When we decided a few months ago to create a Meet The Market Managers series, I told Demetri Ravanos that John Kijowski needed to be a part of it, and I’d run point on writing the piece. It’s not everyday that I get to flip the script and ask questions of someone who once hired me, and peppered me constantly with questions related to 101 ESPN’s programming challenges and opportunities. John is so used to asking the questions that it was fun to hear his answers to my questions and see his visible reactions to a couple of curveballs I tossed in his direction during our Zoom chat.
Aside from my personal connection to John, and he’ll hate me for saying this, but he’s one of the best market managers in the business. Period. You may not know that if you follow the trades and see most of the larger markets earning all of the attention, but anyone who’s worked with or for John already knows this to be true. He prefers flying under the radar. He’d rather his team get the credit for their results. If his family is healthy, his employees are happy, his clients are served, his partners are pleased, and his bosses approve of the work he’s doing, that’s more than enough for John.
What I appreciate about John is that he never had to do a lot of yelling or pounding his fist on a table to make his point and get people to perform. He’ll ask questions to test your conviction on specific issues, he’ll challenge his team to raise the bar, and he’ll seek out new ideas from anywhere in the office, and ask how he can help make your job easier. He’s also accessible and interested in helping all of his managers whether they’re in sales, digital, promotions, engineering or programming. It’s why so many who work for him respect his input and trust his decision making.
As important as John’s professional skills may be, his ability to create a family like atmosphere matters even more. When you work at a John Kijowski led operation, you realize quickly that you’re part of a special kind of culture that others want to be a part of. I was a young programmer in 2008, convinced my better days were ahead of me, but still struggling to find the right leader and company to trust me, believe in me, and allow me to put my vision into action. John and I met to discuss the possibility of creating sports on the FM dial in St. Louis, and at first I thought he was doing what a lot of radio people do, seeking me out for information. I learned though that John was serious about hiring me, the outside noise mattered little to him, and as long as I assembled a great staff, worked well with multiple departments, provided sound reasoning for the decisions I was making, and managed my team to success, he’d have my back every step of the way. It’s why leaving St. Louis for San Francisco was incredibly difficult in 2011. I’ve been fortunate to reconnect with John and the 101 crew over the past few years in my current role.
Having shared all of that, I’d be doing this column a disservice if I didn’t point out one well known Kijowski specialty that those around him know all too well. Working for John requires being smart, strategic, giving maximum effort, and delivering results, but you also better have a good sense of humor. The second you turn around to tackle the day’s agenda, you may find a chair on your desk, a fork in your pocket or a ladder blocking your entrance into the office. It doesn’t matter if you’re the host of afternoon drive, the program director of one of his radio stations, the receptionist at the front desk or a part time member of the street team. If John sees an opportunity to create laughter, he’s going to take it. Those innocent pranks keep the office loose and remind people that it’s ok to work hard and play hard.
Our conversation covered a lot of ground including John’s entry into management, the future of sports betting, what he believes is most important when going thru a merger, the quality he values most in a program director, and what the process was like leading up to the decision to pursue sports on FM in St. Louis. I could easily write another 5,000 words on why John Kijowski is one of the best in this business, but the following interview will allow you to see that for yourself. Enjoy!
Jason Barrett: I was looking at LinkedIn prior to this conversation and it has you stepping into the GM world in 1995. Is that right?
John Kijowski: That’s correct.
JB: So when you were making a pitch for the first time to become a GM, what do you remember from that process?
JK: It’s interesting because before Sinclair, I was with Gannett as a DOS going for the GM position. I’ll never forget the president of Gannett broadcasting asking me to tell him about the different areas of the radio station and rank them in order of importance. I was a DOS so what do you think I said?
JK: Sales department, of course. Nothing happens unless we sell something. He just nodded, and said ‘what else’? I said, ‘well, you need a great signal, and programming’ and he said ‘OK, put them in order’. I said ‘sales, programming, signal’. He told me ‘John, you’re not ready for this position yet’. He said ‘unless there’s great programming, even the best sales staff won’t be able to sell it at a high premium consistently unless the programming is right’. That was the first great lesson of many that I learned.
JB: So that was your first taste of being close to running the show. The next time around, you did get the opportunity. When did you know you had the job?
JK: Barry Drake was the one who hired me as a GM from a DOS position at Sinclair. I can’t tell you I knew I had it until he said ‘this is yours’. I felt like I did the interview very well. Barry is an incredibly bright man. I thought I did a good job with him but I really didn’t know I had it until he said it was mine.
JB: So you begin your venture into management with Sinclair, who then transferred ownership to Bonneville, a great company that you spent over 11 years with. Bonneville then sold to Hubbard, another amazing group which you’ve had the pleasure of spending another decade with. You lucked out the past twenty years working for two great broadcasting groups. Having been thru a few mergers, as a GM, what’s that first month or two like when new owners are coming in? You have to think about your own future, your staff’s future, if they’ll tinker with the products you’ve helped build, and possibly change the strategy or even a format. Where does your focus go?
JK: I think of me last. You have to think of your team first. Our job is to acquire the best talent around us, and put them in the right seat on the bus. But you also have to retain them. When there’s a potential merger, you want to retain a great team. Whether the company retains you or not, obviously it’s critically important, but the team comes first. You want to make sure that what we’ve built is preserved for growth. I always looked at the team first, and communicated with the buying company on the aspects of what they’re going to be looking at, which are the obvious metrics of cash flow, net operating expenses, and net revenue. Where’s your growth come from? How do you look when the ratings aren’t so good? How is the cash flow? If you have good cash flow years while the ratings aren’t good, how do you do it? It’s mainly about protecting the team, and showing what the mission’s been.
JB: As you know some may be more focused on their own futures especially during a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty. Your answer explains why you’ve come thru it in great shape each time.
JK: You said before that I’ve been lucky, and I have been. I’m very fortunate to have worked with some great broadcasters. Bonneville under Bruce Reese and Drew Horowitz, and then coming over to a family owned business with Hubbard led by Ginny Morris, these are just amazing companies with great people. What the two have in common is shared vision, and leadership. You know exactly what they want you to do. Everybody is a part of the process and they want to show you where they’re going but they certainly want strong opinion from the market manager. Do you agree with the plan or should we avoid this? Do you see other options for growth? I’ve been lucky to work for two great companies.
JB: You mentioned how they seek your input when dealing with important business matters, so when you’re reporting to your bosses and having to either relay bad news about a talent or a quarterly sales performance, ask for additional funds that might not have budgeted or offer a point of view that differs from something they want to do, what do you think is important to communicate so they remain confident that they have great leadership in place overseeing their markets and know you’re looking out for the best interests of the company rather than just offering lip service to give them what they might want to hear but may not necessarily be what’s best for the long term interest in growing the brands under your watch?
JK: It’s all a process. I believe confidence comes from competence. You have to be competent over years. Then it’s the ability to communicate tough decisions honestly and transparently and say that you’ve looked at it from all angles and you didn’t do it by yourself. You include your Operations Manager, Director of Sales, Chief Engineer, Business Manager, the Marketing and Promotions team. You’ve brought everyone into the conversation who’s part of that small circle and said ‘what could we get tripped up on? This looks too good to be true, what’s wrong here? If I were the opponent, how would I attack it? And remember the opponent may not be another radio station or radio group. Maybe it’s how consumers are engaging with media in general right now. If you’re not doing it for them, the end user, and you’re only doing it for yourself, you’ll fail. How you communicate that takes confidence, but you have to some competence too.
JB: You hired me to help build 101 ESPN in September 2008. The station launched a few months later in January 2009. Before we even talked though, you had to have a number of conversations internally about the benefits of flipping to sports and the concerns associated with making a move into the format. Those same types of conversations take place all the time whether it involves talent, program directors, play by play partnerships or other business challenges and opportunities. When you’re considering a major move such as a format flip, what is it that you have to see to convince you that it’s worth pursuing and changing your current direction?
JK: You take that team that I just described, those critically important department heads, particularly on the programming side, and you ask ‘where is there an underserved part of the audience in our market?’ Even if you see a direct competitor, is the space itself under served? You certainly are aware of what we did putting 101 ESPN on in 2009. There was no FM outlet for robust and strong sports talk. There was guy talk on the AM dial, and we looked at the situation over and over again and said ‘do we need another rock station in town?’ There was no Triple A station so that area was open, but it looked like it was covered well between the classic rock and alternative stations in the market. We asked ‘is there easy listening?’ Yep. We’ve got that. Was Urban available. Nope, there were three of those stations. So we kept looking and asking ‘where are their holes to fill’ and we did our logistics and hired Coleman to do what was called a format finder. We made the investment to see if the research supported what our gut was telling us. Decisions made on science and gut are usually pretty good. Then you gather that team and ask ‘what will the ratings look like’, and you take that number down. ‘What will the revenue be’, and you take that number down too.
JB: Since you brought up asking for projections, I always wondered why you’d even ask me to project the radio station’s results for the following year. I’d be thinking ‘I’m not a fortune teller, so do you want me to just write something down and make an uneducated guess on where the audience might be in twelve months?.’ Case in point, nobody could’ve predicted going into 2020 that a pandemic would hit and do a number on the media industry. So what good are those actual projections?
JK: (laughs) But you still have to do it. You have to do the work and study where you think things might go. Our owner Stanley Hubbard, and Ginny Morris who runs the radio division, already had us doing a ‘what if’ plan before the pandemic hit. What if the market all of a sudden shrunk by 25%. Go five years out, what does that look like? We had just done that plan the year earlier. It was extremely helpful because as soon as you think you can predict things, the unexpected happens.
JB: I want to ask you about radio play by play partnerships. When the station launched in 2009, it went on the air with the St. Louis Rams. I remember Drew Horowitz not exactly loving that deal (laughs). Obviously the state of play by play today is much different than it was 12 years ago. Streaming is now a bigger part of the picture. Some teams now want to sell their own inventory or they’ll give up more commercial time in a broadcast to try and retain their rights fees. You work with the St. Louis Blues who are well received by your audience and clients. There are a lot of positives to being in business with teams but there can be some challenges too. What does a good partnership between a team and sports radio station look like to you?
JK: You asked earlier about selling up ideas to ownership. The process isn’t much different when it comes to creating a partnership with teams. Isn’t that why we’re here? We’re trying to create partnerships with our listeners, our colleagues inside the building, and with our advertisers. So what is the shared goal? I knew what the Rams goal was and how they measured it, and I know what the Blues expect. They’re both very different. When you ask the question ‘what does a good partnership look like?’ I think it’s important to describe it as if you were telling a story. Five years from now, I will evaluate this partnership by looking at how we hit this, this and this. Is that revenue? Non-spot revenue? Ratings? How can we help the club? We have tremendous access to players. That was important to us. Before we had the Blues, we had access to players with the Rams, but it’s not like what we have now. Why that’s important to us is because the listening audience, and the people who view us and engage with us on social, they want to hear from them. They want to hear from hosts on our airwaves who’ve played the game such as Jamie Rivers and Brad Thompson from The Fast Lane who played for the Blues and Cardinals respectively. They want to hear the stories of what took place behind the dressing room doors. What’s important to the club, and what’s important to the radio station, and how can we find common ground together to help each other. Yes it always comes down to money, but there’s a lot of different ways to do the deal then to just pay a ridiculous rights fee, that you’ll probably never get back, unless you’re in a Top 5 market. It’s incredibly difficult.
JB: Another partnership I want to ask you about is ESPN Radio. Your station has worked with the network for over a decade. When you say the four letters to most sports fans, they instantly carry weight. People know what brand you’re talking about. On the other hand, the radio network is different today than it has been in the past. Some are good with the changes, others aren’t. When you analyze your relationship with your national radio network partner, how do you evaluate it? What do you think they do a great job helping your brand with, and where can they improve?
JK: The brand of ESPN still matters. It hasn’t suffered a lot since we started the partnership, in fact I think it’s as big as ever. The ESPN brand is spectacular and the association with it is important to us. As an affiliate, I think there are a lot of ways to do a deal. I’d like to see them provide a little more flexibility on the barter. The gentleman I work with is flexible and reviewing our arrangement right now. Our brand though is live and local from 7a to 6p and then we go into games whether it be the Blues or the ESPN offerings from the NBA, MLB, college games, etc.. So that covers a lot of our main programming windows. I think the lead in to our morning show is really important. We launched with Mike & Mike and they did a spectacular show. It performed well here. That then morphed into Golic and Wingo which featured Trey Wingo, a guy with a well known national profile who spent a number of years here in St. Louis, and that too did well. Now they’re going thru an additional evolution with their new morning show. I think the jury is out but they are talented guys. We carry that show from 5a-7a and it’s important because it launches into our first local show of the day. So we’ll be monitoring that situation closely but the brand itself is super strong, if we’re able to get a little flexibility with the barter that’d help, but I’m proud to partner with them and appreciate the way they’ve treated us over the years.
JB: An area that a lot of industry people are hot on and see huge upside for the future in is sports betting. Missouri hasn’t been declared a legal state yet.
JK: Not yet but it could go thru in 2022. I think it will. It’ll be big.
JB: Knowing that it’s coming soon and the advertising dollars could be bigger and the appetite from the audience may continue getting stronger for that type of content, how do you expect sports betting to change the way sports radio is presented? For instance, the growth of gambling will be received differently by on-air talent. Some are going to be into discussions that revolve around looking at lines, prop bets and changes in betting behavior on a specific game, others might not want any part of those conversations. Taking all of that into account, what excites you and concerns you about the space and how do you see it changing the format?
JK: The part that excites me most is the revenue potential obviously. We know it’s coming so having a plan is important. We have a team that is meeting and reviewing what it might look like and developing it so we have it ready for execution this year even if we don’t start it until next year. Yes there may be some hosts that aren’t into it right now but this is going to continue gaining steam so more hosts are going to have to be into it because it’s where things are headed. Most of our talent have either a FanDuel or DraftKings account. Some have both. They have responded well to it. I think there’s going to be a lot of future opportunities for sports radio stations and talent for live events and on-air endorsements around sports betting. We’ve already started hiring street team to start in the 4th quarter because we expect big events around Busch Stadium and ScottTrade Center and we have soccer coming soon. I think the combination of events, endorsements, hosts being into the content, and special programming being available thru our brand is going to be part of it. I know a lot of people haven’t embraced HD2 to this point, however, I think there could be a dedicated HD2 channel for this that people go to for alternate broadcasts around the Cardinals or Blues that focus heavily on the sports gambling discussion around the game. You might hear ‘It’s 3 and 2 on the batter, is he going to get on or make an out? The odds say it’s 60% likely that he won’t succeed.’ I don’t rule out that possibility of HD2 being utilized in a bigger way.
JB: The last two things I want to pick your brain on are podcasting and social media. Each are important for branding and connecting with an audience but from a revenue standpoint they’re not on the same playing field yet with radio dollars. I see and hear a lot of noise out there about running away from the word ‘radio’ but radio is still driving the revenue bus. I love podcasting and social media as much as the next person but I don’t understand the fascination with distancing ourselves from the one word that has represented us for decades and still helps us generate dollars and interest. That said, younger people have different ways of consuming radio than you and I did. I understand why the industry is planning now for where we might be in 10-20 years. When you look at podcasting and social media, what do you feel needs to happen for both to become a bigger source of revenue for radio brands?
JK: It is called dual tracks. We have to keep doing what we’re doing on the radio side because that continues to be the big megaphone. People that are branding need radio. Definitely. No question. Advertisers definitely need radio, especially sports radio because it works for the client. Podcasting is an area we are involved in. It’s critically important to where we think growth is. We have to be able to create and innovate by introducing new podcasting content. For instance, we have a Blues podcast that takes one member of 101 ESPN, and two members of 105.7 The Point, our alternative station. It’s not something you’re going to hear on either radio station so that helps draw people in. We also want to create the best Cardinals podcast in St. Louis. We have the talent to do it but the right idea and personnel for it is important. We are always looking at ways to get more eyeballs and ears on our podcasts and video content and it comes from delivering original entertainment around the teams and people they care about most. If we produce material that people value, regardless of where it’s distributed, we’ll be able to monetize it.
JB: Before we wrap up, I’ve got to ask you a question about choosing a program director because you hired me to start 101 ESPN, Kent Sterling to succeed me when I left for San Francisco, Hoss Neupert to step in after Kent, and Tommy Mattern after Hoss. All four of us are different people, each with a different programming style and philosophy. When you’re looking for a candidate to run a brand, what sets someone apart from others when you’re going thru a process and trying to determine who to trust with programming one of your stations?
JK: One word – leadership. It all comes down to leadership. I don’t need a program director or a manager of things. I need a leader of people. That’s not just all about motivation. Motivation is a small part of it. A leader recognizes what everybody’s role is, puts them in the right positions, and is constantly self-directing it when they get off the road or cross the line a little bit. The leader also has to understand sales and content. I used to say ‘ratings = revenue’. Not anymore. Ratings are very important but it’s all about content generation now. We need on-air talent that are content machines and put it out on multiple platforms and have that entertaining way to make it sticky. A leader has to find those people and have a great relationship with the DOS and understand their strategy and tactics to help them monetize the content.
JB: I’m going to end with this, when you think about the present and future of the business, what’s the one thing that keeps you up at night and don’t tell me it’s your retirement because you have some time before that happens.
JK: I hope Ginny and Dave Bestler read this because I do have time. The one thing that keeps me up at night is figuring out where to look and find unique talent. And I’m not just talking about on-air. I’m talking about sales talent. Cost per point sellers are over. It’s been over for a while. We need people who need to think client first or listener first and what are their goals and how can we help them because it’s not about a one-time sale or a one-time great rating month. It’s about consistent success. The only people that can do that in my opinion are the people that, and I keep saying this, the content mavens. Those who listen more than talk and understand what the client or listener is looking for and finding a way to deliver it to them in a very creative way. These are entertainers. You can be funny in this format. Look, the pandemic should’ve taught everybody that we have to be entertaining even when there are no games being played. We’re in the entertainment business. We’re in the acquisition business. Our job is to acquire new customers and new listeners, and how we keep them engaging with us and supporting us depends on having great unique talented people representing our brands.
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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