Top Anchor spills the beans (pt 2)

This article originally appeared on Radio Today in May last year. With news of Ian's return to Brisbane radio we thought it deserved another run.

In September 2011, 4MMM’s breakfast show, The Cage, was let go. For legendary breakfast anchor Ian Skippen it meant that his 23 years with Austereo had come to an end.

Radio Today's Greg Smith sat down for a chat with Skip, you can read part 1 of the interview here.

Today, we publish part 2.

Greg: Map out a typical work day as a breakfast anchor?

Ian: This won’t be for everyone it was just my way.

Up at 2.30am and arrive on station at 3.15. Check the studio to make sure all is OK. Chairs, headphones, mikes etc. It’s amazing how many times I’ve walked in and found a mike missing. I don’t want any surprises when kick off comes. Clean up the desks and “Glen 20” the mikes. No I’m not a clean freak, my wife would testify to that. I’d also listen to stuff we were going to use in the show and edit anything else if required.

Out to the office to go through emails that have come in overnight. I could also access my work computer from home so I could be across our emails of an afternoon and lob any relevant stuff into our meeting next morning or discuss with our producer then and there. One email or letter/call from a listener can be a generator for your next great show tactic/story arc /idea. I am anal about reading and responding.

I would then surf the Courier Mail site and the other News Ltd national dailies, entertainment sites and also see what was trending on social media, copying relevant stories that I thought might have “legs” for us. I’d keep an eye on funny/weird stuff I could pass on to our “funny guy”. While doing this I would also be singing out to our producer/ crew ideas on the run.

Suddenly it’s 4.45 and we’re in for planning with the whiteboard handy seeing what we’d thrown up the day before and if it was still relevant. Phone topics that seemed like a good thing yesterday don’t seem so good in the light of a new day and fresh minds. We’re all eating/ cooking breakfast {Part One} while we’re doing this. Everyone will have brought something to the table apart from food; it’s discussed and run with or tossed. Pretty democratic really.

During this time we also might be recording material for inclusion in the show.

5.30/9…the show’s the thing. Hang on for the ride and hopefully all touch down at the same time.

Post show…good to have a bit of a break/breakfast {Part Two} before you get back into it. Check emails etc quickly.

9.30ish…Production bits/interviews

10ish…Show debrief with PD/CD then plan next day’s show.

Sometimeish…Meetings re promos and marketing re show specific content (current and upcoming). Brainstorms for client briefs and pitches.

Pre lunchish…Respond to emails, head to studio to listen/edit interviews.

12.30ish…head for the hills or function.

Afternoon…After lunch I’d have a workout /exercise of some kind. Try to have a read or watch IQ’d stuff on telly without nodding off. Like to cook so I’d get dinner ready…watch news, check emails and computer stuff..

9ish…hit the sack ready to do it all again the next day.

Greg: What advice can you give PDs or Content Directors on how to get the best out of their breakfast show?

Ian: Look, everyone is different. Each PD or CD will have their own personality, their own expectations and their own way of dealing with talent. Like talent some are better than others. We all have different strengths…and weaknesses…and we all make mistakes…even the greatest PD’s or CD’s.

I think Trust and Respect are the most important qualities to foster.

Also to create an environment that encourages creativity and gives the team freedom and the knowledge that they can push the envelope and know that you’re behind them 100%.

Make sure they’re having fun. These people are performers, they looove to perform, don’t make it feel like work, they chose to perform  on radio over working in the public service…not that there’s anything wrong with the p.s.
Critique the show, feedback certainly but don’t critique the soul out of the show. I think Brian Ford said it best when he said a great PD will listen twice as much as he talks. One mouth and two ears for a reason.

Give them the time to have a life. It’s pretty hard for a person you’ve employed to share their life stories, when you’re sucking up the time of their life. To talk about your life, you first have to have one.

Appreciate that we are all working to a common goal. We all want to be the best; it’s not a competition about who’s more passionate. Know that no one sets out to have a dud show, every show is a great show it’s just that some are greater than others.

Greg: In all your years at Austereo Brisbane what are the critical things you learnt ranking them 10 through 1?

10. The listener is King.

9. It’s always dark at 2.30.

8. Consistency wins.

7. The listener is still King.

6. The best ideas aren’t always yours.

5. Content is King.

4. Content can kill the listener.

3. Tiredness can kill the talent…and the listener.

2. You can’t teach passion.

1. The whole station works on your show, you just happen to be the lucky person who sits in the front window. You represent everyone in everything you do on and off air. Together you’ll keep the listener on the throne…at least until the jester tells a crap joke or makes a derogatory remark about a journalist…or   even more serious the anchor crashes a vocal…………..AND…..YOU MUST HAVE FUN !

Seriously, we call it work…digging a ditch, that is work. We are so lucky to be involved in the industry. We should never forget that radio was started to be a part OF a community not apart FROM the community. Every contact someone has with the station, be it physically or via email/calls/letters/website, it should be a positive experience. It should be a WOW factor. Everyone on staff, not just the talent, is an ambassador for your brand.

Greg: What’s next for Ian Skippen? (*Note – this interview originally ran in May 2012, he is now hosting 4BC breakfast)

Ian: Well there’s no alarm at 2.30. I can’t tell you how liberating it feels to not have to worry about an alarm.

It’s been six months and I can’t believe how busy I’ve been. I’ve had a list of “stuff” that I wanted to get through which I’m getting to the end of, and I’ve had a fair few charity events etc and voice overs as well. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my Mum and Dad aged 91 and 87 respectively.

I’ve gone on the board of Keep Australia Beautiful (Q’ld). I think they want to clean up my act.

I’ve also done many coffees and lunches.

I was pretty sanguine about the end in September.  I reckon in my heart I was ready for something else. I’ve always subscribed to the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy and I’ve had a great 42 years in the industry…and more to come when I work out what I want to do when I grow up.

I really have a blank canvas in front of me that allows me to put my hand up for anything. I do know that at the end of May I’m heading off to Tanzania to the School of St. Judes to do some volunteer work. My brother-in-law has an education based software company that does pro-bono work for the school and he needs to head over and asked me if I wanted to come… I jumped at the chance so we’re doing a safari and Zanzibar as well.

So that’s the immediate. I haven’t gone knocking on doors just yet, although I have had some interesting phone calls.  I am enjoying the so called “downtime”, but “Out of Africa” I reckon I’ll be up for the next chapter. So maybe I need to place a classified in Radio Today, the Numero Uno of radio websites in the country.

SKIP’S MOUTH AND BRAIN FOR HIRE… (can do lawns and hedges and great coffee).

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