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Let’s Go To Sports Radio Minicamp

“Programmers from around the country weighed in with their ideas on what may make up a sports radio minicamp.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Teams across the NFL have broken from OTAs and are now either in or about to be in minicamp. This is the time to reinforce the basic good habits anyone in the business needs to master in order to thrive. It is the time to observe your talent and think about what new things you can do with them.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 rookie minicamp: So far so good
Courtesy: Photo Pool

We are hearing a lot about young quarterbacks across the league. Some look great. Some…well, don’t. There are plenty of reports about highly drafted rookies at other positions and how they are fitting into teams’ defensive schemes. Then of course, there’s Aaron Rodgers, the story that isn’t going to die until it does.

Minicamp is never short on storylines and objects of intrigue. Very rarely do you see reports about the nitty-gritty. There aren’t a lot of SportsCenter segments about exactly what Bruce Arians is doing in his golf cart or what Arthur Smith’s daily schedule is like for Kyle Pitts.

That is what I want to talk about today…kinda. I want to talk about how we would design a minicamp if we had them in the sports radio business.

What would be the best way to use the time? Do you focus on the basics and improve everyone from the ground up? Do you put the onus squarely on your stars and challenge them to get better? Are you looking at the “bottom of your roster” with a keen eye on who actually makes you better and how you can best use them?

This is all an exercise in imagination, so I asked the industry how they would do it. Programmers from around the country weighed in with their ideas on what may make up a sports radio minicamp. Enjoy.

KYLE BROWN – 710 ESPN IN SEATTLE

It’s minicamp so we’re sticking to the fundamentals, blocking and tackling type stuff. We’ll get deep into install when Training Camp rolls around.

For now, we’re focusing on our foundation: show prep, sticking to the clock, and executing teases. I’m expecting full participation with no veteran holdouts. We can’t have that on this team, too destructive to our culture. 

ADAM KLUG – 97.3 THE FAN IN SAN DIEGO

NFL teams use minicamp to re-instill the basics and fundamentals of football into their players: blocking, tackling, etc. If a sports radio PD ran a minicamp for talk show hosts, it should be used in the same way. Two of the biggest fundamentals that a radio host should have top of mind at all times, but are often taken for granted, are: knowing your audience and effective teasing.

A host should always know who they are broadcasting to, and actually broadcast to that audience. Too often a local host, or even a network host, is interested in a topic or a team or a sports league that their audience has no interest in, or for a network host, for a market their show is not cleared in. Your first job is to entertain your audience, so discuss topics they are interested in.

What Tennessee Titans coaches are saying on eve of mandatory minicamp
Courtesy: George Walker IV / Tennessean.com

Teasing is also extremely important, and can be done in various ways, yet is often taken for granted.  A tease at the end of a segment should not be telling the listener what is coming up after the break; it should be giving a reason why the listener should stick through the break! Teasing within a segment can also be effective, by giving the listener a reason to listen to the entire segment. Not broadcasting to your audience’s interests and lazy teases are issues many hosts have, because they believe their audience will listen no matter what, but in today’s world that offers so many choices, that just isn’t the case. 

JOHN MAMOLA – 95.3 WDAE IN TAMPA

The point of any football mini camp is to look at your roster, and see what traits or skills each player has and where they fit on your roster moving into the season.  Most radio stations know their starting lineup or have had it for a number of years, but refining or building up some skill sets of the younger and up and coming athletes/talent already have that your current roster can shape into their own is vital to the success and staying power of your roster and brand. 

So how well does each talent know how to reach a digital audience, and when’s the last time they tried anything specifically digital?  Does your talent have a grasp that their audience may be tuning in the same, more, less outside their daypart than when they’re actually live?  Are they using social media to enhance their on air and on demand content?  Are they thinking outside the box with content and interviews?   And more importantly than ever, how well do they network with your sales department on driving revenue utilizing the entire on air and digital picture? 

There’s no real playbook at this mini camp, but a ton of drills (questions) to work towards finding those answers moving into finding ways to be better each and every day.

SCOTT MASTELLER – WBAL NEWS RADIO IN BALTIMORE

I would focus on the “Blocking and Tackling” of Spoken Word Radio.  Always good to have a refresh on the fundamentals that help drive quarter-hours.

May 10: Texans rookie minicamp
Courtesy: Brett Coomer
  • Topic selection is everything. Much like the plays a football teams has in their playbook. It all comes down to execution. 
  • Do not waste time; get right to the core of the topic you are talking about. 
  • Never Assume the audience knows what you know.
  • Make sure you take care of the basics.
  • Tease-tease-tease. Tell the story to the consumer and make sure every segment delivers a payoff. 
  • Be specific and give the listener a reason to hang around for the next segment. 
  • Make sure you re-set the guest and/or conversation as the audience is constantly changing. 
  • Keep interviews interesting with short open-ended questions. 
  • Know how long to go with a caller and also know when to not take a call. 

Always ask yourself if the content you are presenting plays to the broadest set of the audience that is consuming your content!

MATT NAHIGIAN – 95.7 THE GAME IN SAN FRANCISCO

Our first day of training camp starts with the word passion.  If you don’t have a passion for what you do the blocking, tackling and fundamentals don’t matter.  Every day you crack that microphone, the listener should know right away what topic is touching you and means something to you.  It could be something local, but it might not be.  If it isn’t, it’s important to find a way to bring it back or tie it in to your local audience.  

After we establish how important the passion part is, we move on to the blocking and tackling.  It sounds cliche, but under the current system we are in, playing the hits and hitting the breaks are fundamentals that have to perfect each and every day if you want to win.  Passion first, fundamentals a close second.  We are ready for the Week 1!

RYAN PORTH – 102.5 THE GAME IN NASHVILLE

In a short amount of time, I’d want to focus on just a few things with hosts: quality over quantity, if you will.

One of the most important things in sports radio is topic development; a crash-course on improving topic development, what works and what doesn’t, would be at the top of the list for mini-camp. You can win or lose quarter hours based on topic selection, but proper development of those topics is a winning recipe.

Another item to discuss in mini-camp would be teasing; there’s value in a good tease to keep your audience hooked to the other side of a break. In today’s world where stations could still be playing catch up from financial losses due to the pandemic, it’d also be important to spend time on how hosts can interact with the sales team to benefit both the individual and the station.

JEFF RICKARD – 93.5 & 107.5 THE FAN IN INDIANAPOLIS

I would drill staying on the clock, working on great teases and having a plan. 

Giants Minicamp: Barkley continues knee out of sight. | AccessWDUN.com
Courtesy: Adam Hunger | Credit: AP

At the beginning of the day I would have everyone write down the three biggest, most interesting topics of the day; they should focus on those to the exclusion of almost anything else. Later in camp, we’ll introduce how to constantly spin those topics and keep them entertaining.  I already know they have great talent, now I want to show them how to get the most out of what they do best.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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