Hello. I’m Danny Mills, a twenty-two year old from Belfast with a keen interest in the media industry. I have recently graduated from University and now I am hoping to gain experience and broaden my array of skills. Filmmaking is a particular passion of mine as I love creating documentaries to highlight just some of the colourful characters and fascinating stories from within the world of sport in Northern Ireland. Joining the Cool Choices team has given me the opportunity to meet other enthusiastic young people and to learn from experienced media industry professionals.

The last two weeks

30 October 2015

As I have already mentioned in a previous blog, our broadcast topic is about social media and how crucial it is to maintain a respectable online presence. In order to create a fun, entertaining and informative show, we carefully planned out the show by brainstorming as a group and coming up with nine different segments for the broadcast. From employability to celebrity mistakes, we made sure that we covered a wide range of topics whilst highlighting both the positives and negatives of social media. When we were split into different departments, I was assigned as part of programming but also overall project manager. This give me the opportunity to oversee each department and make sure that everyone was following the brief and keeping up to date with their work. I have never been someone who has taken charge of a group before, I would normally stay quiet and let bigger personalities take charge. However, as I was one of the main driving forces behind picking our topic and the content, I felt that it was partly my responsibility to put a lot of my time and effort into making the show both insightful and enjoyable to listen to.

The past two weeks threw many obstacles in our way before we could piece the show together. We relied heavily on interesting stories and interviews so that we could convey the message we were trying to put across. I think a lot of credit has to be given to the news team, without their hard work arranging interviews, researching statistics and asking the questions, we wouldn’t have been able to have include such fascinating stories and characters in to our show. Thanks Conor, Megan and Declan for all your hard work! Also, a big thank you is owed to each and every person who agreed to take part in an interview with us. I know how busy, these people are so for them to give us their time to help create our show is really appreciated. In particular, Anita Dennison, who shared her personal experiences of online bullying with us that not only gives the listeners and insight into the torment faced by victims of cyber bullying, but also hope and inspiration for people who may be in a similar position that Anita was in a few years ago. A big thank you also goes to our presenting team of Lizzie and Matt who put in a lot of effort compiling the script and I couldn’t be happier with how they delivered it in the studio. They wrote a funny yet informative script and it is easy to tell they have a great relationship on and off air. Their natural and professional performance on our show deserves a lot of credit and I think both of them could establish a career within the radio industry. After we have created all the content we needed for our show, it was up to our editing team to piece it together. Stevie, David and Bart were brilliant at cutting down interviews, adding sound jingles and made sure that are broadcast sounded how we intended. A special thanks has to go to Bart for writing a great poem to put at the end our show, his writing and delivery captures the message our broadcast was trying to create.

As a team, I think we really bonded and each and every person pulled their weight so that we could create the show we had planned to. It has been a pleasure to work with this bunch of people for the last five weeks, and I look forward to spending the next few weeks in Hill Street with the team. The mentors of the group are owed a lot of credit too. Rebecca and Steve put in as much effort as we did to help and guide us throughout our broadcast. I have learnt a lot from both of them and I hope I can work with them again in the future. Claire and Lynsey from Start360 have had to put up with us over the whole extent of our time on the Cool Choices course and for that I say thanks for doing the paperwork, sorting out our travel and most importantly making the buns. And finally, thanks to David who has been brilliant at keeping up team morale and making sure we were up to date, on schedule and happy with the work we were doing.

The past five weeks at Cool FM has been a great experience for me personally. I was pushed to step out of my comfort zone and into a role that I never thought I would do. I can take what I have learnt in this course with me into any career I may peruse. Thanks to Start 360, Cool FM and The Big Lottery fun for given me the chance to take part in the Cool Choices program. It’s been a pleasure.

News, video and photo

28 October 2015

Nigel Gould from Cool FM’s news department came into to speak to us about the importance of providing current affairs on the radio. He explained that each the day, his team provide seventeen news, five sport, three agriculture and two business bulletins that mean that listeners will keep up to date with local and international news whilst listening to their favourite songs on Cool FM. He also explained how crucial it is to make sure your sources are trustworthy and reliable as reporting on something that may be untrue can put the company in a lot of trouble with Ofcom. The next day, Simon Hutchinson, from the Hype Factory, spoke to us about his career as a photographer and tips on how to take and edit photos. As Simon took our photographs for the cool choices website, we had already seen Simon and work and were all very impressed with the outcome of the images. I am currently looking to develop and further my photography skills so Simon’s talk was very useful and informative as he introduced me into editing software such as Adobe Lightroom. After lunch, the owner of The Hype Factory, Adam McPeake described how he founded his business and how he has been able to establish a list of clients that he works for. Predominantly focusing on taking photos and videos for nightclubs, Adam explained how important it is to try and leave a good impression with each client you work with as it may lead you to another opportunity with a different business. I am working on building my own production companies name and reputation at the moment so Adam’s talk was very helpful as he gave me many tips and advice to develop my business.

Voice Testing

20 October 2015

On Tuesday, Steve brought us down to the studio for voice testing to see who would be the presenters of our show. We each read the same advertisement script two times so that Steve would have a copy of us speaking so that as a group, we could pick who would be best suited to presenting our broadcast. Rebecca also explained that there are many other roles that we would need to fulfil to make our broadcast successful including editing, news and programming departments. On Wednesday, we listened to each member of the groups’ voice test and voted on who had a strong voice and could deliver the piece professionally and enthusiastically. As a group, we also discussed who would be the ideal candidate for each position within our team. I have been given the role as a programmer/ project manager that requires me to help and encourage each department to make sure they are fulfilling their duties and are working on time with our schedule. I will also be involved in the writing of the script for the show to make sure we deliver an informative and exciting broadcast. This was an important stage in developing our broadcast as we now have individual duties and responsibilities to carry out, I am eager to get started.

Presenting 101

14 October 2015

Morning show host and Cool FM veteran, Pete Snodden spoke to us about his journey into broadcasting and the highs and lows that come with it. He explained that he had to work voluntary at the station for a few years before he was given his own radio slot on Cool FM. This showed me that having a strong passion and desire to work can help you carve out a career in the media industry. As I am currently in the process of making a documentary about our time on the Cool Choices programme, I wanted to ask Pete for advice on how to conduct interviews and get the best answers out of the interviewee. Pete gave me some tips such as how to pick up on what the interviewee has said in his previous answer and how to construct your questions from there.

Adverts, sales and promotions

Richard Ross from sales and promotions gave us a talk about his sector of the company and what they provide for clients. He explained how clients come to Cool Fm with the hope that they can come up with a fresh and exciting promotional campaign for their product. To give us a real insight into his job, Richard gave our group a task to come up with a campaign to coincide with the Coca Cola truck arriving in Belfast at Christmas time. We were split into groups and given the whole afternoon to brainstorm and plan out a pitch to present to Richard. Keith Law also came into to the Cool Academy to tell us how the advertising department works and how he comes up with the funny and entertaining commercials he creates. We were sat another task, this time it was to write a thirty second advert for Mooney’s Butchers on the Shankill Road. My group came up with three different ideas that Keith described as funny, to the point and impressive. The advertising side of a radio station was something I had never thought about but as a result of taking part in this task, I am now interested in working within this industry.

The Idea…Part 1

On Thursday, we began to discuss broadcast topics and features we could include during our show. We spoke about potential topics such as suicide, mental health and well-being but decided to focus on a different idea. The theme of ‘What’s Next?’ was our initial idea as we thought that a guide to helping young people in their next stage of life would be useful and informative. However, after planning out the broadcast, we felt that the show lacked creativity and could come across as dull and boring. As a group, we decided that we would give ourselves the weekend to come up with fresh and exciting new broadcast topics and then discuss them on Monday morning. Simon Mann from sales and advertising came into speak to us on Friday and he explained his role in the company and what it involves. He told us how Cool FM collaborates with various companies to produce campaigns that will showcase the product whilst keeping in correlation with the brand. We were also given a task to create a marketing campaign for SSE Aitricity’s reward scheme to coincide with the latest Disney on Ice tour in the SSE Arena. This was enjoyable as were split into groups and given creative freedom to come up with fresh and exciting ideas. Due to Simon’s task we were given an insight into his sector of the company and as a result it is now something I would consider a potential career in.

Online Rep

Youth speaker and digital expert, Wayne Denner came into the Cool Academy on Monday and informed us of the importance of online reputation. He explained that it is vital to be careful of what you write on post on social networking sites and how detrimental they can be on your career. According to Wayne, 93% of employers check social networking sites before offering a potential employee an interview. His talk also opened my eyes to how social networking sites can be used in a positive way, especially in the media. Promoting your company and you as a person has become a major factor in how successful business and as a result of Wayne’s talk, I have made my own production companies page a lot more colourful and creative. Following on from Wayne’s presentation, I and the rest of the group discussed how we were so unaware of our ‘digital tattoo’ and how it can affect your career. We thought that this would be an interesting and informative broadcast topic to appeal to our target audience of people of the ages of 16-35. As social media is constantly growing and becoming more and more influential on society, I think this topic is ideal to connecting with a young generation and giving them advice that could benefit them later on in life.

Blogs & Broadcasting

Day two began with Luke from HNH Digital showing us our CoolChoices website and how we can use it not only on the course but as a personal profile to show employers when we are applying for jobs. Luke also explained what his company offers and how he is able to expand and grow his business by sharing his previous work with potential clients. We also began to discuss ideas regarding broadcast topics and what type of show would appeal to Cool FM’s demographic. Rebecca informed us that our show needs to cater for young people and give them advice and guidance on particular topics. We each came up with a suggestion on what our show could focus on and through this we were able to merge some of these ideas together. This was the first opportunity we had of experiencing how we could work as a team and it proved to be enjoyable and beneficial to our progress. Lee Tideswell, a journalist and employee of Bauer Media, came in to speak to us about his career and what advice he would give to young people trying to break into the media industry. His advice on how to co-ordinate interviews and to get the best content out of the interviewee has proved to be very useful as I begin to create a short documentary about our time at CoolChoices. On day three, head of programming, David McCammond give us a lecture on how radio shows are pieced together and how the music is selected. This was an interesting and insightful talk as he discussed many parts of radio programming that I was unaware of. The health and safety rules and regulations were explained to us by Florence Ambrose who explained how we could avoid any possible hazards. We finished the day off with a tour of the studio and we were introduced to just some of the staff who are integral to CoolFm as a brand and a company.

The Start of Something New

The 28th of September was the day that we began the first of five weeks at the Cool Academy. We had already gotten to know each other through the introductions and icebreakers we took part in during our time at Start 360 so our first day at CoolFm was to give us a general outline our the tasks and training we would be involved in. We were also introduced to the mentors of the course, CoolFm presenters, Rebecca McKinney and Steve Turnbull who explained of the do’s and don’ts whilst working at the Cool Academy. After lunch, we were given the chance to ask the mentors about their background and how they got into radio, this proved to be informative and encouraging as it showed that our careers can be full of ups and downs but if you put in the work and believe in your ability, anything is possible.