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When Do National Stories Make Sense For A Local Show?

“It can be so tempting to throw your take on a big national story into your local rundown. And far be it from me to tell you not to, but I think both you and your audience would benefit from going through a little checklist first.”

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One mistake I think a lot of local hosts make is assuming the audience is locked into sports the same way they are. Our listeners certainly love sports. They come to us to hear our thoughts on the players, coaches, and stories most relevant to them.

And that is the key: “most relevant to THEM“.

Jonathan Zaslow had a great bit last week. In the wake of the Jacksonville Jaguars firing Urban Meyer, he made the statement on air that everyone wants to dump on the guy, so no matter why a guest was on, he was going to ask them what they thought of Urban Meyer. It was a clever way to bring a national story to his local audience in Miami.

It can be so tempting to throw your take on a big national story into your local rundown. And far be it from me to tell you not to, but I think both you and your audience would benefit from going through a little checklist first.

If you’re a host in Tampa, for instance, which isn’t that far from Jacksonville, there is no room for a bland take on a subject like Urban Meyer. Between the Bucs’ run to another Super Bowl, Covid concerns in the NHL, and chaos with the local college football programs, there is plenty that the local sports fan cares about more than whatever the national headline is.

How do you make your takes on national news fit your local show? How do you get the audience to buy in and go with you on this journey?

To me, the answer is pretty simple. You either tie in a local angle, come up with a take that is deeply developed and not obvious, or you make people laugh. However you choose to bring the topic to air doesn’t have to check all three boxes, but if it cannot at least check one, it probably isn’t the best use of your or your listeners’ time.

The local tie I always think is the easiest play to make. Let’s use that Tampa example again. Do you dive in on ruining a “can’t miss” QB prospect? Think about all of the different voices and coaches that were in Jameis Winston’s ear when he was first drafted. Do you go with the angle of a college guy that thought he could come in and run an NFL franchise like a college team? The Bucs went through that with Greg Schiano.

Wherever you are, there is an option like that with every story. The quickest way to get a listener to care about someone or something they don’t is by using it to elicit a reaction about something they do.

For the life of me, I cannot find a reason to pay attention to Jake Paul or whoever it is he fought this weekend. But if a clever host can find a way to tie Cam Newton or Coach K into their point, as a North Carolinian, you have my attention.

Jake Paul KOs Tyron Woodley with thunderous right hand in rematch
Courtesy: AP

If you choose to bring a national topic to the air with a deeply developed take, you have to start with a topic tree or a wheel of content or some other exercise that forces you to dig beyond the surface and beyond what is directly underneath the surface. You are trying to hook a listener by giving them an angle or an idea they haven’t thought about before. That means you really have to make sure your point isn’t one they haven’t already heard multiple times.

Urban Meyer’s firing has been mined to death very quickly. By Friday I had already heard that this was a “hit job” multiple times. I had already heard that he managed to ruin a once-in-a-lifetime QB prospect multiple times. I had heard he cannot get another college job after this multiple times.

The other thing to consider is what your listeners have already thought about. I check out on any host or analyst that came on the radio or TV to tell me that an authoritarian can’t survive in the NFL without a track record of success in the NFL to back him up. I have been shouting that since the second Jacksonville hired Urban Meyer. That is why you have to dig deeper than “below the surface”.

Personally, I am always drawn to content that makes me laugh. That doesn’t mean everything needs to be a produced bit, but Zaslow’s bit is a really good example. If you spot obvious absurdity, lean into it.

Read passages from Urban Meyer’s leadership book and play audio of him immediately contradicting it. Put together a montage of hosts claiming that this was the best hire of last year’s coaching carousel. I distinctly recall an episode of Chiney and Golic Jr where Chiney Ogwumike and Mike Golic Jr agreed that the only hire better than Urban Meyer to the Jags was Robert Saleh to the Jets. This stuff is out there and easy to find.

A deep love of sports is often the first thing that draws someone to a career in sports radio. I tell people all the time that if you are the type that only watches sports, you’re too boring to work for me. At the same time though, there needs to be a desire to consume so much news about the teams and leagues you care about that you are able to come up with new angles and topics on the stories that have been talked about to death.

The latter is the knowledge you need in order to do the job. The former is what connects you to the real world. You are so much more likely to make losing, self-indulgent content choices when you lose that connection.

Intermittent Lost Connection to Core - Support - Roon Labs Community

Remember, the job isn’t to talk about the biggest stories in sports. It is to talk about the stories that matter the most to your audience.

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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