Landing a job can be a very emotional and tiring process. In most cases, candidates wrestle with numerous questions about whether to stay or go, while trying to craft the perfect narrative to satisfy their fears about the future. They sometimes take weeks, and even months trying to determine if a new opportunity makes sense to accept.
Equally as challenging is the employer’s position. When a vacancy exists inside an operation, there’s a lot of disruptions that occur. It becomes difficult for other staff members because they’re usually asked to absorb a heavier burden, and depending on the position, it can lead to an increase in noise from the outside too.
In both instances, each side is tasked with one important responsibility – making the right choice!
But it doesn’t always work out that way.
When you hire someone, you have a 50/50 chance of being right. The choice you make can leave you looking like a genius or the biggest fool in the office. You can research an individual, and talk to everyone under the sun about them, and while those conversations will offer insight to help you out, it still comes down to trusting your gut!
If you’re the candidate, it’s a similar gamble. You can look at the city you’re considering moving to and review the company’s previous hires, talk to people employed by the same organization in other cities, and even analyze the group’s stock performance if you wish, but when the moment comes to say yes, you’re going to do it based on the connection you’ve formed with the individual(s) offering you an opportunity.
Although every scenario is different, I’m a big believer in striking while the iron is hot. The longer a hiring process plays out, the worse it usually turns out. In many cases it also leads to the ‘hot candidate’ or ‘perfect job’ becoming less attractive.
When a company reaches out to discuss a possible fit, that initial inquiry tells you that they believe you are worth pursuing. How you click with the hiring team once you start talking indicates whether or not things will advance to the next level.
Assuming the discussions go well, it’s often followed up with a face to face meeting, and a ‘sales pitch’ on how great the situation could be if you were to get on board.
After two sides lay out their negotiating points and find a middle ground, most companies will ask for a resolution. They may give you an extra day or two to think things over but then they expect an answer. If you’re not sold by this point, you may ask a few follow up questions to gain some extra feedback, but if what gets relayed doesn’t put your mind at ease to say yes and sign on the dotted line, then it’s not likely going to work out.
Now let’s look at it from the other side.
If you’re the employer and you’ve done your homework scouting a potential hire, you know pretty quickly if they have the skillset you’re looking for. You’ll review their work history, dig into their background to find out if there are any skeletons in their closet, and you may talk to some people who have worked with the candidate to make sure they’re someone worth sticking your neck out for.
Once that information is known, the real questions to be answered are whether or not you can connect as manager to employee, what the expectations of the position are, what you’re willing to do to help them experience success, and what the compensation package looks like. If those questions are met with resistance, and the two sides can’t find a happy medium, then it’s not going to be good for either party.
As the employer roleplays in their mind whether or not someone is the right fit to join the staff, they end up crossing people off the list the longer the process continues.
When you’re impressed and excited, you want to move fast so nobody else can get their hands on the prize that you’ve uncovered. Rather than move forward with uncertainty, you’re ready to cancel all other considerations because your mind, heart and gut are all telling you the same thing – the situation feels right. If that feeling isn’t there, it’s probably for a good reason.
It’s similar to being a single male who meets a gorgeous woman. If you don’t act quickly to express your interest and ask her on a date, someone else will be right behind you ready to act. Once they do, you may never get another chance.
Let’s be clear about something – if a hiring manager doesn’t believe you’re a special individual or the right fit, that doesn’t mean you lack skill or wouldn’t be great elsewhere. So many partnerships in this business are the result of a strong fit and connection than they are about who possesses more talent.
Some applicants take it personally when the call doesn’t come their way, and while it can be frustrating when you have your hopes up and want to be part of a specific operation, the reality is that it’s not going to work out if the person making the call doesn’t have an unwavering belief, confidence and genuine excitement about having you on their staff.
I’m often asked by people and companies for input on candidates and possible openings and there are a few key things I believe are important as it pertains to this process.
First here are a few tips for the candidates.
- Don’t pursue a position if you’re not willing to accept it: A lot of people like to feel important and receive an offer to make them feel good, but when push comes to shove, they’re not ready to accept. There’s nothing wrong with exploring your options, but before you put a hiring boss on the hook with their company for making you an offer, make sure you are committed to pursuing it. If you’re not, be up front with them that the likelihood of you accepting the offer is a long shot. You’ll gain more respect that way and you may even be surprised by how far the group will go to try and secure your services.
- Pursue with passion but respect the hiring manager’s rules for communication: If they want more audio, send it. If they tell you don’t call, don’t. If they ask for a few days to respond, be patient. Even if you hear of others being given consideration for the job, remember that you’re not the only person they’re going to talk to. If your talent is great and you fit the bill for what they’re after, they’ll follow up. There’s a fine line between persistence and annoyance. Don’t cross it and cost yourself an opportunity.
- Have an understanding of what matters to you most in the job you’re seeking: If you make your wish list and it shows “money, length of commitment, and great city with warm weather” as your three most important elements, and the company pursuing you checks those boxes, you can understand their frustration if you don’t accept. It’s one thing to not explore a job because the money wasn’t right, the commitment was thin, or the neighborhoods don’t align with your preferred choice of living, but whether it’s three, four or five key items, know what they are, and press the hiring group on them so you have the clarity you need in making your decision.
Now let’s take a look at things from the position of the employer.
- Know what you’re looking for before you start the process: If you’re drawn to someone who makes you laugh and is less confrontational, say that. If you prefer the opposite, say that too. Hiring managers want great talent and a guarantee of future success but it starts with the specifics. Think about the qualities you’re drawn to in others, what you want your brand and people to represent, how you want them to approach their jobs, and then focus on the candidates who fit the bill. There’s a lot of talent out there but you can’t identify the right one until you know what you’re searching for.
- Investigate, communicate, and set a date: When you have an opening, your focus turns to finding a solution. If you had a gash on your arm you wouldn’t wait to get it stitched up and it’s no different with filling a hole on your staff. Turn over every stone you can so you have a thorough understanding of the person you’re considering hiring. Talk to friends, family, colleagues, competitors, and get a true sense of who it is you’re considering forming a partnership with. Then, set a deadline so others in your company know what can be expected, and you can hold yourself accountable to deliver a solution. As you engage with candidates, stick to your word if you promise a follow up call or email. If you’re not interested, communicate that too. Transparency is important in staying on track and maintaining respect with those who apply. Remember, people talk to other people. You don’t want to damage your reputation by not handling things that were under your control.
- Don’t offer the job unless you’re 100% sure it’s the person you want: I’ve advised a few people on certain jobs and on three different occasions, a company has offered a position, only to rescind it afterwards. That’s not only bad business but it’s disrespectful. It’s also the type of decision making that leads me to caution others on pursuing work with those organizations. If a manager isn’t sold on someone or is having buyer’s remorse, that’s understandable. But remember that your credibility and reputation are on the line once you make the call. If you’re unsure, don’t make an offer. You can still discuss salary requirements, the length of a contract, and job specifics without an agreement. If you want the responsibility of hiring people, then take it seriously. Don’t mess with someone’s emotions or risk causing damage to their family or current job by not being sure if you want them on your staff. They’ll respect and appreciate you more for walking away than if you make a promise you can’t deliver on.
When you think about the challenges of hiring or going to work for a new company, picture being in the middle of the process between an NFL or MLB franchise, and a key Free Agent or Head Coach.
Once the world knows that a player or coach is available, word trickles out and teams begin doing their due diligence. They’ll investigate what an individual brings to the table, how they believe they’d fit the team, and then after they gain some insight into what that person is seeking in terms of salary and length of commitment, they’ll make a decision on whether or not to move forward.
Once they know they’re interested, that’s when the madness begins.
Soon the visits are scheduled, conversations are had on a deeper level, and in the matter of a few hours, people are making life changing decisions. Rarely do you see these situations linger for weeks or months.
Each free agent enters a facility knowing that they could be signing a long term commitment that day. There’s no extended window offered to review the school system, the daily commute time, or the leisure spots in the area for the family. Those are things that people adjust to.
Instead the focus is on these key factors:
- Are they meeting my salary requirements
- Are they offering enough security (length) to ease my mind
- Do I believe they’re committed to winning and possess a strong vision
- Do I click with the boss and feel we can have a good working relationship
If those four boxes get checked, then it’s up to the individual to process the information in their head, talk to their family, trust their gut, and make the call. They could be making a big mistake or it could be the beginning of their own personal nirvana. Regardless of how it turns out in the future though, a decision has to be made in the present.
I see too many situations pop up where companies spend months looking for the perfect candidate, only to stunt their growth, disrupt their inner workings, and slow down business, all because they were gunshy on making a hire. You do more damage dragging out a process than you do by making a decision and having to adjust down the road.
There’s a feeling of nervousness inside most hiring managers because nobody wants to make the wrong move. That’s a natural feeling and it shows that you care about your company and want to do the right thing. But you can feel good enough to hit Powerball on the day you hire someone, and there still remains a strong possibility that you may have swung and missed.
The same applies to any person exploring a new opportunity. You can feed your ego and boost your confidence by pursuing opportunities and you may even gain a contract offer, but remember that the feeling of being the shiny new toy eventually goes away.
Making a decision to leave one place for another just because you don’t feel appreciated is fine, but make sure first that you’ve addressed the situation with your current company, and understand how they view you, where you stand, and what your ceiling is. Too often people leave situations in search of greener grass, only to find that it doesn’t exist.
As cliche as it sounds, we work in the communication business yet struggle to communicate. We’d rather reject a boss and blame them for our lack of development instead of seeking them out and challenging them to make us better. We’d rather chase the bigger immediate paycheck than look at how staying put will pay greater long term dividends.
And companies are often guilty of the same thing. They’d rather do less investigating, and hire the person with the longer resume and safer track record, than bet on someone less familiar with more talent and a higher upside. It’s easier to do what others have done, and protect your spot, than stand in the line of fire by attempting to do something great and different.
Regardless of the side you’re on, the bottom line in all of this is to do your homework, know what you’re looking for, find a middle ground, and when the conversations intensify, be ready to make a commitment. The longer you wait, the more you will talk yourself out of things, and the less likely you will be to work together. That could be a devastating blow, or a blessing in disguise. Your chances of being right are 50/50!
Takeaways From The NAB Show and Six Days in Las Vegas
“I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm for the NAB Show was elevated this year.”
Six days on the road can sometimes be exhausting. Six days in Las Vegas, and it’s guaranteed. That was my world last week, as I along with more than fifty thousand people headed to sin city to take in the 2022 NAB Show.
The event didn’t draw as many as it had in the past, but after two years of inactivity due to the pandemic, it was good to be back. Judging from some of the vendors I talked to, the sessions I attended, and the feedback I received from folks I met with, though far from perfect, it was a solid return for an important event. Seeing people interact, celebrate others, and talk about ways to improve the business was a positive reminder of the world being closer to the normal of 2019 than the normal of 2020-2021. The only negative from the week, the consistent failure of Uber to appear in the right place at the right time. But that had zero to do with the NAB.
It feels like whenever I attend industry conferences, there are two different type of reviews that follow. Some writers attend the show and see the glass half full. Others see the glass half empty. I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm was elevated this year. Maybe it was because BSM was a media partner or maybe it was due to the show not happening for years and just being happy to be among friends, peers, and clients and operate like normal. Either way, my glass was definitely half full.
For those who see events this way, it’s likely they’ll remember the numerous opportunities they had to create and reestablish relationships. They’ll also recall the access to different speakers, sessions, products, and the excellent research shared with those in attendance. The great work done by the BFOA to recognize industry difference makers during their Wednesday breakfast was another positive experience, as was the Sunday night industry gathering at The Mayfair Supper Club.
Included in the conference were sessions with a number of industry leaders. Radio CEO’s took the stage to point out the industry’s wins and growth, credit their employees, and call out audio competitors, big tech, and advertisers for not spending more with the industry. When David Field, Bob Pittman, Ginny Morris and Caroline Beasley speak, people listen. Though their companies operate differently, hearing them share their views on the state of the business is important. I always learn something new when they address the room.
But though a lot of ground gets covered during these interviews, there are a few issues that don’t get talked about enough. For instance, ineffective measurement remains a big problem for the radio business. Things like this shouldn’t happen, but they do. NBC and WarnerMedia took bold steps to address problems with TV measurement. Does radio have the courage to take a similar risk? That’s an area I’d like to see addressed more by higher ups.
I can’t help but wonder how much money we lose from this issue. Companies spend millions for a ratings service that delivers subpar results, and the accountability that follows is often maddening. Given the data we have access to digitally, it’s stunning that radio’s report card for over the air listening is determined by outdated technology. And if we’re going to tell folks that wearables are the missing ingredient for addressing this problem, don’t be shocked if the press that follows is largely negative. The industry and its advertising partners deserve better. So too do the reps at Nielsen who have to absorb the hits, and make the most of a tough situation.
Speaking of advertising, this is another one of those critical areas that deserves another point of view. Case in point, I talked to a few ad agency professionals at the show. Similar to what I’ve heard before, they’re tired of hearing radio leaders blame them for the industry’s present position. This has been a hot button topic with executives for years. I often wonder, do we help or hurt ourselves by publicly calling out advertisers and ad agencies? How would you feel if you ran an agency which spent millions on the industry and were told ‘you don’t do enough’? I’m a champion of radio/audio, and am bullish on spoken word’s ability to deliver results for clients, but having attended these shows for nearly seven years, it might be time for a new approach and message. Or maybe it’s time to put one of our CEO’s with one of theirs and have a bigger discussion. Just a thought.
Of the sessions that I attended, I thought Erica Farber’s ‘What Business Are You In?’ was excellent. I especially liked Taja Graham’s presentation on ‘Sharing Your Truth’. I also appreciated Eric Bischoff’s tips on ways to monetize podcasts, and am curious to see how Amazon’s AMP develops moving forward. My favorite session at the show though was “A GPS Session For Your Station’s Car Radio Strategy” led by Fred Jacobs. The insight shared by Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Steve Newberry & Suzy Schultz of Quu was outstanding. Keeping the car companies on our side is vital to our survival, and how we position ourselves on the dashboard can’t be ignored. Other tech companies and audio operators take it seriously. We must too.
Sessions aside, it was great to check out the VSiN and Blue Wire studios, connect with a bunch of CEO’s, GM’s and Market Manager’s, and visit with Kevin Jones, Joe Fortenbaugh, Jeremiah Crowe, Jon Goulet, Bill Adee, Q Myers, Mike Golic Jr. and Stormy Buonantony. The NFL’s setup for the Draft, and the light show presented at the Bellagio was without a doubt spectacular, plus Stephanie had a chance to say hello to Raiders owner Mark Davis who was inside the back room of a Westgate restaurant where we were having a business lunch meeting. The personal tour we received at the Wynn showed off some of the best suites I’ve seen in Las Vegas, and I was finally able to witness Circa’s Stadium Swim in person, and meet owner Derek Stevens (heck of a suit game). What an outstanding hotel and casino.
Altogether, it was a productive trip. As someone who knows all about building and executing a conference, I appreciate the work that goes into pulling it off. This event is massive, and I have no idea how the NAB makes it happen so flawlessly. This was the first time my head of sales, Stephanie Eads, got to attend the show. She loved it. Our only negative, going back and forth between convention halls can get exhausting. Wisely, Stephanie and Guaranty Media CEO Flynn Foster took advantage of the underground Tesla ride to move from the North hall to the West hall. I wasn’t as bright. If that’s the worst part of the experience though, that’s pretty solid. I look forward to returning in 2023, and attending the NAB’s NYC show this fall.
You’ve likely seen posts from BSM/BNM on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn promoting a number of open positions. I’m adding crew to help us pump out more content, and that means we need more editors, news writers, features reporter’s and columnists. If you’re currently involved or previously worked in the industry and love to write about it, send a resume and few writing samples by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
With that said, I’m excited to announce the addition of Ryan Brown as a weekly columnist for BSM. Ryan is part of ‘The Next Round’ in Birmingham, Alabama, which previously broadcast on WJOX as JOX Roundtable. The show left the terrestrial world in June 2021 to operate as its own entity. Ryan’s knowledge and opinions should provide a boost to the site, and I’m looking forward to featuring his columns every Tuesday. Keep an eye out for it tomorrow, and if you want to check out the guest piece he previously wrote for us, click here.
Demetri Ravanos and I have talked to a lot of people over the past month. More additions will be revealed soon. As always, thanks for the continued support of BSM and BNM.
Six New Contributors Join Barrett Media
“These latest additions will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.”
Building a brand starts with a vision. Once that vision is defined, you identify the people who fit what you’re creating, lay out the game plan, and turn them loose to execute. If the product you’re creating is original, fills a gap in the marketplace, and the work turned in by your team is consistently excellent and promoted in the right locations, more times than not you’ll build an audience.
As you grow, the focus turns to studying what your audience wants, needs, and expects from your brand. Certain things you expect to be big turn out small, and the things you saw limited upside in create opportunities you never saw coming. It’s critical to be open minded and ready to pivot while also examining where and when people consume your product, which pieces of content do and don’t matter, and then use that information to direct your team to give folks more of what they value and less of what they don’t. Team members should want that feedback too. It tells them what is and isn’t worth spending their time on.
As I lay all of that out it may sound like I’m talking about a radio station or television operation. These are the things programmers do frequently to make sure the talent, shows, and brand is satisfying the expectations of an audience. But what I’m actually referring to is the brand you’ve made a choice to click on to read this column, Barrett Media.
I’ve mentioned many times on this website how I started this operation by myself, and didn’t expect to have a team of writers involved in it. I was focused on consulting sports stations, sharing my programming views on this website, and as I cranked out content consistently, I discovered others loved the business like I did and had a desire to share their insights too. Rather than sticking to my original plan, I pivoted and increased our content offerings. In return, the audience grew, clients grew, and it’s led this brand to grow beyond my expectations. Now we cover sports AND news media, we run an annual conference, feature a membership program, create podcasts, deliver a daily 8@8 and three times per week BNM Rundown newsletter, and work with various brands and companies across the broadcasting industry. I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position and don’t take it for granted.
But with growth comes change. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of talented people contribute to this site over the years, and as they produce quality work, and others across the industry recognize it, they earn interest for their services. That then leads to some having to sign off for bigger opportunities. I see that as a great positive for the brand. Would it be nice to have more consistency and keep a crew together for years? Of course. I know it’d make Demetri’s life a lot easier. If we’re losing people for the right reasons though, and they’re landing opportunities that help them advance their careers, I’m going to be happy for their success, and trust that we’ll find others to keep us moving forward. The success of our team helps make what we do more attractive to others because it shows that if you do good consistent work here, you can put yourself in a position to attract attention.
Over the past two months, I have challenged Demetri Ravanos to invest more time talking to people about writing for us. Expanding our Barrett News Media roster is a priority. So too is adding quality people to help us improve Barrett Sports Media. BSM has had just under seven years to earn trust with readers. BNM has had less than two. We’ve put out ads on our website and newsletters, social posts, an ad on Indeed, and we’ve reached out directly to people who we’ve felt may be able to add something interesting to our brand. Most of my time is spent listening to stations and talking with clients, but my eyes are always roaming looking for content, and my mind is always thinking about what we can create next to make an impact.
I don’t judge our brand’s success based on clicks, shares, breaking news before other outlets or showing up in the top three listings on Google. I care more effort accuracy, timeliness, passion, consistency, storytelling, insight, and being fair and non-agenda driven. We’ve found our niche being able to tell stories about broadcasting professionals, relaying news, and offering expert knowledge to serve those involved in the broadcasting industry. If we continue to excel doing those things consistently, I’m confident our audience will reward us by reading and sharing more of our content. It’s why we never stop recruiting to keep things fresh.
Having said that, I am excited today to reveal six new additions to the Barrett Media staff. Peter Schwartz is a name and voice many in New York sports radio circles are familiar with. Peter has spent three decades working with various outlets and I’m thrilled to have him writing weekly feature stories for us. Brady Farkas is a talented host and former programmer who now works for WDEV in Burlington, VT. Karl Schoening is a play by play broadcaster who has worked in San Antonio sports radio and has had the added benefit of learning the industry from his talented father Bill who calls Spurs games. Each of them will produce bi-weekly feature stories for the brand. Jason Ence is in Louisville and has written about sports betting for Twin Spires while also working for ESPN 680. He’ll be writing sports betting content for us on a weekly basis. Jasper Jones will help us by adding news stories on Friday’s. He’s presently in Philadelphia learning the business working for Audacy. Last but not least, veteran author, Brewers writer, and former radio professional Jim Cryns comes on board to help us with features on news media professionals.
These six additions make us stronger, and I’m excited to have them join the team to help us add more quality content to the website. That said, we’re not done yet. Demetri and I are still talking with others and I expect to make a few more additions in the weeks ahead. As I said earlier, we want to improve the news media side of our operation and continue adding people to help us make a bigger dent in the sports media space. Broadcast companies invest in us to help them, and I believe it’s important to invest back.
If you’ve programmed, hosted a top rated show, worked in measurement, led a cluster as a GM, sold advertising, represented talent or have worked in digital and feel you have knowledge to share, reach out. I can’t promise we’ll have room but we’re always willing to listen. I’m not worried about whether or not you’ve written for professional publications. Passion, experience and unique insights matter much more than a resume or journalism degree.
I appreciate everyone who takes time to read our content, like and share it on social, and all involved with this brand who help bring it to life each day. The latest additions of Schwartz, Farkas, Schoening, Ence, Jones and Cryns will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.
Programming In Fear Is a Recipe For Failure
“The best programmers go to work focused on making an impact and thinking about what could go right not what could go wrong.”
If you haven’t read Demetri Ravanos’ column this week, which included feedback from five programmers on whether or not they’d hire sports radio’s equivalent of Deshaun Watson, you should. It’s interesting, enlightening and sparked my interest to write a follow up column.
When it comes to decision making in the media industry subjectivity is at the center of everything. It’s not as simple as the NFL where wins and losses are often decided by talent and coaching. Instead, our business is judged by a small amount of meters and their activity using our products as determined by Nielsen, and personal relationships formed with advertisers and media industry professionals. All three of these areas may be less than perfect in determining if something is going to work or not, but it’s the way it is.
Let’s start with something I think most of us can agree on – listeners spend time with brands and individuals that cut through the noise. Most will also agree that advertisers value that too. If a talent can attract an audience and convert them into customers on a consistent basis, a company will employ them. Advertisers will ask to be included in their program too. If issues with a host’s track record or character exist it may turn off a few sponsors, but when there’s money to be made, the bottom line usually wins.
It’s similar in some ways to the NFL, which is why players like Deshaun Watson, Tyreek Hill, Antonio Brown, Michael Vick, Aldon Smith, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon and others are given second, and in some instances third and fourth chances to play. In a league where wins and talent impact the bottom line, executives care more about success than their morale standing. I know some folks would prefer that to be different but competition and business success drives many to look past certain situations.
In every business, there are people who are dirt bags. You may not want to associate with them or see them receive second or third chances, but if they can help a team win, make the franchise money, and excite a fanbase by helping to deliver a championship, owners are going to turn a blind eye to outside issues. They’ll even pay these players insane amounts of money despite their problems. Just look at the recent deals inked by Watson and Hill.
I know radio and television isn’t exactly the NFL, but as I read Demetri’s column I couldn’t help but think about the dilemma radio programmers face; to hire the best talent and run the risk of dealing with increased attention by inviting baggage into the building or play it safe and hire people with less problems even if their talent level is lower.
We work in the media industry. The job is to deliver audience, and ad revenue. If someone possesses the ability to help you do that, you owe it to your bosses to look into it. If you are going to pass up hiring someone with special talent because you value character more, I applaud you. It’s commendable and speaks volumes about who you are. But producing high ratings and revenue isn’t determined by who’s a better person. If your competitor loses to you in the morale department but wins consistently in those two areas, you may one day be calling me for advice on saving your job or finding the next one.
Audiences care far less about an individual’s behavior or the negative PR you have to absorb. They simply listen and/or watch people they find interesting and entertaining. Did the Chiefs and Bucs sell less tickets after adding Hill, Mixon or Brown? The answer is no. Fans wanted to see their teams win, and as long as those players helped them do that, far less cared about whether or not those guys were good or bad people. I’m sure Browns fans will do the same with Watson if he delivers a title for the city of Cleveland.
This issue is red meat for many in the media because it makes for great discussion, and generates a lot of reaction. However, as nice as it’d be to have good people in every enviable position, this is a business, and what matters most is the final result in generating audience and advertising. Sometimes that means adding people who bring baggage through the door.
Advertisers aren’t much different than fans either. They may voice concerns or reject being connected to someone initially who comes with negative attention, but if people start to listen or watch, they’re going to want to be involved eventually because it presents an opportunity to improve their bottom line. It’s why you don’t see a surge of advertising partners abandon NFL teams after they sign or draft a player with a troubled past. If it’s good for business, exceptions will be made.
Some may not like hearing this, but a brand manager is paid to improve their brand’s business not to manage the media’s morality department. I’d much rather work with good people who provide little drama. It makes work more enjoyable. But this is the entertainment business. Some high profile stars have ego’s, issues, ridiculous demands, and they create a lot of bullshit. Some are worth it, some aren’t. If they can help attract big dollars and a large audience, it’s an executive’s job to find a way to employ them and manage them.
I’m not suggesting that we should hire everyone with a prior track record of problems. I’m also not advocating not to do background checks, ask questions, double check with references, and feel as comfortable as possible with who you’re adding. It’s important to analyze the risks vs. the rewards when hiring someone who may cause some initial blowback. Not everyone is worth a second or third chance. More times than not, the HR department is going to prefer you add people with minimal risk who make the hiring process easier. But if a special talent is available and they come with baggage, you can’t be afraid to make a move that can grow your brand’s performance and bottom line.
For example, you may dislike some of the prior incidents that Howard Stern, Joe Rogan, Craig Carton, Dave Portnoy, and Ryen Russillo were involved in, but they’ve all shown a consistent ability to deliver an audience, revenue, and relevance. I used those 5 personalities as examples because Demetri specifically used Deshaun Watson, a QB who is widely recognized as a Top 5 QB in the NFL as the example. He’s seen as a game changer on the field just as these personalities are recognized as stars behind the microphone. If a programmer had a chance to hire one of those talents and bypassed them because they were worried about the ‘noise’ they’d have to deal with, I hope and pray their competition takes a pass too. If not, they’d be paying for it for a long time.
That said, I would not put my career on the line for a talent who has twenty two counts of sexual misconduct hanging over their head. I’d tell them to handle their legal situation first and then wait and see how the situation plays out. You can tell me how special a talent is, and I’ll tell you I’m all for second chances and I’m not afraid to put my job on the line to hire someone exceptionally gifted, but I’m also not stupid. Most corporate companies are going to want no part of that association and neither are advertisers. It’d be a bad bet.
But in Watson’s case, he was cleared of the criminal charges. That was decided in a court of law. Are we supposed to never hire him even though he was found innocent? This world is littered with examples of people who are talented, have been accused of wrongdoing, have prevailed legally, and have gone on to make the most of second opportunities. Yet social media is often seen as an approval ground where ‘noise’ matters more than facts.
Human beings are flawed and do stupid things sometimes. It doesn’t make them bad people or not worthy of being hired again. We also have a legal system for a reason. If one is accused of a crime, they have their day in the court, and a judge and jury decides if they are guilty or innocent. For some reason, whenever a high profile individual is linked to a situation, we have a tendency to react quickly, often declaring them guilty and permanently damaged. But that’s not right, and it often blows up in our face.
How did that work out with the Duke lacrosse case? Or when Rafael Palmeiro waved his finger at congress and said he never took steroids? Instant reactions were the Duke lacrosse team needed to be put away for life, and the media needed to leave Palmeiro alone. We later learned, both reactions were wrong. The same thing just happened again with Watson. In the court of public opinion, he’s guilty. In a court of law, he’s not. There’s something very wrong with that picture.
The minute you hire a person connected to controversy you have to know people are going to bring it up, and media outlets are going to draw attention to it. So what? If people listen/watch, and clients spend, deal with it. From the movie industry to politics to the world or sports and the media business, there are many examples of highly skilled people with imperfect records that were worth betting on. You have to have thick skin and be able to absorb negativity if you’re going to hire and manage people. You’re responsible for serving the audience, advertising community, and growing a business, not being the most liked inside your office or on social media.
Secondly, speaking of social media, I think we place way too much value on what listeners say on Twitter and/or Facebook. The majority of your audience isn’t living on Twitter. If they’re not happy with your product, they’ll change the dial or avoid pressing the button to stream your content. There is a lot of good that comes from social media, but when you make decisions for a brand that could raise a few eyebrows, your best move is to tune it out. Let people say what they want. If you’ve done your homework and added an individual who’s capable of making an impact, trust your gut that it’ll be proven right over time.
Third, when you’re talking to someone who has gone through a situation that can potentially create headaches for the brand you represent, remember that they’re going to act remorseful and tell you what you want to hear. They’re hoping to land a high profile job and recover from a setback. Talking to others who’ve been around them and have history with them is part of the process, and hearing them out is too. After you’ve gathered your facts and weighed the pros and cons, it ultimately comes down to whether or not you trust them, believe in them, and have the courage to handle the heat that will soon hit you when you enter the kitchen.
You can avoid all of that and hire someone safer. Sometimes that works. But in a business where talent ultimately wins, others eventually find ways to improve. If the brands you compete with have the guts to take the risk that you didn’t, you may pay for it later. Which is why you can’t dismiss star talent with blemishes on their resumes. It’d be great if we could all go through life, do the right thing, and never have to answer questions for controversial decisions, but that’s not realistic.
I’ve shared this story before, back when I was in San Francisco in 2013, I hired Damon Bruce. He had previously generated heat for comments about not wanting women in his sandbox. It was a bad take, one he endured a lot of negative attention for, and despite apologizing and serving a suspension, nothing seemed to satisfy the masses. When we started talking, I entered those conversations knowing if I brought him on board I’d have to deal with the noise. I got to know him, talked to others, and reviewed the facts. One thing that stuck with me, he had never been in serious trouble and he had spent a decade working for the same employer. More times than not, you don’t work somewhere for that long if people don’t value you and enjoy working with you.
Damon would be the first to admit that back then he could be a pain in the ass, and he came to the table with public attention that made him harder to hire. I chose to believe in his talent, trust my eyes and ears, and focus on how he could help us improve our business. There were emails, tweets, and voicemail complaints I had to deal with but typing this now nine years later, after Damon just signed a three year extension to remain in afternoons at 95.7 The Game, I know the right call was made. He had to own his mistake, learn from it, and I had to have the courage to give him a shot and support him. In the end, everyone benefitted.
One story I haven’t shared, took place in 2006. I had just been hired to program Sports Talk 950 in Philadelphia, which has since become 97.5 The Fanatic. Our roster was bare, our lineup had national shows occupying the majority of the weekday schedule, and we needed more top level local talent to get to the next level. As I reviewed local and external options, I put Mike Missanelli and John Kincade high on my list. Ironically, they now both host drive time shows on The Fanatic.
Well, as we were preparing to reach out and talk to people, Missanelli got fired by WIP for ‘violating company policy’. It was alleged that he got into a physical altercation with a part time producer. I wasn’t there so I didn’t know all the facts, but the noise from that situation affected our process. When I raised the idea of meeting with him it was quickly dismissed. I knew he was ready for the next step, would have a chip on his shoulder to beat his former employer, and had a ton of local relationships which could be good for business. I was willing to meet and learn more, and if during that process we felt it made sense to bring him on board, I’d have handled the heat that came from it.
It never even started though. Others worried about the ‘noise’ and decided to pass up the opportunity to add a difference maker to the lineup. The brand struggled to gain traction for the next few years, and when Matt Nahigian arrived in town, he wisely went and hired Missanelli. Almost instantly, the success and perception of the brand changed. Now, The Fanatic consistently competes against WIP, and Missanelli has helped deliver a lot of wins in afternoons over the past 13-14 years.
Each person who makes a decision to hire someone has a lot to consider. If a radio talent is seen in a negative light because of prior history with other professionals or because they delivered an insensitive rant that’s much different than being found guilty of twenty two counts of sexual misconduct. Having said that, I worry that some managers ignore the facts (Watson was found not guilty) and will add a solid talent with less negative attention than a more talented person with extra baggage. As a programmer, would you have had the guts to hire Craig Carton after he served time? Would you have the stomach to handle the heat if Dave Portnoy worked for you and the Business Insider story cast a dark cloud over your brand? Would you stand by Joe Rogan when others attack him for comments made in the past or as artists pull their music because of not agreeing with his views?
I’m not sure if I’m right, wrong, smart or stupid, but I know this, if I believed in them enough to hire them knowing that the noise would increase the second they entered the office, then I’d do my best to have their back. I’d also not think twice about my future or whether or not my corporate boss had a bullseye on my back. I think the best programmers go to work focused on making an impact and thinking about what could go right not what could go wrong. If you program in fear and play it safe to avoid the noise, you run the risk of hearing silence. And sometimes that peace and quiet comes when you’re sitting at home rather than dealing with headaches inside of the office.