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The Power of Teasing

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The brand new trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” debuted during Monday Night Football this week. I pictured rabid fans grabbing their lightsabers and Stormtrooper gear in excitement. The over/under on Chewbacca impressions was 2.7 million as plenty of mega fans salivated in their living rooms during the newest sneak peak. As expected, the Star Wars 8 trailer didn’t disappoint.

There was a lot of anticipation to see the trailer because people are dorks. Just kidding. It’s because Star Wars is incredibly popular. As much as I loooove football, I’m not going to dress up as Ndamukong Suh in full uniform at a convention, but you’ll see folks decked out as Ewoks and Wookiees at large gatherings with no shame.

ESPN is very aware of this. Throughout Monday, they promoted the fact that the trailer would air at halftime of the Vikings-Bears game. They ran commercials for it. Play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough made promotional announcements during the game. ESPN even hyped up the trailer on its Bottom Line with text appearing across the screen.

There is a link between all of these things and sports talk radio. The Star Wars 8 trailer, and ESPN’s promotion of it, show how effective teases in sports talk radio can be when executed properly.

A tease is simply telling the audience what’s coming up next. Sometimes, it’s smart to reveal everything in teases. Other times, not so much. Let’s start with the occasions when revealing everything is wise. The way ESPN promoted the Star Wars trailer provided every detail. What will be shown? The Star Wars 8 trailer. When can it be seen? At halftime during the Monday night game. Boom. There it is. They laid out all of the details.

The same concept applies in sports talk radio when promoting a big-name guest. “In one hour, we’ll talk to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.” There’s no point in being vague while promoting a name that big. ESPN didn’t promote “an upcoming glimpse for a really well-known movie franchise.” They promoted a movie trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” At times, it’s smart to be very specific.

Now, for the trickier part — the latest Star Wars trailer didn’t reveal every detail about the movie. The goal for both movie trailers and sports talk teases is to peak the audience’s curiosity without revealing everything. Imagine if the Star Wars 8 movie trailer was like, “This dude dies, this girl is betrayed, and this character turns to the dark side.” That’s a bad tactic.

It kills me when sports talk hosts reveal everything in their teases. “Coming up, the Packers beat the Cowboys. We’ll talk about it.” I’d hate to see the movie trailer they’d put together with that lack of creativity. It’s called a tease for a reason — it is generally wise to leave a portion hidden. For instance, “The one NFL team that is hurting the league’s ratings above all others.” If I hear that, I’m thinking, “Well, who is it? Maybe it’s this team. Maybe that one. Hmm.” I need to hear the answer.

Something else to consider when teasing a topic — don’t tell the audience everything, but don’t be so vague that they know nothing. “Coming up next, a shirt, a toothbrush, and the New York Giants.” Huh? I’m not even interested because the tease is so random. Avoid being too vague.

At this point I’m probably starting to sound like Goldilocks: “This tease is too basic. This tease is too vague. This tease is just right!” Think of it this way — what would intrigue the audience to stick around and listen more? Better yet, what would intrigue you (the host) to stick around and listen if you were in the audience’s shoes? Be creative without being too revealing. That isn’t asking for the moon and stars.

It’s also important to follow through after utilizing a strong tease. Be a teaser and a pleaser. I’ll never forget something Rick Scott — a sports talk consultant, radio veteran, connoisseur of fine wines — once told me years ago. He worked with a radio station and conducted a focus group with listeners. He said there were many listeners that were “pissed” when a host delivered a good tease, but didn’t pay it off.

Imagine going to a movie after seeing an awesome trailer, and instead it turns out to be a completely different movie. How would you feel if you went to see Blade Runner 2049, but the theatre played the LEGO Ninjago Movie instead? No diss toward LEGO Ninjago (shout-out to my nephews), but you wouldn’t be pleased at all if you got something you weren’t expecting. It’s vital to pay teases off.

Some hosts resist teasing. They’re either too lazy or they think teasing is so commonplace that they’ll blend in with other talking heads. What if Star Wars 8 took the same approach? “Ehh, movie trailers have been done before. We don’t wanna blend in. Screw it. No trailer.” Do you think that would’ve been the better approach? Of course not. Teasing is a common practice for a reason — it works.

If you put together a good radio show or movie, it makes sense to promote it. Teases are the movie trailers of sports talk radio.

Have a positive outlook about using sports talk teases. Instead of seeing it as a burden or annoyance, think of it as a clever challenge and a ratings booster. If a host is creative enough to command a show, that host is creative enough to tease effectively. Put on your grown-up pants and crank out those teases. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” –Yoda

“Hhhrrrrraaaaarrrrr” –Chewbacca (co-signing Yoda’s wise words)

BSM Writers

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.

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USA Today

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.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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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.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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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.

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