..AND OTHER ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I GET ASKED ABOUT BREAKFAST RADIO.
It might be just small talk but there are a bunch of questions I always get asked about working on breakfast radio shows. I love my work and I love the the convos – so don’t stop asking. But in case you’ve wondered, been too shy or even if you’re just keen to get into the game (do it!) here are a few common questions about the gig, with my answers. Of course these answers won’t match up with all the people you listen to on radio, but after 16 years working breakfast hours, I reckon they’re be a fair indication of the norm.
Do you get to choose your own music? No. As much as they would probably like to, no radio announcer in a commercial station is choosing their own playlist.
Who chooses the music? The Music Director, or "MD". For most people their favourite thing about radio is the music, so we do our best to play as much of it as possible. During our show, the anchor plays a preselected list of songs, scheduled by our MD. There are so many reasons why we need to stick to the schedule, but I'd say the main reason is to be consistent. At 96fm we're known for playing great gold tracks. If we were to suddenly put on a new pop track just because one of us likes it - we wouldn't sound like 96fm.
How do you get used to waking up at 330 each morning? You don’t. No one ever gets used to that.
What time do you go to bed? Everyone has a different approach to managing the early mornings and likes to talk up the reasons why theirs is better than say, their co-hosts’. I used to love staying up late (10pm) with my husband and stepson, then take a nap during the day. But lately I've struggled to day-sleep. So, I've had to suck it up and start going to bed at 8pm. Which sucks, because not only do I spend less time with my family, I also miss some of the best stuff on TV! Which leads me to..
Is watching TV part of your job? It actually is. I try to be across whatever my station’s target audience might be. So if MKR is rating well with 25-54 year olds, I make sure I check it out. Then, if something worth talking about comes up on the show, I pitch a break or phone topic about it for the next day. The nightly TV news is generally the highest rating event of the night, so I watch it, no questions asked. Doing this means I can be confident a decent chunk of our audience will have a point of reference and be able to relate to what I’ve just said. Being relatable is where it’s at ;)
You must be a morning person, right? I’m actually not. I’d like to tell you I’ve embraced the early mornings and that even on the weekends I’m up by 5am getting stuff done, but it just hasn’t happened. It’s not like I’m grumpy at work in the mornings, but I feel like I’m the slowest to get going! Getting out of bed hurts and I’m almost always just a little bit late, but by the time we sit down for our 5am meeting and I’ve had that first coffee, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve also worked hard to make sure my diet supports good sleep and energy levels. I’ve found a few simple things that have really made a difference. Maybe that’s for another blog ;)
What if you’re just having a bad day? Yeah, life happens, and some days are definitely been harder than others. But you know how when you’re feeling crappy your friends can make you feel better? Working with a breakfast radio team can have the same effect. It sounds a bit “Pollyanna” but I’m lucky to work with people who I’ve genuinely become friends with – and they’re all funny! We might laugh over some silly news story, or spend some time looking for the funny side of a tiff one of us has had with our partner – it doesn’t take long to get in the right headspace for the 3 hours of live radio ahead.
How do you come up with things to talk about? Ideas come from all over the place. I already mentioned TV, but I also remind myself to get out of the house often. Having conversations and doing everyday activities are the things that generate stories and ideas. I keep a list of quirky things that happen in my phone so I don't forget.
Do you work from a script? We plan everything we say! Even though it doesn’t sound that way ;) But, whilst we carefully plot the times we’ll speak about certain things, share our stories and even workshop parts of them before the show starts, we prefer not to use a script. For me, it was a real breakthrough when I learned to speak on radio the same way I would with a friend. Sure, there’s a mud map of a few points to make sure I don’t take too much time, but on the whole, I just get in the moment and tell Fitzi what happened. Being focused on the studio (and not a script) makes it so much easier to sound natural – and to interact when someone says something hilarious on the fly. That’s the stuff you can’t plan.
What happens when you’re sick? (Generally) We come to work. I know we're not saving lives, but to justify the show sounding different because it's one person down - my co-host and I agree - you best be pretty crook. I had a few rare days off a couple of months back – when I had a suspected case of mumps! My neck and face had swollen up so much that I could barely swallow let alone talk, but the main reason I stayed home was the risk of infecting others, not my puffy face.
Do you think you’ll do it forever? I can’t confidently predict that. :) When it comes to my contract with my current employer – I’ll turn up as long as they’ll have me. Radio jobs depend on not just your relationship with your employer but also results. An awareness that it'll come to an end one day is just part of it. You also need to take into account the impact of working those early mornings for such a long time. It affects your family life, friendships and health in so many ways (more stuff for another blog). Mind you, when I think about working 9-5 I realise I’d miss the flexibility I have during the week right now – I can go to an appointment, do the shopping, or meet my husband for lunch pretty much any day of the week. I know how lucky that makes me.
Do you just wear your PJs to work? No. Do you?!
That last one always makes me laugh! And, it's just about all I can think of. Do you have any other questions? Maybe you work in radio too and have some different answers, or thoughts on what I've said here - let me know. And if you're keen to get into radio yourself, (even after hearing about the 330am alarm and requirements to actually dress) get in touch. Radio needs talented people so step right up. I'd love to help you make your mark.