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An Open Letter To Ad Agencies From An Independent Station

“Rarely does a personality have a better connection and ability to influence their audience, than one tied to sports radio.”

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It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest contributor write a piece for Barrett Sports Media. It’s why I reached out recently to Sandy Cohen. Sandy is the VP and Director of Sales for Union Broadcasting, an independent group that owns sports talk stations in Kansas City, Louisville, and Wichita.

Sandy is one of the many independent station operators whose success can be overlooked by national advertisers. Without multiple stations in a single market to offer them, agencies have a tendency to bypass the opportunity to work with stations like Sandy’s, even if those brands may be able to produce results for their clients.

Despite a heavy work schedule, Sandy made time to write this open letter to those agencies. Hopefully, this shines a light on the benefits of working with local broadcasters, the impact they can make in their markets, and how they can be of service to any advertiser aiming to grow their business.


Dear Advertising Agency,

Thank you for the opportunity to take a shot at earning your business. I appreciate the request for a proposal you sent to me. When I receive your RFP, my team and I are well-trained to build a marketing solution that will help you perform at the highest level on our radio stations and digital platform.

Request for Proposal (RFP) - Definition & key components | toolshero

Each member of the sales team averages nearly 15 years working at our locally-owned company and we know what will benefit you and your client best while paying attention to your goals. We are one of a handful of local operators around the country. The opportunity to present to you on behalf of your client is a privilege and means a lot to me and my business partners. We have poured countless hours and money into our operation so we can compete with the large groups and earn your advertising partnerships. We approach our work differently because we are the decision-makers. We work quickly and effectively and do it with one goal in mind, to make it work for your client, for the long haul. We want you and your client to be a partner for many years to come, not four weeks in 4th quarter.

So with this in mind, have you ever considered utilizing our locally owned sports radio stations and our digital platform differently than the traditional radio stations you are buying in the market? Your requests are cost per point or cost per thousand driven and do not typically offer us the opportunity to put our product and talent to work for your greatest benefit. Why not consider engaging with one of our personalities or one of their segment guests for an endorsement campaign or endorsement as part of your overall campaign?

Rarely does a personality have a better connection and ability to influence their audience, than one tied to sports radio. Consider these potential benefits we have for you and your client. In Kansas City for example, I have six local show hosts in primetime and evenings combined and each has many seasonal and regular segment guests that make their shows entertaining. These segment guests are professional football, baseball, basketball and soccer players, coaches and analysts. Our primetime show hosts are on radio four hours a day, five days a week minimum. Throughout the week, they host additional specialty radio shows, TV shows, are TV color commentators and analysts for some of our local teams, regularly podcast and use social media on all available platforms. They are heavily involved in our community, tied to charities, emcee many community events and speak to many different special interest groups. Each member of our Kansas City on-air team averages 16 years on my station. In Louisville, our hosts average nearly 10 years on the station, which is close to our inception in that market. The equity they have built with our audience is huge. Many leading sports radio stations around the country are no different than me and my team.

Consider Nate Bukaty and Steven St John, our morning show hosts in Kansas City. Nate has been with us since 2004, Steven since 1998. Kansas City afternoon host, Soren Petro is so knowledgeable and knows so much about sports. A well-respected journalist locally and nationally as he contributes to sports radio shows around the country as a segment guest year-round. All three are Kansas City natives, and currently have long-standing endorsement partnerships with car dealers, mortgage companies, window and garage coating companies, health clubs, jewelry stores, med spas, outdoor decking companies, home automation services, patio furniture stores and more. We have success story after success story where each of these sponsors can attribute sales to Sports Radio 810 and our hosts and the personality who is standing behind them.

The same holds true for all our Kansas City hosts, Bob Valvano and Drew Deener in Louisville and Shane Dennis in Wichita. Each are professional in their approach to entertain and understand that we need to perform for our sponsor partners to keep the machine running. A few success stories:

Steven St John has quite a personality and it sells product. Pajamagram has been a regular partner around the holidays several times throughout the year, partnering with Steven to sell the world’s softest pajamas. They track results and we consistently earn the highest sales result as compared to stations and personalities around the country.

Steven St.John on Twitter: "I weighed in today and I would like to tell you  that I HAVE LOST 100 POUNDS! If you have struggled with your weight, please  know that it's

Nate Bukaty has done a fabulous job positioning a local jewelry store, Joslin’s Jewelry as the place in Kansas City to shop for engagement rings and all jewelry including repairs at a fair price. They have been a partner of ours since inception in 1998.

Soren Petro has been Robert Brogden Buick GMC’s spokesperson since 2004. He tallies a running total of vehicles he and his co-host, producer and segment guests have purchased. Over 20 and counting in the last three years. All our station partners benefit from being members of this exclusive club. We make it a point to set up entertainment events where business owners can network together and oftentimes they want to support each other.

Now consider the passionate fan base that follows our sports teams that our hosts are covering this Fall. In Kansas City it’s our Chiefs and big 12 football, in Louisville it’s U of L and Kentucky football and in Wichita it’s the Chiefs and Cowboys until WSU basketball season kicks in. There is no better way to sell, market and brand your client’s product and services than on local sports radio. For a small additional talent fee, consider connecting with our audience on all levels, radio, digital and social, by signing on for a local personality endorsement as part of your campaign. Once you take that step I promise you will see greater results and increase your client’s sales.

We have a long list of successful local and regional businesses that have taken the steps to make a commitment to include a personality endorsement or segment-guest endorsement. I would be happy to share those details with you. And please consider affording us some credit to apply against your CPP’s and CPM’s when we are offering talent endorsement. You won’t be sorry and you will see the value in that extra credit.

Extra credit | Reflections on the teaching of Science in Our World

We want to work with you for a very long time and so do our personalities. When you have that connection, you have something special. You are part of an exclusive club.


Sandy Cohen is the Vice President and Director of Sales for Union Broadcasting based in Kansas City. The company owns and operates 810 WHB in Kansas City, ESPN 680 and 93.9 The Ville in Louisville, and 92.3 The Fan in Wichita. To talk with him about this column or future business opportunities, reach him by email at SCohen@UnionBroadcasting.com.

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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