This week I had the privilege of spending a few days in Bristol, CT at ESPN among some of the brightest minds in the sports radio industry. As usual there was a ton of conversation on ways to improve our business but one specific question jumped out to me and it’s something I have a strong passion for – discovering new talent. Everyone has their own ideas on how to find new blood and introduce tomorrow’s sports radio stars to local audiences but for me this is something that I believe is critical for every person who programs a radio station.
More times than not when you look around the industry, stations are quick to take the safest approach possible and hire familiar names and voices to the market rather than introduce someone who requires more explanation. It makes sense most times because familiar names draw quicker reaction from local audiences and when you add advertising dollars into the conversation, it’s easier to sell something familiar than something foreign. What gets lost in that equation though is that sometimes the short-term gain is not as strong as a long-term one and usually it takes a mixture of market proven performers and new exciting personalities to give a radio station a fresh feel.
As a programmer, it’s not easy to tell your bosses, staff and listeners to wait for future success and look at the big picture. We live in a “win now” society where people focus more on the next day than they do on the next year. I remember growing up watching baseball and you’d hear about players spending 5-6 years in the minor leagues before being brought up to the major leagues. Today, once a player shows an ounce of potential, he’s rushed up to the grand stage.
In radio, it’s not much different. We seek broadcasters who can get on the air and make an immediate impact, even if that isn’t always realistic. In a world where ratings are critical to deciding how advertisers invest in your brand, it’s imperative that when you introduce new talent to the marketplace that it works. Sometimes you’ll get some time to let someone develop but usually the leash you’re provided is very short.
I’ve been fortunate twice during my career to build new stations and have a chance to develop people slowly and in each situation, we had success. Once that success is obtained though, it becomes much harder to do that because people become accustomed to success and fearful of losing it as a result of change, especially if it involves unfamiliar personalities.
When I think about the role of a Program Director as it applies to scouting and discovering talent, I compare it to the role of a professional scout in the NFL or MLB. There are tons of roads to navigate and some will work and some won’t but you’ve got to always be looking and planning for the “what if” scenario. Part of that includes consistent evaluating of people inside the industry as well as keeping an eye on those who display potential while climbing up the ladder.
Last week the NY Times published a piece on Derek Jeter which covered how the Yankees Shortstop was discovered in 1991. I found myself thinking of the numerous scenarios that have unfolded in my own career that have led me to finding talented people and putting them on the road to have great success. Clearly they had to have the ability to get the job done but someone also had to recognize their talent, take a chance on hiring them and provide them with the tools, coaching and positive reinforcement necessary to help them.
In this piece, the scout (Dick Groch) talks about how he wasn’t even supposed to attend the camp where he discovered Jeter but yet when he watched him perform, he knew instantly that he had the tools that would translate to the highest level. In my business we call this “having an ear” or an “eye for talent“. There’s no way he could have known for sure that Derek Jeter would play 20 years in the big leagues, win 5 world titles and become a future hall of famer but his instincts told him this was a kid worth going to bat for. By doing so, the Yankees front office performed further evaluations and ultimately agreed with the reports and selected Derek when the chance to draft him was presented.
When you think of sports radio, we don’t get an annual draft but there are plenty of Derek Jeter’s out there. One example comes immediately to mind. Scott Masteller was sharp enough to recognize Colin Cowherd’s talents in Portland and provide him with an opportunity to do local radio. Bruce Gilbert was smart enough to recognize what Scott saw and bring Colin to ESPN Radio. Obviously Colin had to be uniquely talented in order to earn those opportunities but even a great talented individual needs someone who’s willing to take a chance on him.
The problem I see sometimes in our business is that not everyone takes the time to look for new talent or take the risk of hiring someone unproven. Instead there’s a lot of people waiting for their doors to be knocked on or resumes and airchecks to show up in their emails and quite frankly, I don’t believe that you find the world’s best talent that way. Sure there will be some diamonds that come through the system that way but there are plenty of other options to exhaust as well. Unfortunately it’s much more dangerous to risk your own position on the unknown than it is to take the chance on someone who’s familiar.
If you watched the remake of the movie of “The Longest Yard” with Adam Sandler, there’s a scene (see video below) where Sandler goes to the basketball court to try and recruit Michael Irvin who’s seen as an intimidating guy and top notch athlete. When Sandler makes the comment “This guy must be quite the athlete huh“, Irvin responds with “You risked bringing your ass in the jungle because you know I am“. When I think of that scene, I can draw an easy parallel to sports radio because if you want to find great personalities, you’ve got to be willing to look in many different places. The great ones don’t usually apply through your company’s website, they expect you’ll find them when needs arise.
I was talking with Chris “Hoss” Neupert who programs 101 ESPN in St. Louis (my former station) and this subject came up and he mentioned how former St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher Brad Thompson has done a great job adjusting to the business and has become a strong personality on his station on his afternoon show. If Chris had waited for an application, resume or demo tape from Brad, he’d never have received one. It’s not like former St. Louis Cardinals players are sending in applications on a daily basis.
Chris recognized Brad’s ability to communicate intelligently and passionately, explored a few conversations with him, gave him a few looks filling in and observed that Brad had an ability to do this job. Once he knew Brad was ready to move on from his baseball career and pursue a second career in the sports radio industry and a change took place inside his radio station, a move was made to bring him in. He’s since been rewarded by Brad’s show (which includes Randy Karraker and D’Marco Farr) being rated #1 in the St. Louis market in afternoon drive.
Speaking for myself, I’ve gone about things the same way. My job is to constantly be looking for talented people and think of how to best utilize them on my radio station if a future situation comes up. Major market audiences might not have been treated to the radio talents of Chris Duncan, Aubrey Huff, Eric Davis, Ric Bucher, Rick Venturi, Tony Softli, Zack McCrite, Meredith Marakovits, Rob Ellis, Guy Haberman or many others had I not been looking in various places to find good talent. This is something I take a lot of pride in and actively spend time doing. While I may miss from time to time, I never stop trying.
So when it comes to finding new talent, how does one do it? Where do you go to look? Is there some magical formula available to make it work? The answer of course is no but getting the job done is possible and yet it requires exploring a variety of possibilities. Let me share a few examples of ways I’ve done it that I think can help in the future and if you’re an on-air talent or aspiring broadcaster reading this, I encourage you to pay attention to this too because you never know when that call could be coming your way.
– Develop From Within – Producers, Board Ops, Interns and others inside your building are going to spend more time learning the ins and outs of your product better than anyone else. Most times, guys reach a certain level in their careers and begin thinking about the next challenge. While some aren’t cut out to be on the air, some are and for those who possess a solid voice, good knowledge and a decent idea of what goes into doing a talk show after working on your key shows for a while, they certainly deserve consideration.
For example, in Seattle at 710 ESPN, Program Director and On-Air Host Mike Salk looks for producers who have an ability to help produce shows while also sharing a passion to do on-air work. He’ll reward them with some air time in lesser important time slots and that’s helpful for people having a chance to grow.
One of my current on-air personalities Zakariah spent six months interning for me and working on his delivery, hosting and update skills inside a production room before I gave him his first shot to hit the airwaves. I saw his passion and commitment to improve and I heard progress and he earned my trust to hit the air on a weekend shift and eventually do it consistently. He’s since gone on to host nights, weekends, weekday fill-ins and afternoon updates.
– Search Other Markets – My current 10a-12p host Guy Haberman was doing afternoons in Fresno, CA when I first heard him. The market was small but provided a great opportunity for him to get reps and those reps helped him develop. When I had an opening on our night show pop up, I brought him in for an audition and he did a nice job and it was an easy decision to hire him. Had I not taken the time to listen to him though on my own (and have my APD Jeremiah Crowe do so too), he’d have never been brought in for an audition. Because I believe in scouting, we found ourselves a pretty great on-air host who people enjoy listening to.
It doesn’t always have to be smaller markets either. People who live 60-120 miles away from the big city typically aspire to make it to bigger markets but so do people in other markets. Sometimes there’s a personal connection to a certain city. Sometimes they see a certain city as a great move for their career and other times they’re drawn to your location because of positive feedback they’ve heard about your brand from people they like and respect in the business. I’ve lured guys to work for me due to all three of those scenarios. Regardless, I always keep an eye out on other markets and who performs in them and I try to form my own opinions on who has the style and attributes that fit well with my market.
Additionally, I’ll give my APD Jeremiah out of market listening assignments from time to time and I’ll do some myself too. First it’s helpful because sometimes you get ideas of other cool things people are doing on-air to create good radio. Secondly it’s positive because it allows you to discover who’s extremely talented. Third, it can teach you what you don’t like about certain styles or introduce you to others on a show/station that you might not have been familiar with.
I’ll add one last thing on this for on-air talents, be focused and approach your show with passion and enthusiasm each day. You have no idea who is listening to you or when they’re listening to you and if tomorrow you discovered that your worst segment was the one heard by someone who could have made you rich and successful for the rest of your life, are you going to be able to sleep at night? Probably not. You control your presentation and consistency and you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re on at all times. It can be the difference between landing a major opportunity or being quickly forgotten.
– Creating Promotions – In San Francisco I ran a contest called “Lucky Break” and in other markets similar promotions have been created to find undiscovered talent. These things work great sometimes and other times they don’t but I’ve always said that if American Idol hadn’t existed the entire music business would be without Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson so what do you have to lose?
While those artists aren’t really my cup of tea, they’ve all sold tons of records and if they didn’t perform, the record label could have easily dropped them. Since then we’ve seen other shows become hits such as The Voice and X-Factor and they all had one thing in common, discovering new musical talent.
As it applies to the radio station, you can only benefit by doing this. You have the chance to discover a hidden gem but if that doesn’t happen, you can also cut bait with the winner quickly. It doesn’t exactly have to be done on the air either. The reward can be a one-day talk show, an update anchor shift, a podcast, a produced talk show inside a production room or something else. You’ll be amazed at how much response you get from local people who want to be part of what you do. If luck breaks your way, you’ll find a few new exciting voices to feature.
Take a second and look at how many TV shows today are doing this. Whether it’s Shark Tank, Top Chef, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent or any other similar program dominating television today, the need for great talent exists in all forms of business. If other outlets see value in looking for undiscovered talent, maybe it makes sense for you to do so too!
– The Power of YouTube – Voice talent Jim Cutler brought this up a few years ago at a Sports Radio conference I was at in Phoenix and he was dead on. First of all, YouTube allows people to get reps and develop their own following and that’s such a great advantage compared to what was available to people 10-20 years ago. If someone has passion, a unique style and an ability to speak, I’m a firm believer that it will stand out regardless of the forum.
When I was paying my dues and trying to get better at hosting talk shows, I had to work in a production room, host a weekly weekend shift or voice commercials just to get reps. The only thing you could do back then was perform play-by-play while playing a video game. Today, people have many more advantages to continue practicing and if they’re willing to put it on display for you to evaluate, why not look at it?
As an example, my current morning update anchor Anna Kagarakis on 95.7 The Game, had a number of local television videos on YouTube. When I had a need for a new anchor, I reviewed her work, watched it, liked her style and energy and reached out to chat. If I hadn’t utilized YouTube, she might not have wound up on my radio station.
An even more unlikely scenario was my discovery of Clayton Miller. I was looking for someone who does sports voices to contribute to my morning show and aside from Frank Caliendo (who’s brilliant but very busy), I knew it would be difficult to find someone who fit the bill. Thanks to YouTube, I landed on Clayton’s page and after laughing at a number of his impressions and running his work by a few of our guys, I reached out to him to discuss doing a few calls to see how things go. We’ve since used him on our morning show a bunch of times and had it not been for YouTube I would not be aware of him.
– Networking – This industry has thousands of people in it and those who are good at it can recognize others who are good at it or on the right track to doing so. When I get a call, email or social media message from someone I know, respect and trust in the industry suggesting that I look at someone for possible future employment, I’ll usually follow up on it. I might not always hire the person and sometimes I may disagree with their evaluation but I will usually check into it. My belief is that a professional person is not going to risk their reputation to send me bad advice because they don’t want their own name soiled.
For those of you reading this who are pursuing opportunities, I encourage you to get to know PD’s other than when you’re pursuing them for a job. I also recommend chatting with other on-air talent, producers and anchors in the industry to pick their brains too. When you become familiar with people, it strengthens your views on them and if you’re going to move for a new job and work for certain people, I always believe it’s better to know what you’re getting into.
– Explore Unconventional Places – Look around the industry today and take a look at how many athletes perform on the air. I’ll bet you 90% of them didn’t apply for a job or show up at the radio station’s door requesting a few minutes with the PD. In most cases the PD paid attention to how the athlete spoke during their career and they got feedback from their own people, the athlete’s agent and gave the athlete a chance to come in, do a few shifts and see how things go.
Why do guys from the sports world matter? Because your audiences already know them and support them and if they have the ability to perform in this medium, they’re likely to command an instant audience. None of that matters though if you don’t keep an ear on them while they’re going through their careers.
Also to be considered is looking for people with unique and interesting backgrounds. For example, Joe Beningo on WFAN was a passionate caller from Saddle River, NJ who was given a chance to do a one time show on the station as a result of winning a contest. That led to him getting some formal training at Connecticut School of Broadcasting and doing a show on a small station in Elizabeth, NJ before WFAN offered him a chance to do overnights. He’s now hosting middays from 10a-1p and has been with WFAN for 20 years. If he doesn’t call the radio station, he’s never discovered.
If you look around our business today you’ll see guys like Jay Mohr who has a background in movies and comedy, Steve Gorman who plays music for the Black Crowes, Dave Dameshek who has done comedy writing and performing plus many other on-air personalities who have transitioned from other radio formats to the sports talk radio scene. Great talent can come from anywhere so whether you’re at the bar, a comedy club or listening to a radio station that doesn’t do sports, never close your mind or your ears to a different possibility.
To sum this up, we work in a business where change is frequent yet new options seem limited. To keep moving forward, we’ve got to keep hunting for great personalities because they are the number one reason why our format works. To suggest people aren’t interested in this line of work or that younger talented people aren’t out there is rubbish. They are but it requires more than waiting for the phone to ring or emails to appear in your inbox. The real question is, are you willing to put in the time and effort that it takes to find them?
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.