Every football season I am reminded just how awful network television is. I’m sure I’m not alone. It doesn’t matter if you prefer college football or the NFL. Tune into CBS and you learn that there is a show named after some government agency that stars some smoking hot 30-something you’ve never heard of and a dude that was on 30 Something. Tune into NBC and you’re inundated with ads for something called Ordinary Joe starring the white supremacist congressman from Watchmen. On FOX it’s that dancing show that looks like someone said “Hey, you know that cartoon Sing? Let’s do that but with people!”.
The result is always the same (for me anyway). I have never once found myself saying “that looks awesome!” I am always left wondering “who the f*** is that show for?”.
Do your show promos do the same? It may be a tough question to answer, particularly if you produce the promos for your own show. We can be blinded by whether or not something is entertaining in a 15-30 second burst when the memory is that it made for a great 10 minute segment.
Matt Fishman, who now programs ESPN 850 in Cleveland, was a BSM writer in 2018. During that time, he wrote a piece describing the state of show promos as “grim” across the format.
In describing the promo format that includes a 20 second clip from the show surrounded by imaging, he wrote “It assumes the listener knows what the show is and the promo does nothing to highlight the show.”
What can we do better? What makes for a successful promo? I asked two programmers that have a history of success.
Kevin Graham, who has a history of success in mid and major markets and was recently named the new PD of KNBR in San Francisco, says the best promos are the ones that play into the identity of the show.
“In my opinion the best show promos sell that one listener benefit,” he told me in an email. “It can be funny, a strong opinion or promoting ahead with a tune-in opportunity. Keep it simple, short but most importantly make sure there is a payoff to the listener.”
This is classic marketing advice. What emotion do you want your brand or your content to elicit in your audience? How do you want them to identify you? Whatever your answer is, you have to take every opportunity to create and reinforce the answer you want them to give.
It’s not a surprise that Graham goes to the marketing well. Marketing budgets, if they even still exist, a pretty small nowadays, and who is most likely to listen to your show? The people already listening to other shows on your station. Those factors make promos the most common marketing tool a show uses.
John Mamola has been at WDAE in Tampa for more than a decade. If you’re a sports fan in the city, his station is your only option for local sports talk. That may give the station an advantage over others across the country, but Mamola knows it doesn’t guarantee anything.
He doesn’t want promos that give listeners a sense that they missed something special. His strategy is about giving the audience a reason to come in and check out what is going on.
“Focus on what connects your brand to your audience,” Mamola says. “The more topical, the better. The more creative, the more memorable but always give a reason why someone who doesn’t know you now can be your best friend tomorrow.”
John Mamola looks at promos as another part of the PPM numbers game. That means being memorable matters. If an audience remembers that something you said is coming up sounds interesting or if they remember that you branded a particular show in a way that resonates with them, it is more likely to motivate them to make the effort to find that content.
A lot of show promos use clips of the biggest moments from past shows. The content might be good, but a clip is a good way to hammer home the idea that the listener missed this. If it is spontaneously fun moment, there is no reason to think it will happen again. If it is a big name guest, what is the guarantee he/she or someone of that calibre is on tomorrow?
“Creative writing is better and high production value is necessary. Always try to frame all your shows as the party that everyone wants to be at, and you’ll win more quarter hours than you lose.”
Great promos aren’t great because they are funny or because they capture headline moments. They are great because they do their job and make people want to tune in tomorrow and all the days after that. Otherwise, they are no different from all of those commercials for 9-1-1 that Joe Buck has to read. They are just taking up space and standing in between me and what I turned this on to see in the first place.
Remember that as you are constructing promos. Is something new everyday a necessity? How long can a promo run before the audience burns out on it? The answers to those questions do not matter if the promo doesn’t give the audience a clear and compelling idea of what they will hear when they turn on your show.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.