Career Capsule: Started this incredible journey back in 1987 at KORU in Tulsa, OK as the University PD and talent and interning at KRAV-AC using Q-tips and alcohol, grease and splice tape, and refilling carts. I was hired straight out of college by Larry Wayne at KGOT-CHR in it’s sister station KYAK – Country, in Anchorage AK. From 1991- present: Oldies, Southern Gospel, News/Talk, AC and CCM formats in Alaska, Florida and Ohio: KEAG, KCFA, WTWB, The JOY FM, WSMR-Northwestern, WMVO, WQIO, and presently at WCVO and owner of Word of Mouth Audio, LLC.
Laura, tell us what’s new at WCVO?
Thriving in a new midday role after being on mornings since 2001. The dust is just starting to settle after a shake up with every day part being moved around and a new PD taking the helm. Thankful for a team that’s willing to do whatever it takes to do what needs to be done, and do it well. Love them deeply.
Christian radio is very competitive; what strategies work for you to stand out in the crowd?
I go for the vulnerable and real jugular, with a bunch of spice, authenticity and joy. My role is to be real, find angles on stories that help my listeners find a new voice, a new thought, a new hope that wasn’t there before. I sincerely want their laugh lines to deepen by the quirkiness of my offerings. Father has gifted me with a quick sense of humor, but a deep compassion and ability to share the hurts of life as well as the triumphs. I am the first to laugh at my insecurities, weaknesses and mistakes, and hope that helps listeners feel at ease with me as their friend.
My greatest strengths are in my weaknesses, that’s where I see God work the deepest in and through me. When dealing with problems, tragedies, etc…I will not go to the “religious” answer, but I will always go to what God says IS the answer – I have no greater hope than that to give anyone on and off the air as He is the only truth that stands in the midst of the shaking. I will always weave that in as the truth in the midst of my questions, thankful that there is always an anchor to steady us.
What is the best programming advice you’ve been given?
Be YOU, raw and real.
Work up emotion, cry on demand. Dumb. I also wish we would stop the thought process that we have to teach listeners what they want to hear. I “hear” from them often that they want less repetition, and more variety, to keep it fresh. Then they follow up to say they’ve started tuning over to the competition because they are playing newer songs that they love too.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that?
We get to play great music, have entertaining and authentic personalities, who should also be compelling and relevant with every story shared. What an awesome opportunity.
You would THINK that being the only station in the market would make it easier, but what’s easy is to fall prey to pride and laziness, and forget the true reason we do what we do; we’re here to encourage God’s kids. We play music that brings joy and makes you dance, songs that remind you that God hasn’t left you. We get to tell stories that God is crazy about you, and wants to walk through the hard stuff with you, and be with you till you get to the “other side” of the mountain. We get to cry with people because we understand pain, we get to cheer for people who have beat the odds, learn about the struggles and the joys of life and walk this journey with them. I love being able to share stories behind the songs of artists/people who found their mainstay in a life-storm and are singing out as loud as they can so the rest of us can sing along too. With that, I believe the more competition, the more opportunity to fine-tune, and get clarity and focus; because details matter, excellence matters. You may think the goal of CCM is to play the best music – Yes and No. YOU also get to help bring LIFE, LOVE, HOPE, JOY, PEACE… every time the mic opens!
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job/show?
Prayer and Prep Time. I truly have nothing good to give of myself and need His inspiration, clarity and joy to come out of me every time my mouth opens. In prep, I have to have time to gather roughly 15 great topics and headlines that I can jump off of for a great story, and must have a great OUT ready to roll – no floundering.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I say the doors are WIDE OPEN to those who can be authentic, compelling and paint vivid, entertaining and colorful stories. Case in point, my dear friend Julia Taylor (Family Life) a stay at home mom and pastor’s wife, did an on-air American idol radio talent contest in 2007 to win her spot on a morning gig. She’s a crazy amazing air talent. Outside of those paranormal circumstances, I believe that there should be a budget to develop talent in the evenings and overnights to grow them up, coach them, and have them primetime ready.
Generally speaking what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Pray and ask God for a battle plan on how to effectively handle tragedies of modern day that are occurring one right after the other. How can you be relevant and real, offer hope and compassion without being overcome by despair or sticking our heads in the sand because you’ve run out of words. When you can’t offer an answer filled with hope – you will be offering nothing more than a secular station aiming to do nothing more. We can wrestle with the questions, but we must always, always, always remember that HE is the God of hope. If we lift up Jesus, HE draws all men unto himself.
Also, Being relevant and effective in all forms of media, but making sure anything you do always points back to the main course of what we do the best – interesting, relevant and entertaining programming with a clear focus on community. 3. Make sure you listen to what your talent are begging for, hear their frustrations, celebrate their victories, equip them with industry connections and training, let them have fun on and off the air, let their creative juices flow and give them time to live life outside of the studio where they can breathe, think, brainstorm.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I owe a lot of my personal growth to Steve Swanson (WAFJ) and Doug Poll (WSMR) -these two are truly a rare breed. They walk in such great humility and honor that when they speak correction, it comes from the heart of someone you know truly cares more about you as a person than just as an employee. Consulting wise, Tate Luck speaks my language and helps me break down and construct breaks like no other. On-air, I’ve been greatly influenced by: Erica Parkerson (HisRadio), Lisa Williams, and Brant Hanson. These three bring an incredible authenticity to the airwaves that makes my heart swell. The absolute JOY that emits from Erica is thoroughly intoxicating and I can never get enough of her ability to make you her best friend. Lisa has helped me dig deeper into stories than just surface matter, and Brant…well….you know…Brant. He gives you permission to find your quirk and do it well.
In closing, I LOVE that God chose us to live lives filled with music and stories! How crazy amazing is that?!!! A dream I will continue to embrace each and every day.