The life of a sports radio host is easier with football. That is one of those things that any idiot knows is true, but if you say it with enough conviction, sounds like you are making a bold declaration. Just look at what BSM’s own Ryan Maguire wrote earlier this month about just how much training camp alone can mean to a station.
We are one week into the preseason now. That means fans have seen games and have something they can overreact to, which is something you know they are dying to do.
I asked three hosts just how much easier their jobs are this week.
Nate Kreckman hosts Kreckman & Lindahl on Altitude Sports Radio in Denver. He says that thanks to a sustained run of mediocrity, his head is full of ideas for the next show after every Broncos’ game.
“There are a slew of them, both micro and macro,” he told me in a text. And the thing about the Broncos being as bad as they’ve ever been for a sustained period of time, every detail can be repurposed into a broader context.”
At the heart of the Broncos discussion on most days is what the team can, should, and will do under center. Kreckman told me that hosts in the city have been able to build entire shows around the quarterback situation for over half a decade.
“The Peyton Manning decline was huge, Broncos fans spent all of 2015 complaining about the offense right up until the second the clock hit 0:00 in Super Bowl 50, the Elway-Brock Osweiler divorce, the Paxton Lynch whiff, the weird signings of Case Keenum and Joe Flacco, and the mostly down roller coaster that has been the Drew Lock tenure. Pepper in a fair amount of criticism for the most popular sports figure in the state’s history (Elway) and the ownership debacle, and the Broncos have been one of the NFL’s biggest soap operas for going on 6 years now.”
Things are a little different in Charlotte, where Nick Wilson hosts WFNZ’s mid day show Nick & Stan. Things are still pretty easy for him the morning after a game. He says pre-season or regular season, a host should come in with the same mindset.
“You have a wealth of topics and sound,” Nick says. “Your job is to not screw it up.”
Charlotte doesn’t have the appetite for the Panthers that Denver does for the Broncos though. In fact, Nick says that he is noticing a real shift in the Queen City’s sports hierarchy.
“This is the least Panthers interest I’ve seen yet,” says Wilson, who has been in the market since 2019. “They haven’t been to the playoffs for 3 years, moved on from Cam Newton & Ron Rivera last year (and virtually all other veterans) and their quarterback selections have been less than desirable or not-at-all exciting. This is the first time I’ve seen Hornets excitement surpass Panthers excitement.”
Look 180 degrees from where Kreckman and Wilson stand on doing a show after the first preseason game and you will find Philadelphia’s John Kincade.
“I don’t find it that easy,” the morning host on 97.5 The Fanatic says.
Kincade doesn’t like talking about individual games. He prefers looking at storylines and the storylines that excite himself and his listeners involve players that they are going to see with regularity during the season. He says the sample size of content featuring those players is too small in the preseason.
“When we started the show on Friday, because the Eagles played Thursday night, I asked did anything you saw change what you think this team is going to be.”
He, rightfully, didn’t put much stock in seeing the team take the field for the first time. Jalen Hurts took a total of ten snaps. Rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell touched the ball four times. Fletcher Cox made a single tackle. It is fair to say no one outside of the Eagles’ building knows anything about this team yet.
“I said if your opinion moved one way or the other by any more than a single game, you are overthinking it,” Kincade says.
This is Philadelphia though and we are talking about the Eagles. John Kincade may not take as many phone calls as other hosts in the market, but you can bet there were things he paid attention to and wanted to tell listeners. He shared thoughts on Nick Sirianni’s personnel groupings and how the first time head coach divvied out playing time.
No matter how you view the preseason, football absolutely makes our lives easier in this business. It is America’s great unifier at the water cooler. Maybe not everyone has the same opinion, but everyone wants their opinion heard because they know everyone else has an opinion too. It’s a virtually guaranteed point of connection!
Nate Kreckman knows his audience wants to find reason for hope. Nick Wilson knows he has the tools to make a burned out fan base react. John Kincade is going to talk you off a ledge until he can’t find a reason to. Football makes Americans nuts, and when Americans are nuts, they need someone or something they can shout at, to, and with. That’s when we shine!
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 74
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.