Liberty Radio Awards winners. Picture: SUPPLIED
Liberty Radio Awards winners. Picture: SUPPLIED

A panel of young “firelighters” discussed their career path into the radio industry and where they see the industry going in the years ahead at the Liberty Radio Awards Conference held in Sandton on Saturday.

Amoré Swanepoel, general manager at Mediaheads, discussed how she got involved with campus radio while at the North-West University, first as a news reader and later as news editor, programme manager, advertising manager and eventually station manager. “The radio bug bit,” she said.

After leaving university she moved into the advertising side of the radio industry and was quickly involved in numerous radio campaigns on behalf of clients. It was a huge move from campus radio to the commercial side of the business, she concedes, but not one she has regretted.

One of her biggest learnings has been the realisation that from an advertising perspective, she needs to find the sweet spot that will allow clients to stand out from the clutter.  “It’s becoming increasingly evident that many stations are ‘sticking branding on’ that is not authentic,” she said.

Keneilwe (Kenzy) Mohapi, music compiler and presenter at Jacaranda FM, agreed that authentic connections are vital. “Radio is all about connections, which means that the right content is imperative. You need to understand your market and what your audience wants.”

She said her biggest frustration as an on-air presenter relates to getting a brief. “I don’t just want a brief. I want to understand the brand, because only then can I tell an authentic story.”

The panel agreed that the radio industry collectively was innovating in order to keep the medium relevant. “Radio is certainly not dead; it does have some new shoes,” said Mohapi. “We’re very fortunate in SA that audiences continue to engage with radio.” She said the industry needs to embrace the changes in the media landscape.

Lwazi Mpofu, a former programme manager at MFM 92.6, said the industry needed to invest more effort towards finding out what its audiences like and don’t like. “We don’t delve deeply enough into what our audiences want,” he said.

The big take-out

Radio stations need to spend more time understanding what their audiences really want.

Mpofu, who is completing his masters in communication, said it’s important to have a career plan. He advised those entering the industry to be patient. A career in radio is a journey, he said, and new entrants to the industry are unlikely to get a job on a commercial station at the outset of their career.

Motseki Mabuya, station manager at Bokamoso FM, chose a job at the newly established Voice of Thembisa over a career in the army at the outset. During the course of his radio career the entrepreneurial Mabuya has started his own media company and bought a Lesotho-based radio station.

Radio, he pointed out, is a business, and it’s only when you understand its impact that you can tap into its power. If you want to succeed in this industry you need to understand the radio business and your audience, he said.