The Importance of Clock Management By Andy Meadows

Anyone who watched the NFL playoffs this year got to see first-hand the importance of clock management. In a highly competitive professional sport, where everybody is incredibly talented, often mere seconds determine who hits the beach early and who gets to keep playing. It also became abundantly clear which teams had effectively emphasized clock management in practice so they would be adequately prepared on game day, and which ones hadn’t (ie my Cowboys!) The same is true in radio, where we often spend lots of time developing features/benchmarks/contests and other content (All of which are incredibly important of course) but little time working on the skill of clock management, which is equally important. 

Learning how to effectively manage the clock within an airshift is certainly an acquired skill. That’s one of the many reasons we start green on-air talent in shifts where there’s less to manage. That way as they slowly move up the ranks to the primetime shifts they’re only adding one or two more hourly elements an hour to manage. But, even veteran on air talent who’ve learned to handle news, weather, traffic, benchmarks/features, contests, etc., can start to get complacent when it comes to clock management if they’re not careful. 

On air clock management entails basically three things. First, where within the show to place specific kinds of content. Granted depending on the on-air personalities clout they may have little input on where to put service elements, so let’s focus on features/benchmarks, other content and contests. We start by looking at the likely listening habits within that market during that daypart and try to determine the highest likelihood of strong listenership, then place our content most likely to cause a listener to set an appointment to listen there. Then work backwards placing secondary content in the second most likely available place and so on. The second way clock management impacts the execution of an air shift is the strength of the host’s internal clock, another thing that takes time, practice, self-analysis, and outside coaching to sharpen. There are few things more valuable to an on-air personality than understanding how long to structure specific types of breaks, where and when to bail within organic breaks and how to tactfully bow out of live interviews (Hopefully most of those are pre-recorded whenever possible anyway). The third and final clock management question to solve is where, when, what and how to tease

Coming up with the actual on-air content is the fun part, it gets the creative juices flowing, we get lots of pats on the back when we develop something cool (especially something cool that’s also very sponsorable). But, all the good on air segment ideas won’t amount to a lot if we don’t take the time (bad pun intended) to learn how to manage our clocks. 

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