donor pool. One fishing pole in a barrel yields all the fish there. Add two or three more poles and you’ve got a problem. Don’t know if that’s a straight answer or not. When you live in the DC area for a long time, the ‘non-answer’ answers kind of rub off on you.
WGTS is BLESSED to have some of the best air talent in Christian Radio, what is your philosophy in managing them?
You are correct in that! Many days I feel kind of like the Chicago Bulls team in the 90s. With this much veteran talent, knowledge, and creativity it’s really about channeling the energy. I spend more time listening and making sure our management and execution systems are in place to accomplish what will make the most impact for our community. A collaborative approach works best for me in this situation. I can set the direction of where we want to go then work with the team on the route we’ll take to get there.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
I think the next air talent for Christian radio will come from outside of ‘radio’. People with a big social media following. Anyone who is a good communicator, has empathy, and can naturally tell a story. It could be the receptionist at a walk-in clinic or the guy who helping to replace your gutters. The trick may be getting them to understand radio and pairing them with existing talent so they can learn the ropes.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
Ooh. I think having the freedom and permission to try something new, fail, get feedback, and try again. Resources to help them grow and having to wear way too many hats around the station. Just carving out time to show prep, meet listeners, and think ahead about their shows can be a challenge.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I run the risk of sounding like I’m name-dropping, but I’ve been fortunate to have personal relationships with several influences. People like John Frost, Scott Herrold, Ty McFarland, Jon Hull, Chuck Finney, Kevin Krueger, Johnny Stone, Tommy Kramer, and Angela Perelli have all taught me something about management, programming, coaching and leadership. I also continue to be influenced and challenged to grow by the books I read so authors/coaches like John Wooden, Jeff Henderson, Michael Eric Dyson, Bob Goff, Seth Godin, and Donald Miller come to mind.