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Why We Can’t Keep Ignoring The Signs

Jason Barrett

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“It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend”
– Aerosmith

It’s ironic that a couple of lyrics written by a rock band (Aerosmith) which relied heavily on radio for the past four decades would perfectly describe the radio business and some of its biggest problems in 2016.

Yes there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. The talent pool is stronger than ever, stations have migrated from AM to FM, apps and streaming sessions are now available, and content is provided on demand. The ability to reach people during and outside of the show is enormous thanks to the invention and evolution of social media.

But that doesn’t eliminate the industry’s biggest problems – our inability to get out of our own way, a lack of focus on the talent and content creation process, and a willingness to settle for mediocrity and do the same things over and over again.

It’s assumed that our industry is innovative. One which is led by creative people who work thirteen to fourteen hour days because they possess an endless passion to produce content and connect with communities. It’s supposed to be the cool business to work in, guided by leaders who crave teaching, motivating, and introducing new ideas to excite an audience and their own programming teams.

But somewhere along the way, that changed.

Programmers started becoming saddled with sales, digital, promotions, and payroll duties. In some cases, engineering, and production responsibilities were added too. Suddenly, the head of a programming department who was uniquely qualified to identify key talent, and create great programming, became handcuffed. No longer did the content or talent development process matter as much as finding ways to make the radio station more profitable.

Can you imagine if the movie industry pulled Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese away from writing, directing, and producing films? We’d have a whole lot of suck on the screen.

attackRadio Is Under Attack:

If you’re not aware of this by now, where have you been? Audio content today is available in more locations than ever before. But, there’s still a difference between quality and quantity. One issue that we have to solve is finding a way for our best people to spend more of their time on things that matter most to the audience – the talent and content.

This is the part where you tell me “relax JB, radio has been tested before, it always works out”.

Maybe it has because of our dominance on the dashboard, but advertising revenues for the radio business are in a much different universe than digital and television. The last time I looked, digital was diving deeper into the audio waters. They’re doing the same with video.

It seems like every month I’m reading a story about ESPN losing television subscribers, and just yesterday, Twitter secured a deal with the NFL to stream its Thursday night games. CBS and NBC spent a fortune to offer the NFL on television, yet here comes the social media giant right behind them to take out their legs and put the same programming on digital devices. If you’re running CBS or NBC that has to make your blood boil.

Let’s examine some recent history for a minute.

sxmTen years ago, Sirius was thought to be a neat idea that wouldn’t last. Many felt consumers wouldn’t pay for radio content. But then Sirius forged a deeper relationship with the auto industry. Now the product is available in millions of vehicles, and since they struck that deal, the satellite company has grown its consumer base to nearly thirty million people. Suddenly, paying $10-$15 per month for quality content with minimal interruptions isn’t such an outrageous idea.

Then came the podcasting business, or as it was labeled by radio people at the time, “niche programming with limited appeal”. But here we are years later, and brands like Serial, Bill Simmons, Adam Carolla, and many others are dominating each week on iTunes, and becoming attractive platforms for advertisers. Consumers also love the programming because it’s shorter, unique, available on demand, and presented without a heavy barrage of ads.

Next we have the newspaper business, which once thought the internet stood no chance. Now, the majority of their business exists because of it.

That same print industry which for decades employed columnists and reporters who ridiculed sports radio personalities for a lack of journalistic integrity and common sense, now have a large portion of their most talented writers shifting to audio and video content providers to make a living.

tribAnd that same desperate print business which turned its nose at sports radio, is now making heavier investments to be bigger players in the audio space. The Pittsburgh Tribune and Boston Herald for example, offer full service sports talk channels on their websites. Others such as the New York Times are starting to follow suit.

Whether it’s the podcasting business, the newspaper business, or satellite radio, each are committed to creating sports audio content. Make no mistake about it, any brand that delivers sports spoken word content on an audio platform is a competitor. If they can creep into the mind of your audience and pull them away from your product, that makes them a threat.

As more businesses enter the sports audio world, you’ll find them placing their time, energy, and resources into creating special content. Case in point, when Facebook bid for the NFL streaming rights, they never objected to paying for the content. It was when the NFL insisted that heavy advertising be part of the digital package that they developed a sour taste in their mouth. After the NFL refused to reverse their stance, Facebook walked away from the deal.

Can you imagine a radio station doing that? Fat chance.

coachInvesting Time In Your People:

So with competition increasing, and content creators becoming vital to a brand’s success, what is radio doing about it? The usual. It ignores the signs, and worries only about today’s results.

I recognize that leading an operation is extremely difficult, but I’m beyond stunned by the amount of feedback I get from on-air people who receive little to no support or feedback. When they do receive it, it’s usually the result of a company policy change, a request to do something that helps sales or a business partner, or it’s to highlight a mistake the individual made. Rarely do they receive positive reinforcement or guidance on how to execute better.

I had one personality reach out recently and mention that they hadn’t received a critique from their boss in over a year. One other host shared his frustration over receiving mixed messages during content evaluations, and another expressed concern over his boss’ ability to coach and offer specifics to help him grow.

I’m not present in each of their locations, so there could be other reasons for why those situations exist, but to use an example from the world of sports, a player and manager will have disagreements over the course of a long season. The manager can never stop coaching, and the player has to keep playing and looking for ways to improve their game.

If you’re going to lead a team, my one piece of advice is to never lose sight of what your title says you are – “Program Director”. If the last thing you care about is your on-air programming, and the talent creating it, it’ll come back to bite you in the ass.

techEmbracing Technology:

There shouldn’t be a disconnect between radio and digital, but unfortunately there are still some folks who see digital as a threat to radio’s existence. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be aware that Facebook has introduced its video service, Facebook Live. It’s a major attraction to users and television broadcast companies, so it should be a big draw for radio groups too right?

Not exactly.

In the United States, Fox Sports and ESPN are using it to compliment their sports television coverage. In the UK, the BBC and Sky were two of the first sports broadcast groups to embrace Facebook’s Live video potential. All use the platform to feature special content and behind the scenes opportunities, and the response from each of their audiences has been strong.

For example, the BBC’s first two uses of Facebook Live for a Match of the Day with Gary Lineker, and a showcasing of Everton fans celebrating their team’s FA Cup quarter final victory over Chelsea, were viewed over 1.7 million times.

Sky on the other hand used Facebook Live to feature exclusive content such as a Soccer discussion on the England squad with Adam Smith and Alex Scott, and that led to 150,000 views during the course of an hour.

closedDuring the past week, I talked to four Program Directors and Producers who told me they were instructed by their companies not to use the video service. All had been using the platform and were generating thousands of views for their shows and radio stations.

One programmer was told not to use it because the video couldn’t be counted towards the station’s ratings. A producer was told by his boss to turn off the service because it could distract the host and cause the station to receive less phone calls. My personal favorite was the programmer who told me that his Sales Manager wanted the service turned off because they were going to bring Facebook and Periscope executives to the table, and have them bid to be the station’s sole video provider.

That sounds great, but the day that happens, they’ll have Instagram and Apple bidding to be the station’s exclusive photo provider, and birds paying for the right to fly in the same sky as airplanes.

When I hear these examples, I can’t help but think about how many times people have criticized the radio industry for being late to respond to changes in the world. It’s confusing, and disappointing. The audience lives on social media. They’re not leaving these platforms, and neither are advertisers. In fact, the numbers are growing for both.

fblIf thousands are watching your talent on Facebook Live, is that really a bad thing? Isn’t it the station’s job to figure out how to monetize it? Do we not podcast audio because it may take away from the radio station’s ratings? Do we not promote things on Twitter because the audience will know the answer and not want to put the dial on?

Rather than putting our blinders on, we need to step back and look at the big picture. Do you really think Facebook Live video isn’t going to last? Do you think your audience isn’t going to use it? Not everything can be measured by ratings or sales. Sometimes you make decisions because it’s the right thing to do for your audience. If you can show that the personality or brand will be damaged by being available on this platform then that’s a different story, but I think that’ll be a hard case to make.

It reminds me of a chat I had a few years ago with an executive about Twitter. They urged me not to follow the audience back on one of my station accounts. When I asked “Why not?” the response I received was “if you do it for one, you have to do it for all”, and “it will clutter up your Twitter feed”.

Nowhere in the response did they take into account how it made the listener feel. I believed then and still do to this day, that if someone loves a brand enough to follow it, and you provide them with the same courtesy, you’ll gain more word of mouth advertising, brand promotion through retweets, and heavier listening.

PPM2I also believe that there are PPM users in every market who have social media accounts, and are following their favorite brands. If you can remind them of the quality content you have available, and make them feel good by following them back, I’m confident it’ll help your station’s performance.

If a show on your radio station is able to bring in thousands of viewers through a platform like Facebook Video, then you should be all over it. The same applies to using Periscope, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or any platform where you’re able to generate mass audience.

Do you know for a fact that the viewer you’re reaching doesn’t have the radio on where they’re at? Have you considered that by seeing you through the video service they could want to click on your stream or turn on the radio to hear the rest of the presentation?

Rather than doing what radio usually does and saying “we’ll do this when everyone else does it”, how about doing the opposite and taking an initiative to provide a benefit to the audience? The only conversations you should be having are “how do we make this better” and “how can we utilize the service and the results we’re producing to generate more ratings and revenue”?

phoneIn-Game Interaction:

The final portion of this article that I want to examine involves interaction during live play by play broadcasts. In the current environment, broadcasters describe and explain to people what’s happening on the field during a sporting event. The listener is then expected to consume and process the message.

But, if you’re watching or listening to a game in 2016, chances are you’re also using your phone, tablet, or computer to interact with others. Take a look at the amount of tweets that were sent out on Monday night during the NCAA College Basketball Championship game, and on Sunday night during WWE’s WrestleMania 32. It’s a very powerful story for Twitter and Facebook.

Radio and television broadcasts may introduce a handful of tweets during a game but it doesn’t take Nostradamus to figure out what’s coming next. If you’re the voice of a local team’s games, or the face of a broadcast on local or national television channels, start preparing for a world where you’re calling the action over the air, and interacting on social platforms during it. No longer will it be enough to present a message, without also being accessible.

reporter-scheftyThe quick response from many play by play announcers will be “That’s not possible. I do a ton already, and can’t take away from my focus on the air”. They do have a point, but I’ve also spent enough time inside of broadcast booths to know that announcers still find time to text their buddies, read the internet, and browse social media. To suggest that they can’t respond during a game is ludicrous. If players can use Snapchat during a gamePeriscope during pre-game, and reporters can be locked into Twitter during an NFL and NBA Draft, then announcers and analysts can find time to respond to the audience.

I’m not saying it’s easy, or ideal, but if you think that the future isn’t going to include play by play hosts and analysts being accessible on social media, and promoted on-air to attract listener/viewer responses, you’re sadly mistaken. I expect national television groups to make it a heavier part of their presentation because they’re always looking for ways to innovate the broadcast. Even when they do things that drive us nuts, I appreciate that they take risks to try and make things better. For example, we now have in-game reporter’s next to the dugout, in-game interviews with managers, a graphic to show if a pitch was in the strike zone or not, etc.

The one challenge I see will be the cooperation from local teams and professional sports leagues. Some will embrace the future and want to tap into the passion of the audience during their game broadcasts, and others will reject it because they’re either set in their ways or unwilling to give on-air exposure to a social media platform for free.

There will also be issues to navigate with advertisers once they enter the mix, but rest assured, radio stations and local teams will make it a bigger part of their programming strategy in the future. I already hear some announcers responding to tweets, others working out of town stringer reports into their broadcasts, and I suspect video streaming will find its way into radio booths in the near future.

toeny32Prior to leaving San Francisco in 2015, I approached the Oakland Athletics about adding our Pre/Post host Chris Townsend into the game broadcast. I knew the play by play crew of Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo would be open minded to the idea because they had a great relationship with Chris, plus let’s be honest, during a three hour broadcast, there’s plenty of time to fill. Tossing it downstairs a few times for a handful of minutes would not compromise the broadcast, especially when that exact situation occurs frequently during a TV broadcast.

The idea was to use Chris as an in-game reporter and social media correspondent. If a major injury or key moment in the game took place and required further explanation, Chris would have access to provide an update for the audience. He’d also be active on Twitter interacting with fans throughout the game using a special hashtag which we’d promote during the broadcast.

By doing this, it would give fans an opportunity to interact with Chris during the game, and potentially have their messages appear on-air during the broadcast. It was an easy way to use social media to bring fans and the broadcast together, and take them further inside. There was also the possibility of introducing behind the scenes video with Chris through Periscope.

Unfortunately, I was leaving town two months later, and the team felt there were a number of hurdles that would need to be cleared to make it work. There were also union restrictions, and MLB approvals that needed to be met, so it unfortunately never materialized.

Maybe it wasn’t meant to be with the A’s broadcast, but I guarantee you that it will become a part of game broadcasts in the future. If teams and leagues want broadcast companies to keep paying premium dollars for their rights, they’re going to have to allow more access and unique opportunities to generate revenue. If not, those rights deals will decrease.

We may all agree that the team’s games have value to a radio station’s airwaves, but not if they’re going to cause the company to lose large sums of money. With digital consumption and interaction rapidly growing, and advertiser interest following suit, it’s going to be an area where both sides allow for flexibility. Without it, they both lose.

finishThe Conclusion:

I recognize that some of my views may produce a difference of opinion. If you disagree with any of it, that’s ok. Nobody is 100% right. But I will leave you with a few points to ponder.

  • Is there any platform on the planet where more of your audience exists besides Facebook?
  • If thousands are clicking your video stream to watch your talent, is it really hurting your business?
  • How are you adjusting your schedule to make sure your people receive feedback, support and understand your expectations?
  • Do you think the audience isn’t going to demand more access to your play by play broadcast and members of their local teams?

This is where the world is headed. Rather than rejecting ideas because they’re different than what you’re used to, think about the long-term ramifications of the decisions you make. They could have a big effect on whether your company and audience see you as an innovator, or an obstacle standing in the way of progress.

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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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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