Investing in your people is the surest way to ensure your brand’s legacy.
Securing the next generation of leaders is not simply a crucial step for healthy corporate succession in business or media. It is a crucial process for any media company’s long-term growth, stability, and future.
No company walks the legacy-planning journey like Ramsey Solutions, the company led by financial talk-show host Dave Ramsey. In fact, one of Ramsey’s lesser-known yet highly influential books, “The Legacy Journey,” teaches individuals to think financially past today and build something lasting for the future.
And in terms of building a legacy of financial media, Ramsey has always had an eye on the future.
Take, for example, talented host Anthony O’Neal, who for years with Ramsey Solutions helped spearhead the company’s effort to help college students emerge from school without burdensome student loans. With Ramsey’s leadership, O’Neal went into communities to share the truth about the predatory student loan industry, educating and imploring students and families that there are alternatives to the traditional model involving the financial handcuffs of college loans.
O’Neal, a black American, helped Ramsey extend his reach to a more diverse audience, one that was also younger and more rooted in popular culture. For O’Neal, it was a chance to speak to audiences across the country, both in person, through books, and on Ramsey’s nationally-syndicated radio program. A true win-win until O’Neal left Ramsey Solutions late last year to continue building his platform on his own.
Contrary to first thought, however, the change was welcomed and perhaps planned for by both parties. No drama and no hard feelings, at least publicly.
Across the media industry, grooming the next generation of leaders is more difficult than ever before. And it’s not unique to Ramsey and O’Neal. It holds true for on-air talent, to production crews, to the editorial staff, and the corporate boardroom. In all cases, a proactive approach helps develop the next batch of professionals to grow a brand or sprout the branches of a company’s ministry into the future.
“A lot of these pathways into becoming the Program Director or the brand manager just don’t exist anymore,” said Jeff Sottolano of Audacy at the recent Barrett Sports Media Summit in New York City. “The college internship, the Promotions Director, the APD in some instances. We’ve made very specific and intentional investments in restoring some of those positions and making sure we’ve got a pathway inside of our organization to grow and develop the next major-market brand manager, maybe in a secondary role in another market.”
So it becomes a two-part framework – invest into your future stars and, if necessary, help them spread their wings and fly. For O’Neal, the timing of his move was a welcomed one, both for himself and the Ramsey organization.
“Me and Dave recognized that my brand was going in a different direction than what we saw it was going while I was at Ramsey. And so we both just agreed that it’s time for you to just step out on your own,” O’Neal said on the Nicky and Moose YouTube show last month. “It was such a smooth transition to where this guy was so into it. He said we love you; we want to support the route that you’re going when it comes to really serving that market that you want to go after. And it wasn’t like this was a better situation, or this was a bad situation. It was like, hey Anthony, go do your thing. I said yeah, I’m going to go do my thing. It’s so funny, because when people see people separate, they automatically think it’s drama. And I’m like, no, there’s no drama there. That was a season. I’m a Christian man, and God just shifted the season.”
And when it comes to investing in future leaders, Dave Ramsey puts his money where his mouth is, often without much fanfare.
“Because I honor Dave, because I honor that place, I’m going to love that place. Dave was one hundred percent supportive of it,” O’Neal said. “I’m going to be real with you all. He even gave me some money to go out. It was like a church plan; we’re gonna go allow Anthony to do what he was called to do.”
But that’s not to say it’s been all rainbows and lollipops for Ramsey when team members have departed. Over the years, there have been others who, through their actions or the company’s philosophical approach, left under much less amicable circumstances. Sometimes it just isn’t the right fit any longer. Sometimes the investment doesn’t pan out for either side. And sometimes, as Ramsey’s “Entreleadership” hosts have said over the years, the loving and caring thing to do is to push a team member to their next challenge, recognizing that their success is limited, or has ended, in your organization.
Many listeners and industry insiders might be shocked at Ramsey’s approach to help grow and build an on-air personality’s brand, only to help him take off on his own. But that may be one of the true secrets to the company’s success – truly investing in people who will give their all to your brand and spread your message. There is an integrity to the approach, which helps attract the best and help them fulfill their potential, both for your organization and, ultimately, for themself.
But it starts with the right person, with the right attitude. And with Ramsey, O’Neal was the right fit. A person of integrity who had the qualities any successful team would desire.
“First and foremost, you want self-starters. Anybody that sits across my desk talking with me about a job, the first thing I say is, you better believe in you before you ask me to,” said Don Martin of Fox Sports Radio during the Summit, while talking about grooming the next generation of media executives. “I mean, bring the game. If you walk into that room and you don’t have passion for this game, and you don’t have enthusiasm, then don’t come in the door. At the end of the day, it’s not up to us to make them care and make them want. We want hungry people. We need young people, and as society life has changed.”
For Ramsey, O’Neal embodied those attributes – a ceaseless passion that connected with a new, younger, and more diverse audience. O’Neal’s addition brought years of energy to the network, a benefit to both the organization and the talent. Dave Ramsey and his leadership team presumably saw what they lacked and sought out a professional who could fill in a weak spot. Their self-awareness and humility allowed them to chart the path toward company growth, seeing an addition rather than a threat.
“Your team needs to have someone on it that can replace you,” Sottolano said about running a sports media organization. “We’ve got to be more judicious about, when we have those spots, whether it’s the late-night host in terms of talent development, or its in the programming ranks, we’ve got to be invested in people that demonstrate potential. And not be afraid of someone who’s going to challenge us in that seat. I’m not afraid of somebody challenging me in my seat. That makes me better, that makes me better, that makes the organization better.”
And when this is your approach, you cultivate not only strong, talented leaders and talent for your team but also raving fans and advocates of your mission and brand. These people emerged from inside your four walls and can’t wait to share the truth about your wonderful company culture.
“I am so grateful. So grateful to the team behind the camera, to the team in this building, to Dave Ramsey, to the board, the leadership, to every single person who has poured into me and loved me, and truly shaped me into who I am, even as I leave this season and enter the next season,” said fellow Ramsey personality, Christy Wright, who joined the company in 2009, and announced earlier this year that she, too, was stepping out on her own. “The gifts and skills that I’ve cultivated in this place are unbelievable, more than anything that I could ever ask or imagine. I’ve learned from the best of the best.”
That is the power of a brand that does what it preaches. That is the power of legacy.
For Anthony O’Neal, for Christy Wright, and for Dave Ramsey.
And also for media organizations who care enough about their team and their audience to build the next generation of voices and leaders while living their mission today.
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
The Donald Trump Conundrum For News/Talk Personalities
I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.
With 721 days to go until the 2024 Election, Donald Trump decided it was time for him to officially jump into the race. He could not wait any longer. And on Tuesday night, in a speech that lasted more than an hour, he decided to move ahead and officially kick off 2024, one week after the 2022 midterms ended.
This has created an interesting dynamic for talk radio. Not only does it give reason to quickly move on from the over-analyzing of dissecting what happened in the midterms, but Trump is generally good for business, especially when he has been (mostly) off the radar the last two years.
And as is always the case with Trump, the opinions and emotions will be strong across the aisle.
But with the opinions and emotions so strong across the aisle, what’s the play for News/Talk hosts?
Many are comparing this to 2015-16, when conservative-leaning media broke down pro-Trump or never-Trump, and it changed the landscape and careers for some, depending on which side of the aisle one landed on.
However, there are stark differences this time around.
Those who would call themselves conservatives would all agree that the policies implemented by Donald Trump were a success. Whether it was economic policy, foreign policy, trade policy, or judges appointed, the 45th President kept to his word on all of the above and they were all highly-successful, especially before the pandemic.
There is no true “never-Trump” angle amongst conservatives like there was in 2016. The question this time around is simply: “Is Trump the best person to move Trumpism forward? Or is there a better option to keep the movement moving ahead?”
That’s a very different conversation amongst the news/talk audience, that if handled properly, should not result in audiences turning on their favorite personalities, regardless of which side of the conversation one might come down on.
For these reasons, I don’t foresee a “civil war” amongst conservatives in the way we saw it six years ago.
And for our audiences, there will be hosts who lean more Pro-Trump or Pro-DeSantis (or whoever else), but I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.
That doesn’t mean not having an opinion. That’s ultimately our job. But if we form that opinion, on either side, through the prism of, “We’ve still got 18-24 months of this, things will change, and here are the pros and cons of what I’m thinking…”, it creates an environment that invites listener interaction and makes your show the place to voice opinions on both sides of the issue.
Also, that audience interaction will remain our great leverage in this conversation that cable news, newspapers, and social media can’t duplicate with the same intimacy. So let’s take advantage of it and it will also give us an on-the-ground feel for where the audience is in our market in a way the political consulting class can only dream of.
That’s how we can win this 2024 news cycle, that, yes, believe it or not, has already started.
Pete Mundo is the morning show host and program director for KCMO in Kansas City. Previously, he was a fill-in host nationally on FOX News Radio and CBS Sports Radio, while anchoring for WFAN, WCBS News Radio 880, and Bloomberg Radio. Pete was also the sports and news director for Omni Media Group at K-1O1/Z-92 in Woodward, Oklahoma. He’s also the owner of the Big 12-focused digital media outlet Heartland College Sports. To interact, find him on Twitter @PeteMundo.
Post Midterm Elections: A Fresh Approach?
Among the predictable messages that come after election results, no matter how long they take is “we need to do better”.
The leftovers from the midterm elections are still in the refrigerator but I’m looking forward to either finishing them or tossing them out.
I will not feed them to the dog, I love dogs too much.
Among the predictable messages that come after election results, no matter how long they take is “we need to do better”. That’s generally a given after looking at either side of a political scorecard but in this particular case, I think it resonates a bit more, for us.
We, the news people, need to do better. Actually, we need to be better.
And, of course, we can be.
Once again, this is not an attempt at cheerleading nor is it a shot in the arm.
I am no more a clean thinker than anyone else on the planet but I believe I share a common vulnerability; fatigue.
The hamster wheel that is a job like ours perpetuates a buildup, a film of apathy and when it comes to covering politics, or more accurately the antics of politicians and candidates, it’s a difficult ride to dismount.
But once again, we have that regular opportunity to alter the game plan again.
The faces are now changing in leadership (a little) and prominence (somewhat) but of course, some things will remain familiar.
The House is flipping, 45 wants to be 47 and the old arguments will now feature a few new, differing voices.
It is these potential differences, I believe now as much as ever, our audiences want us to steer towards. If you ask yourself, “how weary am I” from the last two years of diatribe, in-fighting, out-fighting and people in power being just plain mean, ask yourself, “how weary are they?” … our audience?
I could name names, point fingers and cite examples but the joy of this business is the fact that anyone reading this (thanks, by the way) can think of countless citations all on their own.
So, what is happening right now?”
Will another run at The White House come with a different approach by the now again candidate?
Congress has yet another opportunity to be something other than what they have been.
What will we do?
Will we be different?
I would ask, should we be different but I already think we should, so ask yourselves.
Legislating, campaigning, and communicating… are all becoming more and more feral.
And we, in this business, wait for it, we pursue and we cannot wait to cover it.
Our broadcast sense of neutrality and non-partisanship deteriorates by the minute.
Hell, we even add to it all.
We are on the hook for some of this, make no mistake.
I’ve asked this before, but what’s more disheartening than hearing or seeing a veteran, tenured and respected anchor/reporter wearing their political and personal leanings in their coverage. Former Presidents are Former Presidents, yet suddenly Donald Trump is Ex-President Trump. I never heard, of Ex-President Obama or Bush or Clinton or Hoover.
False Claims have now become Lies.
We lash out in the only way most of us know how, in our writing. Are we being clever or clandestine or just unscrupulous? At a minimum, it’s immature.
If you really need that badly to step into your own stories using addition or omission, go get a talk show.
(This is not a positional complaint by the author here, it’s about how we report the news. Anyone wishing to know where this former cop-current newsperson stands on issues social and political, feel free to send a detailed list of questions. You’ll either be fascinated or incredibly bored.)
We are supposed to know what’s important and relevant and what is not.
When we ignore that ability, we become exactly what we at least once didn’t wish to be.
What actually is happening in the story constantly takes a back seat to the language, the insults, and the juvenile name-calling that we’ve become so accustomed to. So much that it falls into our coverage without us even thinking about the issues that are actually being batted about, they are lost or diluted.
And that’s not what we are supposed to be doing.
It’s a lot easier to republish somebody’s rehearsed soundbite or republish a tweet than actually tell the story with detail and non-partisanship.
There is no wrong in reporting incendiary remarks or behavior when it is actually news but we are regularly caught in somebody else’s trap, an individual looking for coverage, for attention. They need facetime or namespace and they use us to do it.
We did a weak job because the same people will do it again tomorrow. We put them in control of our jobs.
Afterward, we look at the work we just produced and realize we just got hosed.
But, I say with a distinct level of insufferable naiveté, our job is our job, our work is our work.
We shouldn’t let somebody else take the wheel.
The truth is still out there and we don’t run from it, we pursue it. At least we are supposed to go after it.
The job is to clear away the brush, the camouflage. Real journalists (I will never call myself one, I simply stand in awe of them) will sidestep the rhetoric, all veil and the deception. They can do that and still be creative, engaging and accurate.
The lawmaker, the politician, the candidate all hold dominance over the news media when their soundbites and exclamations drive the story.
We can only control what we do.
I would much rather it be we to effect change as opposed to someone like Kari Lake or another politician or wannabe thinking it will be up to people like her to “reform” the media.
So, what are we going to do differently this time around?
And before we arrogantly start thinking that it’s not we, who need to change, think again.
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.
KRLD’s Drew Anderssen Wants The Audience to Feel Positive About The Future
Anderssen sought a unique way to get himself into the business of radio leading him to his position at NewsRadio 1080 KRLD and Texas State Networks.
You can always send in the traditional resume for a job. Maybe get a referral from a friend. Nepotism is almost a sure thing. Drew Anderssen sought a unique way to get himself into the business he loved.
“As a kid, I was a chronic caller to radio stations, so I think that kind of made me, in effect, an intern,” Anderssen jokes. “I was always a fan of radio. I listened to the Edge in Dallas. It was an alternative station. It was a thrill to hear my calls on the air.”
Anderssen grew up in Dallas and moved back home. In May, Audacy hired Drew Anderssen to run the day-to-day operations at NewsRadio 1080 KRLD and Texas State Networks. Most recently, Anderson served as Brand Manager at WSB in Atlanta and spent the previous 24 years with Cox Media Group (CMG).
“I wanted to be at Audacy,” Anderssen said, “but I also have a lot of family in Dallas. My dad has some health concerns, so that was also a driving force to come home. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d ever have left WSB. I still have a great relationship with Cox.”
Anderssen started his career with CMG in 1998 as operations manager of News-Talk KRMG in Tulsa, OK. In July 2012 he transferred to the PD post at sister WDBO in Orlando and added operations manager stripes in 2016. Prior to joining CMG, Anderssen spent several years in promotions, research and programming in Texas and Oklahoma.
Anderssen went to college at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. In addition to his career in radio, Anderssen makes no apologies for being an entrepreneur, owning several different businesses in diverse areas.
“I find time for my businesses,” Anderssen said. “I’m able to continue my radio career as I put good people in the right positions. Once you get past the startup phase, you can step away with confidence. That’s why I like to expand my personal footprint beyond radio. I love entertainment and I love to make money.”
Well, there you go.
Anderssen was also blessed or cursed with a very curious mind. Get this; he does some pretty good impressions.
“I can do essentially any character from In Living Color or newscasters,” Anderssen said.
Fire Marshall Bill? Wanda? Walter Cronkite, Ron Burgundy?
“Some of them were spot-on, and gave people a laugh,” Anderssen said. “My original plan was to go to medical school. I was a pre-med major then I got hit by the radio bug.”
His parents were concerned, perhaps a bit disappointed with their son’s career interest. It’s always convenient to have a doctor in the family. But how often do you really need a radio guy?
Anderssen said his education at Midwestern State had a practical and hands-on approach.
“I was already working at the college radio station. It gave me an entry into media. I was having fun. My parents wondered when I’d get a ‘real job,’ figured I was never going to make a living. Who in this business didn’t hear that?” Anderssen said.
He inherited his business acumen from his father, who owned a broadcasting school, among other interests. Elkins Institute of Radio Broadcasting was one of his ventures.
“I imagine a lot of people in the industry today went through that school,” Anderssen explained. “It dissolved and is no longer around. My dad’s first job after he got home from Vietnam was to recruit people to enroll at Elkins.”
His career has allowed him to assess change and perhaps the direction of radio.
“I think 20 years ago, maybe longer, we lived in an environment where the news brand wanted to be everything in terms of providing information,” Anderssen said. “Politics is a story generator for all news. I want people to come out of those experiences feeling positive about the future. This is what I love. We live in the greatest country, but I think that has been up for debate the last four years. I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
He said we’re seeing a lot of targeted audiences with podcasting, a natural progression considering the intimate medium.
“We will see a lot more in the podcasting realm, some with great successes,” Anderssen said. “A lot of podcasters seek out that niche, make huge investments, planting the flag, so to speak.”
Personalities like Nikki Medero and Mark Thompson immediately created a YouTube presence after KGO in San Francisco eschewed news in favor of gambling in October.
“I think it makes a lot of sense to do that,” Anderssen said. “Sometimes you need to make a quick pivot. A lot of people may be in for a wakeup call. If you’re not in YouTube and other similar spaces, you’re missing an opportunity. I’d rather see people in our industry be more proactive than reactive.”
He said brands are built with platforms. The best thinkers in broadcasting had better be pondering how to leverage different platforms.
Podcasts have created a bit of an identity dilemma for talent. Does talent carry over their ideas and opinions into the podcast realm? That can be concerning if they carry the journalistic mantle in the radio gig.
“I think most talent in the business is seeking out that diverse relationship with their listeners,” Anderssen explained. “If some of our home-grown talent finds a national audience with their podcast, that can be a good thing for a radio brand. We can adopt a sort of 360-degree look at leveraging content across platforms. Build the individual and the platform.” However, Anderssen said on their podcasts, his talkers are obligated to pay homage to their local call letters.
Earlier in his career, Anderssen said he was responsible for integrating radio and television newsrooms to work with some kind of synergy. He said in his experience he’s seen a bit of radio–envy among television broadcasters in the ability to express themselves.
“Radio people are able to tell stories TV people can’t tell,” Anderssen said. “That’s the reason I think a lot of TV people want to get into radio. I knew a lot of reporters who wanted to explore more in-depth stories. Television reporters are handcuffed with a two-minute segment, and that can be frustrating. Especially with topics they’re passionate about.”
“Journalists crossing over into their own views on a story is a concern,” Anderssen said. “I think there’s been a debate on where that line is for years. That line becomes grayer all the time. We’ve learned that television people are more often displaying their leanings and opinions on broadcasts.”
Anderssen said he thinks radio and television consumers want a human connection with the people they listen to. The connection takes on an emotional component.
“The consumer is in their car and wants to come away with a feeling. You must be real to provide that connection and feeling.”
“From a traditional news standpoint, you don’t want any of your people taking on an on-air opinion with a story,” Anderssen said. “You just want to deliver the story, not get caught up in some political Left or Right. We don’t want to put our brand in a position to take sides. We live in an extraordinarily divisive world. That said, you can find yourself in a bind.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has also served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his book: On Story Parkway: Remembering Milwaukee County Stadium, available on Amazon, email firstname.lastname@example.org.