Mitch Rosen has been in the radio game for a long time. He’s spent some 30 years in his home market of Chicago, working for a number of well-known and respected stations including WGN Radio, and ESPN 1000. Rosen has been the program director for 670 The Score, since 2005.
Under his leadership, The Score has become one of the most respected sports stations in the country. Rosen added a second station to his portfolio in the Summer of 2019. In addition to leading the Score, he took on the added responsibility of programming 105.7 The Fan, in Milwaukee. He’s a busy guy, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rosen will be honored at the 2020 BSM Summit in New York next week as the first ever winner of the Mark Chernoff award.
I recently sat down with him to get his thoughts on winning the prestigious award, what it’s like to program two stations simultaneously and just how competitive the Chicago market is with two sports stations on the air.
Andy Masur: You were the top guy on the BSM list of major market PD’s and will be the first to receive the Mark Chernoff award. What does that mean to you, having your peers recognize what you do for the format?
Mitch Rosen: It’s very humbling, I’m very honored two-fold. Number one, Mark and I are very good friends in this industry, so, to receive this award named for him is really an incredible feeling. I’ve learned so much from him. I remember about 16 years ago, I started in February of 2005 and Mark interviewed me over the phone for the job at the Score. Ever since then, learning from him and talking to him and still to this day running ideas by him and consulting him on different things, it’s just amazing that I was the one chosen for this award is a great honor.
This award and honor it’s really not about me, it’s about the people I work with, it’s also about our brand, you know the Score brand was born in January of 1992. I happen to be the one that day in and day out works close with this brand. But it’s about the people, it’s producers, on air talent, people in our digital department, people at Radio.com sports, Entercom, CBS Sports/Westinghouse. So many people touch this brand and oh by the way it’s our audience. Without the listeners of Chicago and folks that listen to our product on the Radio.com app and online every day, you know, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be overseeing this tremendous brand, so even though my name is on it, it’s all about the Score brand and about people that I work with on a daily basis.
AM: What are you looking forward to at the BSM Summit?
MR: I always look forward to collaborating with my peers. Also, watching and listening to the great panels. I think the panels Jason has put together this year are incredible and I always look at it as a great learning experience. No matter how long you’ve been in this business when you can absorb knowledge from some of the people that he’s assembled is great. It’s great to see some of my peers that you really only get to see once a year at Jason’s summit, so that’s what I’m really looking forward to, seeing a lot of people in the industry and talking about great ideas. As we know our industry, I feel, changes on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. To be able share ideas and knowledge is really huge.
AM: What is the competition like in a crazy sports town like Chicago with 2 sports stations?
MR: This market is unusual, you have two stand-alone AM radio stations in us and WMVP (ESPN 1000) and I think it’s a credit to this Chicago sports market. Both stations do very well. I think at the end of the day when you look at it, I think our station has more listeners throughout the year on a weekly basis. Though, if an outsider said you have two stand-alone AM radio stations that talk sports and on a weekly basis combined you cume sometimes a million and a half people a week that’s pretty impressive.
We’ve seen the trend of sports stations going to FM around the country and it just hasn’t clicked yet in Chicago. I think it’s a testament to when there’s great content people find you. When you have two great AM stations, and I think both do a good job in terms of content, its not just the AM band anymore. It’s all the different platforms through social media that people find great content and I think that’s how we’ve survived over the years since 1992 and you have to adjust with the times. You can’t sit back and wait for technology to come to you, I think you really have to follow technology and be ahead of the game. We’ve seen that in what we’ve done with live video streaming on a number of our shows and the OTT products and things like that.
AM: You and Mike Thomas at ESPN 1000 are friends, what’s the dynamic like in competing against him and his station?
MR: He’s a friend, he’s a colleague, he’s someone I respect, but I think he would say the same thing, I wake up every morning and you think how do I get better? How do you get better than your competition? How can you motivate your staff to produce better content every day?
I also think we compete in a world that isn’t just sports. We live in the demographic of 25-54 year-old persons and obviously our main target is men, so how do we do better than some music stations? We are all fighting for an audience, how do we get more ears on our station, more eyeballs on our digital platforms? That’s what we strive to do every day.
AM: In a sports market like Chicago, what is the importance placed on having Chicago guys on the air talking Chicago sports?
MR: Everybody knows their city I think better than others. I’m fortunate enough that I was born in the Chicagoland area. I’ve been fortunate to work in this market since 1988. My first job was at WGN radio, first as an intern, then I was hired at WGN shortly after that. I feel it’s important that people that work in this market in sports radio either grew up here, or worked here.
You look at our lineup from top to bottom, these people have worked here long enough and lived here. I think it’s important that they know the background of Chicago sports, they know the audience, they know geographically where people live and where they come from. They know the passion of Chicago sports, they know what it was like being a fan and they know the teams in this market. Every market is different. I can only speak for Chicago and now a little bit Milwaukee. But for the Chicago market I think it’s vitally important that people live and breathe this throughout their life. That’s how I feel about it.
AM: How do you view the landscape of sports radio in Chicago and the format in general?
MR: I’m still a believer in live and local. I think in this format specifically. We’re in the opinion business, people always want to talk about live and local sports. People in Chicago want to give their opinion about the Bears. They want to give their opinion about the Cubs and about all local sports teams. I don’t see that going away.
It’s how you go about figuring out through which platforms, through what different ways you communicate with the audience, those are the type of things that continue to evolve and change. As a programmer you have to be willing to adapt and change. What I was doing three or four years ago as a PD has changed. Today as a brand manager you just have to be able to be adaptive, go with the changes, be open to ideas and come up with new ideas. You can’t wait for it to come to you. You have to be willing to share things with the staff and be open to feedback and ideas from everybody. That’s how I see it, I think this format is as strong as it ever will be and it’s all about being live and local.
AM: What do you see as a benefit of having team play-by-play on The Score?
MR: I am a firm believer for a sports radio station to be successful you need to have a team’s play-by-play on your airwaves. It’s a great marketing tool that you can cross promote in play-by-play. It brings in a cumulative audience that helps you market your other day parts. From a sales standpoint it’s a great opportunity to generate revenue with the right business deal. Again, for a sports radio station today in 2020 its imperative that you have a play-by-play property/partnership on your radio station.
AM: How difficult is it to be effective as a PD in two cities at once, juggling Chicago and now 105.7 the Fan in Milwaukee at the same time?
MR: I love it. You know, traditionally I’m in Milwaukee for a day and a half a week. With modern technology I’m always in touch with the Milwaukee market. I’m fortunate enough that I have great assistance there with Steve “Sparky” Fifer who also is a co-host on our “Wendy’s Big Show” in the afternoons. I have a great staff there, from our morning show to middays and afternoons.
Milwaukee has really become a great sports town. The Packers had success this year, being a game away from the Super Bowl. The Brewers have been competitive in the NL Central and of course the Bucks. They’re probably the best team today in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. It’s fun, it’s only 90 miles from Chicago and to me being in the business a long time, it’s rejuvenated me in terms of something fresh to work with and great people. You combo that and it’s just been a joy to part of that organization.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
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!
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.”
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?
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?
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.
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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