A radio content producer oversees the makings of a show by organising overall content, guests, callers and executing competitions (as per the client's instructions). They are also responsible for making sure that paid-for features, adverts and live reads are done by presenters.

Considering how much these individuals do, it's strange how they are often unknown by audiences, and yet, they're the ones that bring a show together. 

Radio content producers need to create an extreme theatre of imagination that will engage listeners because there are no visuals supporting the sound. This is not as easy as it looks as it requires constant creativity.

Many radio shows are aiming to entertain, educate and inform their audiences, but the only thing that can set one apart from the rest is having great content production skills. 

Now, with that in mind, let's tear into the vital skills that will make you reign supreme in this profession:

1. A skilled know-how of target audiences

A radio content producer needs to have a good understanding of the station's audience — particularly the show they are producing for. You also need to consider that each station is unique and has a certain style of programming.

This means that all the story ideas, competitions and live reads should reflect the ethos of the station and should meet the needs and expectations of the listeners.

For example, if you are producing for a commercial radio station like 947, you need to focus on content that will gain the station more listeners as they generate revenue through advertising. These stations use ratings to recommend spots or air to their potential clients.

This means that, if they have more listeners, the clients or ads will reach a large number of people. 

2. Creativity and research skills

Content producers need to research original ideas and be able to come up with a creative angle to a story. This gives them an opportunity to turn new and imaginative ideas into reality. 

According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation deputy director and former SABC radio content producer, Khayakazi Koto, "You need to stay informed. Keep your fingers on the pulse about real issues, so your content can be fresh and relevant to your specific audience."

This means you need to watch and read the news, or conduct more research, in order for you to be updated on current affairs. This will help you generate new ideas that relate to and engage your listeners.

Koto adds, "You must be flexible in your approach, calm, with a good head on your shoulders as things do not always go according to plan. The worst thing would be a producer having a meltdown during a crisis on live radio."

In this profession, things can change at any time. This is the point where you are left with no choice but to think on your feet about the next move. This can be quite challenging, especially for a live radio because there is not enough time and you cannot edit.

Your guest might cancel a live interview at the last minute; this is where you need to make a decision right on the spot. You'll have to consider who else you can contact or what else the presenter can focus on.

3. Good time management

Planning is one of the most vital aspects of effective time management as it helps you achieve your desired goals. As a content producer, you need to plan your day well in advance to make the best possible use of time.

This means knowing how you are going to divide all your content to fit in the show slot. This includes knowing when and how long the presenter will engage listeners or experts and which time is best for executing competitions.

"You have to be goal-oriented and focused with clear timelines because, on radio, literally time is money," Koto says.

On the airwaves, time is a very valuable resource, so it's better to do things as quickly as you can. It is essential for these professionals to respect the clock because every minute that is wasted on air counts - and it's big money! You need to be clear about what you are going to do and when that will be done. 

For example, you can plan to have your show by first initiating a discussion with listeners about Covid-19 symptoms with live reads in between that. Then, you can follow this with expert advice from a health professional about the issue at hand and perhaps hold a competition after.

You also need to remember to arrange interviews with contributors or guests who will be participating on the topic days way before the day of the show, Then, remind them closer to the date so that nothing is forgotten and there are no mishaps.

4. Great interpersonal skills

A radio content producer has to have the ability to interact well with other people. This includes listening carefully, being able to resolve issues effectively, excellent verbal or written communication skills and being able to work with a team. 

"You definitely need great interpersonal skills because you will be dealing with people from all walks of life," Koto explains.

You might argue that people are born with these attributes and they use them on their daily basis, but often, improvement is needed. Especially considering the fact that you are dealing with a massive number of different people.

This might come with pressure and instigate impertinent behaviours from the producer. A listener can have an attitude or manners that really push your buttons but you need to know how to deal with them in a professional manner at all times.

You also have to be open-minded about people's beliefs, conditions, religion and accept how they want to be addressed. For example, people living with disabilities don't want to be referred to as 'disabled people'. It is the same with sexuality; you need to address the LGBTQ+ community in a way that is comfortable or preferable to them.

What other vital skills MUST a radio content producer have? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Hungry for more? Then check out A glimpse into the broadcasting industry: A Q&A with Zanele Potelwa to find out what it takes to be on-air.
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