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The Future Becomes The Present at CES

“After spending a week at CES I’m excited, curious, optimistic, and cautious about the future.”

Jason Barrett

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A week in Sin City can feel like an eternity, especially when you’re in town covering CES (Consumer Electronics Show). Day after day you’re inside a hotel or convention center battling mobs of people to check out the latest inventions from some of the world’s top technology brands, hoping to get a jump start on the future before it becomes the present.

Although it’s a long week, there’s much to gain from it. As you’re introduced to various products, your mind starts to race with ideas. You begin thinking about the way the world will change, and contemplating what’s important to the future of your business, and what’s just fun to look at, but has little value to your line of work.

Whenever I attend a conference, I like to take a day or two to process what I saw before writing a column. So much gets tossed in your direction in a short period of time, and though we’re in a constant rush to feed the machine with content, I believe it’s important to step back and evaluate things. Had I rushed to write this piece after my first day or two at CES, I’d have told you flying taxi’s were going to be huge, and Google was on a different level than Amazon. By week’s end, I wasn’t convinced of either.

Starting with Google, they made a statement with their marketing on the outside, but when you went on the inside to talk to their people, they were energetic, personable, and happy to show you around, but didn’t take a ton of time explaining their products. They had a lot of items on display utilizing voice technology. That made it clear they’re bullish on the space. But I was there three different times, and not once did the staff look to engage, and discuss what they were introducing to the marketplace.

Meanwhile, Amazon operated with much less space, but everywhere I turned it felt like the company had assigned someone to their products who had a great understanding of them. Their people were less bubbly, but much more interested in sharing and showing what their products can do.

Whether it was the way Alexa worked inside Audi’s new electric vehicle or how their technology would improve consumer experiences with printers, television, refrigerators, alarms, and thermostats, Amazon reps were informed and confident about what they have in store for consumers. Their attention to detail during demonstrations made it very easy to become excited about what they were selling.

I had been told previously to expect nothing from Apple, so when I left for Las Vegas I had zero expectations. Sure enough, they weren’t to be found on site. However, they did display a huge banner outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center which created a lot of chatter. Displayed on the side of a hotel and taking up the equivalent of thirteen floors, Apple sent a powerful message to attendees: What Happens on Your iPhone, Stays on Your iPhone.

It’s clear that Tim Cook’s company is betting big on privacy meaning a great deal to customers. The banner was installed to remind consumers that Apple doesn’t attempt to sell your data while Amazon and Google both use it. That message I’m sure resonated with many who saw it.

During my travels to the Aria, Venetian, Sands, Mandalay Bay, Westgate, and Las Vegas Convention Center North and South halls, I tried to think of how certain products could affect the future of the radio business. For example, if a session took place and focused on 5G, autonomous cars, or voice technology, that was relevant to our business. If speakers scheduled for sessions had a connection to the radio industry, I tried to be there too to learn how they saw radio’s future opportunities.

What I didn’t do was get too caught up in stuff that may be fun, but had little connection to radio. Case in point, robots may become personal assistants for people in the future, but unless you believe they’ll be hosting future talk shows, I’m not too concerned about where they fit.

If you were looking to find technology to analyze your breast milk, your baby’s poop, or restock your refrigerator with beer when you run out, it was there. So too were electric mirrors, voice enabled light bulbs and toilets, bread makers, laundry folding machines, and headbands used to measure your brain signals and focus levels.

Though they’re each interesting and worth looking at for a few seconds, they had little connection to radio, therefore I enjoyed them for what they were, visual distractions. The only exception I made was stopping by the DreamWave area to test out their new massage chair. It would take one hell of a sales job to convince me to spend six thousand dollars on a chair, but they came damn close. The product was perfect for anyone dealing with physical pain or soreness.

Aside from enjoying my fifteen minutes of relaxation, I spent a lot of time exploring the future of autonomous vehicles and smart cities. When you see what each manufacturer has planned for consumers it’s pretty impressive. But whether it looks good in a show room at CES or not isn’t what matters. The big questions are, is it realistic, and if so, how soon?

Self-driving cars and digital roadways may be on the horizon, but opinions are very divided on how soon they’ll become a reality. That was made immediately clear during the very first session I attended when a group of speakers debated the pros and cons of building digital cities and relying on self driving vehicles.

When you factor in the construction that will be needed to create smart cities, the privacy concerns of having automakers know your in-vehicle habits, the challenge of making driver’s feel comfortable about giving up control behind the wheel, the cost of these vehicles, where they get stored, who insures them, and how situations will be handled when glitches or emergencies occur, there’s a lot still to figure out.

Can that be solved in 5 years? I don’t believe so. But whether it’s 5 years, 10 years, or longer, car companies would not be investing their time and resources towards this project if they weren’t committed to seeing it all the way thru. The future of driving will eventually change. When it does, it’s going to make the battle for content consumption even more interesting.

Much has been made the past few years about 5G being the savior to all of our internet problems. The next generation of internet speed is said to be lightning quick, capable of making the process of downloading songs, streaming movies, and loading websites nearly 10 times faster than 4G. According to most experts, it’s expected to be in place in 2020. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint though plan to launch 5G smartphones by late 2019.

CES provided opportunities for the world’s top mobile companies to hype up the arrival of 5G. Verizon in particular did a fantastic job of showing how things will work once 5G becomes available. CEO Hans Vestberg provided a number of examples, and called upon a few different participants to illustrate how much better things will be once 5G is introduced. If time allows I recommend watching the presentation. You can do so by clicking here.

Other sessions which earned my attention revolved around gaming, podcasting, and social media. Jemele Hill announced plans to launch an exclusive podcast for Spotify titled UnBothered starting in March. The music streaming service appears eager to ramp up its podcast offerings. Twitter announced plans to introduce single player camera angles during games as part of their partnership with Turner and the NBA. eSports was on display too with revenue growth and future impact being key areas of focus.

Speaking of eSports, I ventured over to the Luxor to scout the HyperX eSports arena. The venue is spectacular, and if places like this existed across the country, kids, and young adults would flock to it. There were 20 gaming spaces for people to play, big screens to watch competitive battles, merchandise for sale, and a private area for individuals or companies to reserve for private events.

If you work in sports radio, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the growth of eSports, but questions remain about whether or not it’s a fit for the sports format. The most popular game of 2018 was Fortnite, and while it may be fun to play, hearing it discussed on sports radio isn’t as appealing. Would it be different if the games being talked about were sports focused? Probably not, but at least they’d be sports themed.

That said, millions of people are playing video games. The investors behind these eSports teams aren’t investing millions of dollars because they’re bored. Arenas have been selling out for eSports events, sponsorship dollars are increasing, and talent agencies have started signing gamers just as they do professional athletes. Whether or not eSports can become mainstream is up for debate, but consumption of competitive gaming has been generating major interest, especially with younger fans. How that will carry over to sports radio, television, and print in the future though remains unclear.

As intriguing as competitive gaming may be, traditional operators are more enthusiastic about the growth of sports betting. As state after state loosens the reigns to allow legalized sports gambling, media brands are searching for ways to reap the rewards from being active in the space. If you stopped by Caesars Palace, you’d see signage everywhere highlighting the casino’s partnership with the NFL. Given how strict the NFL has been towards gambling in the past, this new relationship serves as a reminder that these are very different times.

Caesars may have the NFL association, but when I want to learn more about what’s going on, the place I go to is the South Point Casino, home of VSiN (Vegas Stats and Information Network). Brian and Brent Musburger held a special sports betting summit as part of CES week which included Gavin Maloof, Jimmy Vaccarro, Vinny Magliulo, Johnny Avello, Matthew Holt, Darren Rovell, Wayne Kimmel, and others. The three hour event offered tons of insight into legalization, betting safety, guarding against athletes affecting the outcome of games, and more.

As I watched the on-stage discussion though, I kept thinking about the critical importance of monitoring trends and identifying talent. If you rewind the clock to a few years ago, media brands weren’t rushing to sign guys like Vaccaro, Avello, Magliulo or Todd Fuhrman. Nor were they creating sports betting shows and featuring them in their weekday lineups. These guys were known in Vegas and inside the sports betting industry, but traditional operators viewed the space as niche. Now, everyone wants them because they’re experts in their field, sports gambling is becoming mainstream, and the money to be made figures to be substantial.

It wouldn’t have made sense to attend CES and not drop in on conversations with WWE’s Stephanie McMahon and George Barrios. I grew up a wrestling fan, but since becoming a media professional I’ve gained a far greater appreciation for how WWE operates as a business. That’s a testament to the vision and execution created and enforced by Vince, Stephanie and Shane McMahon, and Paul “Triple H” LeVesque.

What impresses me about WWE is that they’ve become a major global attraction. They’ve done so by continuing to develop new stars and programming, expanding their audience, increasing their revenue streams, and taking giant risks. In today’s cluttered media climate they stand out as one of the most forward thinking and successful digital brands, and consistently do a great job of sharing their story and creating buzz. You could see and feel that when Stephanie talked about the rise of women in professional wrestling, and she shined in spite of being poorly set up by a moderator who wasn’t fully prepared for the conversation.

As I bring this column to a close, I find myself excited, curious, optimistic, and cautious about the future. CES showed that the world’s best technology companies are working hard to create the next big things in our lives, but not every invention will be important to us. Especially for many of us involved in the radio business.

What concerns me is that there have been far too many examples of the radio industry being slow to adapt. We’ve also had a tendency to rely on others to create solutions rather than leading the charge ourselves. It’s far too common to find folks comfortable with where they sit today, and less worried about how they may be affected tomorrow.

If you walked around CES, you saw people everywhere who were driven by innovation and creativity. I thought about radio and its need to continue launching new products, formats, programs, and personalities, while also exploring new platforms and technologies. We sometimes forget that many of these great products that feature us still own the real estate, data, and audience. We are simply renters.

Aside from iHeart’s Bob Pittman, Beasley’s Caroline Beasley, and NPR’s Jarl Mohn taking part in panels at CES, I didn’t see any radio groups on display. To be fair, I didn’t expect to. Should we have been there? What would we have showcased? I’m not sure, but I do know that we can’t wait for opportunity to find us. It’s imperative that we work ahead and prepare for what’s next. Brands like VSiN and The Action Network are great examples of that.

We also need to do research to understand the challenges and best case scenarios ahead, and have confidence and conviction in what we’re working on. You’re going to take some lumps early on when you introduce new ideas. If you’re not prepared to be bloodied, don’t get in the ring.

I know the radio industry is excited about voice technology and the arrival of 5G. Both will make our business better. Autonomous cars and smart cities may take longer to embrace simply because they’re much further away. What we can’t do though is assume that these things will make us necessary. We’ve got to do a much better job of selling the value and success of our business, get more creative, take more chances, and make our brands, talent, and platforms a vital part of each listener and advertiser’s life. Anything less is asking for trouble.

The faster technology works, and the more time people have to enjoy content inside their homes or vehicles, the tougher the challenges will be to stand out. Competition is increasing, and coming from every form of media, not just audio providers. If your brand isn’t known for more than its format and signal, you’re on the fast track to becoming forgotten instead of seen as a vital part of the future. The good news, you still have time to change it. Just don’t wait too long because the future’s on the verge of becoming the present.

Barrett Blogs

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.”

Jason Barrett

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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.

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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.”

Jason Barrett

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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.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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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.

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