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Nick Cattles Had To Figure Out What Is Best For His Life

“To me, whether you are in Sheboygan or in Chicago, whether you are doing a podcast or a live radio show, just give the people the most entertaining, honest, compelling content and you’re going to do fine.”

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Not every on-air career moves forward in the same way. That’s why I was interested in talking with Nick Cattles. He left the evening show at The Sports Hub in Boston to return to Virginia Beach to host afternoons. More recently Nick become the station PD in January. Sports Radio Guru Mike Thomas (Nick’s boss in Boston, too)  is “a big fan of Nick Cattles!” You’ll see what leaving Mike and the Sports Hub and returning to Virginia Beach at ESPN 94.1 has meant for Cattles’ career. 

Matt: So after a little over a year in Boston you decide to return to ESPN 94.1 in Virginia Beach. What went into the decision to leave and then to come back?

Nick: I felt like when I was down here the first time, for about four and a half years, that we had accomplished a lot. We were, at the time, around the top four or five stations in the ratings and ratings had gone up exponentially and revenue had gone up. I felt the station was in a great place. 

It came to my attention that 98.5 (The Sports Hub/Boston) was hiring and before I came down here the first time I was doing some work on the air and behind the scenes in Boston. It was an opportunity at a full time gig at a top ten market. A chance to go back close to my home–I’m originally from Rhode Island. I had a great relationship with Mike (Thomas). I still do. I said, “might as well take a shot and do a full time gig up in Boston and talk about the teams that I grew up watching.” So I made the jump.

I was up there for about a year and a half and Mike and I had some conversations. It wasn’t one of those bitter things at all. Some people in this business have bitter conversations and burn bridges. It wasn’t like that at all. I had a very upfront conversation with Mike. 98.5 is a beast, right? They had a very young lineup and it was kind of funky that 11 days after I signed my contract CBS sold us to Beasley.  As soon as that information came out I kinda figured that Beasley wasn’t looking to get rid of anything, because 98.5 was so successful. 

The night show wasn’t everything I had anticipated it to be. I had expected it to be more of a split between Adam Jones and me. It wasn’t bitter. It was Jonesy’s show. He has the right to run his show the way he wants. He and I had conversations as well. 

This opportunity popped up again (in Virginia Beach). I own a bar down here in Virginia Beach and a condo I rent out as well. My wife loves Virginia Beach. We have a lot of good friends down here. This opportunity opened up and I came back here last May and my first show was June 4th, 2018 so it has been just over a year. 

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Matt: People when they first get into the business probably don’t think about is that there’s more to life than being in a top ten market?

Nick: It’s one of those things you have to think deeply about. It wasn’t an easy move but the conversation with Mike–he was pretty upfront. He was honest. The writing was on the wall to me that it could be another five to six years before I had a shot at a daytime show. Quite frankly Matt, I wasn’t in love with working at night. I found that out rather quickly. Working until midnight in the summertime, Monday through Friday, really didn’t have any time with my wife and to do stuff. To me it just made sense to come back down (to Virginia Beach) and get back in the afternoon drive slot and get reps doing what I do.

I think I found out that I like being the #1 guy (on a show). I enjoy driving a show. I enjoy creating content and being responsible for what we do–whether it’s good or bad. That was something that wasn’t happening up in Boston. This was an opportunity to get that done again. To be able to be responsible and accountable for what I wanted to do on the air and be able to drive my own ship.

A lot of things go into it–personal, professional. I think a lot of young guys don’t think in the long term and what’s best. They kind of just react. You’ve got to think things through. You have to really look at every opening and try to figure out what’s best for your life and what it might lead to.

Matt: Do you feel like it took very long to get your legs back under you as host and now as the station PD?

Nick: The PD thing came about in January. There’s just a million things that as an on-air host you’re not really thinking about. There are things you do as a host that could be seen as selfish even though you’re not trying to be selfish. When you become the program director you now have the health of the station you have to keep in mind.

As far as the show, it took about a month or two until I found my rhythm again and felt a little confident in what I was trying to accomplish on a day to day basis. I was named PD back in January and it has been kind of a whirlwind because at the same time I was being named PD I was fortunate enough to get a hosting opportunity with the network (ESPN).

I had added on a lot of responsibility and a lot of work. It has been a lot and it has been rewarding. Whatever happens from this point on–making that decision to leave 98.5 I think was in my best interest.  Mike (Thomas) and Beasley being super professional allowing me to leave that situation in Boston opened the door for not only being back here but also for me to get some programming experience and then it also opened the door to work for the Network. You just take it step by step, Matt.

Matt: A lot of people could have been comfortable and stayed at the Sports Hub…

Nick: If you catch up with Mike (Thomas) and ask him about me, he’d probably tell you that I’m one of the most impatient people in the entire world. I’m just always hungry and I just always want to get better. I’m always driven to be as good as I can be. In Boston, I just felt at times I was the best I could be and at other times I wasn’t. 

For people who are a little bit younger I try to tell them, “If you don’t feel like you are getting better, then you need to change something.” If you feel like you have nothing to learn, then you need to leave the business.  You need to always look at yourself and say “Am I doing the best work that I can do? If the answer is ‘no’ you have to figure out what you need to do to get there.”

Matt: You are filing in for Will Cain on the ESPN Radio Network over the fourth of July, how do you approach a show like that as opposed to your daily local show? 

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Nick: Content wise it’s very similar. Down here in Virginia Beach we are a very transient area, there’s 300,000+ military so we’re pretty much doing a national show every day. If something big locally happens we’ll talk about it, but there’s not much content difference between that and the national show.

The biggest changes (for an ESPN Network show) are behind the scenes and from a technical standpoint. When you’re doing a network show, you have two hard outs. If you don’t hit those hard-outs, it’s not good, no bueno! So you gotta be able to hit those. The conversation between you and the producer is different. Working with different co-hosts in different states is unusual. Working with a producer in a different state is unusual.

When you work with the network they obviously understand all of these things. When you look at programs and what they do, we have a screen sharing program where we can chat with the producers and can share all the live reads and sponsorships. Some producers like writing teases, but I like writing all my own teases. 

What the network does is it really teaches you how to be really fluid and how to react to different situations, how to work with different people and how to power through different scenarios. Personally I don’t try to change my style. When I go on the network I’m going to be me. Stylistically speaking I’m going to be myself. I’d rather be genuine, be real than be a carbon-copy of anyone who is doing this.

Matt: Where does local sports radio fit in the greater audio landscape today?

Nick: Pacing to me is very important. I look at the podcast world differently than the radio world. Most podcasts are directed at a certain audience. Most podcasts are about a certain sport or product. I’m a big UFC guy. If I’m gonna do a big UFC podcast, 40 minutes, the people listening to the podcast will listen to the whole 40 minutes. If I’m talking about the UFC on my show–first of all, it’s gonna be Connor McGregor, or somebody else that big– maybe Brock Lesnar, John Jones or Rhonda Rousey before she got her face kicked off. You’re talking about UFC for maybe three minutes and then you’re moving on. People in their cars are quick. Attention spans are shorter. People will not hang around for ten or fifteen minutes. 

One thing that I changed drastically from when I worked down here the first time, a lot of times I would do one topic per segment. Now we’re focused on trying to hit two or three things per segment. For example, yesterday we talked about Mike Thomas and Julio Jones contract situation for five or six minutes and then we flipped it around and talked about the Cowboys because the Cowboys have the Amari Cooper negotiation going on. You gotta keep it moving and you gotta give people the feeling that there’s no slowing down. You don’t want to give them a hesitation and a chance to put some music on.

As far as local radio, I’m probably going to echo what a lot of people in radio are saying right now. We look at terrestrial radio and we say 90-93% of people still listen when they are in their car. I do believe that. I do believe there’s a feel of a local radio show. Whether it’s a big market, small market, whatever. When you’re doing local radio you’re there. People feel you. They feel a connection that’s a little different. There’s that connection that people can’t get from listening to a podcast or to national radio. I think it’s still as relevant as it ever has been. Now we’re seeing a shift where we are talking about stories rather than in the weeds with X’s and O’s.  Analytical people will be able to get their analytics from Pro Football Focus. Most people listening to the radio want the overarching storylines. What are the stories? We saw that during the NBA Playoffs. 

I think radio is fine. I try to keep it simple. To me, whether you are in Sheboygan or in Chicago, whether you are doing a podcast or a live radio show, just give the people the most entertaining, honest, compelling content and you’re going to do fine. 

I think a lot of people are trying to do this or that. The world tries to make everything black or white and that’s stupid. Somebody feels like they gotta be a “hot take guy” or stand on “morality mountain” when something comes across. Everybody is trying to put their own cape on. In the real world, Matt, we’re all different. We’re all full of gray area. 

If you are just honest and treat individual situations and topics honestly then you’re going to do well. If you try to be hot and steamed about something that you’re not really hot or steamed about, I don’t think it’s gonna work. Now a few people have pulled it off and those people are making millions of dollars per year. We know the names. I think it’s always a danger. They’ve kind of cornered the market on that. If you try to be hot take guy, it’s going to come off as a fabrication. It’s going to come across as you trying to be someone else. If you try to do a show like Dan LeBatard, there’s only one Dan LeBatard, you’re going to sound like a cheap Dan LeBatard. So be true to yourself and bring the best content every day and I think you’ll be fine. 

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Matt: Is there anything you haven’t done yet in your career that you’re looking forward to doing? 

Nick: I think there’s always challenges. To work at the network and do a national show every day would be a challenge. To drive a station in a Top 10 market that would get behind you, that would be a challenge. I’m not necessarily saying I would jump at these situations if they were put in front of me, but If you’re asking me to give you things that I haven’t done that I feel would be a challenge–I’d say do an every day show nationally, a Top 10 show daily.

Another challenge is right here at Virginia Beach. We are not in the spot we were when I left the first time. Right now we need to be better. The challenge right now is day to day to be the best host that I can. To be the best PD that I can. 

Shoot, I would love to do play by play. Those questions are always difficult. A year from now I could be in a completely different spot personally. As you evolve as a human being, I don’t have kids. If I have a kid in the next year or two, how does that change what I’m looking for? So those are the three things: Virginia Beach-getting us to where we once were, a national show, doing a drive time show in a top ten market those would all be great challenges. 

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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