Comedian John Mulaney who once said, “it is so much easier not to do things than to do them, that you would do anything is totally remarkable.” I love that line and think it is a great jumping-off point for talking about changing perspectives and giving people that are checked out a reason to check back in.
Rarely does anyone make a change without significant motivation. It could be an epiphany or an intervention of some sort. It’s easier to not do anything, so when left to our own devices, we most often stay the course that is already working for us.
How do programmers guide talent that is settled into bad habits towards better ones? How do they convince a host that has checked out to check back in?
I thought about this a lot over the weekend after talking to a friend that is a host. He is clearly checked out of his current show. He has been in the same market forever and is very much settled into a routine. If it’s April, we do this. When it is May, we do that. Wash, rinse, repeat for each month on the calendar.
A guy like that is a lost cause if left to his own devices. He will keep having his producer book two interviews an hour so that he can enter the studio, turn off his brain and let someone else do all the heavy lifting.
For a programmer dealing with a talent like that, there are two choices and both are extreme. Business as usual isn’t going to change anything. The PD either needs to cut bait now or he or she needs to give the host a reason to re-engage.
No boss likes firing their guys, and there are way more options for re-engaging a checked-out host than you may think.
One easy option is to increase conversations and aircheck sessions. Not everything can be negative, so go with the “slap and tickle” method. If you are going to point out something that is a real problem, make sure the host knows what he or she is doing that works well. There are plenty of studies that say if you want someone to change, it is important to pair re-enforcing good habits with condemnations of bad ones.
After pointing out problems, a programmer has to give the host the time and tools to improve. Regular meetings mean regularly being held accountable. They also mean regular opportunities to take note of what is and isn’t changing.
If regular meetings seem unnecessary or like time wasted, put information in front of the host. Show him or her the rating changes from when you felt like the show was at its most entertaining to now. Let them talk to the reps that have clients that don’t want to be on the show because it isn’t very good. Show them what being checked out has cost them.
A strategy like that doesn’t have to be confrontational or aggressive. Forget the finger-pointing. Remind the host that he or she is talented and people should want to hear what they have to say. Now, it is time to work together to get back to that point.
One other idea is to expose the host to some of his or her nay-sayers. Carefully curate the comments you are willing to put in front of them. Look on your social media pages. If you find commenters being abusive towards the host, dismiss them. They will not help you.
But find the people that call the host boring. Find the people that say he or she is out of touch. Play them some examples that may support those comments and talk about how the two of you can work together to turn that perception around.
A programmer has to make it clear to the host that changing perspective and checking back in takes a lot of work and commitment. If the host is willing to show that commitment, then the programmer has to show a commitment to the host.
Let him or her know that we aren’t even at a warning phase yet. This is pointing out a problem and finding the right way to address it. Promise that you are an ally and live up to that promise.
This isn’t just a radio problem. Workers can become checked out of any job they have been in for a long time. Our jobs are fun and it is hard for those outside of the business to imagine how the guy being paid for talking about last night’s game could ever lose the motivation to perform, but it happens.
Bas bosses think they can get a worker to check back in with threats and demands. This is a fun business that comes with cool benefits. Reminding hosts of that and offering help and guidance are more likely to generate the result you want.
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.