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Surprises Are Always Welcome

“If a host introduces the same tired topics, the audience is going to have the same tired response.”

Brian Noe

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Many comments were made leading up to the Kansas City Chiefs’ 22-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. It’s standard operating procedure for NFL playoff games to spark a lot of conversation. “Watch out for this. Look out for that.” You know the drill. It’s funny that in spite of all the talking points, one particular player who ended up with a significant role, might not have had his named mentioned one single time beforehand. 

Chad Henne.

Ex-Michigan QB Chad Henne seals Chiefs' playoff victory vs. Browns -  mlive.com

That’s right. The Chiefs’ backup quarterback isn’t exactly a focal point leading up to big games. Heck, he isn’t a focal point leading up to any game while backing up the phenomenal Patrick Mahomes. A funny thing happened in the AFC Divisional Round though; Mahomes was stumbling around like a dazed fighter after getting hit by Browns’ linebacker Mack Wilson. The reigning Super Bowl MVP was knocked out of the game after suffering a concussion.

With the game in serious doubt, Henne rushed for 13 yards on third-and-14. That set up fourth-and-inches from the Kansas City 48-yard line with just over one minute to play. Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid went for it. Henne completed a pass to Tyreek Hill to seal the win as the Chiefs advanced to the AFC Championship Game. For all of the predictions and conversation leading up, nobody — and I mean nobody — projected the game to end the way that it did. It even inspired Mahomes to tweet the hashtag #HenneThingIsPossible. Who saw that coming?

It’s a classic example of one of the main reasons football is so popular; the game is often unpredictable. The ball takes funny bounces. Injuries can completely change the complexion of a game. Random upsets occur. Imagine if the element of surprise didn’t exist in the NFL playoffs. It would be boring to know the outcome before it took place. Does anybody enjoy spoilers for TV shows or movies? Only if you’re a maniac. That’s why there are spoiler alerts. We don’t want the surprise to be ruined. It works the same way with sports and sports radio.

It’s so important in sports radio to possess the element of surprise. It keeps a show fresh. If it’s the same thing day after day without any twists or turns, that show is in danger of getting stale really fast. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t cover the spread against the Washington Football Team a week ago, so I have to sing a love ballad to my co-worker Chad Doing. I took some liberties and will be changing the lyrics to the Metallica song, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” Not quite a love ballad, but close enough. Is this goofy? Sure. But it’s also unpredictable, different, and memorable.

That’s one of the problems with college football right now. Alabama is so dominant that their playoff games aren’t even interesting. Did you rush to your TV while thinking Notre Dame had a great chance to upset ‘Bama? Did you think Ohio State could make a triumphant comeback when they trailed 35-17 at halftime in the National Championship? If you did then you specialize in false hope. It kills the suspense when you know the outcome.

Matt Jones from Kentucky Sports Radio said something interesting to me during a Q&A interview for Barrett Sports Media. “I find most sports radio mind-numbingly boring,” Jones said. “… I can’t listen to people argue is LeBron the GOAT. There’s not going to be one thing they say that is any more unique than anything I’ve ever heard.” It’s a great point by Matt. Hosts can’t be unpredictable and unique by doing topics that have been beaten to death. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If a host introduces the same tired topics, the audience is going to have the same tired response.

Sports radio is like cooking a meal. You need to use fresh groceries in order for the meal to taste good. Original topics that lead to interesting conversations work well. Unpredictability is a great way to keep things fresh. If the topics are a little stale, then the angles better be the freshest of the fresh for it to work. Otherwise your meal is going to taste like rotten cheese and your customers are going to eat at a different restaurant.

At the risk of completely confusing you, some predictability is good. It’s hilarious with Stephen A. Smith makes fun of the Dallas Cowboys after a loss. It’s part of his brand. It wouldn’t make sense for Coke or Pepsi to change their successful formulas. Think of a sports radio show like spring cleaning. Figure out which predictable elements of a show work, and which elements are like the ratty old hoodie that should be thrown out.

Stephen A Smith Had To Wear An 'I Love Jerry Jones' Shirt

When I was home during Christmas my brother-in-law surprised my sister by getting her flowers. It was an unpredictable gesture for no special occasion. It was just because. This is the same concept that works in sports radio. There is great value in doing things that are unexpected. It could be a funny bit or a random stunt. It could be a discussion that’s uncommon. I’m not suggesting that a show host should predict the Packers to win on Wednesday’s show and then say Tampa Bay is going to win the very next day. That’s just odd. I’m suggesting that hosts should constantly look for creative ways to break the monotony. Football teams look for ways to break their tendencies so they aren’t predictable. Show hosts should do the same.

When the 73-win Golden State Warriors added Kevin Durant, the surprise factor was basically thrown out the window. The Warriors lost one game in the NBA Finals over a two-year span. It was predictable to the point that it was boring. This is what you don’t want a radio show to sound like. When Chiefs’ QB Chad Henne entered the game on Sunday for an injured Mahomes, the outcome was unknown. It had the elements of surprise, suspense, and drama. You had to keep watching to find out what happened next. That is the formula for a successful radio show. Keep them guessing. Be unpredictable.

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Media Noise Episode 86: The Big Ten Won’t Be The NHL

Demetri Ravanos

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It’s golf, college football and history on Media Noise this week as Demetri talks about the LIV Tour’s media future, Arky Shea wonders if the Big Ten made a mistake exiting ESPN and Peter Schwartz talks about the next legend from WFAN to get the call from the Hall of Fame.

ITunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/media-noise/id1203576506?i=1000569222383

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/1meEteEjZbXWt4j9SjoY6A?si=YDFfVLC4Q1Sc-imAztuHLw

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-media-noise-99061203?cmp=ios_share&sc=ios_social_share&pr=false&autoplay=true

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9iYXJyZXR0c3BvcnRzbWVkaWEuY29tL2ZlZWQvcG9kY2FzdC8

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/d3c79ba0-e042-4078-b43e-eb4aa6fb60c8/media-noise

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BSM Writers

3 Tips For Solving Co-Host Conflicts

If there’s a specific, repetitive behavior that is bothersome say something.

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What I wrote last week in this space wasn’t wrong, per se. It wasn’t the whole story, either. And at the risk of dragging out the dead horse of intra-show conflict for another week’s worth of whacks, I’d like to resuscitate the topic because there’s something else to learn here.

First, a cliff notes version of our previous episode: I wrote about how I had learned to work with a particular co-host who from time to time drove me up a wall. While I was careful to state this co-host was funny, and unique and described him as a crucial component to whatever success the show enjoyed, I did this in about as backhanded a manner as possible, mentioned him by name, and effectively labeled him as an asshole.

Not my proudest moment. For one, it was unnecessarily hurtful. I could have made the very same points without turning my co-host into a punching bag or even mentioning his name. Second, I do like this particular co-host even if he can make me madder than anyone I’ve ever worked with. He’s an all-time great dad and at his core a kind-hearted man. And finally, even if I didn’t like him, he didn’t deserve that after we worked together successfully for 5 years. So to Jim Moore, I am truly sorry for writing last week’s column the way that I did.

But I’d like to go a little bit deeper here because while last week’s column was an accurate – albeit harsh – reflection of my experiences on the show, it didn’t reflect the full reality of what occurred. This was pointed out to me by several helpful folks in the Seattle area where we worked together, and I’m going to include two examples here, one from a Twitter comment that was deleted and another from an email I received.

The Tweet to me: “As a co-worker, you always seemed to be a management suck-up. My co-workers would make bets on how many times you would whine or berate Jim Moore during a show. You always exceeded their expectations.”

The email: “Do you know how many times I heard you disparage him on the air? … Yours weren’t of the petty variety that you chronicled about him. Yours were biting, relating to his age or supposed lack of work ethic — things that could plant in management’s mind that he — and not you — was dispensable.”

In other words: Jim certainly was not the only person on the show who could be described as an asshole from time to time, and he may not have been the biggest. I did make jokes about my co-host’s age and his work ethic among plenty of other things, including my insistence on bringing up the fact that Jim once invested $10,000 in a so-called “Gold Machine” which was supposedly capable of refining what was previously unprocessable ore. I saw all of this as playing along with the character my co-host had developed, the Beta male. That’s my perspective, though. I don’t know how he felt though, given the reaction to last week’s piece, I think I have a pretty good idea that for him it wasn’t the harmless ribbing that I felt it was.

If this were a normal sad-sack apology, I would now apologize if he was offended. But I try to avoid sad-sack apologies. I make them with my entire chest, and I’m sorry that I acted in a way that could have left my co-host feeling diminished, demeaned, and belittled. I also know that anyone who has spent any amount of time working on a live program has been guilty of these sorts of transgressions and has also been on the receiving end. It’s pretty much endemic to the format especially if you’re looking for subjects that will evoke an emotional reaction. The key to sustaining a show is not avoiding conflict but learning how to manage it.

I also think there are a couple of lessons to be learned here, too.

1)    Set some ground rules

If there’s a specific, repetitive behavior that is bothersome say something. I spelled out last week how I stated that the time to declare a segment as being stupid or unworthy was before the show and not during it. Jokes about my co-host’s age and work ethic should have faced a similar prohibition. Making someone the butt of the same joke without their consent is the recipe for resentment.

2)    Develop a procedure for resolving conflict

It can be a one-on-one meeting. Perhaps there’s a designated mediator like the producer or program director. One tip: Don’t do it over email. That’s a one-way medium that’s prone to venting because you’re not able to see or read the reaction of the recipient as they’re working their way through your list of grievances.

3)    Remember we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions

I think this is a natural tendency we all have. We seek to minimize any harm we cause by focusing on what we meant. We seek to explain the harm we suffer by focusing on how it felt. Understanding this underlying bias can help us see that the actions of others aren’t always malicious and our reactions aren’t always virtuous.

I’m going to close with a line from NYPD Blue, a cop show where Andy Sipowicz played a quick-tempered detective who wore short-sleeved shirts with ties and exhibited a penchant for violence came off as (troublingly) admirable. He also had an aquarium with saltwater fish, which he used as a metaphor for a younger detective he was paired with.

“You have to keep a clean tank,” he said. “Not too cool, not too warm, keep it all in balance.”

It’s true for a show, too. Too tranquil, it gets boring. Too antagonistic, it becomes volatile. Everyone involved has to be willing to make adjustments when necessary because everyone – from time to time – is going to run a little too hot or feel a little cold.

In the five years I worked with Jim, Dave Wyman, and Jessamyn McIntyre, we kept our tank balanced well enough to sustain an afternoon drive show that many people in Seattle remember fondly. It was some of the most fun that I’ve had working in sports media. Anyone who knows Jim and me knows how much I love his writing. I’m able to quote directly from columns he doesn’t remember writing. I’m laughing right now thinking of the time he described Rick Neuheisel’s sister flipping Hugh Millen the “double Dick Bennett” during Neuheisel’s lawsuit against the NCAA and the University of Washington. If you know, you know.

Jim was also capable of making me madder than any other co-worker I’ve ever had. That’s not a criticism. It reflects as much on my level of sensitivity as his behavior. I am glad that I learned to accept who he was as a co-worker throughout our time working together because it made the show more enjoyable for me. I wish I had learned that lesson well enough to have written last week’s column with a smile instead of a snarl.

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BSM Writers

Are You Sales Material? Take the Sales Quiz

Sports radio needs consistent, motivated, driven people to make the engine run. That’s on the air and that’s making the sales.

Jeff Caves

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Quiz

Sports radio needs consistent, motivated, driven people to make the engine run. That’s on the air and that’s making the sales. However, not everyone in the industry doing sales is cut out for it. Are you? Take this quiz to see if you are qualified to hold your current sales job:

Are you passionate, motivated, and high performing, at goal and above consistently?

Do you develop and maintain deals with clients using all your platforms and, in every market, possible?

Do you sell your station’s social media to a high percentage of your clients?

When was the last time you included OTT or geo fencing in your digital presentation?

Have you sold one of your music stations in the last quarter?

Did you have a sponsor in a station community or sports event in the last quarter?

Are the top three ways your peers describe you as driven, resourceful, and a problem solver? 

Are you considered a champion of diverse cultures, or do you stick with like-minded people?       

Do you always understand your client’s goals, objectives, performance benchmarks, and systems of doing business? 

Do you understand all your client’s customer and market trends?

Do you customize your proposals to meet what the advertiser needs or take proposals off the shelf?

Are most of your presentations featuring digital, social, and over-the-air elements?

Do you have a recognizable negotiation and closing skill set?

Are you known as the person in the office who develops clients from cold calls to annuals and records it all in the CRM?

Is your knowledge of every station in the cluster above a “B”? Can you explain streaming, website, social advertising, and digital audience extension products to clients without help?

Do you do the following weekly: attend networking events, cold call, go door to door, and get client referrals?

Are you on time, submitting accurate orders, sales projections, and new clients list, and analyzing your competitors? 

Do you handle all your client’s billing issues on the same day? 

Do you read company research reports as they come out? 

Are you committed to your manager’s standard for the staff, or do you have your own?

If you didn’t say yes to all these questions, your company likely doesn’t want you working there. Because when your company goes looking to hire new salespeople, they expect them to have all of these qualities. And, when the ad is written to attract those candidates, it is very standard and generalized if they mention compensation.

It is no wonder the industry has such difficulty hiring new people. This type of job description scares most people away. Not often enough or in detail do companies say what THEY offer in support to get you where you need to be. Management support, sales support, presentation support, sales development assistance, digital education, CRM software, or paperwork assistance.

Interviewees should turn the table on the interviewer and start asking THEM questions. And I believe the industry offers support and tools but could do a better job selling it. I hope we start looking at how we recruit new sellers into the industry. There must be a better way. 

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