He got his on-air identity from Atlantic 252 but has made a name for himself in UK radio over the last decade. Now Robin Banks is a radio consultant and RadioToday.ie caught up with him to find out what he’s up to.
Hi Robin. How are you? What have you been up to?
Well I’ve been in radio for over 25 years. I started in Kilkenny at a little pirate called AMS (Ahhhh the cassette decks!!) then Radio Kilkenny, moved to Israel aboard the MV Peace, worked for the legendary Chris Cary (he fired me 4 times in my first week at Radio Nova in the UK), Atlantic 252, Kiss 100, brmb, XFM, Virgin Radio and a few others!
I’m now a radio consultant (isn’t everybody these days!!??) with clients all over the place. I coach talent too, some in Ireland. I’ve just finished at a UKRD station where I was the Programme Director… the last 2 ratings books I gave them the highest figures they’ve ever got.
How would you describe your first radio gig?
A feckin garbage dump… so I was 13 and got told: “If you could be like that on the radio you’d be great”, it was a pirate radio station broadcast out of a 6×6 room in Kilkenny shopping centre… I was on the air first on a Friday night… I thought it was because I was great. It wasn’t, they all wanted to go out and get pissed. Damn.
What led you to a career in radio?
I remember standing in front of the TV reading the autocue as it rolled up at the bottom of the screen on RTE’s ‘News For The Deaf’. I must have been 6 or 7… that’s my earliest broadcasting memory and I kind of fell into it. I was about 13 or 14 when I had my first radio show.
What makes your style unique? How would you compare your programming and presenting style?
One word: Drama. Create content that engages and makes your audience react. Try new things but ALWAYS stay within taste and decency. Make memorable radio. When was the last time a punter came to you and said; “Hey I loved that 3 in a row you did 3 years ago”… they don’t right? They remember the crazy stuff, the emotional stuff, the times things went wrong. If you create memorable radio you will stand out. I still get asked about the time I rolled a listener down the longest stairs in Edinburgh with a phone strapped to his head inside bubble wrap, or the guy who I wouldn’t let go from the studio cause he had his jaw wired shut, or the girl on the phone whose mum just died, or the cancer sufferer whom I gave my own radiotherapy too live on air.
Are you wearing more “hats” than you have in the past?
Definitely. Things have changed. Teams are smaller and do more. You have to have many strings to your bow now to be worth more.
“Local local local” has always been radio’s mantra. How do you keep your station visible and involved in the community?
It’s easy to say ‘Be local’ everyone seems to shouting about it… but we as humans have moved on so much in the past 5-10 years. What is REALLY local to us now? Yes being seen in your area is great, will affect your ratings recall, get (hopefully) more listeners (if your OB product is good) and most of all you can sell it. Too many stations bang out the ‘local’ mantra and think that delivering it means changing the placenames in the weather forecast every hour. Or playing “the next hit song for xxxx in . It’s not. Be seen in your area, go out at night, join clubs that you wouldn’t normally, and then talk about it. Create story arcs. Create real local content by actually getting involved in stuff.
Here’s a simple tip: You know that read that we all do for whatever local shop is sponsoring whatever feature? Well have you (as a presenter) actually dropped in to that shop, introduced yourself to the manager and told them you’ll be talking about them the next day? Seriously. If you do what happens? Your read is now a hell of a lot better. You’ll probably get free stuff/a discount and the shop manager/owner will call the sales guy at the radio station and they’ll love you… and most of all your read will now sound different to everybody elses. It takes a bit of work to be ‘local’ but it’s a win/win all round.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Coaching talent it’s the one thing that I can honestly say I love.
What is the most challenging part of the job?
Coaching talent and knowing where the win is for the radio station.
What’s the coolest promotion you’ve been involved with recently?
Well when I changed the UKRD station (Star) in the North East of the UK I had zero budget and needed the audience to know we were changing so I did a radio first. I did ’10 Formats In 10 Days’, one day rock, then love songs, Motown, 60’s, dance etc etc.. everyone though I was mad. Within 2 RAJAR books we got the highest figures ever. And the very next book (RAJAR Q3 2013) we beat them. For a radio station that had a completely different music format and presenter lineup in a market as tough as this I felt good.
What’s the coolest promotion you’ve EVER been involved with?
When I was on Kiss 100 I came up with “Where the F*cks MY Phone”… I gave out a fully branded mobile phone with special ‘Kiss’ credits… that ran out. When you couldn’t call anymore you had to give the phone away to a stranger. I then called it every day to find out who had it. The phone went all over the UK and back to me at Kiss 3 weeks later. The phone was locked down and no body knew the number. An awesome promotion that was sold to Virgin Mobile for £40,000 and won me an RAB Gold Award.
What’s one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
In real life I’m not the guy on the radio. Remember on the radio we are all actors. I am.
Who is your favorite radio personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
The Greaseman. I use him (audio and video) in my coaching on how to tell a story and bring it to life. Search for him on YouTube. Yeah he’s OTT but look beyond that. Listen to the language he uses and how he brings pieces to life.
What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
Radio Luxembourg. Of the two presenters that gave me the radio bug one was Peter Antony on Luxy and the other was Gerry Ryan and both for the same reason, anything goes. I loved Gerry’s nighttime show on 2FM and still remember the caller that called in telling Gerry that he spotted him dying his hair in a river. Remember folks when I talked about ‘memorable radio’ earlier?
What music do you listen to when you’re not working?
What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
It’s the best but yet worst industry in the world.
What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
I’ve done things my way and when I am told to do it another way I will always convey my feelings but I will always do it the way I’m told. I am not a backstabber and do unto others etc.
What advice you would give people new to the business?
Get another line of business in case radio doesn’t come off.
What is the current state of the radio ‘talent pool’?
Whenever I have put an advert for talent I get 97% absolute trash… same links, same jockisms, same same same. However there are some great people out there, there are some amazing presenters who are now driving buses for a living. It seems radio wants ‘safe’. The presenters that try to be different ruin it for themselves because they’re not experienced enough to be cute on the air, to know where the limit is. Remember it’s a business and not your own personal 4 hours where you’re god because you’re mates and family are telling you. Get some direction. Invest in yourself.
What’s the best sweeper/liner you’ve ever heard?
I like liners that actually mean something, that are funny (but you have to update those often), that actually focus the radio station and add to it’s overall image. I remember Atlantic 252’s “The 50,000 watt motherpucker” liner that lasted about 3 days before Paul Kavanagh took it off. However I loved (and ripped off from Atlantic) the (listener voice) “Hi I’m Dick I listen to Station X” then the station voice; “DDDDDDD Don’t be a Dick… listen to Star”
What was your last non-industry job?
I am setting up another non-radio company at the moment. But I was (and still am) director of the UK’s only eco-friendly packaging company, Tiny Box Company.
What’s the biggest gaffe you’ve made on air?
Loads… accidently cutting out major parts of a prerecorded call, then airing it. Giving out my home phone number instead of the stations, giving away my producers car cause he left the keys in the station… and a pile more.