Monday Memo: Review Airchecks… Later.

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — The radio coaching concept seems quaint now:

  • The single-station PD (remember them?) met with local talent (remember them?) at regular intervals to review a recent show. As a young DJ, I was fortunate enough to work for two PDs who sat me down weekly.
  • Most important thing I learned? Each bit has a beginning, middle, and end.

Back to the future:

  • Whole-cluster “Brand Managers” have replaced PDs, mostly managing feeds from syndicated and/or voice-tracked talent.
  • For remaining station-based talent, routine critique is unlikely. That manager is just TOO busy, and might lack the chops.
  • The product suffers, from content of questionable interest, and unkempt execution that tests listeners’ patience.

Candidly, this is good for my business, because – lacking in-house training – neglected DJs and hosts send me airchecks. And I’m encouraged that podcasters are finding me now too.

  • Tip, whether you’re the coach, the talent, or the self-coaching talent listening to airchecks all alone: Don’t listen to today’s show today. You won’t hear a thing. You’re still in the moment. Listen… later. You hear a month-old show with fresher ears. And hearing a year-old show can be a real ear-opener, because progress-since (or not) can be so obvious.
  • Another tip, which WILL extend Time Spent Listening, will also seem quaint: Actually bothering to script that “beginning” I mention above. And scripting interview questions.

And while I’m sounding-my-age…

  • Even before this dang inflation made everything at Staples more expensive, I was frugal enough to love scrap paper. Admittedly this will seem akin to Seinfeld’s parents dining on Early Bird Specials, but if whatever I’m printing isn’t something I’ll share, I print it on the other side of something I’m done using.
  • “My eyes are fine, but my arms got too short!” So – refusing to wear glasses on-camera during my recently-suddenly-concluded cable news career – I printed-out extra-large-font scripts, as a Teleprompter fail-safe.
  • After the show, I saved those pages for re-use. They piled-up enough that it’s interesting to revisit what’s on-the-other-side-of what I just printed. I end up giving myself “an aircheck meeting,” from work old-enough that what I re-read is instructive.
  • Here – a picture of the actual crumpled page — are two questions from an interview I did a year ago, with an attorney, on a topic that’s even more timely now.

We tend to be our own worst critics. So when I’m coaching a host or DJ or podcaster, the first thing I say after we’ve listened together is “What do YOU think worked?” As I came-upon that TV script page a year later, I was pleased. If you’re still reading this (and if you clicked above to watch the interview video), my beginning-middle-end worked. 

Holland Cooke ( is author of the E-book “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here, and “Inflation Hacks: Save Those Benjamins,” and “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books. HC is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke