Booking guests is an exhausting process which can often challenge and frustrate sports radio producers. Some people love the thrill of the chase and some do not but most agree that when a high profile name appears on a talk show and provides good content, it can make a huge difference. It has also shown to pay dividends for radio stations when it comes to delivering ratings.
During my career I’ve been fortunate to be strong in this department and what I’ve learned is that persistence pays off and thinking big and planning ahead are critical to your success. While at ESPN Radio, I’d sometimes book 48 guests over the span of three six-hour shows and it was intense. Booking 48 guests didn’t mean we had a good show, it just simply meant we booked a lot of people.
Now for that particular show (GameNight), the format was built around capturing quick post-game conversations and interviews with people all over the country on the biggest sports stories of the day and that’s a lot different than a weekday talk show where the focus is on topic building, connecting with listeners and conducting conversations with people who fit the stories we care most about.
The reason I was able to handle the workload of guest booking on GameNight had a lot to do with my mindset. I spent my first years in this business working in a smaller market where I had to scratch and claw for every guest I got and I learned fast that if you want big things to happen you better be prepared to out-work and out-think people. Nobody cares about the challenges you have in front of you, only the results you deliver.
Back then I hosted my own daily talk show about an hour north of NYC and I knew that I would be measured against every station in NYC so if I didn’t have big things in place then I stood no chance. I’d drive to Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Nets, Knicks and Rangers games and personally talk to people before and after games to build relationships. I’d also call team hotels, team PR people, agents, family members, memorabilia dealers, other media members throughout the country and anyone else who I thought could help me with landing people on my talk show.
When you’re in the producers chair, your host is looking to you each day to help them with enhancing the content experience for the audience. Telling a host that they should talk about the local baseball game from the night before is the equivalent of telling them that you know the sun is yellow. It means nothing and is going to be filed away in the filing cabinet of useless bullshit.
However, I’ve yet to see a host walk in and hear that a well recognized athlete/coach/media personality has been booked for the show and they’re not excited. From local personalities to a high profile talent such as Dan Patrick, they all get excited when they walk in and know you’ve lined something up they perceive to be strong and it makes them feel even more confident in you as a producer.
Instantly their wheels start spinning with what questions they should ask, what subjects will generate the biggest reaction out of the audience and what possible material from the conversation will lead to further promotion for the show after it’s over.
If you’re really good at looking ahead, you can come up with tons of possible guest ideas to advance a story and help your show. Case in point, 8 years ago when I first worked in St. Louis I created The Guests Bible. This was a 16-page document with a list of current St. Louis athletes, former St. Louis athletes and analysts from all sports in different cities throughout the country.
I’d tell my producers to use the information in a timely fashion but to always be looking at it and thinking of when it could come into play and benefit them. If anyone on the list was booked and not good on-air I’d encourage them to alert one another so we don’t make the mistake of booking them again.
I believe so much of what gets accomplished with booking guests starts and ends with your attitude and ability to strategically game plan for success. Anyone can have a ton of numbers but they only matter if you know your contact list and if you’ve got the ability to think fast and use them when they matter.
Being persistent and recognizing the benefit a great guest can provide your show also plays a vital role. Too many people are beaten before they start because they view the responsibility as annoying or frustrating and they hate to have to chase people but whether you enjoy it or not, it gets your hosts and your audience excited and it’s up to you to come thru.
Rather than listen to me preach about it though, I’ve reached out to three people I know in the industry to pick their brains on how they view guests and their importance in talk shows and what they’ve done to help land them on their respective program.
What I think is interesting is that all three of these guys have worked in different markets and they each have a different approach and philosophy on why guests do/don’t matter. I hope you’ll find their responses as helpful and informative as I did.
Today’s featured experts are as follows:
- Ben Boyd – Executive Producer – KMOX in St. Louis
- Jonathan Libbey – Producer – 95.7 The Game in San Francisco
- Bernard Bokenyi – Former PD/Producer – 750 The Game/1080 The Fan in Portland; WKNR in Cleveland; Sporting News Radio
Libbey: When it works out, I love it! Especially when you land a big fish and you know how much time and effort went into it. The frustration comes when you hit a dry spell, or nothing seems to being going your way. But those periods ebb and flow and you can learn how to mitigate the tougher times as much as possible.
Boyd: Booking guests can be very rewarding but also very distressing. There is nothing better than landing a huge guest, but it is a what have you done for me lately business. You can’t sit back and enjoy your work for long because you have to book your next show.
Bokenyi: For me personally there is WAY too much of an emphasis put on booking “BIG NAME” guests on shows. There was no enjoyment for me efforting the big names as very rarely did you have results on them. Too often guests are viewed as a necessity to make great radio and that is not the case. You have to put way too much time into it and even when you book some athletes, the interview is awful as they don’t care to be spending the time. I would rather spend time developing unique content and focus on guests that will be good on air, no matter what walk of life they come from.
Boyd: I prefer to email and text people whenever possible instead of calling so they can read my pitch about coming on instead of just saying no or hanging up before hearing why they should join us. Whether I call or email though really depends on how far in advance I reach out to them. It’s hard to quantify how many times I reach out to people per day/week because it’s really a non-stop process because there is always another show coming up the next day/week.
Libbey: Depending how many guests I need for the upcoming week and how much I am able to look further down the road, I know I’ll roughly need to get out at least 7-8 requests per 1 guest spot I need to fill. More if I am aiming for guests I have no contact info on / haven’t had on before.
Bokenyi: I would send out well over 100 messages a week between emails, phone calls and other methods. You have to find multiple ways to connect to people. Twitter had yet to take off when I was booking guests but now that is another method of reaching out to people. You can’t just leave it at a phone call or two for a specific guest. Do they have a family member you can track down? Can you connect with that family member? Does the athlete have a charitable organization or foundation? There are so many ways you can make connections.
Bokenyi: For current players/coaches, the first route will always be PR or the SID. As noted above, finding foundations is a great way to get an interview. You can go the agent route but from my experience, the results there are scarce. If you can’t get anywhere with PR, I would look at personal web pages, foundations, charities and social media. Something as simples as “Kobe Bryant Charity” as a Google search can get you plenty of options to look at. Find out what they’ve been involved with. For retired players/coaches, things are much easier. You can follow a lot of the same methods. Another route to look at is books. A-List guests will do media tours for books and that can be a great route to pursue. Get on mailing lists, the more the merrier. Any sports agency, publishing house, PR firm and beyond.
Libbey: Look for outlets who have interviewed the guest I want, and see if they can offer me insight into how they got them. i.e. is there another producer out there who has already done the leg work who I can get in contact with to help me? Look at the guest’s personal twitter, facebook, website, business, foundation, or charity for contact info or for something they might want to promote. Look for business / endorsement partnerships the guest has that they could be persuaded to come on to promote. Any other reasons they may be interested in publicity? (upcoming events, charities, autograph signings, products)
Boyd: Publicists, Team PR people, Agents, previous coaches, media in the local market
Libbey: It energizes everyone associated with the show. It can drive excitement and energy for an entire day or even more, among producer, hosts, audience, execs, and others. It can deliver more of an impact than almost anything else the show can do. It can drive tune-ins, but also create buzz that makes people want to tune in. It also builds a lasting sense of importance, relevance, and cache for the show.
Boyd: One of the biggest benefits is the reputation your show can get — listeners who want to hear big guests will tune into your show. It also helps your relationship with your host because of how much pride your host has in his/her show. You are helping them to put out the best product they can, and they know you are working hard and want to be the best. Big time guests can boost the reputation of your station and yourself, and obviously can increase your ratings if you are able to publicize the appearance.
Bokenyi: I always wanted to challenge talent to be engaging and have fun and landing a quality interview can do that very effectively. In this day and age of digital media, the on-air interview is just the first step. That audio now lives forever through podcasting and social media. Get legs out of the interview. Make sure that it’s available for download as soon as possible. First of all you can encode audio to have PPM available for a window of time which can help with ratings. Second, you want people to know what they missed and to keep seeking it out. If somebody is not able to listen to your show live but can through podcast, what’s the difference? Yes you want to promote content, but keep in mind people have jobs, lives, commitments and your schedule does not always fit in to their lives. Allow them to fit your content into their lives and you will find success.
Boyd: I like to promote guests on Facebook, Twitter, online message boards, etc. It is great if you can get a pro team to tweet out the appearance by their player, and it is always nice when a guest retweets your tweet to their followers.
Libbey: Publicize it as much as possible via on-air mentions, twitter, facebook, text alerts, etc. Try to generate as much buzz going into it as possible. Make sure hosts and producer are on the same page with what we want the spot to sound like and what we want it to deliver. Publicize and re-purpose any relevant clips from the interview on twitter, facebook, on-air, or via distribution to other pertinent persons / outlets.
Bokenyi: The bottom line with guest booking is to know your hosts. Some are good at handling the young athlete that doesn’t really want to talk. Others have different strengths. To me, any interview you book must add something of depth to the show. There are plenty of A-list guests that won’t add depth if the interview itself is not engaging. The only time you should ever send out a press release on an interview is when it is regarding a hot topic that is current and will truly get people to say “WOW”. Test it out around the office. Grab a sales rep, intern, production person, traffic or promotions staffer. See if they give the reaction to something you want ESPN to get. You have to pick and choose however because you don’t want to overdo it.
Bokenyi: You have to always look at the upcoming opponents and games. For athletes and coaches, that is the only way to go, especially in season. You always however want to have a stable of interviews you are working on that are not necessarily time sensitive so you can have things to supplement what you are doing on a daily/weekly basis. During football season, you have to work at least a month ahead for your planning purposes. Depending on the guest, you may have to work even farther out. For example, if you want Richard Sherman during the 49ers/Seahawks week, you sure as heck better have been working on it for six months to make it happen during the week of the game.
Libbey: The day-to-day grind of short-term guest booking takes up the majority of the time, but I always want to have at least some long-term ideas / requests in the works. Always have some targets that are “evergreen” because they are relevant no matter what time of year. And also look ahead to upcoming games / series and target guests that are very difficult to get but would deliver a huge impact. When free(er) time presents itself, working ahead usually pays off, though it may take a long time for benefits to materialize.
Boyd: I always try to book ahead. I think most guests like when they are booked in advance instead of feeling like last minute additions. I always see what events are coming up on the calendar and try to reach out to people a few days to a week in advance.
Libbey: That having a phone number or contact info for a guest means you can easily book that guest. The farther up the guest ladder you go, the less people want to be contacted directly. It’s a great feeling to get the direct number for a big fish, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will ever let you book them directly. You will still probably have to go through proper channels to get them to agree to come on. )But in a push-comes-to-shove or breaking news situation, it can come in extremely handy.)
Boyd: People think if you have everyone’s number, you will have no problem getting great guests, but it doesn’t matter what numbers you have if you can’t get people to respond. The biggest benefit to having a big rolodex is for breaking news. Big name guests are typically easier to get on when there is breaking news or when there is a big event like Hall of Fame inductions.
Bokenyi: The term rolodex is a joke. In 2001, I worked at Sporting News Radio when we had Barry Bonds on. He originally called on his agent’s cell phone but the connection dropped. We had caller ID and I grabbed the first phone number. When the call cut off he called back from a different number, his personal cell phone. So as a good producer I grabbed that number. I now had Barry Bonds’ cell phone as a part of my “rolodex”. I gave the number to all of the guest booking crew so I could boost my ego and get a few “that a boys” from everyone. A few months later, a fellow producer tried to call Bobby Bonds and of course made the mistake of calling Barry. Needless to say he was a little unpleasant. The phone was on speaker and I heard the exact result of having Barry Bonds’ cell phone in your rolodex. Bonds managed to get about ten F-Bombs in during 20 seconds or so. Needless to say that phone number was changed within minutes. Point of the story – having a rolodex is silly antiquated thinking from years gone by. What you NEED is the ability to get the guest booked. Many current players, not even A-listers will tell PR that they got called directly so if you’re going to call someone directly, you better be sure it won’t jeopardize relationships that your station has.
Boyd: There are many different avenues of tracking someone down. I see too many interns/producers give up too easily when trying to find someone. Keep reaching out to other people who can help you connect. You can find out so much information online about friends/family members/high school or college coaches, and those people are usually willing to help set something up.
Libbey: Persistence is huge, don’t let yourself get discouraged, working ahead is your best friend, and creativity is massively beneficial. Creativity with guest ideas and also in terms of abstract / unconventional ways to contact people. Save the contact info of every person you ever have on or who helps you in any way. Don’t get lazy, always stay in the mindset of challenging yourself to keep expanding your rolodex and getting on people you’ve never had before. Build contacts with other producers and always be open to trading info with them, and in that way you can essentially double / triple your rolodex.
Bokenyi: Learn patience quickly! While you are working hard on big name guests, you have to find other content on a daily basis that will enhance your show. Being a producer is SO MUCH more than booking guests. That is just one part of the equation. You will have days when you land two great interviews in a day because it just works that way sometimes. You then may go weeks before your next A-list interview. To me, booking guests should be about 10% or so of what makes a good show. Now I know there will be plenty that disagree with me on that, but I speak from experience. As a young producer, find out more about your talent than the audience knows and find ways to get that out of them on the air. Push their buttons and be confident. Always do it with a smile and you will succeed.
The Key Takeaways:
- Be persistent and be patient
- Be active with a ton of requests and follow up
- Know your contact list and use it in a timely fashion
- Podcast and promote the interview even after it’s over
- Know your hosts and what type of guests fit them best
- Whether it’s annoying or frustrating, recognize its value to helping your show
- Explore various avenues to book guests; there are tons of ways to book people
- Don’t book people who just fill up segments, make the segment opportunities count
You can correspond with our three featured experts by reaching out to them on Twitter. Make sure to add @BenjaminHBoyd @BernardBokenyi and @Jlib21.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
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.