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Why Knowing and Embracing Your Role Matters!

Jason Barrett

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That quote above from Shane Battier paints a great picture of what is required for teams to come together and accomplish their goals. Everyone plays a critical role in the direction of the team and without full support from everyone involved, success becomes much harder to achieve.

Another one of my favorite quotes comes from The Rock who was working for the WWE back in the 1990’s-2000’s. He became notorious for delivering the line “Know Your Role and Shut Your Damn Mouth” and when uttered on a live microphone, audiences would eat it up. While the phrase was primarily created to fire up rowdy wrestling fans, the first 3 words of his catch phrase are extremely important to what we do each day that we’re on the air.

homeworkTo start out this piece I’d like you to do an exercise tonight. Trust me, it’s painless and chances are it’s something you likely already do. Tonight when you arrive at home, I want you to turn on your television and watch a sitcom. If sitcoms aren’t your cup of tea, put on a movie. By the time the program is done, I want you to reflect back on the program and see if you can identify the main storyline, the key characters in the show, the roles the key characters play and the way those characters connected with you.

I believe the TV and film industries do a fabulous job with role definition on various shows and featured films. The sports radio industry however has some catching up to do. When you look on the screen, characters are built up prior to being introduced and then they are explained and reinforced with key branding messages. They rarely stray from what you expect them to be and that makes it easy for audiences to identify with them while getting sucked into storylines with regularity.

aiThink for a second of some key television shows and how they’ve connected. If you watched American Idol in it’s heyday, you turned on the channel to either love or loathe Simon Cowell. If you watched The Sopranos you either wanted to see Tony Soprano get away with murder or get a taste of his own medicine. In both cases, they had characters around them who offered something entirely different and that kept the show fresh, interesting and unique.

If you look at it in simpler terms, one medium scripts it’s work, perfects its performance, defines it’s people and delivers content that an audience adjusts their routines to consume, enjoy and connect with each week. The other operates off the cuff and puts the power of a content presentation usually in the hands of 1-2 people with very limited support around them. It’s the equivalent of throwing a good swimmer in the middle of the ocean without a life preserver and asking them to find a way to shore when there’s no sign of land.

tightropeThat being said, those who earn the responsibility of working without a net are often stubborn and not always accurate when it comes to making decisions that are in the best interest of the audience. In many cases they don’t understand their role on a show or the way they’re perceived thru the eyes and ears of the audience. Even worse, sometimes they don’t want to play to the audiences expectations even if they do understand them.

I recall meeting with a show during my time in St. Louis and when I asked one of the two hosts to define how he felt the audience saw him, he said he felt they’d say he was passionate and entertaining. This was a guy who was your typical sports television anchor, very smart, informed, well prepared and usually reserved. By most people’s standards he was a great guy. However, passionate and entertaining he was not.

namethatshowHis partner on the other hand was a polarizing figure who the market either loved or hated and he too responded by telling me he was seen as a smart, likable, funny and well rounded personality. He wanted to be liked because at his core he was a great human being but his stances on subjects were very divisive and therein lied the struggle for this individual.

When I told both of them they had no understanding of the way the audience saw them they seemed perplexed. I then went thru some examples of how they could strike a chord with people and why the imaging we had in place was written the way it was done to promote them. When they left the room, they had a better idea of why I felt they were struggling and suggestions on how to fix it but they kept trying to identify with a role that they had built up in their minds yet wasn’t seen the same way by the audience. The end result was an under performing show that eventually had to be replaced.

lostI can’t even tell you how many times this occurs. Personalities sometimes want so badly to be something they’re not that they’ll try to overcompensate by doing things out of character and even worse, they’ll try to reject the way they’re positioned on the air in promos, liners and in station marketing pieces. The problem with that is that it’s not just about the PD’s vision or the personality’s opinion on who they think they are, it’s about connecting with a listening audience and playing the role of a character that they identify with. Let me give a few examples of role definition and why I believe it’s important for shows.

In San Francisco my afternoon drive time host Damon Bruce has a lot of strong opinions, he delivers his views with a ton of passion and he’s been known to ruffle a few feathers from time to time. You could say he’s not everybody’s cup of tea but whether he’s loved or hated, people know where to find him and usually have an opinion about something he said.

damonbruceNow we could pretend that Damon isn’t edgy or hasn’t made a few folks uncomfortable along the way with his takes but that would be silly because the audience is smarter than that. Instead we positioned the show with some aggressive style promos prior to launching it, we reinforce his strong takes in the promos that we run and we use a godzilla-like stinger heading into breaks which gives the show some extra edge and personality.

The bottom line is we embrace what he brings to the airwaves and reinforce that position. Whether it’s everyone’s taste or not is irrelevant because the fact of the matter is it’s an accurate reflection of Damon’s on-air personality and when you put on his show he’s going to provide a compelling listen and not be afraid to take certain positions that others might not. That in itself makes branding the show pretty easy and the way it’s imaged and branded is in line with the expectations of the listener.

More times than not, brand building with a solo host is pretty simple. All you need to do is take a look at some of the characteristics that they possess and get a sense of what the audience expects from them and then play to those strengths. I often like to use music bumping in from breaks that fits the individual and their style to reinforce the mood and I think that writing liners that reinforce the personality’s key traits inside of the show is another smart tactic.

On the other hand if you look at how a 3-person show is built, it’s a whole different animal. It’s similar to creating a big three in the NBA.

clevbig3For example, LeBron James in Cleveland will likely be expected to take the last shot, play smothering defense, be the vocal leader and attack the rim every chance he gets. Kyrie Irving will be asked to run each play, put his teammates in position to get good looks at the basket and serve as a complimentary scorer when LeBron needs help. And once the Kevin Love trade is finalized, Kevin will be asked to rebound the basketball, crowd the paint and light it up from outside when he’s able to break free. Each player is crucial to the team’s success but each of them takes on a different role to best help the team win.

I have a theory that I’ve developed when it comes to 3-person shows. In most cases it’s worked out alright even though sometimes the individuals playing the roles inside the show may not always embrace it. Coming up early in my career in NY I worked on a few different morning shows with a variety of characters and I remember being told that when it came to group shows, you want to strive to combine people from different backgrounds and in a perfect world, if you can pinpoint the “deer, dick and dork” on a show then you’re in great shape. That line always stuck with me and made a lot of sense.

If those buzz words seem harsh, feel free to substitute the terms “the hero”, “the villain” and “the neutral one” (often this is the journalist, the stat person, the PXP broadcaster, etc.). Just because you have three guys though who fit these terms doesn’t mean the show is going to work. They still need to have chemistry, be entertaining and discuss the right subjects but assuming those things are in place, when you have three people fitting descriptions that make them easy to identify, that’s a huge win. Remember, it’s about connecting with an audience and people are more likely to recall individuals on the air who they can easily identify.

thefastlaneAs an example, when I was in St. Louis I had an awesome afternoon show at 101 ESPN titled “The Fast Lane“. The show as consistently top 3 and even went to #1 and while each guy was extremely talented, the reason it was so successful was because each guy naturally fit the role he was playing and he didn’t try to run from the perception of how he was seen.

In Randy Karraker’s case he came across most times as the “dork” simply because he was so damn informative and the guy you most likely learned the most from listening to the show. He was also the radio captain of the show handling all the formatics. Bob Ramsey meanwhile played the “dick” role because he wasn’t worried about popular opinion and sometimes would get a case of the red ass and not think twice to light someone up. The third member was D’Marco Farr and he came across as the “dear” due to being a big lovable teddy bear on-air and a member of the Rams Super Bowl 34 championship team.

This doesn’t mean that Bob was a jerk and couldn’t be positive or that Randy wasn’t lovable or a hard ass too but rather than trying to complicate things, each of those guys embraced their roles on the show, played them to perfection and as a result, audiences related to and connected with them and made them a household brand in the market. Because they were all naturally different and because they worked at developing their chemistry and embracing their differences, they had a lot of success.

roleThe purpose of this piece today is to get you to think about your show, your brand and how you position it to the marketplace. Are you using the right buzz words to identify yourself? Are you trying to play the role of someone you’re not? Do you have a show you’re involved in that has too many of the same type of styles and not enough variety to stand out? Those are the things that you’ve got to examine if you want people to form deeper relationships and stronger opinions on your presentation.

I’ll say this, one show that gets this probably better than anyone is Mike and Mike. Some guys will quickly say they love the show and tell you every reason they do and when they do that, they’re almost always restating the key words that have been built around the Mike and Mike brand.

Those who don’t like the show will almost always call it corny or proceed to complain about one of Golic or Greeny’s traits that are highlighted in the marketing approach of the show. That is the beauty of role definition and character development. If you can pinpoint who does what in each show, what the individual is about and why you love/hate the personality or show then you likely have a winner on your hands and few will disagree that Mike and Mike have been a winner for a long time. Here’s an older TV commercial of theirs that captures their differences and highlight who they are as personalities.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b146pasyO0E

One thing I like to do prior to the launch of a show is assemble the people involved in the show in a room and write some words on a board that the group feels reflect the individual positively and negatively in the minds of the audience. Often times talent will see them, write things down, counter them, inquire more on why the audience sees them a certain way and by the time they’re done in the room, they have a stronger idea of who they are to the audience and what they’ll need to do to reinforce their character and add to it in order to form a stronger connection.

photo 1This doesn’t work with everyone but if you can get your crew in a room and they’re open minded and willing to self-analyze and allow some outside feedback to better help position the show, it can be very helpful.

Remember, who we are as people and who we are on the air can be very different sometimes but once that light goes on and the microphone is hot, all that matters is finding a way to connect the audience to your on-air persona. When you’re able to do that, it can be very powerful and put you on a path to superstardom. I’m sure you’d agree that creating the radio equivalent of Seinfeld, American Idol or The Sopranos wouldn’t be bad for your career. So what’s stopping you?

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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