You’ve been dreaming about a career in radio ever since your parents noticed that you never stop talking. And not just that, you talk to entertain. You also know all there is to know about the latest news, trends and what’s happening with everyone’s favourite pop idol. Music is your life, and you want people to connect, be enthralled by what you have to report on, and, best of all, share a couple of laughs along the way.

If this all sounds familiar to you, then you’ve come to the right place! You have the personality, now it’s time to find out if you really have what it takes.

So, what’s the best way to get into this industry? Take it from the following three radio presenters at OFM:
  • Yolanda Maartens, host of the Mid-Morning Magic show
  • Sam Ludidi, host of Global Top 30 and sports anchor on The Good Morning Breakfast show
  • Shandor Potgieter, host of The Good Morning Breakfast show
1. How did you get into a career in radio?

Maartens: I started off in student radio where, for two years, I did everything from graveyard shifts to reading the news or researching information about music. Then, in 2009, I won OFM’s ‘On Air Search’ competition, which enabled me to join commercial radio.

I initially broadcast from their Potchefstroom studio, and then in 2011, I was asked to join their afternoon drive team as a producer at their main studio in Bloemfontein. Here, I also did something of everything — from reading sport and traffic to finding interesting content from around the world.

Ludidi: When I was around the age of 15, I remember listening to the radio in the car with my father, and I looked at him and told him, “I could do this”. My dad told me to chase the dream — not for fame, but for the love of the industry.

I ended up at the University of the Free State, knowing very well that they had an active campus radio station. I spent six years at the station as a presenter, sports presenter, sports editor and programming manager before joining the OFM team.

Potgieter: Radio found me. My career started in music, and then after a tour that I did in partnership with OFM, where I did a few stand-in shows as a guest presenter, the bug bit and I got the opportunity to get behind the mic full time

2. What advice would you give to people looking to get into the radio industry?

Maartens: Practice reading aloud — a lot. Spend time talking to anyone you can find about anything that interests them. This way, you will practice your creativity when it comes to on air content. And perhaps, as a last bit of advice, make sure you can do basic audio editing and that you have some insight into social media and web page management.

3. What qualities do you think the best radio presenters have?

Maartens: Sincerity — people want to relate to someone that they feel is their friend on air. Someone who shares in their wins and cries with them through their struggles.

Ludidi: One of the best qualities for a radio presenter to have is humility, to start with. It’s important to be able to, amidst all the chaos, humble yourself and still be able to connect on a personal level with your listeners.

Adaptability is [also] crucial. A show can change in a matter of seconds, and one needs to know how to roll with the punches.

Confidence goes without mention, along with being very open-minded and willing to learn. You learn each day in this industry, and if you aren’t open to constructive criticism and learning each day, it’s going to be a hard time.

Potgieter: You need to be fast on your feet, be able to work under pressure and be relatable.

4. What’s the best part about working in this profession?

Maartens: Connecting with people from various ages and backgrounds through music. Every day, you learn something about your audience, and more often, about yourself.

Ludidi: The best part about being in this industry is being able to be a positive part of someone else’s life. The fact that, each day, we get to speak to people and help them along their day is irreplaceable.

Potgieter: No two days are the same.

5. Are there roles available in the radio industry for people who don't want to be on the air?

Maartens: Absolutely. Radio also lives online, and if you are able to create content for blogs / websites, find interesting local stories, practice writing, or, if you are able to edit audio and video — you can definitely find a space in radio.

Of course, there is also the journalism side of radio if you were interested in being a voice for local news.

Ludidi: 100% — radio is not just on-air. I think we get to be the faces and voices of everyone else’s hard work behind the scenes. Sales, marketing, news, journalists, managers, music office ... The list is endless.

Potgieter: Yes, you can work in the music department, content (developing campaigns and competitions), marketing ... the possibilities are truly endless.

6. What does a typical workday for you involve?

Maartens: There is an old rule that says, “For every hour on-air, you spend an hour off-air preparing for it.” Much of my time is spent recording interviews with experts about topics that would be informative to our audience. I have a specific focus on children, parents, lifestyle and the arts.

Once these interviews are recorded, they need to be edited and uploaded to our play-out system as well as our website. This involves research in order to have the correct information online. Much time is also spent on social media — engaging with our audience on our official platforms as well as my personal platforms.

Finally, I spend the last part of my preparation ensuring I have read through the adverts of the day and knowing which client is sponsoring which insert: happy clients mean repeat business — and that is how the wheel keeps turning.

Ludidi: I work breakfast from 06:00 to 09:00, so my day [actually] starts at 5:30 at the station where we do a run-through of the show, and chat about what we want to get out of the show.

By 05:45, we’re all in the studio, finalising setups and discussing our first 15 to 30 minutes in more detail. [Discussions include] what our links are going to be and how we’re going to put them together.

From there, we’re in our rhythm, and the show pretty much carries on in those 15 to 30-minute blocks, barring one or two conversations over links, which require more specificity.

Potgieter: If you like to sleep late, don't do breakfast radio. In fact, if you like to sleep at all, don't do it!

A typical day for me would be:

04:00 — Wake up

05:30 — Team show run through

06:00 — Show start

09:00 — Show wrap-up

09:30 — Planning, production and pre-recorded pieces

12:00 — Wrap planning

After planning — Live, do stuff you like. A lot of content comes out of your daily life!

18:00 — MC / Attend functions

22:00 — Get to bed (if I'm lucky)

24/7 — Stay updated and get inspiration from anything that happens all over the world.

7. A lot of people are working from home now. Is there still a role for radio in 2021?

Maartens: Ensuring we have that local flavour, and that we are relating to the journey our audience is on at any given time, gives us the edge over other online streaming options. During lockdown / the pandemic, people wanted to stay informed but they also wanted to be distracted. I think this is where radio stepped up more than any other media / platforms.

We are able to have immediate conversations and engagement with our audience, and they want to have their opinions heard, songs played and thoughts shared. Radio is a very personal medium, and we have the responsibility to respect that and build those relationships with people.

Ludidi: There definitely is — even more so now than before, I would say. The biggest thing about radio is companionship along with music, which triggers certain feelings, emotions and memories.

People being home these days, especially those living alone or in smaller households, will be looking to radio for a break from everyday life.

Potgieter: Now more than ever, yes! Radio is a real-time informant and the audience wants to be entertained.

8. How important is it to have media industry knowledge before entering this sector, and why?

Maartens: Although I studied communications, I didn’t have any radio knowledge before I started working in the industry. However, basic media knowledge will bring you far when it comes to prioritising content, finding interesting stories and hosting interviews.

Some basic writing skills will [also] be helpful, and even a bit of journalism could bring you far when it comes to creating content.

Ludidi: The industry can always be learnt, provided [that] you have an open mind and a ‘willing to learn’ personality. But, anywhere you go, experience is key and is invaluable.

However, you need to be in the seat to gain experience, and it becomes the classic situation of: “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” With that being said, junior experience at a campus or community radio level really goes a long way for understanding the game and what it’s all about.

Potgieter: It's not crucial, but it is beneficial. If you do not have the know-how, you will pick it up quite quickly.

So, now that you know what it takes to enter a radio career, do YOU think you have what it takes? Why? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Now that you know what it takes to get into the radio industry, make sure that you’re at your utmost prepared by finding out How radio has been impacted by the ‘new normal’.
*Image courtesy of Canva