Grand Jury Confidential: Debbie O’Reilly

Each week, New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards Grand Jury Confidential series profiles NYF’s award-winning Grand Jury members who are recruited from all facets of the radio industry to select the World’s Best Radio Programs℠.

Debbie O'Reilly, series producer, O'Reilly Radio & Television Inc.

In this Grand Jury Confidential, NYF spends a few minutes with 2016 Grand Jury member, Debbie O’Reilly, series producer at O’Reilly Radio & Television Inc., and producer of the CBC’s Under The Influence – Radio Series on Marketing.

Ms. O’Reilly has been at the helm as series producer of the CBC’s award-winning program, Under the Influence for the past 11 years, as well as serving as program host, Terry O’Reilly’s, booking agent for 11 years running. In January 2015, she was made partner of O’Reilly Radio & Television Inc. Keep reading to learn more about Ms. O’Reilly as she shares her insights on creating award-winning work, the qualities necessary for success in her role as series producer, and how O’Reilly Radio & Television’s culture encourages creativity.

New York Festivals: What’s your favorite radio program that you created?

Debbie O’Reilly: Of the many shows we have done in the past six years, my personal favourite is a two-parter titled, “The Happy Homemaker”.  It was my first year as Show Producer, and the last season of The Age of Persuasion (before we widened the scope of the show and re-named it Under The Influence). The Grand Jury of the New York Radio Festivals agreed. It was the Grand Award winner of 2012.

It’s a fascinating look at how Madison Avenue was hugely responsible for confining women to the household by creating and glamorizing the image of the Happy Homemaker. After WW2, marketers needed a large audience to buy their new products – and homemakers were the perfect target.  And because this episode was a two-parter, it allowed an in depth look at the creation of the Happy Homemaker and its implications, with no stone left unturned.

2012 New York Festivals Radio Program Awards Gala - Grand & Gold Award Winner Terry O'Reilly

As Terry always says, when he starts researching and writing a show, he thinks it will go in one direction and many times, it leads him down a totally different path.

This show was a perfect example of that.  The intention was to write a show about advertising to women.  We ended up chronicling the invention of the Happy Homemaker, which then led to another self-serving image, the Super Mom.

New York Festivals: What qualities are the most important to have?

Debbie O’Reilly: In my role as Series Producer, I am responsible for making sure the show is done on time and on budget. This requires me to be detailed oriented and very organized. Our show airs nationally once a week on CBC Radio One. As well, we are on WBEZ Chicago, Sirius Radio, and we produce a podcast version.  These many elements have to all come together, and need to be coordinated with the CBC.

It is also my responsibility to keep Terry on his schedule, but not limit him in his creativity. The task of creating and researching and writing and recording and producing the show is huge (mostly handled by Terry alone) so I consider one of the qualities I bring to the show is my ability to make him feel like everything is running like clock work – to allow him to concentrate on the creation of the show.

New York Festivals: Will you share how the culture of your company encourages creativity?

Debbie O’Reilly: Terry and I both worked at advertising agencies at the beginning of our

Terry O'Reilly

careers. Terry on the creative side, me in account management. One of the golden rules of brainstorming is: “There is no such thing as a bad idea.” This is a golden rule we stick to when discussing all elements of the show – from the very beginning when we discuss show ideas for the upcoming season, to recording day in the studio. We have the freedom to share our thoughts and ideas without fear or judgment – which is so important, because even if that idea sucks, there is a very good chance it will be the stepping stone to a great idea or solution.

New York Festivals: What’s the most important thing you learned from your first job?

Debbie O’Reilly: My very first job through high school and university was working at the local hotel in my hometown. During my five or six years there, I worked in almost every department. I loved working in the service industry because, even though I wasn’t the most qualified person in any position I held (either education or experience), I excelled. I learned very early on that when you work in the service industry, great customer service trumps everything else.

I took this thinking to my first job in the advertising industry – to our clients at the advertising firms I worked at.  And our listeners are top of mind when I do my job on Under The Influence. They are our customers.

Who knew that serving meals and bartending and working the night shift at the front desk of the local Holiday Inn would be so helpful to my entire career.

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