You are famous- here, do a show!
If you scroll through the comments on socials or web regarding and celebrity stand in or hires for roles on air you find a general feeling of unrest to put it mildly. Now I know that the overwhelming advice screaming at us is “DON’T READ THE COMMENTS!” and for good reason but just take a second to analyse it a tad.
I’d like to credit John Pye- former Smooth Lake District presenter, which is where we met and became friends. He suggested this topic the other week and thanks to John for the inspiration and suggestion.
The main complaint about a “celeb hire” is that they are not an experienced practitioner in the role they are being hired for. So in the case of radio, they might be a singer, actor etc and dropped into a radio presenting role. You can see the argument as to their suitability and lack of radio presentation experience but in all honesty that view is a little simplistic. That view might offend, but let me expand it. Just because someone has little experience doesn’t mean they should be discounted, they might be untested but have something to offer. I’ve worked with people who are not seasoned radio professionals who have come up through the ranks and honed their craft, and instead they have come from another walk of life and have picked up the requirements really well and communicated very effectively. Equally I’ve worked with some who really have not! The argument that, “they take the jobs of media professionals”, is a little odd since it’s not a binary choice, and not hiring the celeb doesn’t mean it goes to a media pro or (and that’s the inference), their replacement will do a better job at it. I’ve worked with media professionals who have been worse than inexperienced celebs and stuck in their ways, incapable of taking advice or coaching so there are examples on both sides.
An inexperienced or inept “celeb name” parachuted into a show beyond their natural or assisted skill set, is seldom their fault. Someone in a programming role made a bad choice.
What is the desire? Buying a bit of glamour, a bit of the publicity, a rub off of some of the celebrity lustre is the hope from the station. It also could give a message of intent. A demonstration of a motive, power and desire from the station. Equally I’ve seen bad cases of that in action when programmers have been just trying to shout, “Look who I can hire!”- to anyone within listening distance. Generally the wrong reason to do it, I’d argue.
Hiring the right name- even without the legacy in the radio industry can give you some credibility or the brand some credibility and catapult it’s reputation more than a period of advertising. As an example- actually of something which didn’t come off the way originally intended for me. When at the Jack group and with Union Jack Dance, under the auspices of the Audio Content Fund the fantastic guys at This Is Distorted (Andi Durrant and Alex Jungius) pitched an idea for a short run series of shows for UJD. “Dance Britannia” hosted by Sister Bliss would feature interviews with the likes of Norman Cook, Paul Oakenfold, Groove Armada, Orbital etc- all friends and acquaintances of Sister Bliss and would showcase and celebrate the huge influence of British born dance music. I was really excited at the concept of this from a UJD perspective as it would have been bullseye for the station, establish a level of credibility- which was growing anyway at the time. Now, as Andi explains in the Radio Academy podcast in February- whilst it was a casualty of the demise of the UJ stations and at that time one of my regrets, thankfully it came to life with Kisstory. I would highly recommend a listen if it gets a repeat at anytime. This example of the right celebrity names, in the right format, on the right station, at the right time, for the right reasons just ticks lots of boxes.
Ultimately the reasoning has to be correct. The support has to be correct if the experience isn’t there and the most successful examples are a combination of both. Mistakes happen, and I’m actually very forgiving for most- its good to try things and fail, rather than not bother and miss something which could be wonderful.
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