A great program director can adapt to any format. They study the needs of the audience, adjust to the content, and take the experiences they’ve gained coaching talent, analyzing ratings, developing a social strategy, reacting to breaking news, writing imaging, and creating unique promotions and programming to energize the radio station’s they’re tasked with managing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
If you look at the News/Talk format today, you’ll find a number of talented brand managers are now guiding powerful brands after previously making an impact in sports radio. John Hanson, Kevin Graham, Scott Masteller, and Brian Long are just a few who have made that jump, and been thrust into the fire whether ready for it or not. To their credit, they’ve each made smooth transitions and have led their brands thru a few challenging situations, proving one doesn’t need to spend a lifetime in a particular format to be an effective leader in it.
Though sports and news may differ in content, the fundamentals to executing successful talk radio apply to both formats. I was curious to learn what differences and similarities they’ve noticed between the two formats, how they’ve altered their imaging approach to connect with a different demographic, what their daily content process includes when deciding which issues to focus on, and whether or not the controversies surrounding President Trump are good or bad for their hosts and their radio station’s ratings. Below is my conversation with Brian, John, Scott, and Kevin. Enjoy!
Jason Barrett: What are the biggest similarities and differences in programming a News/Talk station vs. a Sports talk brand?
Brian Long, PD at KOGO: Sports stations by nature have seasonal themes. The content is normally following the local teams ups and downs, trades etc.. This is similar to how N/T has election cycles, kids back to school, tax day, etc.. The biggest difference I see is that N/T frequently is forced to shift on a dime. You might have a great show planned with some high profile guests that must be scrapped due to an unplanned news event like an out of control wild fire. N/T forces you to operate with much more urgency with decisions on programming to effectively cover breaking news as it happens. Unfortunately, this typically seems to happen at off hours of the day and night. That’s not to say big breaking stories don’t happen in sports talk that require a pivot, it’s just less frequent.
John Hanson, PD at WCCO: Fundamentally, I consider them to be just about the same on the talk side, but with different starting points. So often now a sports story will bleed into the news cycle, and a news story will become part of sports. The ideas of being interesting, having a point, having a takeaway, and having pacing and good teases are all the same though. And personalities win. What’s different is often what the audience expects. A sports audience primarily expects to be entertained. A news talk audience wants more information and more to think about, albeit, often times, as long as the line of thinking aligns with their own.
Kevin Graham, PD at WBAP/KLIF: The only difference in my opinion is the content. Otherwise, it’s similar from the standpoint of servicing your local community/listeners (in sports talk your local sports listeners) in providing information, opinions, analysis and entertainment. You still have to manage your talent to best maximize PPM principals as well as provide content that interests your target listener. From a news staff standpoint, it’s providing fair and balanced coverage of the big stories that have the greatest impact with your audience. In the end the best personalities and content usually win.
Scott Masteller, PD at WBAL: Regardless of the format it’s all about the topics that you present on the air, and playing to the broadest set of the audience. Whether it’s a local station or national network, it’s important to have a perspective on what the audience wants to hear about when they decide to listen to your product. We know attention spans are so limited and if you waste time you lose quarter-hours. Understanding the interests of the audience you are playing to has never been more critical as the consumer has so many choices as to where they can go for content.
The other big difference I see is the volume of breaking news. News is the foundation of our radio station and in one day we can have multiple press events that we carry live from either Washington or in our own region. We have to be prepared for news elements at a moments notice, and then when it makes sense be able to pivot and offer the audience reaction and analysis.
Barrett: How does your approach change when it comes to the way you image and position a News/Talk brand?
Long: My team tends to look to find ways to make the station continue to sound credible and local. You want to create the sound that reflects the breath of the city & region in which you are operating. The main goal for us is to always evolve our listening environment and strengthen our position as the go to place when news events happen.
Hanson: A sports radio station has that sports bar approach to branding. It needs be fun to hang around with. A news talk station has to be trustworthy. There CAN and should be a fun approach to branding with news talk, in relationship to the talk part of the brand, but it needs to be done appropriately.
Graham: I’ve used the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years of managing sports radio imaging and have applied it to the News/Talk format. Being topical and in the moment as much as possible is key. In this world that’s a huge challenge with the constant churn of the news cycle. Otherwise it’s the same from the standpoint of keeping your branding simple, to the point and targeted to your core listenership. And when it comes to big events for instance like the upcoming election, it’s just like covering a Super Bowl. Tell the story to the listeners of what you’re doing and when. Planning and producing pre-election, during the election and post election imaging pieces etc..
Masteller: I actually took much of what has been part of sports and shifted it over to news when I made the transition. The words “urgency and anticipation” have always been part of the vocabulary for me when it comes to production and imaging. News changes so frequently and with that so does production. Many times we will put an element on the air and it may only run for six hours. We write new production every day as the news cycle is moving faster than ever before. There’s nothing worse to me then hearing outdated production on the air. Having a voice talent that understands the news cycle is critical to the overall sound of the station.
Barrett: In sports radio, the hits are easy to identify because they’re most often of local relevance. In News, it can be harder because global, national, and local issues all have significant value to local listeners. How do your talk shows decide which content warrants a deep dive, and which material only deserves a few minutes or a quick mention?
Long: Many stations have built their lineup with a mix of national and local talent. When this happens you can tend to lean deeper into the local/regional topics on your local shows given the national perspective is covered at other times. On a station like KOGO, we attempt to always cover what people are discussing. If a national story is making headlines, we won’t shelve it in favor of a local story that is of less interest. Like sports radio, we always try to play the hits.
Hanson: There is a lot of information out there. But only a percentage truly affects the day to day lives of our listeners. The successful shows are the ones that will talk about local issues and take information on a large scale, and explain how it matters to their audience.
Graham: I keep it simple with my staff. We have a targeted listener and I remind them constantly to ask themselves of what he wants to hear, and what interests and impacts him the most. That’s what we should be talking about. On any given day that can range from something that is directly affecting the local community, to something that is happening statewide or nationally that has an impact, directly or indirectly, on our Dallas-Fort Worth listenership. The upside of this format is there is never a crazy slow day because in the end there is always something happening that resonates with our audience.
Masteller: It is a balancing act, yet it depends on the mission of the station you are programming. WBAL NewsRadio is live and local 18 hours a day. What is happening in Baltimore and the region drives a lot of what we present. Our hosts must be knowledgeable on both local and national issues. We are in an Election year and the push to November will dominate much of the conversation. The key for us is to be able to localize the content whenever possible but always remember to play the hits. One day the biggest story may be in Baltimore and the next day it may be somewhere in the country. It’s also very important for talent to understand how consumers listen. When you have a big story the talent must understand you are presenting to different people every quarter-hour.
Barrett: President Trump is notorious for offering strong opinions on sensitive issues. Those remarks often fuel his fan base while igniting his critics. Are Trump’s controversies good or bad for News/Talk radio and ratings?
Long: It really depends on the type of station you have and how you’re positioned. When he was on the campaign trail prior to becoming president, the headlines he generated were unlike anything the media has ever seen. However, it seems people are now somewhat predisposed to the fact the he is likely to send out a tweet or make a comment on a given story so I feel like the initial shock value that was generated has worn off a bit.
Hanson: Some may disagree, but I’ve had many conversations with those I respect in the business and my own experience that both tell me, the more you stay away from getting into the daily tweets of President Trump, the better off you’ll be. When listeners complain about something that was either said for, or against him, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever believed a listener when they’ve said, they’ll change the station.
Graham: I think this varies from market to market and what your brand is. In our case with our two News/Talk brands reflecting the conservative community that is the Dallas-Fort Worth metro it definitely doesn’t hurt. Love or hate him, the President always has something to say that drives conversation. It’s much like having an outspoken star or coach in a particular sports market. It drives controversial content which in turn usually drives ratings.
Masteller: What the President says always draws reaction and what is most important is how talent react. To me one of the aspects I always talk to hosts about is ‘tone”. It’s’ not always what you say, it’s how you say it. I’ve always felt it is important to never be mean spirited in how you discuss any issue or any person. It’s more than ok to disagree, but you should do so from a foundation of fact. Everyone has an opinion about the President and what he says and that hopefully leads to more quarter-hours.
Barrett: Talk radio shows often feature a mix of strong opinions, storytelling, breaking news, features, calls/texts, guests, bits, etc.. What do News/Talk listeners value most and least from that menu of options?
Long: This is a mixed bag. It really depends on the show and the hosts. I find N/T listeners still want the engagement of calls, texts, guests etc.. By contrast, I don’t find them being all that interested in produced bits or comedy. However, it all depends on the show and the time it’s on. In the end, the audience is looking for a host to have unique opinions and perspectives.
Hanson: I’m a fan of relying on what you can control every day. So strong opinions, storytelling, features, bits…these are all elements that can be controlled daily by the professionals that were hired to do the job. Calls, texts and guests, those are putting your show in the hands of the unknowns, so I see them as valued, but less important. Or more appropriately, less reliable. The audience tunes in every day KNOWING one thing they’ll be hearing, which is the host or hosts. Breaking news is interesting, because radio isn’t great at the actual breaking of news, but we can still reap the benefits because it’s often the first place people hear the news, and/or the first place they turn to for more information or reaction to the news. So that too is important
Graham: It’s a combination of all the above. Ultimately, like the sports radio format, our ratings are driven more on time spent listening than cume. So that means it’s incumbent on the entire team–hosts, producers, news etc. to be on the same page driving the content that our target listeners crave. If it’s a slower news day, the hosts/producers have to be more creative in coming up with content that their passionate about that connects/illicits an emotion from the listeners. If it’s breaking news or huge events/stories that are happening then everyone has to pivot to report, give opinions, get listeners to respond, and own that story which includes up to the minute imaging to capitalize on it as well.
Masteller: There is no answer that fits all as there are some talk stations that have a large commitment to news as well as talk content. Other stations are more talk-focused. You may also have more than one news-talk station in a market. Having a strong commitment to the audience you serve is what makes the difference. WBAL is based on a foundation of news with an intersection of personality driven content hosted by talent that have a pulse for the local community that they serve. The biggest thing for listeners is to not waste their time. The best talent are the ones that deliver payoffs to the consumer for every quarter-hour so they feel like their investment of time in listening is a good one. Personalities that develop a relationship with the audience and are not necessarily depending upon external events are very valuable because they become the main reason to listen on a consistent basis.
Barrett: If there’s one thing that concerns you about the future of the N/T format and keeps you up at night, what would it be?
Long: The format lacks enough gender and race diversity. In terms of conservative radio, the big change on the horizon is what happens when Rush Limbaugh decides he’s no longer going to do his show. This pending retirement is going to take out a huge tent pole that has been a mainstay for years on many stations. In addition, I don’t think the format is doing enough to focus on attracting a younger audience.
Hanson: The format needing to be more inclusive of all perspectives.
Graham: As a programmer of two news/talkers that are on the AM dial obviously the continued aging of the format is an ongoing issue. We’ve put a lot of emphasis and time in our building into our digital brands and distribution points for content and streaming whether that’s our app, smart speakers or something else. Unfortunately we haven’t seen the benefits from Nielsen just our own data, which is actual accurate listenership, and has shown that we have continued to build and post all time levels of consumption. Which then leads me to the other thing keeping me up at night…Nielsen but then again that applies to all PD’s regardless of format!
Masteller: Finding new and different voices that are the talk-stars of the future. Giving them the teaching, coaching and feedback that will help them grow to the next level and be able to succeed as an on-air host.
Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network
“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”
To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.
As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.
If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Which brings me to today’s announcement.
If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.
After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.
The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.
I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.
One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.
Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.
Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.
What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.
Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.
Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.
5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs
“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”
I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.
Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.
But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.
Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.
If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.
Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.
For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.
At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.
I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.
Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.
Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.
Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.
Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.
Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.
Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.
But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?
As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.
Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.
Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.
I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.
What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.
As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.
Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.
But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.
Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.
There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.
I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.