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Knowing Your Business, Yourself and Your Purpose

Jason Barrett

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The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity took place last week in France and it provided a star studded guest list of some of the world’s best and brightest minds in the entertainment business. For media professionals seeking wisdom, advice, and information on content creation, brand development, audience engagement, and connection strategies, this week long event offered a lot to sink your teeth into.

Although a trip to France remains on my bucket list of future adventures to enjoy, this was one trip I wasn’t able to make. But thanks to the power of technology, I was able to watch a number of different speaker sessions and read a lot of articles to get a full understanding of the key takeaways.

Two sessions in particular stood out to me. The first one involved movie star Will Smith.

When you think of the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, you likely identify him as a successful actor. Others may recognize him as a rapper or musician due to his success on the charts with the songs “Men in Black”, “Getting Jiggy with It” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand” just to name a few. But few would label him as a marketer. Yet that’s exactly how he identifies himself.

During his session in Cannes, the Hollywood star explained how the movie industry was affected by the explosion of social media. He shared stories of what he discovered about himself that required fixing before he could become the superstar that he is today, and offered advice to individuals and brands on how they can better connect with their audiences.

“There was a bit of a lag, a slump in my career—around the Wild Wild West time—where I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win, versus promoting something because I believed it was helpful,” Smith said. “I had so much success that I started to taste global blood. My focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win. I wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world.”

His passion to win blinded him when identifying projects that would fit his brand. Instead of seeking out projects with a deeper meaning and concentrating on creating powerful content, Smith got caught up in the hype for each project and allowed the lure of fortune and fame to influence his decision making.

It didn’t take long to realize that a bad film doesn’t do much for a talented actor. In fact, it can permanently damage their brand. As consumers began to gain power in the way they communicated through social media, Smith knew he had to make changes and find a stronger connection to the work he was doing. If he wanted to reach people and have them care about the projects he was involved in, he had to become more selective and discover what truly mattered to him.

“In the 80’s and 90’s you’d have a piece of crap movie and you’d put out more trailers with all of these explosions and it was Wednesday before people knew your movie was shit” said Smith. “Now today, it’s 10 minutes into the movie before people are tweeting ‘Hey, this movie is shit, don’t see it. Will’s movie is shit, go see Vin Diesel’.”

The audience’s growing influence led to a permanent shift in Smith’s mindset. He challenged himself to figure out what his brand stood for and started asking questions to determine whether or not a project was the right fit. Making those adjustments helped steer Smith towards films with deeper meanings and helped him better understand how the audience perceived him and what he needed to provide in order to satisfy their needs.

“When I read a movie script, it’s not, ‘Is this going to make a lot of money?’. I’m asking myself, ‘How does this improve lives?’ It doesn’t have to be deep. If it’s just comedy and people come to get a laugh, it improves lives” explained Smith. “In making the shift from product to people, I am trusting that if I have a deeper comprehension of people, the product I create is going to be more successful. Smoke and mirrors marketing is over. People are going to know really quickly, and they’re going to know globally, whether your product is keeping its promises.”

By placing a stronger emphasis on the way his films improve lives, identifying projects that align with his brand, and valuing the opinion and connection to his audience, Smith has found a formula that’s catapulted him to the top of the entertainment industry. His films “Seven Pounds”, “The Pursuit of Happiness”, “I Am Legend” and the “Men In Black” series have all performed strongly at the box office, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6e8kXLjtoM

The second session which caught my attention featured Stephanie McMahon and John Cena from the WWE. Given that I enjoy professional wrestling I’m more likely to be enamored by their commentaries than some others who don’t enjoy the WWE product, but it was their views on content, strategy, and connecting with the audience which drew me in.

When you think of the professional wrestling business, you don’t necessarily consider it to be similar to the sports radio/television industry. Many would say they’re worlds apart but when you cut to their core, they both focus on selling content, personalities, and brand associations, and developing loyal and passionate connections with an audience.

Stephanie began her session by pointing out how astute the audience is and why campaigns miss the mark. She pointed out how many brands attempt to push unwanted messaging on to their fans and it’s rejected because it lacks a connection to the product they’re consuming. She said the key to making a campaign work requires going the extra mile to create customized content so that it integrates in a way that is entertaining to the viewer yet still relates to the brand.

Social media was another area of focus. McMahon believes that brands must engage with their fan base, not just push messaging out to them. Failing to engage, poll and acknowledge feedback can result in a brand losing its most loyal consumers. To help people better understand the WWE’s strategy, she hammered home three critical points. Every sports radio and television company should take notice of these.

  1. It Starts with the Content
  2. Have a Strong Content Ecosystem Strategy
  3. Make Sure Your Brand Has a Purpose and Value

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvYxsuQmRnw

To wrap up the WWE session, John Cena talked about his five point plan. In my opinion, this was one of the highlights of the entire presentation. It’s something that every single sports media personality, program director, and corporate executive should be able to relate to.

If you watch WWE programming, you’re aware that John Cena is one of the company’s top superstars. To compare his role to the sports media industry, he’d be the star talk show host or anchor on a popular radio station or TV program. He’s been the face of the WWE franchise for 15 years and his success has enabled him to make a strong transition into appearing in movies and on television. In fact, this July he’ll become the first pro wrestler to ever host the ESPYS.

While many hosts isolate themselves from the rest of their company’s business, Cena takes the opposite approach in his line of work. He’s aware of how the company is performing in the business world, what the expectations of the audience are, and how his personal brand fits with each storyline. He takes an interest in the ratings for each television show and familiarizes himself with the audience’s viewing patterns. He also serves as a goodwill ambassador for the company using his profile and platform to benefit charities and make a difference in people’s lives. In doing so, it brings the company a ton of mainstream media coverage but further demonstrates what type of person he is outside the ring.

Cena certainly has his fun inside the squared circle but outside of it he’s very much a businessman. He’s even gone as far as pushing for the company to expand into new territories. Recently he pushed the WWE to take a stronger look at expanding into China. After announcing that they would pursue the opportunity, Cena demonstrated how important of a move it was by learning and speaking mandarin at the company’s introductory press conference with the Chinese media. It’s that type of commitment and understanding of his business that has elevated him to the top in his profession.

Here are the five areas of focus in John Cena’s five point plan.

  1. Know Your Business
  2. Know Yourself
  3. Know Your Audience
  4. Never Be Afraid To Ask Questions
  5. Love What You Do

After listening to Will Smith, John Cena, and Stephanie McMahon talk about their careers, brands, and formulas for success, I understood why each of them have taken the elevator to the top of their professions. They are more than just entertainers. They are business people. They’ve been blessed with a gift to entertain, and they maximize those talents, but they also recognize how branding, connecting, and creating a successful business plan factors into every decision.

If I can stress two things to you from this article it’s to understand your business and take an active role in learning the elements of it that you’re not familiar with. Creating content is fun but it has little significance if it doesn’t register with the audience and your advertisers. When you immerse yourself in your company’s ratings and business strategy and understand the role you play in creating success, it helps make the journey to the top of the mountain more manageable. Play your cards right and you might just be there for a while.

Barrett Blogs

Julie Talbott to Receive The Jeff Smulyan Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists.”

Jason Barrett

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Each year at the BSM Summit, we take time to recognize some of the true difference makers in the sports media industry. It’s become a special part of the event, and it reminds everyone in the room of what’s possible if you do your job well and create impact.

Four awards in total are presented over the two-day event thanks to our friends at Premiere Networks. Each award has a different focus.

The Jeff Smulyan Award is presented to a radio industry executive who has led by example, taken risks, produced results, and made a significant difference for the sports radio business. The Mark Chernoff Award is given to sports radio’s top programmer. The Mike and the Mad Dog Award is presented to the top local sports radio show in America. And The Champions Award along with a financial contribution from BSM is given to an industry member who has used their platform to make a difference for others.

Since we began taking the Summit live in 2019, Mitch Rosen and Rick Radzik have been recognized as winners of the Mark Chernoff Award. Adam Schefter and the team of Keith Murphy and Andy Fales have been recipients of the Champions Award. And the top rated combination of Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti received the first ever Mike and the Mad Dog Award at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC.

Which brings us to the Jeff Smulyan Award.

A number of top notch executives have joined us to accept this honor over the years. It started in Los Angeles with Kraig Kitchin, continued in New York City with Dan Mason, and then Traug Keller took home the honor during our last show, which also took place in the big apple.

As we looked to 2023, the goal was to identify someone who’s been active in growing their company’s footprint across the sports radio industry. Equally important was someone who has the full confidence and trust of their people, a track record of delivering results, and has uncovered new business opportunities to lead their company forward.

After a brief conversation, Jeff and I knew exactly who the right person was.

It is my honor to announce and congratulate Julie Talbott, President of Premiere Networks on being named our recipient of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Julie will be present in Los Angeles at the Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC to accept the honor at the 2023 BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award – especially with Jeff Smulyan’s name associated with it. I’ve been a fan of his throughout the years” shared Julie Talbott. “Premiere Networks and FOX Sports Radio are dedicated to delivering the best multiplatform sports audio content the industry has to offer, and this award truly recognizes the amazing efforts of our entire team, who I couldn’t be more proud of.  Thanks to Jason Barrett and BSM for this incredible honor.” 

“I have known Julie for many, many years and our industry doesn’t have a better ambassador than her” added Jeff Smulyan. “She has worked tirelessly to build Premiere into a remarkable enterprise and she has made legions of friends and admirers along the way. She is so deserving of this award and I couldn’t be happier that my friend, Julie Talbott is the winner of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Nothing makes me happier than to present it to her this March at USC!” 

“FOX Sports Radio’s growth under Julie’s watchful eye has been impressive, but when combined with Premiere’s performance and reach, and seizing opportunities in the digital space by launching strong brands such as The Volume, in partnership with Colin Cowherd, you start to see how she’s put her magical touch on the industry,” explained BSM President Jason Barrett. “The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists, and few have the respect, trust, and confidence of their people better than Julie Talbott.”

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Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media and Silver Tribe Media to Appear at the 2023 BSM Summit

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is five months away but the process to build sports media’s annual industry event continues. We’ve already announced 11 participants for our next show including Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome and Joy Taylor, but by the time this show takes place, attendees can expect to hear from 50-60 people as the agenda becomes action packed.

I do want to share one thing for those inquiring about speaking. Though I appreciate the interest, I’m selective in who we feature on stage because it’s important to keep the show fresh and full of actionable content. There are tons of smart people in this industry but I can’t accommodate everyone. I try to create sessions that benefit radio, digital and television executives, programmers, general managers, talent, agents, salespeople, production staff, etc. and to do that, we’ve got to cover a lot of different subjects over a two-day span. My goal is to send folks home with ideas and information to improve their brands, while providing a space for groups and individuals to meet since it opens the door to additional business. We’ve been fortunate to have good support and participation over our past four events, and I’m expecting this one to be even bigger and better.

Before I announce the latest additions to our speaker lineup, I want to thank Premiere Networks for their continued support of the Summit. They’ve been wonderful partners for years, and I appreciate them joining us to create the annual Awards ceremony. It is always a hit with attendees. More to come soon on this year’s honorees.

I’d also like to thank Harker Research for returning as a partner of the event, and MRN Radio for signing on as a new partner. Harker has sponsored all of our live events, and MRN has been in attendance for those shows. Having their support makes a difference. They join Premiere Networks, Stone Voiceovers and Core Image Studio as Summit partners. If you haven’t secured a sponsorship but would like to be, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com. She can update you on what we still have available.

As far as the content is concerned, I’m excited to announce a very cool session we’re adding which will include involvement from Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media, and Silver Tribe Media.

Everywhere you look these days, athletes are taking more control of their own messaging. They’re also more interested in content creation and are investing in people to help build today and tomorrow’s sports media empires. Whether it’s been Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or broadcasters such as Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, Dave Portnoy and Pat McAfee, the era of personality-led audio networks has arrived. This session will examine where we are, where we’re going, what’s been learned, and how it will affect change across traditional media moving forward.

Jack Rose of Silver Tribe Media will moderate the session. Joining him on stage will be Logan Swaim, Head of Content at The Volume. Richelle Markazene, Head of Audio for Omaha Productions, and Mike Davis, President and Executive Producer of Dirty Mo Media. Each of these folks have great insight and experience with leading personality-built brands, and Jack’s understanding of the media landscape through his work with Michael Klein’s company make him an ideal fit to guide the conversation. This is a session that traditional media folks are going to want to be present for.

If you haven’t purchased a ticket or booked your hotel room, don’t wait until the last minute. Everything you need to be in attendance for the Summit is available at BSMSummit.com. We are excited to host the show at The Founders Club at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. This is a great location and the biggest room we’ve run our conference in yet. I’m hoping to see you there.

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Jeff Smulyan, Mark Chernoff, Scott Shapiro, Scott Sutherland and Evan Cohen To Participate at 2023 BSM Summit

“The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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Building an annual sports media conference is no day at the beach. It takes months to assemble and involves a lot of different steps. We analyze what matters to those attending, brainstorm ideas, create a sketch of the show to make sure there’s enough variety to satisfy different segments of the industry, pursue tons of speakers who have experience and an ability to add something unique or valuable on stage, and create sales decks and talk to existing and potential clients about supporting the show. If all of it doesn’t flow seamlessly, we run the risk of not delivering the type of event I expect us to.

Fortunately, over the years we’ve put together a pretty good conference. I’m proud of how it’s grown and that’s only possible because we’ve had great support across the industry. If you work in sports media and value learning, relationship building, and connecting with teammates, peers and competitors, this is an event you need to be at. It’s one that companies looking to reach sports broadcasting professionals should be involved in from an advertising standpoint too. Though there’s a lot of work still to be done, when we arrive in Los Angeles for the 2023 BSM Summit at USC’s Founders Club at the Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023, I’m expecting our team will deliver another top-notch performance.

To help us make that happen, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll have participation from some of the industry’s most accomplished broadcasting professionals. Joining us on site for our awards ceremonies will be the man who started the sports talk format, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. Also making the trip to the west coast will be former WFAN program director and CBS Radio/Entercom/Audacy sports format captain Mark Chernoff. Both men are honored annually with awards in their names. We’ll reveal the winners of both of those awards in the weeks and months ahead.

Additionally, I’m pleased to welcome back Scott Sutherland. Scott serves as the Executive Vice President of Regional Media Operations for Bonneville International Corporation, and is responsible for the strategic development and business growth of the company’s market leading sports brands in Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Sacramento. Also returning to the Summit is FOX Sports Radio’s Vice President of Programming Scott Shapiro. Scott is charged with guiding FOX Sports Radio’s daily content strategy, and always enjoys lending his perspective on key issues facing talent, brands, and content leaders.

I realize many of you reading this who work in the industry are last minute planners. That’s ok, but I’d encourage you to reserve your hotel room in advance if you wish to stay close to the Galen Center. Our hotel partner is the USC Hotel, and you can learn more about the discounted rate we’ve established for attendees by clicking here.

The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals. The sports media industry is rapidly changing and the more we can learn from one another and take advantage of information and relationships, the better it’ll serve us moving forward. To attend this show, you must be involved in the media business whether it’s on-air, digital, behind the scenes, in management, sales, ad buying, talent representation or something else. We will also allow college students to attend the show in person if they are pursuing a future in sports broadcasting. Details on student tickets will be made available closer to the holidays.

In the meantime, if you want to make sure you have a seat in the room to enjoy the sessions and network with industry professionals, purchase your ticket(s) by visiting BSMSummit.com. I look forward to seeing you there.

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