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Radio’s X Factor is Likability And Mike Golic Has It

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Mike Golic

According to the latest rumors, ESPN Radio may be looking at Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman to be their new national morning show. While there have been stories that Trey Wingo was looking to leave the show, where would a possible Kellerman/Keyshawn morning show leave morning show stalwart Mike Golic?

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Having worked with Golic on Mike & Mike for around five years, I admit I was saddened by the thought that his 20 year run in the mornings could be coming to an end. When I started to look at his history, I realized that Mike Golic can lay claim to a career in national radio that few who have ever sat behind a microphone can match. Despite not employing many of the common tactics we see in players-turned-media members today, how did Mike carve out such an incredible career?  To paraphrase the great Dr. Seuss:

He came without rings

He came without brags.

He came without stats, hot takes, or gags.

Maybe Golic, I thought, goes beyond the lore.

Maybe Golic, perhaps, brings a little bit more.

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The reason that Golic has had such incredible longevity is because he possesses more of one trait than I have ever seen someone in the media possess: Likeability.

People just like Mike Golic, and they have since he started on ESPN Radio with Tony Bruno two decades ago. It’s how someone can live a life that .01% of the population has ever had – captain of the Notre Dame football team, drafted into the NFL, ESPN broadcaster – and still be seen as the everyman. 

People often talk about the “it” factor when they’re discussing quarterbacks or movie stars. Likeability is that x factor in radio because it creates a bond with the listener that can compensate for weaknesses in any other area of a host’s repertoire. Conversely, if you don’t have likeability, it doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are, how intriguing your teases are, or how well you can handle the traffic on your show – people won’t want to hear from you.

Erik Kuselias is one example of someone who suffers from a lack of likeability. I produced for EK for years at ESPN and NBC Sports Radio, and he is without a doubt one of the most talented radio hosts I’ve ever worked with. He brought everything you could possibly want your host to have, except for that one thing, and because of that people just never embraced him the way Golic has been embraced.

If the rumors about Mike Golic being replaced are true, ESPN should look to fill that spot with someone that the audience can relate to – a person they’d want to spend part of their morning with every single day. Chances are, that isn’t the person with the best argument or the hottest take. Look to the Golic, and let that be your North Star.

Improving the Quality of Life for Humanity

There aren’t many people today whose personality can generate such a strong bond with the audience, but I put together a quick list (in no particular order):

Mike Golic Jr.: I was initially skeptical of Mike Jr. on overnights, but after listening to him I quickly realized how wrong I was in that assumption. With his impressive versatility, it’s no surprise how fast his star has risen. A father-son podcast with his dad would offer a unique perspective few other programs could match.

Barstool Big Cat:  Audiences see themselves in Big Cat more than any other host in the sports talk business. He carries the Barstool Sports brand and the ultra-popular Pardon My Take podcast. Also, his conversational interview style relaxes guests and helps them open up more than they usually do on other shows.

Chris Simms: Simms’ combination of frank analysis with endearing malapropisms have earned him a spot on Football Night in America on NBC, his own podcast, and the co-host chair on Pro Football Talk Live on NBCSN.

Mina Kimes: Kimes’ intelligence and affability on the air, as well as an accomplished journalism career, has led to multiple podcasts, regular TV appearances and almost half a million followers on Twitter. People love her adorable dog Lenny, as well as her savage takedowns of goobers on social media.

Dave Rothenberg: Dave is the hardcore fanatic that some sports snobs criticize but fandom would be absolutely boring without. His passion is perfect for the New York market and the constant criticism he takes from his co-hosts only makes him more likeable to listeners.

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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