OM/PD Terri Thomas started her radio career at 14 at WHSR, a 10-watt community station located at her high school. When she was 15, she got her first commercial job offer but her age delayed the opportunity. At that point, however, she knew that radio was her calling.
She went to Emerson College, worked at WERS, on air and as a show coordinator for 88.9 at Night, and PD). Industry vet Phillip David March was an alum of Emerson and during her senior year he reached out to the faculty GM, Fran Berger, looking for people to mentor. Terri submitted her info to him and they connected. After graduation, March had an opening at WFXE in Columbus, Georgia hired Terri to do middays. After Columbus, she went to Tallahassee at WHBX (middays and APD), then she headed to Cincinnati where she did middays and eventually moved to PD.
Terri came to Houston, TX in 2004 to program KBXX and since then, she’s also been deployed to cover the Charlotte and Indianapolis markets when they were short-handed. She is now the Operations Manager/PD for KBXX (Rhythmic Hip Hop), KMJQ (UAC), KROI (Top 40) and is now one of the most respected (and few) women in radio programming.
I LOVE coaching my team and I hold “classes” where we focus on content development for their shows and online.
Where are you from?
I’m from Boston #BostonStrong
What are your hobbies (outside of radio)?
My dog DJ, spending time with friends and family, photography, writing (I’ve published two children’s books), coaching people to be their best self, working out and travel
First, I think PDs are BUSY. There’s a hell of a lot on a Programmers plate and they just may run out of gas when it comes to their own social media. Second, learning social media is like learning a whole other job. It changes and evolves every day. I’ve always been a student of the game and I know that our brands online will be an integral part of our future. My thought is to get in early and figure it out. I’ve always been heavily involved in our station’s social media across the board. I ask and expect a lot from our jocks when it comes to posting so it’s important for me to know how it works and lead by example.
What are some of the things that you think programmers should never post on Social Media?
Don’t post anything that will come back and bite you in the ass later. Your social media footprint is a big part of your resume and your personal brand and while you work for that company what you do on your brand reflects your employer. I do, however, believe in being authentic and posting real things and thoughts you believe in… my approach is similar to what I tell my team
Tell us about getting your staff active on social media?
It was tough at first… my team are true radio professionals and that’s where their passion was … I had to get them on board with where the future is headed while making sure that we take care of where we are today – on air. It takes a team to keep social media poppin’ and everyone plays a part. My jocks are encouraged to post things they care about and share their personality. That’s what keeps it interesting. We try to plan ahead and share responsibilities when major events are happening. Ultimately, if there’s something that needs to be on our social and it’s not there – I’ll post it for the brand. It’s truly a team effort.
This business will chew you up and spit you out but if your “why” is strong enough you’ll be able to get back up and keep going.
What’s a typical day for you like?
Every day is an adventure. I make a list of priorities for myself and check in with my right-hand crew. J-Que (APD for the Box), Madd Hatta (APD for Majic 102.1) and DJ Riddler (MD for Radio Now)… these guys along with my promotions director Jonathan Cook and online editor Jasmine Crockett are my core support system in executing the vision for the three brands. Every brand has its own personality and its own identity so we touch base daily to make sure we’re on point. We strategize, visualize and execute. My week includes strategy sessions for revenue, ratings, and promotions. I LOVE coaching my team and I hold “classes” where we focus on content development for their shows and online. Most important is the critical listening to the brands to ensure flawless execution.
You have a local morning show. Why is that?
I’m from the school of live and local. It’s an honor and blessing to have the Madd Hatta Morning Show on the Box. Radio is supposed to super-serve the community and having a live local morning show sets the tone for the station. Our listeners expect us to be on the pulse of what’s going on in our city – they expect us to reflect the culture. Madd Hatta is trusted by the people and they depend on him to entertain, inform and curate the culture. The Madd Hatta Morning Show has been an essential part of the Box since before I came to Houston. It’s a staple in the community.
How do you find new talent today?
I look everywhere and often potential talent comes my way… I’ll speak somewhere or someone will hit me on social or shoot an email. I find that most people lack direction … they never get feedback so I do my best. However, “talent” is not enough… I look for work ethic, a particular attitude, a willingness to sacrifice, study, learn and listen. I also want to know their “why.” The why has to be strong. This business will chew you up and spit you out but if your “why” is strong enough you’ll be able to get back up and keep going.
What do you think is missing from urban radio today?
Ultimately this is a business and times are tough with so many entities competing for attention and revenue. It’s natural to make short term decisions just to keep your head afloat instead of focusing on the long-term game plan. I worry that the decisions made today in our business are detrimental to our future. With that being said, I’d like to see more risks, more investing for the future, more investment in original content development from the talent working in radio. Partner with the people that work for you. When your team wins, we all win!
How do you separate pro and personal life?
I’m blessed and humbled every day to lead my team and be entrusted by Radio One with these amazing brands. I take my pro-life very personal. Too many people are counting on me. When I need to unplug, I keep it simple. I love to travel and see things, eat a great meal and laugh with friends. It’s important to have people in my life that know me beyond the business so I can just be T.
Who are some of the other PDs or stations that you admire?
Hurricane Dave, Phillip David March, Fran Berger will always be my core since their mentorship was essential to me getting here. I admire anyone and everyone who’s in it to win it … this business changes and evolves every day and every day we get to do it is a blessing.
What are your thoughts on the lack of women in programming positions?
You could ask that question about a lot of businesses. Why hasn’t there been a woman president for example? Why do women have to fight three times harder to be taken seriously or paid equally? I think it’s deeper than radio. I gave a keynote address this past weekend and spoke to a group of women on the issue. My advice would be to other women fighting their way through business is to focus on these three things:
- Know yourself and where your special talents and abilities lie.
- Perfect those talents and skills. We will be discounted and discredited but don’t let anyone outwork your or outthink you. Read “Think And Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill and embrace the core principles outlined in that book by developing your personal group of advisors.
- There is an opportunity in every obstacle. Adjust your thinking and find it. Once you do find it, don’t quit on you!
How much of your programming is based on research vs face to face with the listeners?
Research is ALL of that… you have to look at everything, weigh it and trust your gut to make the right choices.
The articulate “radio pro” seems to be the dying breed and the swag, social media, looks and direct audience connection have taken a front seat. Is this a good or a bad thing?
It’s not good or bad it’s just different. The rules have changed. Adapt or die. My team is a great example. I have some real veterans on the team. True radio pro’s that have been willing, ready and able to make the adjustment.
Have you ever hired a talent with no background and taken a chance?
Yes! Kandi Eastman’s son Amir Diamond. Raw talent, no experience. No perfect radio voice but heart, work ethic, passion. After three years late night with #1 books on the Box, he was just promoted to Radio Now 7p-midnight. I recently hired Big Tho and DJ Eric for the Box. They’re known in Houston as the premiere strip club DJ’s but their talent?!? CRAZY potential. They are serious and want to be great. They come to class ready, willing and focused on being the best. They never did radio before … it was their dream to work on the Box. These guys are growing and they’re an essential part of the future of the Box.
Can ugly announcers still be stars
Lol. Personality ALWAYS wins! Personality is what makes you beautiful (or not)
What’s it like to work for a company like Urban One?
I’m blessed… not many people can say they have years under their belt with one company. Ms. Cathy Hughes is an icon and to know that I’m a woman working for a company started by a woman is amazing. I’m inspired every day.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Hopefully leading my team to new levels of success! Innovating … educating … and inspiring people/brands to be the best.
What’s the greatest thing about working in Houston?
I love my team. I love this city and the pride that people have being a part of the Houston. The culture here is amazing. This is a special city that’s diverse, evolving, progressive and all with a reasonable cost of living . I felt like I hit the lotto when I came to Houston and I still do.
How soon will you post this interview to your social media?
(lol) hahahahaha! I got you Kev. As soon as you send the link!