What makes a great program director? by Paul Kaye

Paul Kaye


by Paul Kaye

PSR Contributor

Tuesday July 11, 2017


What makes a great program director?

Programming a radio station is not an easy assignment. The program director (or brand director or content director — there are so many labels for the role today) collaborates in the creation of the strategic plan and takes responsibility for its effective implementation. It’s a big undertaking. Programmers have to balance the science of radio programming with the art of content creation. They have to take the station they can hear in their head and make it come alive through sound. They must recruit and develop a team of highly creative, challenging and determined individuals and make them work as a cohesive team. They have to find ways to continuously keep the radio station top of mind in a time where consumers have never had more choices and less time. They have to stay up to date with the ever changing competitive landscape (no longer just limited to terrestrial radio) and anticipate future trends. Most importantly, they have to perform under the constant pressure of needing to deliver winning ratings to the sales department.

Experienced programmers make running a radio station seem almost effortless. They seem energized by the immense challenge in front of them rather than daunted by it. What is it that these great programmers know that the rest don’t?

We spent some time considering that question and came up with a list of traits and behaviors that we see in great programmers. If you want to be a better programmer, maybe this list will help you identify areas of personal development. If you are a GM looking to hire your next great programmer, maybe you will find this a useful tool for evaluating candidates.

Great programmers are…

  • Strategic
  • Decisive
  • Obsessive
  • Opportunistic
  • Creative
  • Positive
  • Relentless
  • Focused
  • Confident communicators
  • Nurtures (of talent and teams)

Great programmers know…

  • … what makes their station different. The station’s unique offering is crystal clear to them. They know the need – or mood – their station serves.
  • …. they have the same 60 minutes as their competitors to program each hour. They use that time to battle for the listener’s attention; offering a consistent listening experience.
  • … and understand their audience. They have a clear picture of who their station is talking to.
  • … where their time goes. They focus on the important tasks more than the urgent tasks.
  • … how to sustain a “no surprises” environment for the GM.
  • … how to create a positive, creative, stimulating and challenging working environment.
  • … they can’t execute the plan alone. They build great teams.
  • … successful talent development is building on people’s strengths, not weaknesses.
  • … that what they keep off the air is often more important than what they put on the air.
  • … taking risks is needed in the constant pursuit to innovate and evolve.
  • … that even the Titanic was sinkable!

Great programmers ask…

  • … for — and value — the opinion and ideas of others.
  • … a lot of questions. They are innately curious about everything.
  • … what can we do today — this minute – to get the station noticed?
  • … how can I help my team learn and grow today?
  • … is there a way to make the station more compelling, topical, local, entertaining informative, relatable or memorable today?
  • … which of my talent is in the bottom 10% of the team (on and off the air), and what’s the plan for improving or replacing them?
  • … where is my next talent hire coming from?

Great programmers don’t…

  • … underestimate their competition.
  • … waste branding opportunities.
  • … become — or allow their team to become — complacent.
  • … stop learning and developing themselves. They stay on top of new thinking, trends, technology.
  • … allow the morale to be anything other than positive amongst the team.
  • … over-complicate things. They know the secret to success lies in simplicity.

Most importantly, great programmers know that building a memorable radio station is a marathon with no finish line — the price of success is always more competition. It’s not a job for the faint hearted.

We are sure there is more we can collectively add to this list. What do great programmers do that the rest don’t? Would love to know your thoughts…


About Paul Kaye

Originally from England, Paul spent nearly a decade programming radio stations in the UK before moving to Canada in 2012. While working for Newcap Radio, Paul programmed Classic Hits, Hot-AC and CHR formats in Vancouver & Calgary. Paul was also Newcap’s National Talent Development Director, tasked with improving performance across all content teams, overseeing syndication and leading talent acquisition. In 2016, he joined Rogers Media, as National Talent Coach and National Format Director (CHR). Paul was somehow named International PD of the year in 2016 (vote re-count pending) and is a certified coach. Paul lives in Toronto and can be reached at ka*******@ma**.com

Other Puget Sound Radio articles by Paul Kaye HERE

Paul’s LinkedIn




  1. Unfortunately, there is nothing new in this article that hasn’t been proferred by PDs and Consultants since radio’s inception. Sure, new platforms with which to integrate, but as a stand-alone medium, zero innovation formattically, talent, strategy and tactics.

  2. Its not that I disagree with you ‘Just sayin”, but lets keep in mind, for old pros like us, we’re all to familiar, but you must realize, Kaye is preaching to an entire new generation. Having said that, I like Paul’s approach and style. I do enjoy his weekly articles here on PSR.

  3. Good point! Newbies will soak it up. As a friend of mine, with a Stanford MBA in Leadership and Business once told me ‘after you’ve lived a while, you know too much.’


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here