On Friday afternoon, the Oakland A’s took an unusual approach to signal the end of their relationship with flagship radio station 95.7 The Game. They took to Twitter, releasing a short video which showed their equipment being moved out of a room, as the Kool and the Gang song “Celebration” played in the background. The phrase used in their tweet was “It’s not us, it’s you”, sending a message that they were unhappy with their partnership and moving on to find a new radio home.
It’s not us, it’s you. pic.twitter.com/48LVzpqzpV
— Oakland Athletics 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) October 12, 2018
Given my familiarity with the situation from having programmed The Game and worked with the A’s, industry folks began asking what I thought of the situation. Rather than spending all day trying to address each email, text and DM, I decided I’d save most of my thoughts for this space. After all, I’m way overdue for a lengthy piece.
Since I left the Bay Area in 2015, I’ve tried to separate myself from what’s happened there. I don’t work with either local sports station, even though I have friends in both buildings. I root for both to do well, and believe there’s plenty of room for each to do so. But this one situation deserves additional context so I’ll do my best to supply it.
Let me warn you in advance, I’m not going to pull any punches in this column. This is also strictly about the A’s partnership, and zero to do with the Oakland Raiders. Some people won’t like reading what I have to say, and if your feelings are hurt, I get it. I’ve put this part of my career in the rear view mirror, and sleep with a clear conscience. I know what I’m writing is true, and I stand by every word. If that’s an issue for you, it’s yours to solve, not mine.
When I heard about the relationship between The Game and the A’s reaching its conclusion it didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, it probably should’ve ended sooner. Had I not been leaving in 2015, I would have strongly recommended ending the relationship then. The goals for both groups were very different, and I think a split is best for both sides. Sometimes in business it’s not about who’s right and wrong, but rather if each party is able to help the other achieve their desired results. In this case, that wasn’t possible.
I haven’t worked for a Major League Baseball team so I’m not an expert on presenting the A’s point of view, but I understand why they’re frustrated. They wanted a flagship station to value them, and show their appreciation by treating them the way KNBR did the San Francisco Giants. They hoped to be a focal part of the station’s content and business strategy, and felt they weren’t given that respect.
If your franchise is in a pennant race, and providing a radio partner with tickets, a suite, remote access, use of trademarks, merchandise, special guest interviews, and the ability to join forces with them on sales opportunities, you’d hope that’d be enough to warrant special treatment on the flagship station’s weekday talk shows. When that TLC isn’t given, and you hear a competing station offering that treatment to another baseball team in your backyard, it creates disappointment. It gets magnified even more when your radio partner enters into a business relationship with the Golden State Warriors, switches its logo to the teams colors, and starts giving them the type of attention you’ve been seeking for years.
Your blood pressure likely increases even more when you tune in to your flagship station, and hear the on-air talent passionately talking about your rival, and welcoming guests and hosts from that team on a regular basis. After seven years of dealing with those issues, you’re probably going to want to find a new radio partner.
In a nutshell, the A’s wanted what the Giants, Warriors, and 49ers had, and didn’t receive it. The franchise was given that respect on television by NBC Sports California, and assumed The Game would be the radio equivalent of that TV station since the Giants were the centerpiece for KNBR and NBC Sports Bay Area.
But therein lies the problem. The team assumed and expected certain treatment from the radio station without taking into account what they needed too.
The Game was launched on FM to generate ratings and revenue, and compete with KNBR for the top spot in the marketplace. If fans were into a specific piece of content, we were going to give it to them, regardless of whether or not we were in business with them. We weren’t going to ignore one side of the Bay as the sports leader had for years. Our idea was to provide a more balanced and unfiltered approach since KNBR was known for leaning in one direction and treating the local teams with kid gloves.
Many thought though that we’d be the East Bay equivalent of what KNBR was to San Francisco and the South Bay. But that was never the plan. By doing that, not only would we have alienated one side of the market just like KNBR, but it would’ve also been business suicide.
When I moved to the Bay Area in June 2011, the station had been rushed on to the air with the A’s as a focal point. A 4-year agreement had been reached with the team, so I understood this was a long term play. We were a new radio station trying to gain fans, so it made sense to have a professional franchise on the air providing us with daily content seven months out of the year, and providing marketing inside the stadium, tickets, interviews, all of the usual stuff you’d expect a sports station to have.
On the other hand, KNBR had the Giants. The franchise played in the best stadium in baseball, were loaded with young superstars and popular personalities, and had just won the World Series in 2010. Excitement for their product was thru the roof.
The 49ers were also on KNBR, and had just hired Jim Harbaugh, and were on the verge of becoming a force in the NFC. Throw in the addition of Mark Jackson as Head Coach of the Warriors, another team on KNBR’s airwaves, and optimism for the market’s lone NBA franchise was growing as well.
Meanwhile, if you sat inside the building I was in, and looked at what you were up against, it was hard to see any path to victory by focusing on the A’s. KNBR’s teams won, and produced big ratings, the A’s did not. More times than not their game numbers were equal to or lower than the station’s talk shows. TV ratings and quarter hour segments provided a similar story.
There was also a public perception that the team wouldn’t spend money to retain key players, the stadium they played in was a mess, and ownership made it worse by continuing to tell the public they wanted no part of being in Oakland. The vibe all the way around was negative. Meanwhile, the teams across the street seemed to have everything going their way.
Reality was that the audience and advertisers had an insatiable demand for Giants, 49ers, and Warriors content, and if we hoped to compete, we needed to be talking about what mattered most to the majority. That didn’t mean the A’s and Raiders weren’t part of our content plans too, they were, but if they expected to be covered the way KNBR had the Giants, well we weren’t going to do that.
Over the next few years, I pissed off a lot of A’s fans, members of the organization, and even some of my staff by taking the on-air approach that I did. It was never personal. I had to look at what was best for our business. I was brought to San Francisco to build a station, grow ratings, and put talent in position to become household names in the market which would hopefully allow them to enjoy lengthy careers there. That mattered more than being popular.
What became frustrating as the relationship grew is that nothing we did seemed to be enough for the team. If we gave away 10 pairs of A’s tickets, and 1 pair of Giants tickets, there was an email or call expressing disappointment with the Giants giveaway. Petty bickering took place if one of our shows spent more time talking about the Giants than the A’s. If an A’s fan complained to the team about something said on the air, another complaint session followed or we’d learn of the team’s displeasure on social media.
Tensions increased more when I hired Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Brandon Belt, Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Vogelsong, Shawn Estes and Rich Aurilia as weekly contributors. It didn’t matter that I had hired Bob Melvin, Billy Beane, Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Sean Doolittle, Stephen Vogt, Dallas Braden, and Ken Korach too, only that Giants players were receiving air time on the radio station.
But the relationship soured most when we added Aubrey Huff to morning drive. It was a gamble, one that eventually didn’t work out, but when our ratings immediately shot up from 10th to 6th, they didn’t care. It didn’t matter if the station was healthy, and featured Chris Townsend on the show too (the A’s pre and postgame host), only that a former Giant was on our airwaves. It began to feel like the team would rather see us fail doing it their way, than win doing it our way.
I wasn’t privy to the way the A’s operated internally, but I got the sense that Billy Beane understood the big picture, and didn’t care about petty nonsense. I could be wrong, but that’s how he presented himself when we met. I thought he was incredibly sharp and hoped his type of thinking would rub off on others in the organization. Maybe on the baseball side it does, but when we had to navigate issues, and create opportunities to generate interest and revenue with people in other parts of the organization, it felt like we spoke a different language.
For starters, working with A’s PR during the first two years was a nightmare. The former PR head (not Adam Loberstein who was fair and easier to work with) constantly ripped the station, wanting me to set up time with our hosts so he could teach them how to discuss certain issues whenever he disagreed with their positions. If we asked for a bigger name player or someone in the news, it was equal to undergoing a root canal, and the answer was usually no. Even simple stuff like getting tickets to giveaway on-air to the team’s more popular series (Yankees, Red Sox, Giants) was a chore.
When we requested the team promote its players, manager, and GM’s appearances on our radio station via their social media accounts, that too was denied. The franchise tried to blame it on MLB’s rules, but when I provided evidence of how the Twins and Red Sox were using social media to support their radio partners, a few things magically started to change.
Things finally reached the point of no return when the head of PR called our hotline on a holiday threatening to blackball a PT host who had read an update on the air about the stadium issue based on something that had just been posted in the San Francisco Chronicle. He didn’t call me or APD Jeremiah Crowe. Instead he felt it was his place to threaten an employee, even though he had done nothing wrong.
Then, after the radio station spent money to send the midday show to broadcast from A’s spring training, I flew to Scottsdale to personally thank the team for hosting us, and to share some good news that we’d be increasing our player deals for the upcoming season. Before I could even say hello, I was berated like a child in front of a few players just outside the locker room over a few on-air opinions the head PR guy didn’t agree with. I bit back, told him what I thought of his attitude, changed my flight, and headed back to San Francisco a few hours later.
I also had what I would call philosophical differences with the team’s head of broadcasting. When I pitched the idea of Chris Townsend being added as a field reporter during games, it was initially rejected. Nobody loved the A’s more than Chris, and his chemistry with Ken and Vince was great. We were trying to give people more reasons to listen, but they didn’t feel that was important. As it turns out, they finally in 2018 (5 years later) decided to start giving Chris an opportunity to contribute inside the game broadcast.
Challenges also existed at times with the play by play product. Ken Korach and Vince Cutroneo did a great job together, but when Ken had to miss time due to his health or travel issues, the broadcast felt different. I recommended Roxy Bernstein and Guy Haberman as fill-in options, and at first, the team was reluctant. They’d instead put Vince in a booth by himself, and the one-man broadcast often produced lower ratings. That was especially problematic when the team played on the east coast because those start times would be 4pm PT, meaning they were occupying afternoon drive.
After a number of conversations, and constant pleading, they finally gave Roxy and Guy some opportunities, but it wasn’t easy. I even had to battle over a situation where a one-man broadcast was scheduled to happen again in Texas as part of a three game series against the Rangers. The team finally bent, and gave the green light for Roxy to step in, all he had to do was cover his own flight, hotel, and food.
Personally, it didn’t matter to me, which broadcaster they preferred or if they wanted to bring in someone else who the audience might recognize. I just wanted to make sure we were delivering the most entertaining presentation we could to give people a reason to put the game on. It also spared Vince from being put in a spot that was unfair to him.
What I haven’t touched on yet was the business side of the relationship. The team and radio station at that time worked on a rev share. We didn’t pay a rights fee. That was very helpful to a new station which wasn’t ready to absorb huge expenses. However, the reason the Giants did earn a hefty fee from KNBR is because they had what the A’s didn’t, huge ratings, and big advertising. Clients wanted to be at AT&T Park, and associated with the Giants brand.
The desire to be connected to the A’s at that time from a client standpoint was much lower. Our sellers busted their asses to try and get people on board, and they talked up the team’s history, the David vs. Goliath story, and the more affordable pricing, but it was hard. You can only run into a brick wall so many times, before losing confidence.
Making things even harder was convincing the team to create events and revenue drivers beyond spots and on-air segments. I sat in a meeting in 2014, already frustrated by the lack of progress, but decided to take one more stab at it after a chat with my former marketing guy Tony Cafarelli. The 25th anniversary of the A’s sweeping the Giants in the 1989 World Series was happening that season, and I thought, “If ever there was a time for an underdog to remind people the Giants may have the nicer stadium, and the recent track record of success, but when it mattered most, just remember who put who in place” this was it. I wanted to do something big to excite fans, and remind them of what was a special time in Bay Area baseball history.
I pitched a 1989 flashback event featuring appearances by Tony LaRussa, Roger Craig, Will Clark, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Matt Williams, Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, and others, with the idea that we’d share expenses, sell tickets, and give fans a chance to hear these guys share stories together, sign autographs, and bring together the entire Bay Area sports community.
After the idea was presented, it was almost immediately nixed because of the sheer mention of the Giants. There was no thought given to showcasing both franchises in a way that might bring more people to a central location, or how unique it’d be to hear McGwire and Clark, LaRussa and Craig, or Canseco and Williams together. As the weeks and months progressed, the idea morphed from a partnered event to a team event, leaving the radio station with no ability to share in the revenue success. I already knew that generating ratings with the team was a tall order, but when I saw what was taking place following that meeting, I realized making money together would be just as difficult.
If you’re a fan of the A’s, I realize this matters little to you. You just want to hear the team’s games on a good radio signal, and hear the hosts on that station talk about them to make you further invested in their success. When you’re not provided with that type of content, and hear the other team in the market receiving it, it pisses you off.
But sports radio isn’t a labor of love, it’s a business. The Game wasn’t built to please an audience of one, it was created to try and reach as many Bay Area sports fans and advertisers as possible. There were many hosts on the station who would’ve loved to have spent more time talking about the team, but when the numbers showed a significant disadvantage every time they did so, it made it harder to continue down that road.
Case in point, during the 2012 playoffs, the A’s provided as thrilling of a finish to the season as I have seen. Korach’s final call was awesome, and our entire staff got swept up in it. If memory serves me right, the A’s were 5 out with 9 games to play, and somehow rallied in the final week to sweep Texas, and win the AL West.
Everyone in the building at that time was bleeding green and gold, and convinced the A’s were going to shock the world. They weren’t interested in hearing about the Giants also being in the playoffs. I warned the crew not to lose sight of what was happening in San Francisco, but sure enough they did.
As it turned out, Justin Verlander and the Tigers ripped the A’s hearts out in Game 5 of the ALDS, sending the team home early. The Giants then bounced back from being down 2-0 to win their first round series against the Reds.
The following week, our talent sounded like the baseball season was over, even though the team eight blocks away was headed to the NLCS. The Giants went on to beat the Cardinals in the NLCS, advancing to the WS, and do what Oakland couldn’t, sweeping the Tigers to win the World Series.
When the ratings data came out the following month, I shared it with the staff, and we talked about what happened. I explained that we allowed our personal fandom and professional allegiance to blind us from what most fans in the market were feeling, and as a result, it came back to hurt us. We treated the Giants as a less important story, yet their games vs. the Reds produced mid 30 shares, and when they advanced to the WS the numbers soared into the 50’s.
Meanwhile, at their peak (Game 5), the A’s popped an 18 share, with the majority of ALDS games registering between an 8 and 14 share. We were pleased with the playoff numbers, because they were much better than the 1-4 shares we were accustomed to receiving during regular season games, but it painted a clear picture of where things stood.
The NY Times produced a piece in 2014 showing how different regions rooted for teams involved in the postseason, and when the Bay Area was shown, all you saw was a sea of orange, including in Oakland. Each piece of evidence offered the same results, and whether diehard fans liked it or not, we couldn’t ignore the signs.
Look at it like this, if you opened a restaurant and served a particular type of meal, and nobody showed up to eat, you’d either change the menu or hang a ‘Going Out of Business’ sign in your window. I didn’t move to the market to oversee a folded radio brand, and neither have any of the managers who have operated the radio station since I left.
The sad part in all of this is that I LOVED the underdog story. It epitomized in many ways who we were at The Game. I thought the franchise had great history, and even this past year I felt myself pulling for them. I wish the team’s games on the radio would’ve brought more fans and advertisers to the dial, but for whatever reason, attracting a large audience at the stadium or on the radio or television was a big challenge.
Though I had differences with some inside the A’s organization, and felt the problems stemmed from jealousy over the Giants, and a lack of creative thinking, there are folks there who I still hold in high regard. Ken Korach is as good of a human being as he is a broadcaster. He’s consistently invested in every game, and whenever the station needed a few minutes of his time to assist with closing a client or creating a quality segment on the radio, he was there to answer the call. He’s a true professional.
I also enjoyed having Billy Beane on the radio. He was not only intelligent, and well spoken, but also candid and comfortable. In many ways, he’s been the face of the A’s brand for the past two decades, and everyone from Brandon Tierney to Chris Townsend to Ric Bucher and Damon Bruce shared positive views of his segments. If anything I wish we could’ve talked him into more appearances in the booth. When he did do it, it was spectacular.
I shared a similar opinion of Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Sean Doolittle, and Stephen Vogt. They weren’t just entertaining on the air (each could have a future in media if they wanted to), but they did extra stuff such as meet and greets, public events, and signing merchandise to help us further connect with fans. The only shame is they weren’t kept around longer.
Last but not least, A’s manager Bob Melvin was a class act to work with. On more than one occasion he went the extra mile to support the station, including going outside of the stadium before a game in uniform to join Chris Townsend on the air. It wasn’t uncommon for Bob to tune into the postgame show on his drive home, and call the hotline to chat with Chris about what transpired that evening. He understood the relationship, and was a pleasure to deal with.
When teams and media outlets work together, things can feel personal at times. I know there are people there now who had zero to do with the first four years of this relationship, and have just been trying to make things better during the past three, but some of the same issues exist. You can say “It’s not us, It’s you” but you may want to ask yourself why three different program directors and four general managers at the same radio station have come away with the same opinion. Not to mention, why the franchise is on the verge of adding its 15th radio partner in 50 years.
These type of relationships are very much like a marriage. You tie the knot with the best of intentions, but as times change, sometimes you discover the fit isn’t right. In this particular case, the A’s and The Game have different needs. The A’s want a radio station that makes them a priority, and The Game wants content on its airwaves which can produce ratings and revenue. That’s why the two sides are getting divorced after seven years together.
But rather than taking shots on the way out the door, it’s wiser to chalk up the split to irreconcilable differences, and move on amicably. The tweet the A’s put out may have rallied their fan base, but it sends a bad message to media partners who might consider working with the team. Putting a sour taste in Entercom’s mouth after a seven year run is also foolish, because they have more play by play partnerships in the radio business than anyone else, and keeping them interested, even if it’s just for leverage purposes, is smart business. Then again, that’s what businesses with a big picture view do. Unfortunately, that’s not the Oakland A’s.
Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network
“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”
To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.
As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.
If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Which brings me to today’s announcement.
If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.
After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.
The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.
I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.
One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.
Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.
Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.
What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.
Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.
Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.
5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs
“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”
I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.
Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.
But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.
Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.
If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.
Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.
For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.
At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.
I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.
Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.
Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.
Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.
Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.
Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.
Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.
But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?
As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.
Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.
Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.
I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.
What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.
As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.
Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.
But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.
Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.
There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.
I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.