June 25, 2014

On Managing College Radio

On Managing College Radio

From January to December 2012 I was the General Manager of UGA’s college radio station, WUOG 90.5 FM. The station is been around for decades, and is one of the older ones still running today. Our membership ranges from 100-300 people, and we either live or auto broadcast 24/7 (unless a raccoon chews through the transmitter, which has happened). I facilitated a board of 14 execs and was responsible for maintaining a high level of accountability and quality, from Music to Programming to Training to Promotions. It was arguably one of the best years of my life, and I learned a ton from managing such a large group of people.

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Giving a speech at our 40th anniversary celebration.

When I left my post at the station in December 2012, I wanted to condense everything I’d learned over the year in a letter to the new executive board. I wrote it January 2013, and I still feel like it’s relevant today. It’s as important to real life as it is to college radio. Here it is:

—Communication — respond to each other ASAP. Respond to emails, texts, phone calls as soon as you humanly can. If you don’t, you may end up forgetting. Phone calls maybe time sensitive, and people are calling because they depend on you. When it comes to emails, if you’re driving or in class or busy, respond and say you’ll get back to them within the next few hours/days/etc. And then get back to them. Be dependable. This is a life thing. If you say you’re going to do something, be accountable for it.

—Be inclusive. New staffers who email you or come to the Open Meeting are making an effort to get involved, and they’re the people we want on staff. Respond to them asap, offer to meet with them over coffee or give them a tour of the station. **Stay in touch with them*** – so many people I’ve talked to who tried to join freshman year ended up quitting because they felt like they didn’t belong there. Make people feel like they belong. This can get overwhelming, especially around the time of the Open Meeting, but it’s so important to not lose people. If it seems like a lot, designate a staffer who can help you with this.

—Ask for help as soon as you know you need it. Ask staffers, ask your GM, ask other execs. Staffers want to help and do more for the station, your GM is there to help you do your job, and other execs have an equally strong interest in the future of the station. Don’t wait until the week of an event to realize you won’t be able to get everything done for it (be it posters, planning, operating, press, etc). When you start a project make a detailed list of everything you’ll need to get done before it happens. If it seems like a lot, reach out.

—Be willing to make changes as long as they’re in the best interest of the station as a whole, don’t make changes or neglect duties because you just don’t want to do them. As a station we must grow and change to keep up, but be absolutely sure that these changes are not in the interest of being lazy.

—Delegate well. Do NOT pawn tasks you don’t like off on other people. They can tell, and they will feel used. Giving people responsibility makes them feel like they’re a part of something. But at the same time, if you delegate a task, you still have to follow up with them. Make a note in your calendar in two weeks to check up with someone on a project so you don’t forget. People won’t take initiative without a little prodding.

—Openness – be clear about what you’re doing without rambling on. Don’t just answer a question if someone asks you, tell them before they ask. What do staffers need to know? What does the exec board need to know at meetings? Staffers aren’t in the exec room with you, they don’t know what you don’t tell them. If you hear about cool internship or job opportunities, reach out to the listserv. Don’t be afraid to use your listserv.

Motivation – if you feel like you’re getting burnt out, tell someone immediately.

Accept criticism gracefully – we are not perfect, we’re humans, and more importantly, we are students. We’re here to learn and grow from this experience. You’ll struggle and falter as an exec because it’s not an easy job and you have classes too, but learning from your mistakes is hugely beneficial. Allow this year to teach you about yourself and figure out your strengths and weaknesses.

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Wearing the cheese hat

What do you think of these suggestions? Is there anything I missed?

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