Careers in Communication: Move Your Career Into Radio Broadcasting
The world is full of creative people who want to be involved in the communication revolution. Most people’s first thought is that today’s communication careers are online, but don’t neglect the possibility of carving out a future in broadcast radio.
The basic principle of radio broadcasting has been around for a century, but it would be a big mistake to think that it is being superseded by new media. When surveyed, the vast majority of people spend some time each week listening to the radio. It is still by far the preferred option for drivers and people getting going in the morning. Think about it:
- The radio takes decisions for you about what to listen to when your attention needs to be elsewhere. You don’t want to be choosing a new song every five minutes, and you don’t necessarily want to listen to a playlist you compiled before.
- On the radio, you are developing a relationship with the broadcaster. When you find someone whose style and taste you enjoy, you can let them be a fellow traveler. You can listen to interviews and opinions. If a broadcaster you trust introduces something new, you are willing to give it a try.
- Much radio is fairly local, so includes news, presented in an accessible way, that you may not catch on other media.
That said, radio has certainly changed as a result of the challenges of online communication. It is not a matter of a new format replacing an old, but rather of an old life form evolving into a symbiotic relationship with a new.
Who Do You Know?
In common with many creative industries, getting into a career in radio is largely a matter of getting known. Personal contacts are everything, and the energy with which you are prepared to make those contacts will be a measure of your passion for the world of radio.
Demonstrating passion counts for a lot when executives are looking to fill a position on a project. You can gain experience and show dedication by becoming involved in small-scale voluntary stations such as hospital or college radio projects.
A starting point could be to attend a college course in radio and broadcast media, but a more practical alternative may be a recording school where you are placed with a mentor in a real life recording environment. By this method, you gain on-the-job understanding of an aspect of radio work that you choose while getting hands-on practical experience and, crucially, making contacts with professionals working in the medium.
A more traditional route into the industry would be through an internship. The fact that so much radio is locally based works to your advantage. It’s easier to make contact with decision makers, there are likely to be roles available closer to the creative action, and you will be able to work within easy traveling distance of your home.
Larger broadcasting businesses do take on interns, but often the openings to get practical experience in the areas which appeal to you will be limited by the nature of the internship program.
Where Do You Want to Go?
Whichever sort of internship you aim for, it is good to know where you want to end up. Broadly speaking, there are two streams that you could choose between.
You could work up through the practical line, as a promotions assistant. You have to be willing to work long hours, to be a jack-of-all-trades, and to be adept at juggling different tasks. One moment you could be answering the phone, the next setting up recording equipment, and the next planning a promotional event.
An alternative route is through the commercial angle as a sales assistant. Sales are now more than ever a vital element of keeping a radio station on the road. To be successful in the industry, sales staff need to be dedicated, quick-thinking, and able to see to the heart of what customers want. If you adore radio but do not see yourself as having a future on the creative side, this could well suit you.
Radio—A Great Future
Far from falling by the wayside in the era of online communication, radio is blossoming through the adaptation of old principles to new technologies. As a career, radio has the added advantage that it evokes a passionate enthusiasm amongst a huge range of people. It is still a hard profession to enter, but once inside the rewards can be immense.
RRFC’s origins date back to the 1980s. The founder and CEO James Petulla (then a working DJ at a radio station) was teaching classes at a broadcasting trade school. Seeing a clear disconnect between how the school taught its students and the students’ ability to actually break into radio, he believed there had to be a better way to help students get jobs in radio once they graduated.
Knowing the radio business, he realized that the people most likely to get hired were the people who had already gotten in the door of the radio stations, not the ones simply flashing their trade school diplomas. He came up with the idea of the mentor-apprentice approach. Students could bypass the “internship” stage and simply be trained on-the-job by working DJs. Thus, the Radio Connection was born. The concept worked so well. And so quickly that James began looking for other industries in which the mentor-apprentice approach could help students break in. Not long after, the school expanded to include the Recording Connection; a few years later, the Film Connection; and more recently, the RRF Culinary Arts School.