Sam Thompson has an extensive career in the media starting off driving Black Thunders at SAFM to her current role as Group Content Director at Authentic Entertainment. She has worked with some of Australia’s biggest names in radio including Dave Hughes, Kate Langbroek and Wippa. She shares with TBS her advice for maintaining great relationships with talent and work/life balance.
Your impressive media career spans over 20 years – could you give us a brief rundown of your radio experience?
It started in Adelaide at SAFM – volunteering and then paid work while I was studying. Driving Black Thunders, answering phones, filling in for Reception, Promotions – if it was available, I would do it. Then once I finished studying, I applied to every radio station in Australia – and was fortunate to be offered a role at Hot 100 in Darwin. It was the launch of the radio station, so a fabulous experience in a unique environment. From Darwin, I moved to B105 in Brisbane in Promotions (now Integration) for 18 months, then to Canberra as Promotions and Marketing for nine months, to Sydney as 2DAY FM Promotions Manager, back to B105 for 18 months as Promotions and Marketing Director and then to FOX FM as Promotions and Marketing Director. DMG (as it was then called) approached me and I joined them in 2003 as Group Promotions and Marketing Director and then was offered the General Manager’s role of the Melbourne stations – Nova 100 and vega 91.5fm (as it was known). Nearly three years ago, I commenced as Group Content Director at Authentic Entertainment.
You have such great experience in all areas of radio including Management, Marketing and Programming – do you have a preferred area and why?
I really love it all – and they all cross over. Growing-up working in Promotions/Integration, I worked closely with Content and Sales – so it was the perfect environment to help get me match fit for Management – knowledge, experience and focus of the two areas. With Management, Marketing and Programming, you have three key groups you’re working with – our audience, our customers and our people – it’s then developing, delivering and supporting all three groups regardless of what role you’re in.
As a General Manager at NOVA 100, how did you go about maintaining a great relationship with your talent?
The key is about being authentic. Honest, timely conversations and treating everyone fairly.
Do you have any tips dealing with confrontation with not only talent but also key members of your executive team?
As above, it is about being honest and fair. Celebrate the great stuff – and address the not so great stuff in a timely manner. Support your team being honest, fair and giving them the environment to be successful.
What’s been the best advice you’ve been given throughout your radio career and who was it from?
Treating people fairly has been the best advice given – from my Dad (founder of both Austereo and DMG)
I know from working with you at NOVA 100, you worked some crazy hours as well as being a Mum to two lovely little ladies – how did you balance your personal and work lives without falling apart?
Ha! There’s been a lot of falling apart over the years! I don’t think I have balance right yet! It is challenging – when you’re so passionate about what you do, it’s hard not to fully immerse yourself in work. However, to be great at what you do at work, you need to be able to step away and look at what you without the emotion and being too close to it. It’s important to shake-up your routine, live like a listener lives, extend your friendships so they aren’t just industry people, watch content from different sources, say yes and attend events/functions you’re invited to, speak to people out of radio, spend time creatively out of the office. Personal/family balance is absolutely critical. Family and friends are more important than anything else – they are your priority. You need to make them a priority. The reality is, it’s tough. There’s a lot of guilt and there’s a lot of working at strange hours – however family must always remain your focus.
We often look up to role models like yourself in radio but do you have someone that inspires you?
My Dad was – and still is – an incredible role model. He was so incredibly passionate about what he did – and that was always contagious.