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What Do Ad Agencies Need From Radio Right Now?

“There’s so much uncertainty that we want to be able to steward our clients’ dollars in the most effective way while maintaining commitments to our media partners.”

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Everyone that works for Intrepid Marketing Group is busy right now. The full-service marketing and PR firm based in Raleigh, NC works with a diverse group of clients. They are trying to shepherd organizations of all sorts, from ACC athletic programs to quick service restaurant chains, through the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ann-Marie Sales and her partner Mike Dixon run Intrepid. I spent the better part of last week exchanging emails and text messages with the two of them and their Vice President Torrey Winchester. All three will acknowledge that this is a challenging time for their clients, and by proxy for them. But they will all also tell you that working with an agency has helped to ease their clients’ fears.

Intrepid Marketing Group

“Luckily, as a full-service agency, we’re able to consult with them on messaging of both advertising as well as direct customer outreach via email or social and PR,” Sales says. “This is such an unprecedented occasion, but our clients lean on our experience and expertise to finetune those messages. They also rely on us to be proactive in updating messaging as new information comes to light.”

Advertisers are leaning on their agencies and those agencies are leaning on radio for reassurance right now. No one is operating in a “business as usual” environment, and Winchester says that agencies are going to be loyal to radio clusters that understand that and make adjustments.

“Flexibility right now is key,” she says. “There’s so much uncertainty that we want to be able to steward our clients’ dollars in the most effective way while maintaining commitments to our media partners.”

Winchester adds that without many exceptions, the radio stations Intrepid works with have been keen to do their part.

“We’ve seen a great deal of flexibility and a lot of stations stepping up to find ways to support our clients and other local businesses. There’s a real feeling that we’re all in this together and that has come through from our partners as they provide extra added value through new initiatives like on-air announcements of businesses that are still open or by waiving creative change fees or the like.”

For the businesses that utilize the services of Intrepid Marketing Group or any other agency, the learning curve can be a little softer right now. After all, why does a business hire a firm with PR experience if not for guidance through the most uncertain of times? Right now, that guidance includes shaping a business’s messaging.

You’ve seen a lot of media companies featured on BSM lately discussing how important the relationships they have spent years building are proving to be right now. Well, the same is true for marketing and PR agencies. Sales says the relationships she has built with her radio partners are imperative to being able to deliver for her clients.

“We have a really diverse set of industries that we represent so we’re able to manage our relationships with the media with a little more fluidly with some clients’ budgets being restricted while others expand so it provides our clients with a really solid negotiating position.”

So what about the creative side of the relationship? Clients are trusting Intrepid to manage their messaging, but who is Intrepid trusting to make sure they get it right? Mike Dixon says that it’s been all about teamwork.

“This is often a collaboration between us, our clients and the stations, but we do pride ourselves on our ability to be proactive in providing guidance on messaging to be sensitive to current events. We’ve worked through some unique challenges, like recording new spots while maintaining social distancing measures, so stations have offered some good new options for that as well.”

The balance of power has always been tilted towards the agency in relationships with radio stations. A sports station that delivers a successful campaign for a local minor league baseball team can find itself on a department store’s buy when back to school season comes around if the two businesses are working with the same agency.

Keeping clients is the priority of everyone at every station across the country right now. Dixon is appreciative of those efforts. He hasn’t told any stations that Intrepid is paying attention to how its clients are treated right now, because he hasn’t had to.

“In our experiences so far, it’s clear that everyone knows we’re in this together. We always work hard to maintain really great relationships with our media partners and we’ve already seen the fruits of that in their willingness to find creative ways to promote our clients’ and in some cases their changing business models.”

MIKE DIXON | intrepidmg

Advertising partnerships are true partnerships now more than ever before. Businesses need guidance from their agencies, agencies need flexibility from stations, and stations need loyalty from agencies and advertisers. Ann-Marie, Mike, and Torrey can only speak for their clients and their agency, but they are counting on the relationships they have built over the years. They are looking at the stations they have placed ad buys with for help, both in terms of creativity and flexibility.

Everyone at Intrepid is fond of saying that clients and stations “realize we are all in this together” when it comes to doing business during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, is the time for stations to make a good impression. It may mean you and your agency partners are “in this together” for the foreseeable future.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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