Cherry Shaw explains how a job in radio paved the way for her future career.
My first proper job was at a speech based radio station, Talk Radio, which is now Talk Sport. I studied Communications and Audio-Visual Production at university and as part of the final year of my course we had to do a month of work experience in a related industry. I loved radio production, mainly because I had an excellent tutor, so I knew that radio was where I wanted to do my work experience.
I wrote to lots of different stations and was lucky enough to be asked to go in for a mini interview with the producer of Talk Radio’s Drivetime Show. I got on really well with her from our first meeting and she asked if I could start my work experience the next day! My work experience soon turned into a paid freelance role a few days a week once I left university.
I found that I loved the high pressure environment of radio. For the Drivetime Show we all had to be in at 10am to do a news sweep, which involved looking through the newspapers, newswire, press releases and television news. At 11am we’d have a planning meeting where we’d agree the main stories we were going to pursue and our target guests. I’d then set to work to try to secure the guests.
Picking up the phone to celebrities, politicians and other well-known experts was really daunting at first. I’d have to have a little chat with myself to rehearse what I was going to say before I picked up the phone. We used to lose out frequently to Radio 4, so we had to get our requests in quickly. I also learnt to develop good relationships with the print journalists, as they were often happy to share their story contact if we gave their article a plug in the show!
We went on air at 4pm, so everything was frantic until then. Guests would pull out, running orders would move around and our presenter would change his mind about his approach to a certain story. We all needed to be flexible and calm. My producer was amazingly calm, creative and determined. She always got the story she wanted and I learnt so much from her that I have taken through my career.
Radio was and is a great grounding for a variety of roles in media and communications. I left Talk Radio when a management buy out occurred and it became Talk Sport. Lots of my colleagues were going for the same jobs and I felt really concerned that I wasn’t going to get another job. My producer said to me, “Cherry, you spend every day fighting off PR people because you know that the story isn’t right for the show. Why don’t you think about PR? You’ve got a really strong sense of what makes a good news story.” She was right, I applied for a few PR roles and got two offers because they loved the fact that I’d worked on the other side of the fence. I’ve worked in PR and Marketing ever since but wouldn’t have had such an appreciation of skills such as team working, meeting deadlines and coping under pressure, if it wasn’t for my first job in radio.
Cherry Shaw now heads up marketing and communications activities at icould.com.