Craig Bruce

Why the rush?

About 15 years ago AFL coaching legend Kevin Sheedy spoke to us at an Austereo programming conference.

I’m a huge AFL fan and was really excited to hear him speak. One of the first things he impressed upon us as a group was the fact that we were all so young. I remember him saying, “You are just kids. Nothing has really happened to you yet. There is so much time”

At the time I was in my early 30’s with a bald patch the size of a helicopter landing pad and felt anything but young, but in hindsight, he was right.

I see it today when I talk to young breakfast show hosts and aspiring programmers-it seems like everyone is in a race to get “there”.  Let me tell you, with a fair degree of confidence, that “there” is no better than “here”.

Getting quickly and easily from point A to B is for Uber drivers, not for radio programmers or breakfast hosts.

Your job right now is actually to find a dusty old road, to throw the career GPS out the window and spend as much time as you can tinkering with your natural strengths and innate talents, whatever they might be.

The more winding the path, the more complicated and interesting the journey, the better you will be when you arrive.

Now is your opportunity to take your time to learn how everything in radio works.

Spending time with the station’s sales teams, the marketing teams, studying how branding, positioning and the art of leadership, in the context of radio, works.

Here’s some people you should follow.

Mark Ritson will teach you more about the basics of branding and marketing than anyone I can think of.

Follow him.

He’s unconventional, he’s smart, he has a no bullshit filter and he’s one of the very few experts in this space that is making good common sense,(yes, as content director you are the custodian of the station’s brand, so you’ll need to learn about the basics of branding and positioning)

Marcus Buckingham is one of the world’s most respected thought leaders on management and leadership.

He’s written several books, start with “First break all the rules”, then just keep going. You’ll thank me later.

Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Ferris, Stephen Dubner, Seth Godin-the list is as long as you can imagine of people who don’t do radio but can inspire you to be better at it.

If you haven’t been a music director or scheduled a music log before, learn to do it.

Spend time with the company’s research team and learn how to read and interpret data.

Spend time watching good programmers deal with challenging moments and observe the clueless programmers botch perfectly good moments, then make a promise to yourself not to make the same mistakes.

Write a creative promo. “But I’m not creative?”Yes you are. Try.

Construct a formguide.

Design a workday tactic.

Buddy up with the smartest social media mavericks you can find and learn what they do.

And, if you’re lucky,(this was certainly the turning point for my career) you might find a life partner during this time who will support you and encourage you as you build your reputation and skill set.

I lost my first job in radio at the age of 30. I was hosting a breakfast show on SA-FM and thought I was doing a pretty job but, upon reflection, my swift departure from the show was a fair reflection of my contribution.

At the time, it felt like the end of my world, but in actual fact it was the turning point for my career.

At the age of 30, I knew nothing about programming, leadership, marketing, branding, strategy…I was clueless.

But I had a programmer in my corner,(Jeff Allis) who believed in me and a determination to never allow myself to be in that situation again where I was seen by anyone as being replaceable.

Over the next few years I did everything I could to download as much information as I needed to at least start the process of being a manager of people and a radio station content director.

I combined my own learning path with a keen observation of the people I admired in the role that I eventually wanted to do,(Brian Ford, Jeff Allis, Brad March) and slowly but surely I started to create my own views and a vision for the sort of station I wanted to program.

Then I started doing it.

Mistake, mistake, another mistake…shit there’s another mistake.

Then the odd breakthrough.

Followed by more mistakes….this is harder than I thought.

Lots of questions.

Lots of self- doubt.

But I kept moving forward, not pretending to know everything. In fact being really open about the fact that I knew nothing.

And the more I learnt, the less I realised I knew.

Then it happened…At some point, somewhere in the middle of my 4th decade on this planet it started to come together.

My confidence and self-belief started to outweigh my doubts and uncertainty.

My skills at problem solving and navigating through difficult moments with breakfast hosts started to become strengths that I would actually look forward to deploying.

But here’s the thing, there was never a moment when I felt like I had arrived, that I’m finally here.

So, back to my original point.

Why the rush?

You might not be ready yet and that’s ok but you can always be ready to learn, to improve, to contribute, to do something new tomorrow whilst you take another step from “here to there”.

I can hear Kevin Sheedy speaking to you now…“you’re still young, you might not think you have time, but trust me, you do.”

The old man was right then and he’s still right now.

About Craig Buce:

Craig is the former Head of Content at Southern Cross Austereo. Responsible for getting some of Australia’s best talent on radio, his true passion has always been the development and mentoring of young talent. He now works as a talent coach and radio consultant. Find out more at craigbrucecoaching.com

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