It’s very easy for a sports radio Program Director to spend 99% of their time at the radio station. There is always something to work on there: imaging, coaching, schedules, phone calls, emails and meetings. That makes it really easy for a PD to essentially “live” at the radio station. But if you really want to grow as a PD and help boost the growth of the station, you need to get out of the office. Here are some very productive ways to spend your time out of the office.
Monitoring your station and the rest of the market
At the radio station, it is really challenging to monitor your station and especially hard to monitor other stations. With people coming in and out of your office, it is exceptionally hard to ever hear a complete segment and staff tend to lose their mind if you are listening to a different station when they walk into your office.
Have a plan for your day out of the office. First, where are you going to listen? When I worked in Kansas City we had trade with a hotel. It was a great place to get away and monitor radio stations. If your station has trade at a hotel or a business office with privacy or a conference room, these are all great places to get your monitoring done.
Once you know where you are going to be, come up with a listening schedule of what you want to listen to that day. Something like this:
7-730am: Listen to your morning show
730-8am: Listen to other sports station’s morning show
8-830am: Listen to top M25-54 morning show (could be Rock, News/Talk, Country)
830-9am: Listen to top 6+ morning show (could be Hot AC, Top 40, N/T, Country, Rock, Urban)
Continuing that schedule on and consistently taking notes. What things did your station do that you really liked? What things bored you about your station? What is your direct sports competition doing to try to take your listeners? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
You may even learn more by listening to the successful non-sports stations in the market. What are some fun bits they do? How do they incorporate listeners, callers, and social media? What do they do to keep you listening through the commercial breaks? Is there a way they use production and imaging that you could incorporate into your station or shows?
Your staff should not know that you are monitoring. Let them know that you’re out of the office at meetings all day or are taking the day off. You don’t want them changing how they operate because they know you are monitoring their shows. I have always found this a productive and idea-producing exercise.
To pay-off the monitoring, write up a piece about your station’s shows and the other shows you listened to. Share this with your teams in person and discuss it with them. Much better than just passing your notes out. It’s a great way to take what you learned from a full day of monitoring and help your station evolve and improve.
Spend the day with your Play by Play team
Often times a radio station that originates play-by-play feels like two radio stations–a sports talk station and a play-by-play station. Since most play-by-play (minus the Cubs) happens at night and away from the station, the group that works hard to create great broadcasts doesn’t get the same attention as the sports talk hosts and producers.
Just your presence shows the play-by-play team that they are all important to your radio station. Ask questions, too. This will show your genuine interest and curiosity. You are a better PD when you really understand everyone’s job, the challenges they face and the talents they bring to the position.
Meet with Local Teams
A day out of the office is a great way to meet with local teams with no agenda. You meet just to grow the relationship. Do more listening than talking and meet them at their office or a neutral site like a restaurant. Depending on your sports market you could be meeting with professional team communications directors, GMs, Owners, or Marketing Directors. If you are in a big collegiate sports market you would want to meet with the Athletic Director, important coaches and especially the media relations director.
You are there to get honest, off-the-record feedback about your radio station from the teams you cover. It doesn’t mean you will agree with their feedback or change your programming, but it is really important to have those conversations on a regular basis. This way you’re not only calling when you need something from them.
Speak to groups about your radio station
You can never go wrong making connections within your community. Groups are always looking for speakers of note and what better place to talk about your sports radio station. You can find very sports-centric groups like a local Quarterback Club or gathering of a team’s fan club. Additionally, don’t be afraid to branch out and speak to local business groups like the Chamber of Commerce or local trade associations.
If your city is a big union town like Chicago or Pittsburgh, talk to the Teamsters or the local AFL-CIO. It may be smart to speak at these meetings and bring along your local sales manager. This way, the important members meet the programming and sales leaders of your radio station. This can open doors for programming opportunities, sales opportunities, or both!
You really can’t go wrong spending productive time away from the radio station. You can come up with new ideas and tweaks by monitoring your station and other strong stations in the market. Spending the day with your play-by-play team will make them feel special and help you learn the ins and outs of their daily life. Meeting with local teams is a great way to build a relationship that serves you and the radio station no matter how the team is faring or how tough your hosts are on that team. Finally, when you meet with community groups you endear your station to community members and unearth new listeners and sponsors in the process.
So give it a shot. You’ll build your profile outside of the radio station, strengthen your public speaking skills while making new connections. Now go do it!
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.