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WFAN-Mike Francesa Reunion Raises Many Questions

Jason Barrett

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There are times when sports radio news stories break and put me in a very awkward position. I believe strongly in transparency and honesty. No matter how much money is on the table, when all is said and done, the one thing that I’ll always own are my personal thoughts and opinions. I’ll sell those insights to help brands achieve success but what I won’t do is sell my soul to any person or group looking for a favorable spin, especially when the news doesn’t warrant it.

That can be a slippery slope when you operate as a consultant, strategist and trainer.

Fortunately, I have established a lot of relationships in this format, and I value those connections. I think those who know me or read this website understand that my intent is to raise the format’s profile, make people better, and offer a fair and objective opinion or analysis when its warranted, even if the news from time to time hits close to home.

On the other hand, I’m also a business man. I have partnerships with multiple companies. I respect and value those who work with me regularly and am proud of the fact that most of my clients have been loyal for multiple years. My partners know that I love this business and invest myself in their success and work hard to help them grow all areas of their business. When they find themselves in the news for a less than flattering reason though, they know I have to report it because after all, that’s a key focus for this website.

Despite working with many stations, I’m not unwilling to give credit where it’s due to competitors and I avoid taking personal slants against those who I don’t work with. I believe in being fair and keeping relationships strong with everyone because you never know when your paths may intersect down the line.

But just like each of you reading this column, I too have opinions, and when sports radio stories break, many expect me to offer my thoughts. Given the recent developments in New York at WFAN surrounding Mike Francesa’s expected return, it’s a news story which warrants a reaction, even if it might not please a few folks close to the situation.

When I first heard about the possibility of WFAN reversing its direction and bringing Mike back, I thought there was a lot of smoke but no fire. After all, the station went thru a two-year search to find his replacement(s) and the new show hosted by Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott had only received one full ratings quarter.

But in the radio business, as we’ve seen many times, patience can be thin, and changes happen quickly, especially in places where the stakes are incredibly high.

When The Michael Kay Show beat WFAN head to head in the winter book, I thought CMB would be on a short leash. Is that fair? No. But this is WFAN and the expectations are enormous. You’re looked upon to smother the competition so the radio station can continue generating high revenues while further elevating its profile as one of the best sports radio brands in America. You’re also expected to maintain the same standard of success that came before you regardless of the circumstances.

Expectations aside, don’t forget that The Fan was forced to change two dayparts this fall due to Francesa’s highly publicized exit and Craig Carton’s arrest. You can hire a bunch of talented people but usually when you ask an audience to form a connection with four new hosts at once, something doesn’t go according to plan. That’s why you don’t see brands overhaul their lineups on a regular basis. Radio success is largely dependent on consistency.

Also during the fall, Entercom purchased CBS Radio. It takes time for a new owner to wrap their arms around their new investment, and install new policies. What’s sure to gain their attention when they’re publicly traded and under the eyes of the entire industry is when one of their flagship brands hits a speed bump.

In the case of WFAN, the station has been a ratings and revenue winner for a long time. If the station is perceived as not being as formidable as it once was, sphincters get tight and adjustments get made in order to regain client and listener confidence before profitability takes a hit.

But what makes the issue complicated is when you consider the amount of time WFAN allowed for dealing with substantial changes, and Francesa’s difficulty of moving on from The Fan.

No matter how you slice it, the public narrative is that Mike Francesa overestimated his worth on the open market. He spoke about his understanding of the digital space and how he had a plan to excel at it, but since leaving the terrestrial space he hasn’t made a dent. He talked about having a number of irons in the fire, but so far those conversations have only led to guest appearances on multiple shows.

On the flip side, WFAN management shares blame due to their inability to deliver a strong post-Francesa plan.

It took less than six months for station executives to lose faith in CMB in afternoons and drink again from the cup of Francesa. According to reports, CMB were given two-year deals. That suggests that folks involved in assembling the show went into it by dipping their toe in the water instead of diving in. If you think I’m wrong about that, try signing Chris Russo, Max Kellerman or Adam Schein to a two-year deal and let me know how it turns out.

When you make a move of this magnitude, you’ve got to be firmly committed to it. You’re going to take some hits early on, especially in market #1 when you replace a legend like Francesa. It’s like a heavyweight title fight, you have to withstand the early attacks and take advantage in the later rounds.

In this particular case, Chris Carlin was well known by CBS/Entercom folks. He was working in Philadelphia at WIP and doing well with Ike Reese in afternoon drive before making his return to the big apple. Maggie Gray and Bart Scott on the other hand were newbies to full-time sports radio hosting. All three had to gamble and bet on themselves because after all, this is afternoon drive in New York City on WFAN. If they knocked it out of the park, they’d have the advantage in the next round of negotiations. If they didn’t, they’d be remembered as the show that couldn’t replace Francesa, and that puts them in the same company as many shows/hosts who’d fail in that spot.

But what can’t be denied is that Mark Chernoff and his inner circle had time to prepare for this situation. They had two years to scour the globe in search of talent. Guys like Mike Valenti, Chris Simms and Chris Christie earned auditions. Max Kellerman, Chris Russo, Adam Schein and Sid Rosenberg were mentioned as candidates. The company had access to all of CBS Radio and CBS Sports Radio’s personnel. Given the market location and resources, this was a sought after position, and anything less than a successful transition would raise questions about management’s ability to move WFAN forward after Francesa.

What’s perplexing about typing that last sentence is that over the years, few in this format have done a better job when their backs are against the wall than Mark Chernoff. When Imus was fired, he added Boomer and Carton. When Sid left, Evan Roberts was added alongside Joe Beningo. When Chris Russo left, he trusted Mike to win solo and it worked. I don’t forget those successes. But past success doesn’t promise future success and this problem is far from over for Mark and his team.

Making the issue even messier was the New York Post’s report that circulated Tuesday evening. Francesa apparently struck a deal directly with Entercom CEO David Field. The decision was made without Chernoff being on board. If that’s indeed the case, expect speculation to increase about the WFAN programming boss’ future, especially if Field gets further involved with future programming moves.

One also has to wonder which side Entercom VP of programming Chris Oliviero is on. Did he support Field’s decision to rehire Franecsa? Or did he side with his longtime colleague and trusted supporter Chernoff? If it’s the latter, that could create tension between Field and two of the company’s most important programming minds, Chernoff and Oliviero. If he backed Field though, how does that affect his longtime relationship with Chernoff?

Nobody is going to argue with Francesa’s talent or ability to make an impact on the radio, but don’t forget folks that Mike is 64. At some point in the future, they’re going to have to replace him again. Whether it’s next year, two-years from now or three-years later, the situation is unavoidable because Mike isn’t going to work forever.

There’s also no guarantee that Mike’s ratings will be what they’ve been in the past. During the fall book, The Michael Kay Show was tied for 3rd while Francesa was 2nd. This was a period of time where many folks were expected to listen even more to Mike since it was thought to be his farewell tour on The Fan. Francesa did win the head to head battle against Kay and exit without ever suffering defeat to his local rival and his track record in the ratings should inspire confidence that all will be right in the world once he reclaims his place behind a WFAN microphone. That said, even the best in the business eventually slow down. To expect Mike to stay on top for another 5-6 years is asking a lot.

So when that day does come and Francesa exits again, then what happens? If you’re David Field and you’re operating Entercom, would you feel optimistic that your group can identify the next superstar to carry The Fan forward for the next decade when the last time out they didn’t deliver and you needed to get involved? What if you’re a talent or an agent pursuing that opportunity? Are you going to sign a two-year deal with a station to replace Francesa when the last group to try had the rug pulled out from under them after one full book?

What I don’t understand is why this problem couldn’t be solved during the fall before the radio station set up three new personalities to fail. It was well documented that Carton’s arrest wasn’t a good look for The Fan. Entercom was taking over CBS and retaining their most high-profile star would’ve been a good PR move. It also would’ve provided a good PR rub for Mike because he’d be seen as the guy being loyal to his longtime radio home during a time of turmoil rather than needing to use the media to try and create a market for his services as a free agent.

Although it might have made sense for both parties to figure it out this past fall, it didn’t happen, and here we are five months later cleaning up a number of spills.

One thing I did find surprising when The Fan announced the hiring of CMB was that they’d turn afternoons into a three-person show. That wasn’t a dynamic the station had utilized in year’s past. If you look at WFAN’s history, most of their shows have been hosted solo or by a two-man team. Having managed three-person shows before, I know it takes time to find the right flow and chemistry, and sometimes it flat out doesn’t work.

I don’t want to excuse CMB in this process either. The show has had times on the air when it’s been solid and many other times where it’s shown that it’s going thru growing pains. If the program packed a powerful punch, won the first ratings book and generated a ton of buzz, maybe things would’ve been different. But looking back, the odds were stacked against them from the second they were hired and while that may not be the best situation to walk into, they can’t say they didn’t know what they signed up for.

So that brings us back to Francesa.

If being away from the spotlight for less than six months left him this anxious to regain his former platform, what is he going to do when it goes away for good? Can Mike function without WFAN? How will he handle not being a part of the daily New York sports conversation?

As stressful and complex as this situation has been, if Mike does indeed return to WFAN in afternoons, it could have a lasting impact on the brand in a positive way. For the short term, you’d expect the ratings to improve, but perhaps even more important is getting Mike to become more of a leader and use his platform to help the station avoid a similar mess when he leaves in the future.

It’s no secret that Mike hasn’t been a warm and fuzzy teammate. He’s feuded with other station personalities, focused on his brand, and offered little public support for Carlin, a host who spent nine years producing his show. Maybe Mike didn’t believe Chris was worthy of the afternoon show real estate, and if he didn’t, that’s certainly his prerogative. But what should be addressed is how to avoid being in this same exact position in the next few years.

In that sense, Mike could do a lot of good if he wanted to. Rather than being Brett Favre and rejecting the idea of helping Aaron Rodgers, imagine what type of impact he could have and how he could be remembered if he used the next few years to bring others along. It’s probably unlikely, but what if he teamed up with Maggie or Carlin? Think about the lift that would provide their career, not to mention how their addition could provide an infusion to Mike’s show.

It ultimately boils down to this. If listeners and clients are happy and the ratings wins return everyone at WFAN will be happy. But ratings, business, and image issues aside, it’d benefit the group to think about today with their eye on tomorrow. The short-term stability will be fine, but if they don’t use their remaining time together to make sure the future is in good hands, the next time around could be a lot more catastrophic.

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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