At the 2023 Australian Commercial Radio Awards (ACRAs) I ran into General Manager and Program Director of 2MG and Real FM, Mal Rock (pictured with his award), after those stations won Most Creative Station Promotion (Country) for the Super Radio Network. After a hug and a too brief chat, Mal left to return to his seat. He is one of the best I’ve worked for.
This year Radioinfo will go across the country and networks to catch up with General Managers on the state of the industry, their role within it and where we are headed. Mal Rock is our inaugural Manager’s Special.
What station/s are you manager of? How long have you been at the station?
2MG & Real FM Mudgee. Apart from 18months as an announcer at 2RG Griffith, have been here since 1985. Station manager since late 2000.
What has been your most memorable radio moment?
A Mudgee Hospital Radio Appeal that raised over $140,000 was one. Another was the 25-hour broadcast from Mudgee Relay-For-Life that included some truly bizarre conversations and sing-a-longs around 3am-ish. More recently our inaugural Mid-West Music Quest was a huge buzz, and December just gone our “A Better Christmas” appeal exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Congrats on that ACRA for Most Creative Station promotion. Tell me about it?
We were looking for a way to make Christmas season listening fresher and offer something that people couldn’t get from any other sources, including supermarket radio, YouTube, Spotify. Our answer was local performers. We still played Mariah and Buble, of course, but we made sure the audience knew that throughout December they would also hear Christmas songs recorded in our production studio by local singers/musos. From long-established players who they’ve seen in numerous bands over the years, to the up and coming youngsters who could be future professionals, maybe even someone they knew.
The standard still had to be high and part of our role was getting good performances out of them and mixing to an on-air standard. Creative use of subtle effects, double-tracking or small harmony parts, helped to give variety to the recorded songs. But the most important ingredient that made all this possible was the trust we had built up with local performers and the audience through staging our first Mid-West Music Quest about 6 months previously.
Loved doing both the Quest and the local Christmas songs and they will now be a regular feature of our year.
How important is creativity to advertising and radio?
Very. That doesn’t mean every ad or promotion is going to be a ground-breaker or unique. It’s not realistic to expect that. But being able to find a fresh angle on the familiar is a real skill and can be very effective. Creative writing, humour, personality are all very powerful whether it be in an ad, promotion or on-air segment.
What’s special about regional radio?
As a station and as individuals, you have chance to have a positive impact on your community and individual listeners. Where a metro station or show can be very successful with 10 to 15% of the potential audience, a successful regional one has to have a much broader audience. So you’re a part of more people’s lives and for longer. While we don’t have the promotional budget, that forces you to be creative, adaptable and constantly looking for ways to maintain your connection with listeners and businesses. Also you get to do a bit of everything if you are willing to have a go.
What do you think is the secret to 2MG and Real FM’s success both retaining staff and connecting with the community?
Lots of people travel through smaller stations like ours over the years, having some local people in amongst them helps people feel connected and give continuity. Also, over time I learnt to be more open and accepting of different approaches and to just try not to get in the way of the individual’s ideas, strengths, motivations. In terms of connecting with the community (and clients), be consistent and fair in your dealings with them.
What advice do you give to a newcomer to the industry?
- Accept that not every on-air thing you try will work, but the more you attempt the more consistently you will hit the mark.
- Don’t think of your career as something that is going to start or take off when you get to a better shift or bigger market. You should be trying NOW to be that personality you think you can be. That way you’ll be ready when a good opportunity arises.
- And if you don’t ultimately make it to metro breaky (there are only so many spaces available) you will still have a satisfying career wherever you are.
What’s the best part of where you live and work?
The people who I have worked with over the years. Lots of very entertaining and lovely human beings.
General Manager and Program Director of 2MG and Real FM (part of the Super Radio Network), Mal Rock was Radioinfo’s first Manager’s Special in a series that we will run throughout 2024. If you’d like to chat, or nominate your GM, drop me a line.
Mal Rock photo at ACRAs: Dan Gray, Graynoise Photography