Remotes: Make ‘Em Great

Gary Berkowitz

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

From radio’s earliest days, remotes have been a part of our landscape. Today, they still cause much talk at radio stations. Should we do remotes or not is the most commonly asked question (especially among programmers).

At many stations, remotes are necessary, especially this time of year (summer).  So, with that in mind, here are a few tips to make them work for the client as well as your station.

MAKE SURE YOU SOUND GREAT!

Avoid having talent remotes or call in’s on the telephone. Listeners are used to hearing them over the air with finely tuned audio chains. Years ago, getting a good remote phone line was complicated and costly. Not the case today. If you do remotes, invest in one of the many systems that easily produce digital quality over any type of phone.

If you are going to have a PA at the remote, avoid feedback. While PD at WJR in Detroit, we did many remotes and always seemed to have a PA problem. Our Chief Engineer, Ed Buterbaugh, came up with a great solution. Instead of having one or two large PA speakers (that usually cause feedback) he bought 10 smaller, high quality speakers. He would surround the remote site with these. Each had a separate volume control so we could adjust each individually. Since there were many speakers, they did not have to run at high levels. We never had feedback on remotes again.

SOUND GREAT: LOOK GREAT

The fact that listeners cannot see us is a great part of the radio mystique. When we go out on remote that goes away. It is for this reason that we must look great with equipment and sets as well as talent. If you use a van, make sure it is spotless and always polished. It should not have body damage and the inside should be neat and clean.

Leave the “card table” home. Get an impressive looking “set” to bring on remotes.

All station personnel should be “dressed for success.” Some type of “station wear” should always be worn. Unless you are at a pool/beach/summer outdoor promotion, T-shirts are a no-no. The station should invest in contemporary outfits. Remember that first impressions are lasting ones!

PREPARATION EQUALS SUCCESS

1. Have a plan. Know who is responsible for what. Review and go over the day before. Load the van the day before. Make sure the van is neat and clean inside out.

2. Make sure the account executive is at the remote. Since this is their account, they must plan to be there for the entire event to make sure that client relations are handled in the correct way.

3. Get to the remote site at least two hours ahead of the event. Have plenty of banners and giveaways at the site. Balloons are great. They are inexpensive and kids love them. Do not forget the helium tank. Having some type of gimmick can also be most effective. Some stations have a mascot that hands out pictures. Some have the Money Machine. The more you have to offer the more attractive you are to not only the client, but to perspective listeners.

4. Test the connection to the studio. Make sure you have a good line, and the board op can hear you and you can hear them. In this day and age of advanced technology there is no excuse for the first breaks to be sloppy and all over the place.

5. If you are going live, make sure there is good communication from the remote to the studio. The talent at the remote site must have working headphones to hear.

6. Have a plan/script for all drops/call-in’s. Keep remote drops to :60. Write it down so you do not end up repeating yourself repeatedly. Pre-plan each drop with the client so they will know exactly what they will be getting.

7. Do an email blast before the remote. If you have a database, send out e-mails to the database letting them know that you are coming to their neighborhood. Invite them to come and meet you. Won’t you look great to the client when you load the place up with people!

Finally: Record the drops

When you are doing one or two drops an hour, many stations find that recording the drops is more effective than doing them live. This way if an error is made, it can be re-done. Over the years, I did many a remote this way and listeners never realized the talent was recorded. This also allowed talent more time at the remote site to meet, entertain and talk to listeners.

Hopefully these tips will help you turn your next remote into a win-win for everyone!

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Gary can be reached at (248) 737-3727 or gary@garyberk.com.

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