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Have You Mined Every Angle From The Biggest Stories?

“Make no mistake – this is a service job. We give the audience what they want, or they’re gone.”

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How many times have we all heard a host say, “I don’t root for teams, I root for stories?” While it’s true that all shows are made better by big news events, what matters far more is what a show does when something big goes down. After big news, all shows will be talking about what happened, but the ones that distinguish themselves are the ones that find the most interesting angles about the story of the day. How do you do that, exactly? 

The key to unearthing interesting angles to any story is by asking basic questions that you can apply to just about anything that happens. One question you should always be able to answer right out of the gates is fairly obvious: Why does this matter?

Why does it matter? - Shared Hope International

From there, gradually branch out beyond the news itself. What are people inside and outside the sport saying about the story? Who can we talk to that can offer more insight into the situation? Is there an aspect to the story that should be getting more attention? From there, spin the story forward to the future. What happens next? How does this news affect other people/teams/leagues? How does this story compare to similar situations we’ve seen?  Could we see a similar story happen again soon? The possibilities are infinite.

Doing a story justice isn’t just a matter of checking off a list of questions to answer and calling it a day, however. The worst way to measure success would be to simply count up the number of angles you address. There’s no high score for hot takes. Above all, your job is to be interesting. If you only have a polarizing opinion on a couple of angles, hit those angles hard. Don’t let your host off the hook if they try to avoid a story by saying they don’t care about it or aren’t interested in it.

Make no mistake – this is a service job. We give the audience what they want, or they’re gone. Even if your talent don’t think a particular story is a big deal, that in itself can be a worthwhile take on something everyone is talking about. There’s no excuse not to serve the listeners. 

After you’ve found the things you want to dive into, you can start to work on your presentation. What’s the brand of your talent? Do they do analogies, make movie references, or use drops? What anecdotes from the past apply to the current situation? Did someone make a prediction on a past show that has come to pass? Or maybe one that didn’t age well? Does the story align with a core philosophy of the show in any way?

Presentation is a huge piece of the puzzle, and it is often what separates the best shows from the pack. 

Let’s apply this formula to something currently happening in the NFL. As of the writing of this story, the biggest news of the week is Cam Newton signing a one year deal to follow Tom Brady as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots.

Complex Sports on Twitter: "Cam Newton is a Patriot. (via ...

Why does this matter? 

The team and dynasty that most NFL fans hoped was dead after the departure of Tom Brady may have risen from the grave with the signing of former MVP Cam Newton. The entire balance of power in the AFC may have just shifted.

Look at the Patriots’ schedule with fresh eyes and you’ll see elite quarterback matchups across the board: Cam Newton vs. Russell Wilson in Week 2, Cam vs. Patrick Mahomes in Week 4, Cam vs. Jimmy Garoppolo in his return to Foxborough in Week 7, Cam vs. Lamar Jackson in Week 10, Cam vs. Deshaun Watson the week after that, and Kyler Murray in Week 12. 

What are people saying about it? 

Bill Belichick hasn’t said anything publicly yet, but he did have glowing comments about Newton in 2017. 

Richard Sherman recently called it, “disgusting” that a former MVP had to sign for so little money. 

New York Jets (for now) safety Jamal Adams praised the division-rival Patriots for the signing.

Who can we talk to about this situation?

Check your contacts for former Cam Newton coaches or teammates. Would any members of the Panthers broadcast team join to talk about what he brings to New England?  Because of the Patriots’ media lockdown it’s unlikely anyone from the team will do an interview, but check anyway. What about Patriots’ radio analyst and former quarterback Scott Zolak?

Is there an aspect of the story that should get more attention?

When is the last time we saw a head coach this good teamed with a mobile quarterback as good as Cam?

Is Bill Belichick the Phil Jackson of the NFL? No matter what, he always has elite stars on his team. He goes from 20 years of Tom Brady straight to another MVP, just like Phil Jackson went from Micahel Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago to Kobe and Shaq in L.A.

What happens next?

One easy way to get into this is to check what Las Vegas is saying about the situation. Are there updated odds on the Patriots’ playoff chances? Super Bowl chances? What about Cam Newton’s odds to win the MVP? Are there Cam Newton prop bets? If not, make some up yourself.

Squeezing multiple angles out of one story is the lifeblood of any sports talk radio show – especially when news is slow. If you find yourself at a loss for how to attack something, answering some simple questions about the topic can often spark creativity and lead you towards an interesting destination.

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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