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Imaging Cannot Be An Afterthought For PDs

“Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than when I hear from someone in the market blown away at how quickly we can turn around high quality promos.”

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If you listened to as much sports talk radio every week as I do, you would be shocked by how many stations in some sizable markets rarely update their imaging. It’s disappointing. Really, it is short-sighted.

It’s easy to think that a legacy talent is the voice most associated with your station, but in reality, it’s the voice on every liner and promo. After all, that is the voice your listeners hear the most no matter what time of day they tune in. Shouldn’t that voice be regularly saying and telling the listeners new things?

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There is one station I listen to with some regularity that puts no emphasis on the production of their imaging. Everything is generic, so liners are rarely updated, if ever. It reminds me of the campus radio station I was a part of in college.

As the sports seasons change, good program directors are incredibly busy. They are replacing liners about the Super Bowl and the local NFL team with ones about March Madness and the local NBA or NHL franchise. They are using imaging to set the tone and lay the groundwork to bring listeners in to hear what the talent has to say.

Raj Sharan, program director of 104.3 the Fan in Denver takes his imaging seriously. This is a guy that once pulled over in the middle of a snow storm to write promos because Von Miller tore his ACL and it was announced he’d miss the entirety of the 2020 season.

“I devote a significant amount of time to imaging, perhaps more than any other task that comes with being program director of The Fan,” Sharan told me in an email. “I always want us to sound as up-to-date as possible. We have multiple new pieces of imaging starting every day, and that’s not including breaking news or landmark moments.”

Sharan emphasizes being timely. That means not only is he ready to write a new promo or liner at a moment’s notice, but he often is able to get it on the air about ten minutes later.

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“Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than when I hear from someone in the market blown away at how quickly we can turn around high quality promos,” he said. “Just this past week when Peyton Manning was on with Stokley and Zach, I already had an imaging piece from the interview ready to go as the first promo to run after the interview finished! Within the hour I had five additional promos completed and running throughout the day. That’s what we strive for.”

Matt Fishman runs WKNR in Cleveland. He takes a different approach to writing imaging. It may not be as fast as Sharan’s way, but it is more collaborative and gives the imaging multiple perspectives and angles on the biggest news of the day.

“We have a committee of four of us that meets every Monday to talk about promos and imaging,” Fishman told me in an email. “During the Browns season we had a lot of promos and imaging around their great season. Even in the off-season we’re ‘The Home of the Browns’ and our content, promos and imaging reflect that. Just this week our production guy, Jordan Klimack, did a really poignant promo on the passing of former Browns Coach Marty Schottenheimer.”

The imaging on these stations capture the sports passion of the city. Listeners not only hear references to the local teams, they also hear caller response and highlights from their favorite hosts. Liners that are the station name followed by laser sounds and a slogan don’t do much to position your brand as an important one to the city’s sports fans.

I asked both programmers about their listeners’ relationships with the voice of their imaging.

Raj Sharan and the Fan use Jim and Dawn Cutler. They are the two voices probably most synonymous with sports radio, thanks to years of voicing intros, liners, and promos for every single ESPN platform. Raj says he couldn’t imagine the Fan without their voices.

“We receive constant feedback from our listeners telling us they listen to the station each day specifically to listen to the latest promos we’ve come up with, and the voices they’re hearing are Jim and Dawn. They’re so talented that they help bring our station to life. When I’m writing imaging, I’ll often run it by our executive producer Parker Hillis or one of our hosts and I always have to say, ‘Remember, this will be Jim and Dawn voicing it; they’ll make it sound even better!’”

Matt Fishman says that for the listeners of WKNR, the station voice is important, but it isn’t the same as the voices of the hosts they know.

“We have a great voice guy, Pete Gustin. He’s blind, he surfs, he’s really cool. I was lucky that he was already the voice here in Cleveland when I started and is super easy and fun to work with. Pete is the only one I’m choosing because of his voice while hosts I am choosing because of their experience, personality, ability to host a show, etc…So your production voice is important, but not as important as the content creators.”

The simplest things can add significant value to your station’s imaging – a good voice, a sense of humor, even just a little bit of effort. The positioning statements and the promotions and events are so important to your station’s identity. Why wouldn’t you constantly ask yourself if those messages sound as good as they possibly could?

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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