If you love radio, Justin Kings is the man to talk to. The head of Bauer Media’s news in the north-east, he’s won seven Sony Radio Academy Awards, with his team being nominated for a whopping 20 awards in just three years. Probably read his advice…
I’ve wanted to work in radio since I was about 11 or 12, after thinking the people on my local radio station sounded like they were having such fun. So, after getting my GCSEs, I did two A-Levels at a place that offered a Media Studies Diploma and also joined a hospital radio station, which got me behind a microphone and proved to be crucial experience. I managed to get a place at the University of Westminster on its BA (Hons) Media Studies (learning media law is essential!) and it was the compulsory work experience placement I undertook at a small station in Milton Keynes that gave me my lucky break. A newsreader called in sick and there was no one to cover except me, which led to my first staff job as a broadcast journalist.
It comes down to this, you have to find a way of putting yourself in front of editors and producers and showing them what you’re made of. You often hear the expression “getting your foot in the door” and it is still important. Once you’re in, be confident and friendly! Be pro-active by thinking of new ideas or questions before the placement even starts. Be flexible and happy to help. And, if you’re given an opportunity to work on a project, give it your all! Once the work is done, ask whoever is managing you for some feedback and take it constructively.
Starting at a small station is not a bad idea at all. Journalists will typically contribute to other areas of the station too, working closely with marketing, programming and commercial. This means it’s a great way of learning how a radio station works. And it often means you quickly get opportunities to develop new skills.
I don’t like to see people who have not listened to my radio station. You might think it’s obvious to tune into wherever you’re applying but you would be surprised at the numbers of people who don’t. It’s a fairly basic but absolutely crucial piece of research for applicants. Listen as much as you can. If you’re asked what you think of the station, give diplomatic feedback. Applicants who only have glowing things to say are most common. A few people have given scathing reviews! Aim for somewhere in the middle. Give a balanced view, explaining what you like and what the station might do differently. It is not only a test of your radio ability but also your confidence and people skills.
any CVs are too long and include information that is irrelevant to the job the applicant is interested in. So, keep it concise – no more than 2 sides of A4 – and emphasise the most relevant information. Make sure it’s easy to read too. Cramped text and tiny font sizes are a turn off and they suggest you’re not a great editor. Also, take time to make your cover letter stand out. So many are identical: “Dear Sir/Madam, Please consider me for future opportunities” etc. Use the cover letter as a way of demonstrating why YOU are the person for the job. Again, be concise but include an idea or something else unique. Think about what makes you stand out from the competition.
Showreels or demos are essential for broadcasting roles. If you want to be an on air journalist, an example of your news presenting and another of your reporting should be sufficient. Aim for a maximum of about 5 minutes. If you’re emailing audio, make sure it isn’t a huge sound file or you risk blocking the editor’s mailbox – an instant disadvantage. Many candidates now upload demos onto audio hosting sites such as Audioboo or Soundcloud. As we increasingly work cross platform, any URLs of online content you’ve produced would also be useful to see. You might include these links in your cover letter.
Ok, confession time. I surprised hospital radio listeners with some colourful language when a jingle failed to play. It was an embarrassing but effective way of learning never to swear in the studio. I am a saint now!
There are always opportunities for the right people. Radio is a competitive industry to break into but we’re continually looking for new talent. As I said before, think about what makes you stand out and find a way of getting this across. Recently a wannabe producer sent a piñata to our office. Once it had been smashed, sweeties and his CV fell to the floor. The programme team talked about it for hours afterwards. What a great way of demonstrating creativity!
1. Love radio by listening as much as you can. Get inspired by favourite stations and broadcasters in the UK and beyond.
2. Use social media to network. Follow decision makers and get closer to them. Use your accounts professionally by sharing ideas and interesting links.
3. Be persistent but don’t become a pain. Don’t let rejections put you off. The industry is fast changing and you might be the perfect person for that next opportunity. Good luck!