Defining success for a sports radio station can be measured in many different ways. There’s laying out guidelines and goals for what you expect from each individual. There’s bottom line revenue. There’s digital and mobile growth, social media engagement, connection in the community, content strategy and execution and of course the almighty ratings book.
Yes it’s true, the ratings game isn’t an exact science and of course most programmers complain about the lack of meters in each individual market but whether it’s fair or unfair, every single station in every market deals with the same system and your job is to deliver numbers that your sales team can use to generate more revenue for your company. Nobody complains when the numbers are good but we all piss and moan when they’re lower than expected.
I’ve had my share of ups and downs with numbers but I do believe they matter. As long as advertisers seek them and decide future ad buys on the station I operate based on them, they’ll remain a heavy focus for me. While it’s easy to make excuses and complain about the systems flaws (trust me they have plenty), everyone is playing the same game.
How many times have you seen the following “My station doesn’t subscribe to Arbitron/Nielsen because they don’t show our brand’s true audience. We remain focused on super serving our audience and advertisers“. When I hear that I start to chuckle because the real translation is “our numbers suck and we can’t convince anyone we have an audience so we’ll go on the offensive to defend our position so advertisers don’t pull their business from us”.
Then there’s the talent side of things “I don’t believe in ratings. I’ve never seen a meter. I know when the show is good and we have a big audience because people see me and tell me they listen“. I’ve run 4 different radio stations in 3 different markets over the past 8 years and there’s always someone taking that position. What they mean to say is “I need an excuse to fall back on in case my numbers aren’t good because otherwise I’ll have a hard time asking for a raise in the future. Besides, I have a strong following on social media and that shows that I have a huge audience”.
In both cases I understand the skepticism due to what’s been created by Nielsen as a result of weak measurement but what I’ve yet to see is a radio station not reward an on-air talent or PD who was delivering strong ratings. Excuses come up when audience numbers are low but when they’re high, everyone brags and wants a pat on the back and companies usually reward you for it. Ratings are needed to justify the companies ability to command higher ad rates and your ability to deliver them is a critical part of your job. Without them as a host or programmer, your position could be in jeopardy.
Ask yourself this, how can we make money in this business if it’s based on subjective opinion of what we think of our own shows? Is a talent really going to walk into an office and say to a PD “My show isn’t as good as I thought it would be or what you hoped it would be and I sense the audience has checked out, maybe you should pull the plug on it“? Of course not.
On-Air talent are conditioned to pump themselves up by telling you “I have a huge audience, I know what works” but can they really prove that? Have they gone out and personally counted every listener who interacted with them in public, on social or through the station text account? Of course not. When a talent tells me they had 200-1000 people attend or send them a message on social media as evidence of having a big audience, I remind them that 200-1,000 people in a market made up of 7 million is not a number to brag about.
About 15-months ago I listened to Mike Francesa from WFAN in NY talk about the way he looks at ratings. Many would agree that Mike has been one of the most influential and dominant sports radio personalities of our lifetime and as I heard him share his views on this subject I found myself intrigued. First consider that he’s been on the air with WFAN for over 25 years and during that time he has delivered more than 80 #1 ratings performances with Men 25-54. That is incredibly impressive especially in the country’s largest market.
Some will say his success is due to being on WFAN which has a great signal, strong heritage and was the nation’s first true all-sports format and while that deserves consideration, you’d be doing him a disservice if you assumed that’s why he’s succeeded. Mike spends 5.5 hours per day on the air and he’s seen as the authority on NY sports. He’s won alongside Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo as well as on his own. His station lost major players such as Russo and Don Imus yet Mike has continued to dominate the market.
What really impressed me most about Mike’s speech was when he discussed the value he places on his ratings performance. To learn that the #1 guy in the top US market meets every Monday with his PD to see how he’s stacking up against the competition was impressive. How many on-air talent do you know who even ask a question about their own performance at the end of a month let alone on a weekly basis?
WFAN makes a lot of money and Mike does extremely well for himself and nobody at his company is going to tell an advertiser they can’t demonstrate performance when ratings are requested. He considers it to be his report card and when you’re delivering straight A’s, you’re not embarrassed to show off your grades. To get a sense of Mike’s views on the ratings game check out this video.
While I’ve spent the first part of this piece on the mindset of ratings, the next level of what I want to discuss has to do with the demographic for which sports radio is analyzed. Anyone who works in this format knows that your success or failure is determined by how you perform with Men 25-54. You can create neat little stories with Men 18+, Men 18-34, P6, 12+ or Adults 25-54 but the number that matters when all is said and done are Men 25-54.
This is the demographic that advertisers expect sports radio stations to be strongest in and and it’s what on-air personalities and programmers get bonused on. It’s also what your company looks at to determine if the investment in a sports radio station is paying off. Every month when my ratings come out I’ll look at P6 to see what our overall cume for the station is and I’ll check out the Adults 25-54 demo to see if I can provide any stories for sales to help with some other possible buys but the main focus for myself and all involved in my group (and every station I’ve ever worked at) is always Men 25-54.
I enjoy getting the ratings report each month and I’ve found that when you create a great product and surround yourself with talented people, getting an audience to listen and reward you with proof of performance isn’t hard. While in St. Louis, my former brand 101 ESPN started 33rd and was consistently in the Top 5 in ratings within 12-18 months, including reaching #1.
When I built 95.7 The Game in SF, we started in 27th place and in under 4 years climbed to as high as 3rd with Men 25-54. It took a lot of luck, hard work, personnel changes and loss of sleep and none of it would’ve happened without a great staff performing day in and day out to entertain listeners.
While the focus for ratings success is Men 25-54, Francesa raised an interesting point about what the demographic should be. He says the format should be measured by Men 35-69. He argues that Men over 60 years old have more money whereas younger male adults can barely pay rent and if advertisers are seeking people with wealth to purchase their products, then they should put a heavier emphasis on the older demographic.
The logic makes sense but I don’t agree that Men 35-69 should be the focus. If it’s only about money then I’d give it stronger consideration but ratings are also supposed to be about listenership and I think the reason sports stations are migrating to the FM dial are because Men 25-34 have a stronger interest in the product than ever before. It’s during these years of a man’s life that he usually starts listening and forming a bond with the sports radio format and I don’t think that can be dismissed and not measured.
Whether it’s Men 25-54, Men 25-64, Men 25-69 or another demographic, is subjective and while I don’t have the perfect answer, I do think that as our business grows, all options should be explored. If we can change the way radio gets measured from diary to PPM and we can see stations switch to FM and begin to deliver huge numbers on mobile and online, then we owe it to our industry to make sure that we get the best measurement possible to showcase the brand’s strength.
I think it’s silly that mobile listening and web streaming are rarely accounted for when we can see the amount of listening sessions that take place on our brands. I understand that it’s still about the over the air listening activity but with the future changing rapidly, the industry will have to evolve and put a stronger focus on “audio measurement“, not just radio measurement.
To help paint a better picture of the importance of ratings and the way people in our business see them, I asked 3 questions to some of the best minds in the sports radio business today. Taking part in the panel are the following people:
- Jason Dixon – Program Director of Detroit Sports 105.1 FM
- Jeff Austin – Program Director of 1080 The Fan in Portland
- Tim Spence – Station Manager of 102.3/105.5 ESPN Denver
- Ryan Hatch – VP of News and Sports at 92.3 KTAR and Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
- Brian Long – Program Director of XTRA 1360 and Newsradio AM 600 KOGO in San Diego
What demographic matters most to your radio station in determining whether or not it’s been a successful month in the ratings?
Dixon: I spend most of my time looking at Men 25-54 because that’s the number that matters most to our sales department. From there I dissect the big number to see what we are doing in the various cells to find the station’s strengths and weaknesses.
Austin: Men 25-54. It’s a wide demo but the one that the vast majority of our buys are predicated upon. We need to score with the older half of this demo as a sweet spot, and continually develop listeners in the younger half, so attention to the entire demo is a must.
Spence: What’s our job? Men. Where’s the money? 25-54. Once you are established in that demo of Men 25-54 then most stations start expanding and developing P25-54.
Hatch: Men 25-54 is always the primary demo that sports radio stations target and evaluate, and it is ours as well but we have raised our expectations. Now on FM, our goal is to drive a male number that rolls up into a Top 10 Persons 25-54 number with the primary new audience driver coming from the younger 25-34 male demo that was almost completely inaccessible on AM. If we don’t deliver Top 3 Men 25-54 and Top 10 Persons 25-54 performance in the Fall, we’re not delivering the radio audience we need to.
Long: Men 25-54. This demo is the sweet spot for us and our targeted clients.
JB NOTE: Every single programmer here has the same mentality of capturing Men 25-54. While there are some interesting variations such as what Ryan is looking to capture in Phoenix with his brand’s migration to FM, the conversation starts with Men 25-54.
What do you think should be the demographic to measure sports talk radio’s success?
Dixon: The most important demo to me is the one where the money is. If tomorrow, agencies and clients start placing buys based on men 35-49 or men 18-24, that will be my target. As programmers in a narrow format, we have to keep our eyes on the prize. We all want great ratings so we can pat ourselves on the back, collect ratings bonuses etc. but the fact is that they are sales tools.
Austin: Men 25-54. If you want to avoid being a “niche” station, which healthy sports stations should make a goal of, and get more listeners under your tent, you have to be a great “male listen.” If you focus on a smaller demo, you risk becoming less-relevant with large portions of your audience. If you widen your focus to consider males outside of that demo, or females, you become bland and non-exclusive to the majority of your audience.
Spence: Well, first as I mention above, it’s Men 25-54. That said, the heart of the demo is what MAKES the demo. If I own/control/kill it with Men 35-44, I’ll p/u both ends of the demo. If I focus too much towards either end, I potentially skew the other side of the demo.
Hatch: Our job will always be to deliver the most valuable audience that we can connect to our advertising partners, which will continue to be affluent men with purchase power and influence. If you’re only talking about radio ratings, it’s simple. As long as the ad agencies and buyers continue to determine Men 25-54 and Persons 25-54 are the most important demos to them, it’s going to remain that way for us.
Long: Men 25-64. People are living longer and putting off having children until later in life. Ultimately, delaying retirement . 60 is the new 50 and people’s spending habits have changed.
JB NOTE: There’s some great stuff here. First, Brian raises some excellent points about people living longer, retiring later and having children later. That makes a lot of sense in explaining why adding to the back end of the demographic could make sense in the future. I also love what Jason and Ryan had to say about satisfying the demand of agencies and clients. Until advertisers change their views, Men 25-54 will remain the format’s key focus.
How important are ratings to your business and the way you position your radio station?
Dixon: Personally I love ratings. They can provide validation for your hard work and they can be a big warning sign for something that is not working. That being said, they are not the “be all , end all” of the sports radio business. One of my go to lines is, “I’ve never seen a Sports Radio PD with average ratings and great billing fired.” The 6 plus number that’s published in the trades does not create the narrative of your radio station. Your content, your presentation and the stories that your sales people share on the street is what defines your radio station.
Austin: We don’t position on-air based upon ratings, but we do in the field (sales). The key for us is to be the top sports station in our market. Without a major local play-by-play property, we especially need to own Prime. As for sharing the common goal, I think it registers more clearly with the sales force.
Spence: The bottom line, ratings are important. They’re what takes the average sports station that sells just spots/dots and relationships to the next level. Eventually, if you don’t have ratings, sales will suffer.
Hatch: We pride ourselves on telling the entire Arizona Sports audience story and it’s incredible influence in the market. We absolutely will not allow the radio ratings alone to define success. Granted, ratings are still the most important metric as increased radio audience is still by far the quickest way to increase revenue, especially with transactional business. The difficult part is with longtime radio talent who have been trained and bonused over the years to solely let the radio ratings dictate success. It’s still a tough putt to break that habit. The reality is that while we watch significant growth among so many of our platforms, if the ratings don’t correspond, it’s tough on the guys because that’s still their biggest badge of honor.
Long: Ratings are very important. Having ratings on a station allows both (sales and programming) the advantage of being more discerning about the type of business you are willing to take or walk from which ultimately affects the overall sound of the station.
JB NOTE: There’s one key point made here by the group. Positioning your brand internally is equally as important as positioning it externally. If every aspect of an organization isn’t pulling in the same direction and singing the same tune then further discussion is needed to develop one unified message. The ratings absolutely matter but there’s multiple ways to sell that message and the benefits of the brand. Whichever direction you go, all departments must be on board and share in the same vision.
Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network
“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”
To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.
As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.
If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Which brings me to today’s announcement.
If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.
After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.
The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.
I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.
One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.
Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.
Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.
What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.
Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.
Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.
5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs
“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”
I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.
Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.
But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.
Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.
If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.
Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.
For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.
At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.
I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.
Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.
Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.
Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.
Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.
Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.
Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.
But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?
As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.
Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.
Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.
I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.
What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.
As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.
Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.
But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.
Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.
There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.
I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.