Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Embrace The Snoop!

I love Pete Wagstaff.  He gave me my first break in the radio world and gave me my first Breakfast Show canvas to paint with.  I was going through some old emails and I came across one of our old snoop sessions (he'd email you snoops instead of actually sitting down with you) - this was personally one of my favourites.

He has a way with words, does he not?

It wasn't until I started working for Orion Media in 2010 that I experienced a true radio snoop session and I have had them on a pretty much weekly basis ever since...and any radio persons worth their salt I know go through the same thing as I do.

Today, we're talking about Snoops...and not of the diggity-dizz-og type.  I mean the radio type!

One thing that a programme controller can say to a radio presenter that will make the blood run cold:  "We'll have a snoop tomorrow."

You know that you've gotta be on your absolute A-Game the next day.  You've got to hit every post, sound as tight and as polished as you can because tomorrow your links will be placed under a microscope and cross-examined by the person that can very well make or break your radio career.

Few palms getting sweaty reading this?

The truth is, and all us fragile-egoed radio presenters know this deep down - a snoop session isn't a witch hunt.  A snoop session is designed so that your programme controller can devote a solid hour or so of his or her time to helping you improve your already awesome work.  It's designed so a fresh set of ears can say "You said it like that...but what if you said it like this..." and a good radio presenter will use these sessions to hone their craft, try out new ways of doing things and get even better than they are.  A better show means more listeners, larger RAJAR graphs to admire and more money into the sales department.

But why do we, as jocks, get nervous when we get snooped?  What have we got to hide?  Surely if you know you are working at the absolute best of your abilities you have nothing to be worried about.  I guess it's the equivalent of a teacher marking your work in front of you; you don't know what you don't know, and that worries us.

To make you feel better, if you're a jock with a snoop session coming up, I'd like to share some of my "Greatest Hits" from snoop sessions past.  Most of which I agree with completely and have exorcised out of my repertoire.   Some are...well, read on.

"Stop shouting"
When I took over Breakfast on Signal107 my boss, and even his boss, devoted a lot of time to snooping me, to bring me along - and stop me shouting on air - as quickly as possible.  Sometimes these sessions would be intense and I'd come out considering re-training as a milkman because I clearly wasn't getting this radio lark...but overall their work moulded me, and continues to mould me, into the presenter I am today.  If it hadn't been for Dicky Dodd and Terry Underhill (also Chris Buckley from Signal1 and Johnny Collins from Juice FM who have also snooped me in the last twelve months) I would still be "The Shouty Man" who laughed like an idiot and talked far too much.

We all still get on too, despite all those snoop sessions...here's proof!

"You're too childish!"
Admittedly, talking with Lee Burton about playing the Sega Megadrive and remarking to Ruth, the newsreader, about watching Dextor's Laboratory all weekend, isn't really stuff the target demographic wanted to hear, nor would they react to.   I had to refine what I spoke about so it was in keeping with the audience who listened.  I'm not a family man, a homeowner, I don't have kids and I don't really like football and DIY, but I've learned how to create content that the target demo seems to enjoy - and that's been through consistent snoop sessions.

"You sound very end-of-the-pier"
This was from a Programme Controller I used to work for in 2011 who pigeon-holed me very quickly as, a bit cheesy.  I was far too keen on getting punchlines in and not sounding "cool" that I stuck out like a sore thumb on a station that had a very particular sound throughout the day.  I worked in this group for a year before I joined UTV...I was surprised I lasted that long.

"Tom Campbell is a Rinky-Dink Butlins Redcoat"
By far the GREATEST insult I've ever had from a programme controller.  The same programme controller as above...although this was apparently said in a meeting after I'd left to join the competition.  I say "apparently" as I have no proof, just what others have told me.  Ho and indeed hum.

But do you know what the WORST sort of snoop session is?  No snoop session at all.

When a Programme Controller stops coaching you it means one of two things; either THEY are going or YOU are going.  So when you walk into your manager's office and they hit play on that clumsy link you did at ten to eight in which you got the station name wrong and crashed the vocals just remember...deep down they do it because they love you.

Even if it's just an email saying "shut up" - it still counts as love.