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Are You Willing To Break The Rules?

Jason Barrett

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Last week I was introduced to a new television program. The show is called “Startup U” and it features a number of students and young entrepreneurs who spend 7-weeks at a place in the Silicon Valley called Draper University. Each person introduces an idea for their own business, and is then tasked with developing their product and skills, working with instructors on ways to pitch themselves and their company, and enduring the wrath of many highly successful business leaders. At the end of the season, each person pitches their idea to billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, who chooses one person to invest in and help launch their product.

Similar to every other reality show, the cast are put through various challenges, forced to live together, and with each passing week you see the best and worst in people emerge. What made this show different though was that many of the ideas, strategies, reactions and coaching techniques were very similar to what I’ve endured during my career in radio. Even the final goal (winning Draper’s confidence and money) is no different than what broadcasters and radio companies must do each day (win over listeners and advertisers).

One particular challenge got the juices in my brain flowing. Two teams were asked to take part in a game of Volleyball, except Draper wanted them to change the game and make it better. Many involved in the game immediately questioned the purpose of the challenge, and others seemed unsure what to do because the concept of the original game had been permanently planted inside their heads. When new ideas were introduced, they included serving with both hands, serving multiple balls at once, and serving with your head.

While certain ideas were better than others, it got me to thinking “isn’t this the same exact challenge we face with radio“? I quickly recalled driving across the country in June from California to New York, and each time I reached another major city and flipped on a sports station, I heard a lot of the same things. Break times nearly identical. Voice talent, imaging and sports updates in sync with the companies who were running the format. Callers and Guests filling up each hour around a Host’s opinion on the local teams in the market. In a nutshell, there wasn’t much different between one station and the next, besides the personalities.

changeDraper challenged the people involved in the volleyball game that day to “break the rules, and make things better” and it got me thinking about whether or not enough of us in radio today care to do the same. There seems to be a lot of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” thinking and that’s the type of mindset that eventually gets you caught. You can’t operate a winning brand with a narrow view of the present. If you’re not willing to embrace new ideas, take calculated risks and introduce new voices, styles, and concepts into your presentation, eventually it becomes stale, and when the audience tires of it, and drifts away, good luck getting them back.

I look around and I see an entire industry worrying about earning credit from a PPM meter, more than focusing on the importance of creating killer content that can’t be missed. I know, I’ve been guilty of it myself. But what about the world that awaits us? Are you prepared for the challenge that awaits from podcasting platforms? What about when digital dashboards overtake cars and many of the transplants in your market start listening to their favorite stations back home? How about when the age of your audience changes, and you find that today’s youth between the ages of 12-24 care about brands like YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter and don’t even listen to radio?

Sure we have to keep our eyes on the current marketplace too and not be irresponsible, but those who develop great brands and hire talented people, can afford to break the rules, think different and challenge themselves to do things better. If you’ve earned the audience’s trust, they will stand by you while you introduce a few new ideas. If we’ve learned anything over the course of history it’s that people like new things.

I started racking my brain about the numerous things I hear on sports radio today, and what crazy ideas I would’ve come up with if Tim Draper had issued that challenge to me about improving sports radio instead of a game of volleyball. While I can’t say they’d all generate ratings, make more money, or even make sense, I know I wouldn’t have to be asked twice to break the rules to try and make things better. And after all, isn’t that why we do this job in the first place?

Here are some crazy things to think about. We can agree or disagree on their viability, but if you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do to make your product better and challenging yourself to do it, don’t be surprised when the day comes when your employer is looking for someone who does.

Commercial Breaks:

commercialsScan any sports station and you’re going to find the majority of them running 3 or 4 breaks per hour and the commercial inventory usually between 12 and 20 minutes per hour. That doesn’t include sports updates, traffic reports, weather reports, station promos, or recorded liners that lead a show in and out of a break. This is done because stations want to spread out the amount of minutes in a commercial break to not overload the audience, and because they’re trying to gain as much content time inside of a quarter hour to try and gain credit for listening from Nielsen.

However, Nielsen also recommends that stations take as few breaks as possible, as disruptions can often lead to tune outs which don’t return. So what would happen if a station ran one break during an hour during the quarter hour that produced the least amount of listening? For example, if listening was less between :45-:00, is a station better served trying to win the first 45 minutes of the hour and concede the final quarter hour or stick with it’s current formula?

What if the station went with two breaks per hour? Maybe 15 minutes of spots in a row is insane, but what if it’s 7 minutes instead? Is there much of a difference to the audience between a 5 minute break and a 7 minute break? Are you better served with 2 long breaks or 3 semi-long breaks?

If you’re not a fan of long breaks, what about shorter ones? Is it more beneficial to hit the audience over the head with 3 breaks that are 4 minutes long apiece, or give them 6 breaks that are each 2 minutes long? You can also argue, is your talent better delivering focused content for 6 segments which are shorter in length, or 3 which are a lot longer.

I recognize that radio stations want to sell all the commercials they can, but reducing the total amount of minutes per hour and charging premium dollars for ads is where the world is going. I’m sure doing that would lead to a short-term loss in revenue, and no operator or company wants to hear that, but I can watch a YouTube video or listen to a few songs on Spotify with only a :15-:30 second distraction. I can listen to a podcast with a few verbal plugs in content and no disruptions, and I can watch a show on HBO without commercials because I pay for the channel (SiriusXM). You can only force the audience to stomach long commercial breaks for so long. Once they go, then what are you going to tell your advertisers?

Not to mention, if people are coming to you for sports, why are you bombarding them with weather reports, stock reports and traffic reports? Are those items sports related? When was the last time you put on SportsCenter, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight or any other sports show and said “damn, I really want to know the weather”? If it’s strictly about attaching a client to a benchmark, create something different – maybe a team related report, a host commentary, a :60 debate between two personalities, or attach them to your products through social media or website. Your air time is precious and shouldn’t be cluttered.

Imaging Voices and Presentations:

I love Jim Cutler and Paul Turner, and think they are the very best voice talents in our industry today. What I wish we had though were more Jim Cutler’s and Paul Turner’s. Too many stations sound the same, and that’s because a lot of us do what others do, and we seek out those who we already know. If the format looked for on-air talent that way, we’d all be screwed.

I hired Steve Stone to be my voice guy in San Francisco, and I think the work he’s done in making 95.7 The Game sound unique is excellent. I also know how incredible Dawn Cutler is and I wonder “why aren’t more stations utilizing her full-time“?

tvIt raises the question about creating unique brand identities. What I love about television is how so many brands are different. I can turn on ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS, NBC or my local sports channels and I won’t hear the same thing. I can watch HBO, FX, TNT, USA and Showtime and the graphics, writing, imaging and voice talent will all be original. If it can be done on that level, then why can’t it be that way in radio?

Must every ESPN sports station and CBS sports station have the same uniformed sound and layout beyond the personalities? And it’s not just the voices, the bells and whistles with much of the imaging are laid out similarly too. I understand the reasons why certain brands do it, but I can equally call into question how it makes them predictable, and we can debate all day about whether or not it generates ratings.

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe there are some outstanding imaging directors and program directors out there who have the ability to make their brands sound distinctive. Each market and group of people are different, yet the same company formula exists. If a connection is made with the audience, and the brand name isn’t compromised, then does it matter if the people on the front lines take a different approach? Why must hundreds of sports stations have the same look, feel and sound, and stifle creativity?

Sports Updates:

While they were important to the audience 10-15 years ago, today many of them are filled with the same stories you hear the talent talking about. They also are often behind the pace of social media, which is where sports fans are seeking out their content first. I’ve always enjoyed them for one reason, it introduces another voice into the show, which provides room for extra creativity, but the update itself has become white noise in many cases.

scOnce again, if you turn on an ESPN or CBS sports station though, you’ll hear the same exact approach. ESPN brands will give you SportsCenter updates 2-3x per hour, and CBS brands provide 20/20 Sports Flashes 3x per hour. Does the listening audience really seek out this content and value it?

I believe the update is beneficial if it’s going to feature audio in it from other points of the broadcast day to try and engage the listener and give them reasons to listen more, or seek out the content later on the station’s website. I also believe it has value to advertisers since they can get a :10 tag included in them, and when done multiple times per hour, that can lead to numerous messages for the client. But what about the listener?

If we really value the audience, I’m not sure this content is vital. I’d rather see a radio station take their update anchor and put them into a position where they’re writing more content for the website, producing videos on the website, engaging more thru the station and their own personal social media pages, and sending them out to appearances and games to help the station gain something of larger value. I believe the anchor who has the ability to interact with a talk show host and take on more of a personality role in a show is a great thing, but I don’t believe that 3-6 minutes per hour of content time rehashing scores, game times, injury updates, and other lesser news, has great importance to the audience.

Show Lengths:

Based on economics, companies today will usually put a personality on the air for 3-4 hours per day. Hosts like it because they get to talk a lot and try out a number of things, and overall the approach makes sense because there are only so many hours in a day and you can’t employ 40 personalities per day or expect a host to be sharp doing a 6-8 hour daily show.

The one problem though is when it comes to judging its effectiveness. How many personalities really evaluate each of their hours, their content selections, their interview performances, the gains/decreases in caller activity, and whether or not they were better skilled at providing a 1-2 hour show versus a 3-4 hour show?

Most of sports radio today functions with people doing what they think and feel, and there’s no reason for them not to do that. But that’s because there’s not a lot of analysis being done on what does and doesn’t work. We usually give a personality their ratings, tell them if they gained or decreased month to month, and give them a pat on the back and tell them to keep moving forward. Rarely is the focus placed on “why” the numbers grew or dipped, or how to best take advantage of each hour of broadcasting time.

fallonIf you look at the best televison programs that deliver massive audiences, they usually involve a large cast, and are either 30 or 60 minutes in length. They maximize every single second of those programs with incredible content, and put hours upon hours into the presentation, including a lot of writing. For example, Jimmy Fallon delivers a 1-hour nightly show, yet he and his writing team will spend all day and night, making sure the product is crisp before it hits the air.

If radio employed Jimmy Fallon, it would expect him to deliver the same quality bits, interviews, punchlines and storytelling, yet throw him on the air for 4 hours per day with minimal preparation time, let alone surround him with a cast of 1 to 2 people. When the performance suffers, the blame shifts on the individual, the audience or the meters, not the process or support towards producing dynamic content.

I’m not sure it makes financial sense for radio stations to deliver 30-minute shows or 1-hour shows versus 3-4 hour shows but podcasters are doing this and growing larger and larger because they provide content which is often polished and shorter in length. People don’t have 3-4 hours of time to give to us, and they’d rather hear 1 great hour, instead of 3-4 good ones.

Show Styles:

routineLook at the rundown for most sports shows across the country and you’ll see the following hourly layout: 2-3 topics discussed, 1 guest, calls and tweets from the audience. Even when personalities promote their shows, it’s usually the same way – “Can’t wait to discuss last night’s game + guest A at ___ time and guest B at ____ time.”

If the show is built around the personality tweeting out the promotional message, shouldn’t it start with what they care about? If it’s a big guest I get that (EX: Podcast One last week had an exclusive sitdown with Shaq and Kobe – that you promote all day and night), but if you don’t provide some suspense in what you’re going to discuss, and just rely on the appointment times of a guest, you’re not leading the show.

That said, there are better ways to lay out a show too. If a host is great at taking calls but bad at interviews, why book guests on their show in the first place? If the situation is reversed, maybe it’s better to feature 6-7 guests and keep the host away from engaging with callers. The key is concentrating on their strengths and keeping each day interesting, not formulaic.

Have you ever considered making one day of your week only a football day? Only a baseball day? Only a day where interactions come from Facebook, Twitter, Email, Text or Calls? Maybe you create a day where you’re offering a series of 1-hour in-studio panels on themed subjects (EX: hour 1 = the host and 2 guests talking non-stop NFL, hour 2  the host and 2 guests talking non-stop baseball, etc.).

Some of this may work, some of it may not. Much of that depends on the host, producer, program director, and audience habits, but the point is that different things can be done, if you’re willing to open your mind to them. Not every day needs to feature the same layout, with the only difference being your topics.

Promos:

A good friend of mine Scott Masteller refers to promos as “content advancers“. While the word “promo” is seen as a commercial given to the station’s programming team to tout messages of their brand’s greatness, “content advancers” portray a message that the best content will be highlighted and discussed throughout the broadcast day. That makes sense to me.

However, if you listen to a lot of CBS sports stations, they put less stock in promos. While you can question why they wouldn’t use their time to promote things more, I recall attending a sports radio conference and hearing Jim Cutler say it best “A promo to the listener is a commercial disruption“. If the goal is to stay in content and eliminate interruptions, you can make the case that promos aren’t necessary.

sbIf they’re going to be utilized, then shouldn’t the writing, imaging, and frequency of them be analyzed? Some stations try to promote 10-15 things during a given week rather than concentrating on 3-4. Think about this, if you were running CBS Television during the week of the Super Bowl, you’d promote the game again and again. Sure you may have other shows on the air, and they’ll be promoted through other channels (social media, email, newsletter, website, text clubs, etc.) but priority #1 on the air would be the promotion of the Super Bowl.

Look at your radio station and ask yourself “which of my brand items is my Super Bowl“? Do you have 3-4 of them? If you’re not creating promos that stand out, offer something of value, and sound big, then ask yourself if they really need to occupy :30 seconds of air time.

Additionally, do you need 1 promo per hour? 2 per hour? 10 per hour? If a message is pushed enough and carries with it something of substance, it can be branded into the listener’s brain. The question is, how much is enough?

Often station programmers implement clocks and in them come set times for promos, usually a few times per hour. The only problem with that is predictability. While it may be a pain in the ass, mixing it up isn’t a bad thing. If you have higher audiences during two hours of morning and afternoon drive, you may want to push the messaging hard, and not run anything during the lighter times. It’s all about getting the most value, and utilizing your time wisely.

Liners:

linersI hear some stations go in and out of breaks with music beds. Some do it without any music or production. Others meanwhile have produced liners voiced by the station’s voice talent or a local athlete, which identify the name of the show, station, a slogan, etc.

There’s no right or wrong, but if you look at it from the standpoint of “is this worth airing 3-4x per hour, and taking up :30-:60 seconds of my broadcast time” then you should have a better grasp of whether or not it’s valuable. If you’re not going to use the liner to reinforce your brand position or offer something creative or memorable, get it off the air. They’re denying your best asset (your on-air talent) more content time, which could make a stronger impact with the audience. If you can’t put some time into the writing and imaging, and use them effectively, then save yourself the extra minute. It will only hurt you if it’s not done well.

The only question I have here is whether or not they serve a purpose even when they are done well. I can watch a show without liners leading into segments and it never takes away from my experience of enjoying it. Secondly, does a station need to have them in place every segment? Can you use them 1x per hour leading in or 1x per hour bumping out? Why must it be “always leading into segments“, “always bumping out of segments” or “not at all“. Once again, unpredictability keeps an audience engaged, and maximizing our seconds is necessary for having success.

Conclusion:

There are a number of things about sports radio that could easily be better. The most important one in my opinion is eliminating its predictability. The point of this article wasn’t to suggest that everything we’re doing needs an overhaul because that’s not the case at all. However, we should be thinking about whether or not we’re taking advantage of everything we have at our disposal, and if we’re testing ourselves as best we can. If we’re doing things because they’re simple and it’s how they’ve always been done, then that’s a bad reason to do it. Especially when the future depends on our ability to adapt and create.

suWhen I watched “Startup U”, I found myself thinking of the sports radio format, where it ranks, how it operates, what challenges it faces from other media platforms, and whether or not we have enough operators with the skill necessary to reinvent and make the format cooler. If our industry’s future was on the line, and we had to deliver a winning pitch to a room full of investors, how do you think we’d do? I’d like to believe we’d emerge victorious, but I’m not so sure we would. I guess that answer was predictable though.

 

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

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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

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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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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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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 JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. 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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