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Sports Radio Is Thinking Social But Not Acting It

Jason Barrett

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Satisfying the wants and needs of the audience is a daily priority for every sports radio executive, host and employee. But when advancing the station-listener relationship beyond the airwaves comes into play, things become much more difficult.

One quote which I’ve grown fond of over the years is from Henry Ford, who said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford was making the point that people fear change, but when you have a vision, you can’t be afraid to take risks and introduce new ideas which might make things better.

In 2017, most sports stations operate over the air, online and on mobile. They also have a Twitter and Facebook account, with some even extending their presence on Instagram and/or Snapchat. Social media platforms are where the audience reside each day, and where brands can further extend their relationships with their most passionate fans.

When you dig into a radio station’s social media account, you often find they post photos or links to stories, and occasionally a piece of audio or video from the station’s shows or hosts. You also discover just how inconsistent and far behind many brands are when it comes to using these platforms effectively.

These issues aren’t any one person’s fault. They’re a reflection of the industry not providing enough manpower or defined strategy to help their brands and people excel in a foreign space. Other companies outside of the radio business not only understand these areas much better, but they’re dedicating people, time, and resources to them, because they see the long-term benefits.

This is a big problem in our industry. When new opportunities arise, we assume that it’s a simple task, and try to solve it by tacking on more responsibility to the people inside our operations. If the audience seeks more written or video content, we just ask the talent to do more. If advertisers want a campaign built around the radio station’s digital and social media assets and our sales team doesn’t grasp the difference of the space, we just arm them with a presentation, and trust that they’ll get in the room and close the deal just as they would any other radio buy.

Except some of our top radio hosts aren’t great writers or equipped to perform on camera. And many salespeople who have spent years, and in some cases decades, selling traditional radio, don’t understand the complexities of selling digital and social media. Some also don’t see the financial upside in selling it. I’ve been in multiple places where it becomes a value added item for a client, or the account executive closes a radio deal and then shifts part of the total earnings towards social and digital so they can satisfy their budgets in those areas and keep their managers happy.

But if this is a space where people are investing most of their time, and advertiser dollars are shifting to it, then that should be enough cause for concern for the radio industry to invest more resources to becoming experts in it.

Here’s a sobering statistic from Edison Research’s 2017 Infinite Dial study. Did you know that 81% of all american’s use social media? That number has grown nearly 30% in the last 5 years, and 57% in less than 10 years. Altogether, an estimated 226 million people currently use social media.

Here’s some other data to digest. According to Michelle Klein, Head of Marketing for North America at Facebook, adults check their phones 30 times per day. The average millennial checks it 157 times per day. Most of each person’s phone time is spent checking their social media accounts.

If you consider that the average person sleeps 8.8 hours per day, that makes them accessible for 15.2 hours per day. This means that your brand has an opportunity to connect with the audience every 30.4 minutes, and a total of 30 different times per day on social media. More than a third of a person’s time is spent on social media, and each time they log on to check their account, your radio station is given an opening to present your content, personalities, promotions, and client messages to them (assuming they’re following your brand).

But now let’s look at the other side of this equation.

Inside most radio stations, people are consumed with the over the air product. They focus on ratings and revenue, and the thought of changing anything makes many uncomfortable, because it could disrupt the brands chances of earning a quarter hour of listening.

But once again, let’s look at some evidence.

First, the average person’s commute time in the United States is 26 minutes per day. This means that if they drive to and from work listening to your station, they will spend a total of 52 minutes per day consuming your content. That’s assuming of course that they never leave their car, make a phone call, play a CD or change the dial to sample another radio station.

Maybe they’ll also listen to your station while at lunch or at at work, but if we’re being realistic, most brands rely on in-car listening, which means that at best, you’ll earn 4 quarter hours of listening during a 52 minute drive. Even if I doubled that number of commute time for larger cities where traffic is heavier, that still only gives the radio station access to the audience for up to 2 hours a day, a total of eight quarter hours.

Meanwhile, the average person spends 50 minutes per day on Facebook, 25-30 minutes on Snapchat, 21 minutes daily on Instagram, and 17 minutes on Twitter. When you look at the younger demographic (18-29), the numbers are even higher. Most people now use a minimum of two social media accounts, and they’re investing more time before, during, and after work on these platforms.

Why should that concern you? Because soon these will be the people you’re trying to reach, except getting them to use your radio station will be as easy as convincing Donald Trump to stop tweeting.

Their parents may have grown up on radio, but they haven’t. That means you’ve got to play by their rules. Your entry point to them exists, except it’s not inside of a vehicle on a dashboard. It’s a place where they’re already established, and you too have a solid foundation. The big difference is that it dominates their life, while you consider it to be an afterthought – social media.

Remember when I wrote the piece last week about the sports format needing to consider eliminating sports updates? Traditionalists took exception because it’s different than what they’ve been used to for the past thirty years. But in this case, change is necessary, and here’s why.

If the average person only hears 2-4 updates per day due to spending 52 minutes of total time in their car, and the reports themselves offer minimal original content and unique value (not to mention they’re often tied to a commercial break which causes further tune out), and we have key areas of our business performing poorly which require greater maintenance and focus, then what are we debating about? We’ve got to take a collective look in the mirror and ask ourselves, why we’re resisting efforts to serve the audience in the places where they’re most available.

We focus our time and energy resisting change to an antiquated update structure, which has a maximum potential of reaching our listeners 2-4 times per day, while the same listeners are engaged and accessible on social platforms 30 times daily and for the same amount of time as their daily commute. If you’re a gambler, would you bet on people spending more time on the radio and less time on social media over the next 5 years? If you answered yes, please email me. I have a bucket of steam, a left handed screwdriver and a wall stretcher that I’d like to sell you.

One of the biggest issues I see is that most sports radio brands don’t have dedicated digital and social media strategists inside of their buildings. Nor do they have a game plan or the knowledge of how to maximize the station’s relationship with the audience and advertisers in that space. They may receive corporate support from time to time, but even those corporate teams with great insights and strategies, are at the mercy of what each brand does on its own. That becomes increasingly difficult when overseeing the strategic efforts of more than one hundred radio stations, many of which broadcast different formats.

To excel in the social space, companies have to be willing to make larger investments to help their brands. This is vital to every station’s existence, relevance, and future growth. Before the company dedicates funds though, they have a right to question each operator about the dollars they’re already spending towards their on-air products. If resources are being used in areas that deliver minimal impact, then it’s worth exploring redirecting those dollars to further improve the brand’s social and digital media strategy and execution.

As it relates to the social picture, I did a study recently of twelve local sports stations to see how active and engaged their brands were on Facebook. The brands I chose for this project were WFAN and ESPN New York 98.7FM in New York, ESPN LA 710 and AM 570 L.A. Sports in Los Angeles, 790 The Ticket in Miami, 620 WDAE in Tampa, 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis, Arizona Sports 98.7FM in Phoenix, Sports Radio 94 WIP in Philadelphia, ESPN 97.5 in Houston, the Mighty 1090 in San Diego and Sports Radio 810 WHB.

I selected these stations for a few reasons.

  • I wanted to feature a number of different corporate groups. For this project, CBS, Entercom, ESPN, iHeart, Hubbard, and Bonneville were all represented.
  • I wanted to examine a few locally operated brands. Gow Media, Union Broadcasting, and Broadcast Company of the Americas all fit that description.
  • I wanted to see how stations executed on both coasts, in the north and south, and in the middle of the country.
  • I wanted to analyze a few stations with strong leaders who I know have thick skin, and who know that I don’t take personal shots and am only interested in helping our business improve.
  • I wanted to profile a few brands that I don’t have deep relationships with because it’s a little uncomfortable and forces me to be thorough and honest.

Over a period of 24-48 hours, I examined how often these stations posted, what time of the day their material went up, which content they featured, and the amount of response they provided to the audience’s feedback. I chose Facebook over the other platforms because it is the most utilized social network on the planet. The others aren’t even close. If you’re unsure about that, check out slides 1, 2, 3 and 4 courtesy of the 2017 Infinite Dial study done last week by Edison Research.

To see my full report for all 12 sports stations, click here.

Something that’s important to understand is that each platform requires different tactics. What you do on Twitter won’t work on Facebook, and what you do on Facebook won’t register on Instagram. You also need to understand which days and times the audience is most available, and capitalize on those opportunities. Fast Company conducted a study to share best practices and I recommend clicking the link to familiarize yourself with it.

An area of frustration for many radio stations is how Facebook uses sophisticated algorithms to limit a brand’s ability to reach their entire audience. But while it may fuel your desires to share a few expletive laced commentaries with Mark Zuckerberg, it’s the platform that delivers the biggest impact, and you can’t afford not to make this your brand’s top social media priority.

One thing you can do to help yourself, is make sure you’re posting material that doesn’t read as an ad. If it comes across as shareworthy content that’s even better. Anytime you attach a video or photograph to your posts, your odds increase of the content being viewed by a larger part of your fan base.

I noticed while researching this story that many stations tend to follow a similar pattern when posting material. They often update social media content during the weekday business hours when everyone is inside the building. However, when people are home from work at night or on the weekend, and actively engaging with a sports brand during a popular sporting event, the content dramatically decreases. They also tend to post content in off peak hours that isn’t as topical, which does little to help the brand.

Another area of concern, one which I consider the worst sin of them all, is the lack of engagement that most sports radio stations provide to their fans on Facebook. This is true for radio stations outside of the sports format too. Tons of comments are being sent to your brand each day, but they rarely get answered. Imagine if your audience kept calling your phone line to talk to your hosts, and sent in a flurry of texts to the air studio, but nobody ever acknowledged them. Eventually the audience would stop engaging. Well, this is the expectation you’ve created in the mind of your audience as a result of being absent on social media.

What happens in most cases on these pages is a one sided conversation. The radio station pushes out the content, hopes the audience clicks a link or gives the brand a like or comment, but rarely do they take the time to acknowledge the listener’s existence. What this tells the audience is that there’s limited upside for engaging with the brand, and they’re better off instead sending a text to the studio, an email to the program director or a tweet to the host. Why? Because in each of those three cases they have a much better chance of receiving a response.

Ask yourself this question, why would my audience engage with my radio station account? What is the upside in the relationship for the listener? Do they gain access to information they can’t get elsewhere by following the page? Are they earning any rewards for liking and commenting on your material? If they never gain a response or benefit, why would you expect them to continue supporting you in the future?

Here’s a few others to think about. If I asked you what your engagement percentage was on your social media accounts, would you know it? Do you know how many posts your band delivers each day? If your CEO called and asked, “how do we grow our Facebook likes by 10,000 over the next 12 months”, do you have a strategy to do so?

The term “social media” implies that you’re entering a public community where others will interact and share ideas, content and information. Except most sports stations aren’t doing that. The term that best describes our approach is “one sided media” because we focus solely on pushing content at people and not participating in the experience with them.

So how do we fix it?

It starts with each company, market manager, and program director taking a good hard look at the way they’re executing, and admitting that it’s a space they need help in. Most brand managers lack superior knowledge and vision in the social space because it’s unfamiliar territory, and still relatively new. But if this is where your listeners are most available, and advertisers continue to spend more on digital and social assets, then that should serve as a motivator to get it right.

Then what follows is exploring deeper ways to educate everyone inside each building. Whether that’s attending a social media conference to learn tricks of the trade, bringing a social media strategist into your building from a company unrelated to radio to share best practices with your crew or studying on your own time how to best use and monetize these spaces, it requires sustained effort and a lot of learning.

After that, each station has to review its internal structure, and figure out who inside their operation can help the brand improve its social media relevance, reputation, and response time. This may require reassigning people to new positions that provide a much bigger payoff for them and the company, and/or hiring non-radio people who are experts in the space to help lead the radio station’s digital and social media efforts.

But to those of you who would be tasked with hiring someone to lead the brand’s digital and social strategy, I want you to consider something. If this is an area you’re not skilled in, how do you know if you’re crafting the right job description, targeting the right candidates, and asking the right questions?

Too often in radio we assume that just because someone designed a website, wrote a newspaper column, or worked inside another media company’s digital department that they’ll be qualified to create the brand’s digital and social media identity and execute the vision to make it matter. But we learn afterwards that they’re not versatile enough. It’s easy to blame the individual for not doing the job, but the process also reveals a lack of strategy in our hiring, and an unwillingness on our end to go outside the box and look in different places for digital/social brand leaders.

When a radio station is hiring a program director, the market manager and corporate team work together to make sure they find a person capable of managing and leading the radio station’s on-air staff, strategy, and execution. In this case, the same line of thinking is necessary. You have to think of this person as the digital/social media programmer of your brand, and that requires a special set of skills. It’s not a job for the person with the least amount of hours in the promotions department or the handful of producers on your shows who are already spread way too thin.

Far too often in our business, there’s a lack of urgency for becoming masters in new areas. There’s this mentality that it’s simply enough to be strong on the air and present in the social space, rather than add people who are experts in it. Well guess what? It’s not enough.

Do yourself a favor today and take a few minutes to read this piece from Lori Lewis, who lists the various things that happen inside of an internet minute. This is what you’re up against every day if you’re not cutting thru the clutter and forming deeper relationships with your audience.

There’s no excuse to be invisible to the audience on your own page. If the audience is taking the time to like or follow your account, and they’re reading your posts, promoting it to their friends, responding to topics, and supporting your advertisers, the least you can do is acknowledge them. This will especially come back to haunt you with younger people who won’t be as patient or as loyal as your current P1’s might be.

If you saw the movie “Moneyball” you may remember the scene when Brad Pitt (playing the role of Billy Beane) tells his entire scouting department they need to think and act differently when replacing a few superstars who were leaving via free agency. Beane understood that the Athletics couldn’t match up against larger market clubs when economics entered the equation, and if they planned to compete, they were going to have to adjust their strategy. His message to the group was that they had a choice, either adapt or die.

Well, we’ve got to do the same if we want to take advantage of the social space.

Sports radio’s social media strategy may not be on the verge of extinction, but if we keep ignoring our fans, bombarding them with irrelevant material at the wrong times, and treating social platforms like an afterthought instead of a critical part of our business, we could miss out on significant opportunities to strengthen our relationships with our audiences and advertisers. Before we end up like dinosaurs, let’s educate ourselves, and make sure we’re positioned to ride this gravy train as far as it will take us.

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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