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The First 100 Days of a New Brand Leader

Jason Barrett

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Sports and politics don’t often mix well. But in this instance, there are some similarities between the job that awaits the new President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the challenge that awaits any programmer, market manager or corporate executive.

When an individual lands a new leadership opportunity, they often feel a pressure to immediately make their presence felt. During the first 100 days of employment, all eyes in the building turn to the new boss, and whispers gain volume in every corner office and lunchroom, as many try to speculate and search for clues to the new head honcho’s master plan.

As tempting as it may be to try and change the world during your first week in power, there’s something valuable to gain from reading the room and processing the information you gather. Most executives don’t have their livelihood or the fate of their brand determined by their first quarterly performance. If you do, you may want to reconsider who you’re working for.

The challenge for a new boss is to slowly weave themselves into the fabric of the brand, and that’s accomplished by forming relationships with the staff, and discovering what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are. Your instincts may be to bring in people who you’ve enjoyed working with previously or install a different clock or content strategy, but it’s not always a good idea to interrupt success in progress.

It’s similar to an NFL defensive coordinator joining a new team and looking to change the entire defensive scheme when the players on the roster don’t fit what they wish to do. In that case you have two choices, get rid of all the players, or make adjustments to your personnel. Once you know who’s got the ability to shoulder a heavier load, then you can introduce new plays and coverage’s and begin to add your own touch. If you eliminate all of the talent and it doesn’t work, you’ll soon be joining them on the unemployment line.

I recognize that this isn’t as simple in politics where republicans and democrats seek to reverse what the previous party installed in order to assert themselves and deliver on the promises they made to voters while on the campaign trail. Fortunately in radio, you’re not performing a task with the eyes of an entire nation upon you, and half of them determined to reject your ideas and beliefs.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if a crisis happens or if a difficult employee is dimming the spirits and affecting the performance of other essential staff members, then you’ll have to make a judgment on the best way to move forward. However, in most cases, you gain a lot of insight, and make your best long-term decisions by being patient, quiet, listening, and observing. 

For those of you who are currently in leadership positions, in pursuit of taking the next step in your career, or if you’re an employee with a new boss and wondering why he or she is taking so long to let you know what they’re up to, here are seven simple things that good leaders do in new situations. Hopefully this gives you a few things to consider, and some information to process, as you adapt to changes in your professional life.

Get To Know Your People – The number one asset to any sports radio or television brand is its people. Without their talent, creativity, passion, and dedication, your brand is meaningless. They live their lives constantly thinking about ways to present a better show, and they crave knowing how their boss’ view their performance. No matter how big of a profile a performer has, they still love to be challenged and validated by people in corner offices, and staff members who they respect.

Before you decide what someone is or isn’t capable of, and what their character is or isn’t inside the workplace, spend time with them. Hold a scheduled show meeting, drop in unexpectedly to chat, take them out to lunch or dinner, socialize at a game or company event, and figure out what makes them tick. More times than not, they’ll let you in, and help you get a better idea of what makes them valuable or dispensable to your company.

Observe Without Reacting – Barring an inexcusable act or company violation, let your people get comfortable and operate without fear. If they feel you’re going to over analyze their execution and harp on each mistake or missed detail, they’re going to get tight, and it’ll show up in their performance. Nobody performs well when they feel they’re operating under a microscope, especially when it’s in front of a new boss who they’ve yet to form a connection with.

Instead, watch how they prepare. Learn how they attack segments. Listen to the way they execute the basic formatics of their talk show. Gauge how they’re received by the audience. Track their show to see if its flexible or predictable. And take some notes on how often they challenge themselves to present a unique experience for listeners, and be prepared to discuss it further with them in future meetings.

As an added bonus for those who are working with new on-air personalities, I’d recommend studying their involvement or lack thereof in being a brand asset for advertisers. Do they meet with clients? Are they familiar with the sales staff? Would they need a GPS to find the business side of your brand’s operation? How well do they understand their responsibility in helping the company retain and generate revenue? Do they take it seriously or consider it an afterthought?

All of these things will come into play at some point. If you want to make improvements and gain a person’s respect, you’ve got to have specific examples to support your feedback. This is why it’s critical to pay attention and allow some short-term sloppiness. It’ll make a big difference on how you operate and nurture your staff over the long-term.

Articulate Your Vision To Your Entire Team – Once you know your people, and have processed the way they operate, then it’s time to gather your group and express your vision for the brand, and the strategy you plan to use to help lead the team to its final destination. You must be confident, focused, and very clear and concise. Nobody on your team should leave the room without knowing where the brand is, where it’s heading, and what the final goal is. Your message needs to be delivered and understood by everyone from the on-air talent to the producers to the anchors and board operators, to anyone playing a role in the daily success or failure of the brand’s programming.

In sports, players play a game expecting that if they invest their time and energy, and train properly, that it will produce results. They don’t just play the game to have fun. That’s what kids do. Professionals play to win.

In radio, people have similar motivations. They’ll follow your lead and run through a wall for you, if you can show them how their sacrifices and hard work will personally benefit them, and the company. If you fail to provide direction and expectations, that’s when confusion and uncertainty takes over, and people become frustrated.

Prior to meeting with your team to share your thoughts on the future, I’d encourage either writing a script, jotting down a few notes, or presenting a visual presentation (whatever you feel most comfortable with) to help keep your message on point. All future decisions and conversations will revert back to this meeting, so make sure you leave no stone unturned in getting the rooms attention and support.

Hold People Accountable – After you’ve established your expectations, goals, and standards of operation with your staff, the next step is to hold them accountable. That’s often easier said than done. Everyone is quick to promise an immediate fix when you identify something they’re doing incorrectly, but check back two weeks later, and you’ll often hear the same bad habits continuing.

These get corrected through consistent feedback, listening, and measurable systems. Sometimes you can even introduce hokey methods and motivational tactics to help an employee get better. I’ve been known along the way to use a green pillow for a host who sits on the fence with their opinion and place a jar on the console and demand a dollar from talent whenever they were late heading to break. You’ll have different ideas or maybe this approach won’t suit your personality. If it doesn’t, don’t do it. It’s important to be yourself, because people will sniff it out when you’re not.

The ultimate goal is to find out how to reach people in order to get them to patch up the holes in their presentation. Many times in our industry, people who come up short do so because of a lack of discipline and failure to make adjustments. They create mental excuses for their inconsistencies or shrug off their mistakes as not being a big deal, rather than putting down their guard to figure out why certain problems keep happening. In sports, if a player keeps committing penalties to hurt the team, he either gets benched, fined or cut. In radio, not so much.

I’m not advocating you should part ways with someone because they’re bad at breaking on time, teasing or using audio clips to enhance their content, but if the difference between 1st and 2nd or 3rd and 4th is small, those minor details that they assume aren’t that critical, can actually make a world of difference.

Each leader has to figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to them, but accountability only works when people feel there’s a consequence for continued shortcomings. Don’t be afraid to expect more from people. The great ones will accept your challenge. Your role is to provide positive reinforcement, and acknowledge them when they do things right, but also point out opportunities for improvement when they mess up. Be sure to have evidence to support your opinions, and suggestions on how to help them get better.

Weed Out The Brand Destroyers – It’s inevitable that someone on your team is not going to drink the kool-aid and may even attempt to poison it. The sooner you weed these people out of your operation, the better. There’s no benefit keeping someone around who’s not going to buy in and is potentially going to infect others on your staff. 

One of my favorite quotes by Henry S. Haskins is “Some people are like wheelbarrows; useful only when pushed, and very easily upset“, and this often applies to the members of your team who aren’t on board with your message.

In every building, the workplace is a sacred locker room. What happens in the locker room is a family matter, and the family works together to solve its problems without allowing noise from the outside to creep in and affect it. The strongest families have fights and disagreements, and that’s going to happen from time to time when you gather a bunch of alpha males and/or females in the same place and challenge them to be their best.

What isn’t healthy though is when team members violate trust and begin sharing information with competitors, newspapers or online sites, and other industry people. If an employee underperforms or makes a mistake, you can live with that. Those become teaching moments. But when trust is shattered, there’s no turning back. You stand to lose a lot more than you’ll gain by keeping someone around who has negative intentions.

If you haven’t read this piece on Mark Zuckerberg and his level of transparency with Facebook employees, I highly recommend it. Rarely do leaks happen at Facebook, and it’s because people in the company value their jobs and each other, and they fear being embarrassed and terminated for committing an act of betrayal. Every broadcast company seeks that too, which is why it’s vital to toss away those bad apples when they appear, no matter how talented they may be.

Add Reinforcements Along The Way – There will come a time when your brand’s performance isn’t in line with the expectations either you or your bosses have set for it. You may also be presented with an opportunity to add someone to the team who instantly makes you better, even if it creates an internal disruption. During these times you’ll take a deep look at your team, evaluate the feedback of your audience, and wrestle with decisions on whether to change course or stand pat. And the reality is, every great team and leader goes through change at some point, whether they plan to or not.

If you think back to the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series team, they were in great shape in July, but that didn’t stop Theo Epstein from pulling the trigger at the trade deadline to acquire Aroldis Chapman. Maybe the Cubs could’ve held onto a few prospects and won the title without him, but why pass up an opportunity to get better when it’s available?

Feelings are going to get hurt from time to time, and change can cause you to have future problems with members of your team that may be executing well or who you have a good personal and professional relationship with. The bottom line, you’re in a competitive industry, and this is a performance based business. The higher you perform, the more money the company makes, and the longer leash everyone is given to retain the jobs they love.

It may be uncomfortable. It may be difficult. And at times it may be unfair. But when companies are faced with decisions on whether or not to make a move to enhance their performance, the good ones often take the plunge. The complacent ones find themselves later on wishing they had taken the risk.

Celebrate Success But Don’t Get Comfortable – You’ve laid the foundation, established the system, identified the right people, eliminated the bad ones, and have earned the group’s trust and respect, and now success is starting to find you. Rather than high fiving each other once and forgetting about it the next day, think about how you’re going to celebrate the special moments with your team. They will have a lasting impact on your people and organization.

Too often we focus on the challenge, and when we accomplish our goal, we’re on to the next one. But if you don’t stop along the way to enjoy the journey and appreciate those who have made it possible, then it leaves many unfulfilled. In sports, after a team wins a title they may pour champagne on one another, hit the town to party, or gather as a group and fly off somewhere to make it a truly memorable experience.

I’m not suggesting to send your entire team on vacation, but a simple happy hour, dinner, conference room celebration, house party or personal gesture goes a long way in telling people you value them, are happy for their success, and are excited to be on the same side with them.

Conclusion:

Each individual has to decide their own strategy, and operate in ways they feel are most effective. Some do it thru aggressive action and a brash personality, others use a methodical style and reserved demeanor. Each way works. There is no one size fits all. Both Bill Parcells and Tony Dungy are Super Bowl Champions despite being very different people.

My only suggestion is to think before you act, and be sure in every decision you make. The ideas above are there to guide you should you need help along the way. Best of luck in setting the tone and developing a winning organization!

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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