Last week in Detroit, CBS Detroit and the Detroit Lions announced an end to their broadcast partnership after eighteen seasons together. The Lions will be moving to WJR next season.
When the decision was announced, the team stated they made the move for business reasons. 97.1 The Ticket afternoon host Mike Valenti said the decision was personal and had more to do with the Lions disdain for him and their desire to control the media’s message.
CBS Detroit Market Manager Debbie Kenyon released a statement which was in line with Valenti’s assessments. She said “In the end it came down to the integrity of CBS — the refusal to be censored in talking about the team and making honest assessments on the air about this team.”
Valenti and Kenyon’s strong assertions forced the Lions into damage control mode. Elizabeth Parkinson, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorships for the Lions offered her position. “I know there’s a bit of narrative out there regarding the notion that, somehow the Lions are practicing some sort of censorship. If we were trying to practice any sort of censorship, we certainly would’ve done it (the switch) much sooner. Anytime our media is either not factual or misrepresenting the content that they’re sharing, those calls are made. Our media team works with all media outlets to correct inaccuracies, and they were working with The Ticket to correct inaccuracies.”
But was the team using its position as a partner to reach out and correct mistakes? Or were they using the association to limit negativity and increase positive conversation?
Gregg Henson, who now programs in Pittsburgh, and spent 15 years in Detroit as a Programmer and On-Air host, said the Lions issues with the media are very real. In a blog post on his website, Henson added: “It’s been going on for 20 years. When I programmed WDFN in the 90’s, the Lions on many occasions complained to our bosses about the on-air content and we weren’t even the rights holder for the team. At one point, they informed WDFN upper management that if Art Regner and I were terminated they would “consider” granting WDFN the team’s broadcast rights.”
Henson continued ” The main culprit was Lion’s PR Director Bill Keenist. He attempted to turn hosts against one another and complain that Art (Regner) and I didn’t go to practice. He implored our bosses to “mandate” that we come to practice. Why? So he could bully us into his way of thinking. He even threatened to pull our credentials if we didn’t fall in line.”
When organizations attempt to control the way personalities think and operate, it often ends badly. You don’t develop great relationships that way. I used to tell one individual “if you’re not going to consult me when you’re changing your roster and potentially impacting my station’s ability to generate ratings and revenue, then don’t expect me to afford you the same courtesy”.
Some teams that I’ve worked with have been more than fair in the way they handle business. Much of that starts with the individuals who are in charge. In the Bay Area, I had a great rapport with both football teams because Marc Badain and Will Kiss with the Raiders and Bob Sargent and Bob Lange at the 49ers, are not only first class people, but they respect the media and understand the business. Rarely did my phone ring for something minor.
I’ve also dealt with a few teams who were very sensitive to criticism and wanted on-air talent fired, suspended, or required to attend games and practices. Those teams not only lose the respect of the hosts but they also create a situation where they become the enemy of the Program Director. That’s not positive for anyone involved.
One word that far too often comes into play is ‘partnership’ and it’s a word that means something entirely different to each side. Many teams believe it means the radio station will be positive, avoid difficult subjects, and offer the franchise the benefit of the doubt when bad things happen. Radio stations believe it means the station has the exclusive right to air the team’s games, sell ads during the broadcast, use the franchise’s logos in all marketing materials, and have access to special guests and broadcast opportunities without their weekday content being compromised.
From where I sit, both sides need to understand what they’re signing up for in advance. Rights fees don’t increase when teams create headaches and roadblocks, and stations don’t continue to enjoy the benefit of the association when they’re close minded and using the airwaves to deliver verbal haymakers.
One rule I’ve stressed to my staffs over the years was to be critical of performance, but avoid personal attacks and cheap shots. The result of a game, the performance by an athlete, the poor execution by an organization to provide a positive game experience, those are all fair. Teams may not like hearing it but the facts are the facts. We owe the audience an honest analysis and if the criticisms are directed in that way, I’ll battle for any individual’s ability to speak their mind.
On the other hand, it’s tougher to defend a talent when they step outside the lines and get personal. Whether the team gave you good seats to a game, the best setup at training camp, the interview you wanted, or the best spot in the media press box shouldn’t influence how you speak about their performance. You’re privileged to have access to many of these things and if you don’t get your way, that shouldn’t restrict your ability to be fair. If you want to call the owner a drunk, or suggest that a front office executive has photos of the owner to remain employed, be prepared to lose that fight, and in some cases your job.
Where this becomes interesting is when you’re forced to choose between play by play and your weekday programming. While I’m sure money was a big factor in the conversation in Detroit, I do believe that the integrity of the radio station came into play. I respect Debbie Kenyon and CBS for standing by Mike Valenti. I’m not sure how many others would’ve done the same.
Play by Play rights fees are high and often cause stations to lose money. But they also deliver audience, attract good sales people, and usually help a station enjoy great ratings success. When a team leaves a radio station, good people usually follow, and ratings aren’t far behind. Whether that will or won’t happen in Detroit remains to be seen.
In looking across the country at the top 25 markets, the ratings leader in each city usually has a play by play partnership with a popular local team. Less than 5 of the top 25 cities had a station winning the local competition without an NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL franchise on their airwaves. Those who carry local NFL/MLB teams perform even higher than those with NBA/NHL rights.
As necessary as it may be for sports stations to offer dynamic air talent M-F 6a-7p, numerous radio operators believe that they stand a better chance to drive higher ratings and revenue with play by play on their airwaves.
But what happens when you’re forced to choose between the two? Can you win without a popular local team’s games on your radio station? Can you afford to lose a dominant personality and replace them with lesser talent simply to keep a team on your airwaves?
I was curious of how other programmers felt about the importance of play by play and what their preference would be if they had to choose. Given the sensitive nature of the discussion, I’ve elected to keep the identities of the 5 programmers I spoke with private. Although I’d love to believe that a candid conversation like this wouldn’t lead to additional headaches, I’m not certain it wouldn’t.
How important is play by play to your ratings success?
PD1: Play-by-play of a winning team is the greatest marketing a station can get. It brings people to your station that you’d never otherwise have sample your product. When you combine that with a brand which is better than the competition, but not the heritage station in the market, it can be very valuable to success.
PD2: Play by play is important because there is a big cume available for stations to use to send their messages to listeners. This is important for directing the audience back into your weekday programming.
PD3: Very! Though the caveat is what sport, what team(s), and most importantly – relevance. The NFL is king. I could run a Jacksonville-Buffalo game on a Sunday morning and get a ton more meters than other sports’ play-by-play. With everything else, it depends on the specific significance of the event. As our local teams progress thru their respective seasons, we see either ascending or descending interest based on how they perform.
PD4: It’s very important but it’s not the play by play as much as it is using the game broadcast to get folks to come back the day(s) after to help with cume for the M-F shows.
PD5: Ratings success depends largely on the success of the team. I have been PD of a station with Play By Play of a team that does not attract a large audience and therefore the pxp is a detriment to the success of the station. It’s 3 hours where the station could be talking about other teams in the market or content that has greater local appeal. If the team is in second or third place or even worse in terms of standings or importance, it hurts.
How important is play by play to your station’s revenue success?
PD1: It helps. As much as anything, it opens doors with advertisers who may not be familiar with us. When you’re the flagship of a major professional team, very rarely do you have sales calls go unanswered. We’re not allowed to sell spots in our “direct play-by-play,” the game, coach’s show, etc., but what the play-by-play allows us to do is build shoulder programming around it and position ourselves as the flagship.
PD2: Enormous. It’s not just the on-air commercials that spike rates and revenue. It’s the relationship and tickets that come with the partnership. My sales manager once said, “having that relationship allows you to say “please” to potential new clients and “thank you” to loyal clients.”
PD3: Revenue is a big part of play by play deals. Making a buck is tough these days especially with expensive rights deals. For many clients, the emotional attachment to a certain team is the deciding factor in spending money on the station. Having it available helps bring clients in the door, with the goal being to make them a larger part of the station down the road, whether that’s through buying features associated to the team, sportscasts or anything else programming related.
PD4: It is very important to our revenue. We put a lot of effort into selling our local play by play and when we have success selling it, it lifts all aspects of revenue for the station. We tie together our play by play sales and station sales so when play by play is hot, it carries over to the spot sales and NTR (non-traditional revenue) for the sports talk programming.
PD5: It depends on the specific play-by-play partner and relationship. Most teams/franchises are taking their broadcasts in-house and controlling all or most of the inventory, so the value in these affiliations might be in ancillary programming – coach’s shows, pre/post game, sponsored features/segments suited towards team coverage. The ratings help you might get from play by play cume increases, can boost your weekday numbers which helps your sales department when it comes to selling spots and other station items.
Considering the financial commitment that is required to secure a local team’s broadcast rights, are they worth it?
PD1: If it’s an “A” property – MLB, NBA, NFL, major college, I think it is worth it. It can be a tremendous hassle (I’ve seen it in every market I’ve worked) but from a branding and credibility standpoint, whether you’re an established station or a startup – it has undeniable benefits that couldn’t be attained any other way.
PD2: Having worked in several markets where team broadcast rights fees are a big part of the stations expense line, it really comes down to the bottom line and how much the station/company is willing to partner with the team. That “partnership” and the willingness to work together in the “radio marriage” is essential. Does the team have a list of restricted categories for selling? Are they willing to work and push dollars from their major sponsors to you? Is the station willing to introduce their clients to the sports property? It is one of the biggest commitments and all of these items must be presented before the marriage is set – no surprises. Surprises are what lead to a bitter relationship.
PD3: This depends on the sport, franchise and city. For example, if you went to Minneapolis, I’m sure it’d be worth it to be the flagship for the Minnesota Vikings, but probably not as much to carry the Minnesota Timberwolves. Each market has a team or two that exceeds the others in value and interest.
PD4: In today’s radio business climate, I think it’s important to enter into these agreements with the idea of making money or at least breaking even. The problem with losing money on radio rights deals is that it ends up impacting your sports talk lineup. Usually when a station loses money on the rights, they’re forced to trim staff.
PD5: It depends on the market and team. In my city, if you have football it’s worth it. If you were in St. Louis and you had baseball, it’s worth it. Football rules in most markets, but in some the others (baseball and basketball) do and don’t make business sense.
What chance does a station have of winning a ratings & revenue battle in a local market if it doesn’t have play by play and the competitor does?
PD1: Year round it’s all about your station’s personalities. Those who have polarizing talent with an ability to “say something” always keep a brand from being dependent on the performance of a local team. Owning NFL coverage in a city can make it seem to listeners that your station gives the “best” coverage without owning the rights.
PD2: It depends on the market and teams. I think if you do some research on top rated stations in NFL cities you will see the majority have the rights to the NFL team. Then the question is, what came first? Did the team go to the top station and the top station got better? Or did the team make that station the top station?
PD3: Creative programming wins. Having the ability to sell special features, shows, covering the team with reporters, segments and special guests can give the station the upper hand in being the station of record for the sports property. If the play by play for a popular franchise is not available in the market, get over it and start thinking of ways you can still cover the team and win.
PD4: It is hard to win the 12+ number in the ratings world if you don’t have play by play but you can win the 25-54 battle 6a-7pm if you have great personalities, and that demo is key for most sports stations. As for revenue, not having play by play might make winning the overall billing battle more difficult but you can still be profitable as a radio station without play by play.
PD5: It’s very possible to win the ratings without play-by-play. Some stations have the luxury of being the hotter brand than the team. In other cases, the team is a hotter brand than the station. A station needs to see where they stand in that assessment when analyzing their play-by-play options. Not every station needs play-by-play to drive their success. But even on stronger brands, it’s nice programming to have on nights and weekends, where it doesn’t interfere with what is really driving the station, for both ratings and revenue.
How do you handle situations that arise when teams wish to influence content on your airwaves?
PD1: I meet for lunch with front office personnel and attend games regularly. Relationships are key and I believe in making myself available as a sounding board, not my on-air talent. I have never had a problem with a team because I explain up front that we will criticize but be fair and I encourage my hosts to show up in the locker room and at practices and games. That helps build the relationship.
PD2: There is one guarantee when becoming a flagship, the team will have “concerns” with the on-air commentary and voice their opinions to management about them. This has taken place in every single team-station relationship I’ve been a part of. Being accessible to discuss issues is key, and each situation is dealt with on a case by case basis.
PD3: Hopefully at the point of agreeing to the contract, we’ve made it clear who we are and what we’re about. My direction to my talent is that they (a) go to the games…that’s why I get them credentialed (b) give your opinions based on what you saw and experienced, not always on what you read from someone else. That way if/when a team has an issue with something we’ve said, we can say we’ve done so from a standpoint of coverage and credibility, not just being salacious and/or outspoken. When you’re at the games and the PR staffs see you there covering the team on a night in/night out basis, they’re less likely to question your motives when you’re critical.
PD4: The number one rule is to not make it personal. When you do that, it is harder to defend. If you are critical of the team because they are playing bad, no problem, but taking low blows at people in the spirit of being mean and hurtful is just not smart. So, if there is a complaint, I usually just try to first get context by listening back to the content, and then try to make it clear that this is an opinion based business and the opinions being sharing are based on what’s happening on the field. If the product is better, the talk will be more positive. If the product is not good, that talk is not going to be positive. The key as a programmer is you have to serve as a buffer so that you protect your talent’s ability to speak their mind as much as possible. You have to be willing to take the calls, talk through the difficult conversations, hear the complaints and stay calm and focused. Many times the situation will dissipate.
PD5: Welcome to business. Generally, we give our partners the benefit of the doubt, and we try to keep critiques between the lines. Not all stations do or need to operate that way but that’s how we value our relationships with teams, weekly guests, networks, sponsors, etc.
If you had to choose between keeping your play by play rights and your #1 personality, what would you choose? Why?
PD1: Personality by far. That is what makes talk radio unique and it carries your programming year round. It’s hard to believe you would ever have to consider choosing between both.
PD2: It would depend on the talent. If my #1 personality was king of the city and entrenched in the market for 10+ years then you stick with the talent. If the #1 talent is doing well but not crushing/overshadowing every other show, then you have to look for somebody else while trying to work with the talent/team in order to keep the relationship with the team. Each circumstance is different.
PD3: I would always choose my #1 personality. That said, this is a business and it’s a much more complex question. Many programmers know that you can back your talent all you want but if you don’t have support of your management team than it won’t matter. I know Mike Valenti is an incredible talent who can be abrasive and come close to crossing the line, but the key in that situation turning out the way it did was a result of his GM having his back.
PD4: I’d rather keep my best show than the rights to a local team. But if a station doesn’t have a singular, dominant personality with major market appeal, then they’d probably lean towards sticking with their play by play rights.
PD5: You keep your #1 personality, hands down. Play-by-play is fleeting (one year they might be great, the next they might suck) and seasonal. My personalities are on year-round. Personalities can help make the radio station more money thru solid ratings, promotional opportunities, endorsements & appearances, plus they’re involved in our community outreach. No question in my mind about this one.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
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.