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Why Strong Branding and Imaging Is Needed In Sports Talk Radio

Jason Barrett



In today’s radio word there are brands with a heavy focus on branding and imaging and others which put a lesser importance on it. Many have different strategies on why they execute the way they do and I respect that tremendously. Since though I tell my hosts to always have an opinion and not ride the fence on the subjects they’re discussing, I can’t be a hypocrite and not offer my own personal point of view on this topic.

Take a listen around the country and you’re going to hear some stations overly produced and some with little to no imaging creativity. Those which don’t put a lot of focus into their promos, rejoins, on-air branding campaigns, etc. instead use production to air generic station liners and sales supported promotional messages. Is that wrong? Not necessarily but I always wonder why that’s acceptable. We’re in the entertainment business and expected to be creative thinkers with unique ideas yet for some stations they choose to steer clear of that approach.

whyA friend of mine in the industry told me a few months ago that one of the leaders in his company asked “Why do we need imaging and production? We put too much emphasis on it“! He responded by letting this person know that he was nuts to discount its importance. As I thought about their discussion I wondered why one would think its value in what we do wasn’t critical. One of the true strengths of sports radio is the ability to make our format entertaining so when one suggests making it less of a focus it surprises me. Not that it’s wrong because it’s just an opinion but I believe in making a product more entertaining not more homogenized.

As a programmer, one of the real joys for me is when I get to spend time with my Imaging Director and Assistant Program Director and talk through the various ways we want to message things or strengthen the focus of our brand. We’ll sometimes spend hours brainstorming things especially if it’s a specific event or campaign and once that position is identified and we roll it out, it becomes really cool when you can see it and hear it communicated back through the audience.

appleFor example, when we launched 95.7 The Game, we made a decision to be aggressive and utilize the Apple vs. Mac strategy with our promos opposite our local competitor. Similar to a political campaign, we knew there would be people who would rally behind the message and some who would dislike it but regardless, we knew it would get people talking. We utilized our current imaging voice Steve Stone as the voice of the FM radio station and we hired Sean King, the former voice of our competitor to play the old and out of touch AM station. The contrast between Steve and Sean was excellent and to this day I still have people ask me about the campaign.

The full credit for the campaign’s brilliance goes to Jeff Schmidt our Imaging Director who not only knew certain intricacies about the market and our competition but also had a vision for how to bring it to life. To this day it’s one of the most fun campaigns I’ve ever been associated with. Here’s one example for you to enjoy.


While on the air it sounded cool, it more importantly got people inside our own building to recognize that we would be fearless in establishing our position in the marketplace. It also fired up local fans who were hungry for a new choice. One of the funniest and best examples of seeing the branding come to life took place a few months later when we held a contest to reward a local fan with an opportunity to host their own show on the station. At our very first audition, one guy showed up 6 hours before the contest wearing a custom made “F KNBR” t-shirt. That my friends is when you know your message has connected.

notinterestedThis subject always gets my juices flowing and lately I’ve wondered, can you imagine how much less interested we might be in television if they took the same approach as some sports radio stations do? How much less would we watch if we weren’t drawn to shows through promos? How much less familiar would we be with brands and their slogan’s if they weren’t pounded into our heads?

Would you know ESPN stood for the “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” if it wasn’t explained to you? Would you know TBS to be “Very Funny” if they didn’t say they were? How about MTV and their position as “Music Television“? Ok that one we can forget since they hardly offer music anymore but hey they can’t all be grand slams.

itworksLet’s take it beyond television stations for a second. Think about the most popular brands who advertise on many of our radio stations. Bud Light = Here We Go, McDonald’s = I’m Loving It, Geico = 15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance and Papa Johns = Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Papa Johns. Why do these companies invest so many dollars in advertising and their marketing message? It’s simple…because it works!

Watch the MLB Playoffs, an NFL pre-game show on Sunday or your favorite local channel and how they promote an upcoming program and I guarantee you’re going to receive a strong degree of hype with one main purpose – to peak your curiosity and get you to tune in. These networks understand how to build anticipation and get you interested and they do an excellent job using creative messaging with music that makes you remember what you’re witnessing.

Case in point, check out this promo for the MLB 2014 Playoffs. You’ve likely seen it air during most of the games you’ve watched and by now now you likely have the Fitz and the Tantrums hook permanently implanted inside your brain.

One of my favorite shows on television currently is “Sons of Anarchy” on FX. Each week the shows delivers strong storylines, drama and action that leaves its fans on the edge of their seat. When you look at the way that the show is promoted at the end of each program and throughout the week through promos, it’s no surprise that the show dominates in the ratings. A great show combined with outstanding promotional support and creativity will lead to strong viewership. Here’s a look at one of the show’s promos. See if you can quickly catch on to the events on the show and feel the connection to the drama that’s about to unfold.

Taking a look at a lighter approach, here’s the promo which ran on Tru TV to launch the comedy show “Impractical Jokers“. Watch the clip and see if you can quickly pick up on what the show is about and whether or not you find yourself laughing and curious about what happens. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, I think you’ll agree it’s easy to digest and if you’re into lighter comedy, it should peak your interest.

When you listen to sports radio stations around the country today, ask yourself when you listen if you feel hooked by the creativity and suspense on your favorite brands outside of the main talk show content. I’m not talking about whether or not you remember the name of the station and where it broadcasts from thanks to the top of the hour legal ID. I’m also not talking about liners which lead you back into a segment and remind you of who the host is and the station they’re on. I’m talking about creative production which revolves around big events/games, tune-in opportunities, originality and brand messaging that strikes a chord.

cbsrI notice that a number of CBS sports stations in local markets as well as on the national network, utilize a similar sound. CBS sports talkers will traditionally use jingle packages, older music beds and the same imaging voice (Paul Turner) and be very simple with their approach (not all of them, but most I’ve observed). Given their success in numerous markets, you can say their approach works well for them. They focus on less bells and whistles and more on the nuts and bolts.

On the other hand, ESPN local stations and the network itself do some very strong creative production and present more flair for the dramatic while also winning in numerous markets with a very different philosophy. They also tend to utilize the same imaging voice (Jim and Dawn Cutler) and ESPN branded jingles.

When I listen to those two brands, I can tell instantly how they’re different. As a listener I like it because it provides me with a choice which illustrates that there’s more than one way to run a sports radio station. You’re rarely going to hear a thirty second promo hyping up one of CBS’ local talk shows yet on an ESPN station you’ll hear promos highlighting personalities and regular big name guests. On CBS stations they use liners heading into breaks or off of their updates to reinforce their shows, play by play events or sponsorable items whereas ESPN uses liners to introduce shows, segments or more programming centric items.

hookBoth approaches have their pluses and minuses but I tend to lean more towards the ESPN approach because I look at promos as a tool to draw more occasions to a radio station. The goal of a promo is not to fill thirty seconds of air time and showcase how cool you can sound with fancy editing tools, it’s to make people curious and hook them with interesting examples of your programming, personalities and the radio station. When you highlight personalities, guest appointments, play by play and strong campaigns effectively, they can have an impact on people.

Sometimes when we’re working on promos we forget that a promo in the minds of the audience is another commercial. While we separate it internally, those on the outside see it as an interruption and something that is keeping them away from their favorite talk show host for an extra thirty seconds. If it’s fun, suspenseful, entertaining or powerful, it can draw people in. If not, it’s a time filler and one more roadblock for the listener to navigate past.

As an example, if you’re going to promote a game and all you do is have the voice guy mention the two teams, game time and the position of the station, it’s predictable, not very creative and doesn’t generate an emotional response with your fans. But, if you do it like this, I think you fire up your fan base and get them more excited to tune in.


Ultimately, audiences will have different tastes. Some will like brands with a stronger creative delivery and others will prefer the opposite. However I believe that as more stations migrate to FM and new personalities are introduced, the ability to entertain and stand out is going to be more important. Those who wish to stay the current course can certainly do so but as new products continue to emerge, the risk of sounding mundane and trapped in yesteryear could become more problematic.

differentwayToday people are using Spotify, iTunes, iHeart, Pandora and YouTube (just to name a few), when it comes to hearing new music. In the old days, you’d have to wait for a certain time of the day for your favorite music station to introduce new songs. If that same mentality was kept in music radio today, stations would die quickly. Audiences have adapted to a new way of consuming music and they have much less patience or tolerance for clutter so it’s important to connect with them instantly or you risk losing them to other outlets.

Think about this. If the newspaper industry had been at the forefront of where new media was headed, would they have suffered as badly as they have? Today people read Twitter and Facebook first thing in the morning, not the local paper. I’m sure many in the print industry previously thought “we’re a dynasty, irreplaceable, we can’t be caught” but when people operate that way and stop evolving, they leave a door open for others to walk through. The way we now consume written content is much different than we did 10-20 years ago and it was created by an entire industry refusing to change.

scAs it pertains to sports radio or television, the same rules apply. Do you remember what was popular 20-30 years ago? ABC’s Wide World of Sports and ESPN’s SportsCenter were two very strong brands that during their time were seen as acceptable when it came to the studio sets, camera shots, use of video and jingles. Each show was well received by sports audiences. If those same presentations were being delivered today, they’d be rejected quickly because they don’t suit the wants and needs of today’s audience. Clearly ESPN adjusted and continues to do so which is why it’s always among the most powerful brands in America. For all of it’s imperfections, you can’t say they’re not committed to trying new things.

In my view, that’s what sports radio has to do too. Face it, people today can stream stations all over the country and they can download a show via a Podcast and skip interruptions. The goal is to make them want to experience it LIVE and if you employ great talent and enhance your opportunities for tune-ins by reinforcing the cool, dramatic and worthwhile content pieces on your brand through quality imaging, branding and production, you have a puncher’s chance of winning the battle for space inside one’s head.

audienceleaningYou also have to write in a way that the audience relates to and make your messaging sound fun, witty and interesting. The days of “get ready for a steady dose of hardcore sports talk with Joe and Jim” are over. If that’s your level of creativity, prepare to be bypassed by those behind you. Whether you’re a PD, APD, Imaging Director, Promotions Director, Host or Producer, if you’ve got any involvement in the messaging on your radio station, put the time into it because it will stand out favorably or negatively with the audience.

Much like we do with the subjects we talk about, we’re trying to grab the most amount of people possible to consume our content, so if your hosts are being paid to talk about the key things which will grab the majority’s attention, the production and branding of a radio station needs to be focused on the most important things too. I believe it’s much better to beat the drum of 3-4 strong messages then to overload an audience with too many things. Rarely does the majority of your material get consumed that way. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.

shapingWhen I look around the country today I find myself impressed by the production work done by a number of stations. Arizona Sports 98.7FM in Phoenix, The Ticket in Dallas, 98.7 ESPN NY, WEEI in Boston, 710 ESPN in Seattle and 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia are some who I think do a really nice job. I also think my current station 95.7 The Game does a strong job but its always harder for me to highlight my own brand because I’m too close to it. That said, credit is easy to give when you’ve got good people doing good work.

To bring this to a close, as I look to the future I hope to see stations in this format put a stronger emphasis on production value and recognize its importance in connecting with people. Listeners = supporters of advertisers and the #1 promotional tool for our radio stations. Why that’s not seen in a bigger light by everyone inside every building is puzzling. Add to that the increased engagement and activity from people through social media and you’ve got thousands each day to help spread your message.

Some companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV marketing campaign to tell local people they exist and when the commercial production process happens, numerous people from the station will get together, analyze every key detail and make sure there is a clear message presented for the viewer to consume. While that’s smart planning if you’re going to do a TV spot to promote your station, I could easily question why the same focus, energy and commitment of time isn’t given to the messages that are being delivered on your own radio station. Chances are you’ll promote your brand more on your own radio station then you’re going to on a television buy.

Sometimes when we’re in our respective buildings, we become creatures of habit and fall victim to taking the easiest path to get something done. If we concentrated more on our own messaging and creative presentation, similar to how we act when a camera is in the room and a light goes on, imagine what we might be able to offer our listeners. Who knows, maybe we’d surprise ourselves and provide more drama and entertainment value than even television can. I’m allowed to think that’s possible right?

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network

“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”

Jason Barrett



To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.

As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.

If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Which brings me to today’s announcement.

If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.

After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.

The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.

I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.

One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.

Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.

Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.

What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.

Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.

Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.

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Barrett Blogs

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs

“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”

Jason Barrett



I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.

Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.

But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.

Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.

If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.

Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.

For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.

At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.

I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.

Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.

Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.

Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.

Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.

Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.

Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.

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Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett



How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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