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The Blurred Lines of Play By Play Partnerships

Jason Barrett

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In the broadcasting business, a “flagship station is the broadcast outlet which originates a television or radio network, or a particular radio or television program. The term itself derives from the naval custom where the commanding officer of a group of naval ships would fly a distinguishing flag. In common parlance, “flagship” is now used to mean the most important or leading member of a group, hence its various uses in broadcasting.

In my world, the phrase “flagship station” is one which seems to carry an expectation that the radio station which broadcasts a local market team’s games, will spend the majority of content time talking about that particular team and do so in a positive fashion. From where I sit, that’s not only inaccurate but it goes against every core belief I have as a programmer.

yourwordSports fans expect honesty, strong opinions and content on the stories that have the greatest local appeal. Whether a station gets paid by a team or pays for its local rights, if the content has lesser appeal or if the story surrounding the team is negative, your job as a personality and programmer is to tell the truth and share how you feel about it. There’s a way to present it without being overly critical but even at times when harsh truths are required, your job as a broadcaster is to serve the audience, not the team.

Two of the biggest issues I see in the broadcasting industry today on this issue are a reflection of poor expectations set on both sides. First, its the radio stations job to inform the team prior to conducting business of how they will approach the relationship outside of game broadcasts. Your team/partner, should not be blind sided and surprised by the tactics you employ on the air to engage a local audience. They don’t have to agree with you but they should know your strategy for approaching the content.

Secondly, the team needs to understand that the station’s credibility gets damaged when truths aren’t told. Furthermore, the radio station’s obligation is to provide the team with clearance for the  game (and Pre/Post in most cases), not ownership of the content inside of talk shows. Anything discussed during shows is the station’s call, not a directive from the team.

honesty2I’ve seen a ton of these issues pop up across the country and when they do it’s extremely disappointing to me because fans today are not idiots. They know when their teams are bad, players say or do stupid things and when games are worth attending and when they’re not. To suggest otherwise is insulting to the customers who support each of our brands on a daily basis. It becomes even harder for the on-air talent when they’re doing the job they’re paid to do, only to have someone suggest they compromise who they are and how they present their opinion on the air.

I remember when I was in St. Louis, the Rams had started the Steve Spagnuolo era in Seattle with a bad loss. Richie Incognito had taken a personal foul penalty which got him thrown from the game and Josh Brown (who had prior success kicking in Seattle while with the Seahawks) missed two field goals which hurt the Rams and ultimately led them to a loss.

Following the game I spoke with our Rams broadcast crew and we agreed that the two people to talk with would be Incognito and Brown since the Rams had lost and their actions in the game had impacted the result. We got them both on the air, both were candid and excellent interviews and we felt we had served the Rams fan with the information they’d have the most interest in. Or so we thought!

phoneyellerThe next day, I received a scathing phone call from a member of the team who was livid that we’d put on Incognito and Brown. They felt the team was presented in a negative light and wanted explanation why we’d go to them under such circumstances. I explained how the result (28-0 loss) was what it was and all we could do was tell the story of how it happened.

That wasn’t what this gentleman wanted to hear. He wanted to know why we wouldn’t have put on Ron Bartell since he had 5 tackles in the game and I reiterated how our job was to tell the story of the game and focus on the most important items which led to the final result. After being berated a few more times I finally exploded and asked “Did you want us to ask Ron Bartell what it was like to be burnt for 3 Touchdowns“? Needless to say, we never agreed on the issue but moved forward.

At the end of the season, we sat down to review the good, bad and in-between and most of everything was excellent but the issue of “partnership expectations” came up and we each made our points. I told the folks I was chatting with “I won’t ever compromise the integrity or credibility of the radio station” and they asked me not to paint the team in a negative light when there were other options to consider. Once again, both sides couldn’t agree but we moved forward.

integrityThe point of this is to shed some light on how this issue impacts every sports station across America and why it’s so vital for those involved in this format to protect the brand at all times. Yes we want play by play events on our airwaves and the benefit of a strong association by working with our local teams. But you can’t compromise your talent to obtain that association. I want our business partners to feel proud of being connected to us and I want them to experience a ton of favorable moments on our shows, provided they recognize that there will be other teams discussed too and when stories warrant a negative spin, it’s our job to deliver it.

I was at the Arbitron radio conference in Annapolis, MD in December 2012 when a sports radio panel was conducted and among the panelists was Chris Olivero of CBS Radio. Chris was asked about this exact situation and he said “when making play-by-play deals, make it clear to the team that outside of the games, personalities need the freedom to take the team to task when it’s called for”. I agreed with him then and still do now and that’s the approach I believe is necessary in order to make sure your weekday content is protected.

When you carry a teams games I believe you owe them the benefit of the doubt before you crush them for something bad. That doesn’t mean though that you should refrain from expressing disappointment or embarrassment when a bad situation occurs. Obviously everyone should be pulling for the team to do well but when things don’t work out, it’s our job to tell the truth and express how we feel, not sell the narrative provided to us. I understand that the team wants to limit the damage and negativity because it makes it harder to sell tickets and advertising but there’s a simple solution to that – win games!

soulsaleOne of the other real issues when it comes to this subject isn’t even the teams issue, it’s our own internal issue. Sometimes our own people sell their souls to land a play by play deal and after they do, they can’t handle the pressure that comes from the team bitching when the talent deliver strong on-air takes. Rather than reminding them of the separation between church and state and the fact that in most cases the station is paying for the rights to air their games, people often bend and do whatever it takes to avoid hearing more complaints.

From my chair, complaints aren’t a bad thing. If a personality says something strong enough to make you remember it and reach out to call, email, tweet or text me, chances are it was really good or bad enough to be fired over. Thankfully, more times than not it’s been really good.

The other internal issue I see is that our own people are hesitant to cover topics that are uncomfortable surrounding the team that a station may be affiliated with. Giving the team the benefit of the doubt is fair and shows you’re conscious of the business relationship, but having the ability to do ones job and speak passionately and candidly about a situation should not be something we have to fight for. If a pitcher loses 12 straight starts and a host says “he’s garbage and shouldn’t be on this team“, there’s no evidence to suggest he’s wrong. Even if someone wants to disagree, that’s ok. It’s strictly an opinion and it’s our job to share it.

expectThe other touchy issue that pops up is when local teams expect more coverage time than others in the market. For example, if you listen to WFAN in New York, you’ll hear Mike Francesa during afternoon drive and he’s a proud Yankees fan. Prior to 2014 when the station landed the radio rights to the NY Yankees games, WFAN carried the NY Mets for 26 years.

Anybody who listened to Mike or Mike and the Mad Dog over the years, knew that the Mets games were on the air but the Yankees discussion was going to dominate the majority of the conversation on the afternoon show. Did the Mets like it? Probably not, but the content focus was done that way for one reason, the Yankees have a larger draw in the NY market than the Mets. If you’re playing a game of delivering ratings and trying the attract the most people possible to your business, you give them the content they seek most.

Sure they could have went full throttle with Mets coverage and maybe they could have mixed it in more but it’s hard to argue with the data in the market. I went thru the same thing in St. Louis and am doing so again here in the Bay Area. In St. Louis, the Cardinals drive the bus. You can try to program against it but the reality is, that’s what people want. You either give them a strong dose of it or they’ll find someone else who does.

raiders49ersIn the Bay Area, it’s more like the NY situation. There are 2 football teams and 2 baseball teams and the fan bases for them couldn’t be more different. The Giants and 49ers deliver the strongest amount of interest but my station carries the A’s and Raiders. Nobody wants to see the Oakland teams win more than me for selfish reasons but to ignore what 75% of the market likes would be irresponsible and stupid. Our hardcore fans for the teams we carry may not like it or agree with it but we are running a business and trying to serve the largest amount of customers possible.

I’ve told people when asked about this “if you live in an area where people love to eat steak and you open up a restaurant and don’t offer steak, expect them to eat everywhere else besides your place“. I didn’t create the local market interest or geographical dominance for the Giants and 49ers, their results and better venues did. If their business model has the most appeal to the local audience, then it’s my job to serve that brand of content to them. This article by the NY Times shows what some regions face and this becomes really challenging for stations who operate the format in these places. You can ignore the facts and do it differently but I believe in programming to the strengths of a market and I expect my hosts to do the same.

Not everyone who has worked for me has agreed with that philosophy. I have seen guys with hardcore Giants affiliations wish we’d do more Giants and I’ve seen guys with hardcore A’s passions wonder why we’re not doing 100% A’s programming. In St. Louis I had a few guys who thought we should do nothing but Rams/NFL and ignore the Cardinals and others who thought we should focus on the Cardinals exclusively and ignore the Rams altogether. They all had legitimate reasons for their views but once again, you’ve got to make a decision and stick with it and realize that you can’t please everyone.

The bottom line, you’ve got to have a blend. In a market with divided interests, serving both sides of my market is important. In St. Louis, serving the Cardinals fan was critical but so was satisfying the appetite of football fans. Yes the ratings will be higher for the SF teams and the Cardinals but I do believe that there is a responsibility to drive higher interest in the brands you’re affiliated with too. To use my current brand as an example, we’re 4 years into the development of the radio station and the interest in the A’s has grown significantly since we started, even though it still pales in comparison to the Giants. A new ballpark and continued success could eventually see that gap become smaller which is what we’re all hoping for.

People that I work with know that the term “flagship station” doesn’t sit well with me. I prefer “home of“. That tells the audience that we carry the games and are going to promote them as much as possible and you can expect us to talk plenty about the team. What it doesn’t say though is that we’re planting our flag in the ground for the team we carry and promising to deliver only the good news and ignore the bad.

I also believe in doing weekly partnership agreements with local players, coaches, general managers and executives and in most cases everything runs smoothly but there are a few times where it gets bumpy. I’ve told agents and those I do deals with “we’ll be fair, honest and give you the benefit of the doubt but if things don’t work out or the organization has a negative situation on its hands, you’ve got to understand the position of our people and respect that they’re going to ask about it“. Luckily guys like Billy Beane, Trent Baalke, Steven Jackson and Isaac Bruce have understood that over the years and it’s worked out well.

koolaidWhile this is how I see things when it comes to play by play relationships with sports radio stations, there are plenty of others who disagree and win differently. I’ve seen brands only talk positive about the teams they cover and stay away from discussing the other local teams in a market and if that’s the way you prefer to go, more power to you. There’s clearly more than one way to skin the cat.

I firmly believe that honesty, strong opinions and a balance of discussion on local market teams is important and sports radio brands can’t just be spitting the message of what they’ve been told to deliver. It’s easier when you’re wearing the shoes of ESPN and can remind the NBA you spend 1.4 billion per year for the right to carry games and be honest but whether a brand spends 1.4 billion or 1 dollar, honesty and delivering the truth in a passionate way, is something that should never be for sale.

Your job is to play the hits that matter to the audience and speak honestly about how you feel about them. Audiences will respect and appreciate you for that and you’ll see it reflected in your ratings. Anyone who asks you to compromise your core beliefs and ignore the best interests of your listeners, is not thinking about you or your brand, only themselves. No amount of money or affiliation is worth that exchange.

Barrett Blogs

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.”

Jason Barrett

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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.

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Barrett Blogs

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.”

Jason Barrett

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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.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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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.

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