Good hosts and shows aren’t struggling for content right now, but who knows how long it will be before we get live sports again? Hell, we’ll have been without sports for nearly a month and a half at that point.
We’re all in this together, right? That’s why Barrett Sports Media has created a content grab bag and we’re asking everyone to pitch in.
Got an idea that can help someone else? Do you have a perfect bit in mind, but maybe your situation has changed and now you have nowhere to pull it off? Don’t let it go to waste! If you want to contribute, reach out to Demetri Ravanos on Twitter.
This week, my pal Joe Ovies is here to offer a helping hand. Joe is one of most comfortable hosts I’ve ever run across when it comes to the irreverent and not sticking to sports. He’ll tell you about “Iron Chef Radio,” a concept that embraces both debate and the mundane. Even if this particular concept isn’t for you, Joe also has an idea for injecting some non-sports creativity of your own into any show.
Jim Rome said it best — have a take, and don’t suck.
Slight problem. It’s tough coming up with new sports talk radio takes in the middle of a pandemic.
There’s only so many ways you can discuss the Dallas Cowboys dragging their feet with Dak Prescott’s contract, Aaron Rodgers’ feelings after the Green Bay Packers drafted Jordan Love, and the dwindling starting jobs available for Cam Newton. One day you’re offering thoughts on playing games in a Biodome, another day it’s a tournament in Disney World, the next day it’s Fight Island, and suddenly all these crazy plans to bring sports back blend together and your listeners tune them out.
The Korean Baseball Organization is an opportunity to talk to local players who spent time in the league or a funny daily benchmark, but the audience will call your bluff if you start breaking down why the Doosan Bears have better middle relievers in their bullpen compared to the NC Dinos.
It’s a problem most of us anticipated the moment American sports hit the pause button in March. How can you, as the host, keep serving up fresh opinion when the ingredients are getting stale? The answer may involve finding new areas of forage.
The segment we came up with at 99.9FM The Fan is called “Iron Chef Radio”, which involves the producer unveiling a “secret ingredient for arguments” to the hosts. If you’re familiar with Food Network’s classic cooking game show, “Iron Chef”, the concept should be familiar. In our version of the game, the hosts take a position on the topic presented. It can be topical, such as “who is the worst Star Wars character?” on May 4th or “hard shell or soft shell tacos” on May 5th. It can also be evergreen, such as “mac and cheese should be eaten with a fork, not a spoon”. While you can have the listeners decide who had the better argument, we leave the decision up to the producer.
And before you say it, yes, all we’re doing to repackaging the tired “is a hot dog a sandwich?” debate into something with actual production value. Someone in our building told me it sounded similar to The Ringer’s “The Hottest Take” podcast. Maybe so, but as they say, great artists steal.
Here’s the thing, these questions create authentic arguments. My co-host and I have entered into spirited exchanges over “secret ingredients” as silly “fake Christmas trees are better than real Christmas trees”. The topics are incredibly relatable to the listeners, who often have these friendly disagreement with friends and family.
How we came up with “Iron Chef Radio” might help you develop a new segment as well. Go to Target, Walmart, or any other big box store. Browse their party games section and see if you can turn one of them could work as a radio segment. Originally we tried to come up with a way to make “Cards Against Humanity” work on the radio, but feared we’d slip up with a fill-in-the-blank statement that would get us yanked off the air. We goofed around with a card game called “Utter Nonsense”, which asks players to read silly statements in a specific accent (Santa, pirate, etc). The game that ultimately inspired “Iron Chef Radio” is called “I Dissent”, which features 90 argument cards like “cats are jerks”.
Interviews of interesting guests are an indispensable part of doing a good show with sports on pause. Keeping the audience up-to-date on your community’s efforts to combat COVID-19 is part of what makes us essential. But so is keeping them entertained with a lighthearted segment that’ll take them out of that existential dread for a moment. Find the time to do that was something as ridiculous as “Iron Chef Radio”. It’ll keep your arguing skills sharp until sports returns.
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 74
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.