In case you’ve been living under a rock or haven’t watched much TV the past few days, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch danced on Sunday. He danced a lot. It was basically the BeastMode of sideline celebrations. The home crowd went crazy and joined in the amusement. Multiple Jets players were ticked off. The standard “if you don’t like it, stop ‘em” comments ensued. You know the drill.
Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins shared an interesting thought about Lynch’s frolicking during the Raiders 45-20 demolition: “It irks my ever-living nerves.” Wow, nicely done. It sounds like the 3rd-round pick out of Georgia should’ve been wearing an ascot and speaking in a British accent while delivering that line. “Ever-living nerves.” You don’t hear that every day.
When you get past all of the details of Lynch’s dance party — the fact that he was dancing to “Oakland” by Vell featuring DJ Mustard — wondering if anybody goes by DJ Ketchup — thinking that Marshawn looks like he was psyched to hear “I whip my hair back and forth” while the 2010 Willow Smith hit single blared throughout the stadium — all of these thoughts point to something interesting: being different catches our attention.
It’s always interesting to find out which stories gain the most attention following an NFL weekend. Two of the biggest headlines from Week 2 were Ezekiel Elliott not exactly being eager to hustle following an interception, and Marshawn Lynch dancing. Why? Both stories are unique. When is the last time you remember Elliott giving up on a play? You don’t. When is the last time you remember Marshawn this jolly? 2006 when he was ghost riding an injury cart in college. It’s rare.
Sure, Marshawn Lynch is an NFL star. That helps make a sideline celebration become a bigger story, but he scored a touchdown against the Jets. That didn’t get much attention. He gained 92 yards from scrimmage against the Titans in Week 1. That didn’t get as much attention as his dancing. Michael Crabtree scored three touchdowns on Sunday. Even that fell short of Lynch’s dance moves.
It shows the power of being unique.
This is a vital concept to consider in sports talk radio. The hosts that catch our attention and cut through the clutter are able to differentiate themselves from others. Think of how important this is now more than ever. There are thousands of choices. You can stream local radio anywhere. You can access national radio everywhere. You can watch radio shows on TV.
On Monday, ESPN Radio’s Ryen Russillo shared a story about his mother. She told him it was so weird that she heard his show on the radio while driving. She asked if his show was now on radio too. He said, “Ahh yeah, it’s more of a radio show than a TV show.” When a host’s own mother doesn’t know that her son’s show has been on radio for the past decade, you know there are tons of choices out there.
The things that actually get attention can be maddening. I can remember writing stories for our station’s website while working at 104.5 The Team in Albany, NY. A story about the New York Giants complete with insight, quotes, stats, and other useful information got a few clicks. A video of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim picking his nose got thousands of clicks. That’s the way it goes. There are plenty of stories about the Giants. There aren’t many videos of Jimmy B digging for gold. Different gets noticed.
It’s like Showtime at the Apollo. You’ll be greeted by an impatient crowd yelling “womp womp” as a random dude ushers you offstage if you’re standard. Be different. The “been there, done that” consumer mentality exists with sports media. The last thing you want someone to think when you crack the mic is, “I’ve heard this thought a hundred times before.” With so many options available, you can’t blend in with all of the other talking heads. You have to stand out.
Of course trying too hard to stand out can also get you into trouble. Radio host Clay Travis pushed the envelope during a TV appearance on CNN last Friday. He gained a lot of attention for saying, “I believe in only two things completely. The First Amendment and boobs.” There was plenty of buzz as the clicks and retweets went through the roof. However, there was a downside.
CNN host Brooke Baldwin wasn’t exactly delighted to hear these comments. She kicked Clay off the show and apologized for his remarks. It created a firestorm at FOX Sports Radio. Let’s just say a few suits were doing the opposite of laughing hysterically following the appearance.
A line from the movie Dead Presidents comes to mind where Cutty the Pimp says, “Don’t you ever, in your (expletive) life, bite the hand that feeds you.”
It’s mandatory for a sports talk radio host to create content that hasn’t been shared before — to look for angles that haven’t been explored. You can’t do this with everything you say, but if you have a thought that isn’t incredibly unique, look for an example or a personal story that is. Explain your point in a unique way instead of blending in with similar comments made by others. There is always a way to deliver fresh goods.
How can I get attention? How can I say something that’s different? How can I stand out? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself constantly. Just avoid coming up with answers that put you directly in the line of fire. Don’t irk your employer’s ever-living nerves. Unlike the New York Jets, they can actually do something about it.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.