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Susan O’Donnell Interview 6-10-16

interview-susan-odonell2016Susan O’Donnell
Program Director

Career Capsule: My radio career began when a local rock station manager saw me on stage in the local theatre and asked if I could do on a mic what I did on stage.  While I admitted I didn’t know how it would work out,  I offered to try it for one year .  That was 32 years ago and I’m still at it. I began my career at KQ106/KTJS in Oklahoma first doing fill in for the duo and then becoming their first female Creative Director.  I later worked in the News Department as well preparing me to go to Omaha as a News Anchor and reporter for KFAB – then, the voice of Nebraska Football.  I was News Director for a station in Iowa before landing in Houston and becoming a part of the KSBJ staff more than 23 years ago.  At KSBJ I began as a Development Director moved into News Director, Assistant Program Director and finally Program Director.  Meanwhile for nearly 20 years I was working as part of the Morning Show. Three years ago I moved to become Program Director of KVNE/KGLY in Tyler, Texas where I am proud to say we are growing and involved in our community even more.

1. Susan, Tell us what’s new with KVNE… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

KVNE is continuing the community involvement and great on air programming that won the station the CMB Small Market Station of the Year for 2015. Since that time we’ve added two radio pros in our Assistant Program Director Amy Austin from our country station across town and David Brock as our Production Director.
I’ve been working on tightening our sound, updating processing and making sure that we are really super serving our listeners and community, and building a fantastic team that works well together.

2. What is your typical day like regarding getting ready to go on the air?

My day begins with checking in with the two morning shows (KGLY/KVNE) and making sure that we have everything in place for what they need for successful shows. On Mondays it’s the day to check in with the VP and Production Director to set our plan for the week. Tuesdays our day begins with Staff prayer and meetings. It may include a music meeting or update on our updating our music files…but it also includes checking information that can be used for prep for the show. I prep my complete show break by break…with potential script, but when a show is developing on air, I hold that prep sheet lightly and let the show morph into what works with calls etc.

3. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

The best programming advice I ever received was “your show is not in the studio, it’s in the car with your audience or at their cubicle…if it’s not about them or at least something they can relate to, then they aren’t sticking with you – there are too many other choices for music.”
The worst advice, women prefer men on the air. No they don’t! They prefer a friend on the air maybe that’s a guy friend or the guy that’s like my friend’s husband…or it’s like “she’s my best friend” even though we’ve never met.

4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?

I don’t know that I would say the more Christian Stations the better…I would say the more great Christian stations the better. I don’t believe we’re in competition with another signal in our market….we’re both working to get Jesus music to people that need it…we’re both working to encourage and build up the Church for the hours they aren’t in the sanctuary during the week.
I think we should always be trying to do our best and to get even better at what we do because we wear the name of Christ…not to stay ahead of the competition. But I’d be silly not to admit that if you think you’re hearing footsteps coming up behind you, you instinctively kick into a higher gear.

5. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?

The one thing I have to have every day to do my show…inspiration. Where does it come from? Sometimes a story of what happened in my life since the last show…or something that caught my eye on Facebook…something I read…heard or found. Maybe it’s an email from a listener, a prayer request or answered prayer…or maybe it’s a phone call, or a story from someone on staff. Inspiration to bring Jesus into everyday life in a relatable non-Christianeze sort of way.

6. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

I’m praying that future Christian radio air talent will come from all walks of life and experience…not just from people that went to school to learn to be on the radio. We need to be alert to people that can entertain, encourage and inspire and who are great at expressing themselves. It’s much easier to teach someone to run a board and edit audio than it is to make someone a truly great communicator on radio if they don’t really fit that bill.

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

I think the biggest obstacle is our idea that it’s ALL about the music…the music is obviously why she first chose us as a radio station, but she stays because she feels at home here. She’s hearing from her friends here, people she enjoys spending time with. She’s following them on Facebook, twitter and Instagram because she cares about them…. In an era where there are so many different platforms where our audience can get the music – Our On Air Personalities are our secret sauce. We better work at developing them, caring for them, feeding them, growing them and paying them because without them she’ll just go get the music she likes, load it on her Ipad or android and leave our radio station in the dust.

8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Valerie Gellar is one of my heroes. She really understands what works and how to keep it working. I also am impressed with Delilah, simply because she has found a way to make her own way…and found a way to have people that fired her…have to pay to syndicate her at even more money than they paid her as an employee! That’s impressive!

5 thoughts on “Susan O’Donnell Interview 6-10-16

  • Excellent tips Susan. I’m very proud of you & pra for God’s best for you (Phillipians 4:13)

  • I am very proud of you Susan! Great tips but more importantly, I appreciate your humble Kingdom focus. God’s best to you! (Phillipians 4:13)

  • Excellent interview! Thanks for sharing your story. I miss hearing you every day here in Houston. You have an amazing gift to make listeners feel welcome and involved. Your are everyone’s friend.

    May God’s richest and best be yours!


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