Unlocking potential when coaching talent…

Jon and Bob Costas

I was talking to Staatalent president Jon Chelesnik the other day and he asked for my thoughts on helping on-air talent create unique content.  It’s a great question: How do you unlock a hosts potential to help them create great, resonating content that is truly their own?

The question is important because I think many (producers, hosts, program directors) are groping around in the dark for answers.  I know I’ve had my ups and downs coaching talent.  In many ways, the talent has the answers, and the PD is a detective searching for clues to help support and elevate the content their talent creates.

Some say “hire good people and then get out of their way.” Obviously there is some truth to this, but I say this is too simplistic, and frankly it’s lazy and just not good enough.

Talent needs a solid foundation to be great.  But you can’t build that foundation without understanding where support is needed.  Some hosts need a sidekick, others a great producer.  Some a sounding board, others a pat on the back.

It’s different for everyone.

My approach has been influenced by a number of really talented people: Bruce Gilbert (former ESPN GM/CBS Dallas), Carl Gardner (market manager Bonneville Seattle), talent coach Bill McMahon to name a few.  Plus talent like Dan Patrick, Mike Greenberg and John Curley, who I’ve been truly blessed to work with, have greatly influenced my approach.

From my perspective, there’s a theme that ties these guys all together; an understanding that beneath it all, creating entertainment via unique content is the key to ratings (and hopefully) revenue goals.

I’ve come to find in working with a diverse group of talent over the years that blending what a host is good at AND what they are passionate about with audience expectations and desires are is THE BEST formula, or blueprint for success.

It’s that sweet spot where the hits to be found. It’s where ratings and revenue live.


In coaching talent, these things are VITAL in helping them create great content:

  1. Accentuate the positive as often as possible.  This means spotlighting what worked to get more of what worked.
  2. Play to their skills:
    1. If they have big opinions, find every way possible to help them deliver more of that via guests, co-hosts, audio clips, opinion pieces, etc.
    2. If they are great interviewers, give them great subjects to interview.
    3. If they use sound to make their points, feed them as much audio as possible.

It’s also important to note that it DOES NOT MATTER how your talent creates GREAT content, just that they do it on a consistent basis.  It’s your job to build the foundation and to supply the tools that work FOR THEM to get them their as often as possible.

It’s easier said than done, and there’s rabbit holes at every turn but it’s been my experience that this approach will help you reach your goal faster than any other.

And I have the grey hairs to prove it.