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Why Knowing and Embracing Your Role Matters!

Jason Barrett

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That quote above from Shane Battier paints a great picture of what is required for teams to come together and accomplish their goals. Everyone plays a critical role in the direction of the team and without full support from everyone involved, success becomes much harder to achieve.

Another one of my favorite quotes comes from The Rock who was working for the WWE back in the 1990’s-2000’s. He became notorious for delivering the line “Know Your Role and Shut Your Damn Mouth” and when uttered on a live microphone, audiences would eat it up. While the phrase was primarily created to fire up rowdy wrestling fans, the first 3 words of his catch phrase are extremely important to what we do each day that we’re on the air.

homeworkTo start out this piece I’d like you to do an exercise tonight. Trust me, it’s painless and chances are it’s something you likely already do. Tonight when you arrive at home, I want you to turn on your television and watch a sitcom. If sitcoms aren’t your cup of tea, put on a movie. By the time the program is done, I want you to reflect back on the program and see if you can identify the main storyline, the key characters in the show, the roles the key characters play and the way those characters connected with you.

I believe the TV and film industries do a fabulous job with role definition on various shows and featured films. The sports radio industry however has some catching up to do. When you look on the screen, characters are built up prior to being introduced and then they are explained and reinforced with key branding messages. They rarely stray from what you expect them to be and that makes it easy for audiences to identify with them while getting sucked into storylines with regularity.

aiThink for a second of some key television shows and how they’ve connected. If you watched American Idol in it’s heyday, you turned on the channel to either love or loathe Simon Cowell. If you watched The Sopranos you either wanted to see Tony Soprano get away with murder or get a taste of his own medicine. In both cases, they had characters around them who offered something entirely different and that kept the show fresh, interesting and unique.

If you look at it in simpler terms, one medium scripts it’s work, perfects its performance, defines it’s people and delivers content that an audience adjusts their routines to consume, enjoy and connect with each week. The other operates off the cuff and puts the power of a content presentation usually in the hands of 1-2 people with very limited support around them. It’s the equivalent of throwing a good swimmer in the middle of the ocean without a life preserver and asking them to find a way to shore when there’s no sign of land.

tightropeThat being said, those who earn the responsibility of working without a net are often stubborn and not always accurate when it comes to making decisions that are in the best interest of the audience. In many cases they don’t understand their role on a show or the way they’re perceived thru the eyes and ears of the audience. Even worse, sometimes they don’t want to play to the audiences expectations even if they do understand them.

I recall meeting with a show during my time in St. Louis and when I asked one of the two hosts to define how he felt the audience saw him, he said he felt they’d say he was passionate and entertaining. This was a guy who was your typical sports television anchor, very smart, informed, well prepared and usually reserved. By most people’s standards he was a great guy. However, passionate and entertaining he was not.

namethatshowHis partner on the other hand was a polarizing figure who the market either loved or hated and he too responded by telling me he was seen as a smart, likable, funny and well rounded personality. He wanted to be liked because at his core he was a great human being but his stances on subjects were very divisive and therein lied the struggle for this individual.

When I told both of them they had no understanding of the way the audience saw them they seemed perplexed. I then went thru some examples of how they could strike a chord with people and why the imaging we had in place was written the way it was done to promote them. When they left the room, they had a better idea of why I felt they were struggling and suggestions on how to fix it but they kept trying to identify with a role that they had built up in their minds yet wasn’t seen the same way by the audience. The end result was an under performing show that eventually had to be replaced.

lostI can’t even tell you how many times this occurs. Personalities sometimes want so badly to be something they’re not that they’ll try to overcompensate by doing things out of character and even worse, they’ll try to reject the way they’re positioned on the air in promos, liners and in station marketing pieces. The problem with that is that it’s not just about the PD’s vision or the personality’s opinion on who they think they are, it’s about connecting with a listening audience and playing the role of a character that they identify with. Let me give a few examples of role definition and why I believe it’s important for shows.

In San Francisco my afternoon drive time host Damon Bruce has a lot of strong opinions, he delivers his views with a ton of passion and he’s been known to ruffle a few feathers from time to time. You could say he’s not everybody’s cup of tea but whether he’s loved or hated, people know where to find him and usually have an opinion about something he said.

damonbruceNow we could pretend that Damon isn’t edgy or hasn’t made a few folks uncomfortable along the way with his takes but that would be silly because the audience is smarter than that. Instead we positioned the show with some aggressive style promos prior to launching it, we reinforce his strong takes in the promos that we run and we use a godzilla-like stinger heading into breaks which gives the show some extra edge and personality.

The bottom line is we embrace what he brings to the airwaves and reinforce that position. Whether it’s everyone’s taste or not is irrelevant because the fact of the matter is it’s an accurate reflection of Damon’s on-air personality and when you put on his show he’s going to provide a compelling listen and not be afraid to take certain positions that others might not. That in itself makes branding the show pretty easy and the way it’s imaged and branded is in line with the expectations of the listener.

More times than not, brand building with a solo host is pretty simple. All you need to do is take a look at some of the characteristics that they possess and get a sense of what the audience expects from them and then play to those strengths. I often like to use music bumping in from breaks that fits the individual and their style to reinforce the mood and I think that writing liners that reinforce the personality’s key traits inside of the show is another smart tactic.

On the other hand if you look at how a 3-person show is built, it’s a whole different animal. It’s similar to creating a big three in the NBA.

clevbig3For example, LeBron James in Cleveland will likely be expected to take the last shot, play smothering defense, be the vocal leader and attack the rim every chance he gets. Kyrie Irving will be asked to run each play, put his teammates in position to get good looks at the basket and serve as a complimentary scorer when LeBron needs help. And once the Kevin Love trade is finalized, Kevin will be asked to rebound the basketball, crowd the paint and light it up from outside when he’s able to break free. Each player is crucial to the team’s success but each of them takes on a different role to best help the team win.

I have a theory that I’ve developed when it comes to 3-person shows. In most cases it’s worked out alright even though sometimes the individuals playing the roles inside the show may not always embrace it. Coming up early in my career in NY I worked on a few different morning shows with a variety of characters and I remember being told that when it came to group shows, you want to strive to combine people from different backgrounds and in a perfect world, if you can pinpoint the “deer, dick and dork” on a show then you’re in great shape. That line always stuck with me and made a lot of sense.

If those buzz words seem harsh, feel free to substitute the terms “the hero”, “the villain” and “the neutral one” (often this is the journalist, the stat person, the PXP broadcaster, etc.). Just because you have three guys though who fit these terms doesn’t mean the show is going to work. They still need to have chemistry, be entertaining and discuss the right subjects but assuming those things are in place, when you have three people fitting descriptions that make them easy to identify, that’s a huge win. Remember, it’s about connecting with an audience and people are more likely to recall individuals on the air who they can easily identify.

thefastlaneAs an example, when I was in St. Louis I had an awesome afternoon show at 101 ESPN titled “The Fast Lane“. The show as consistently top 3 and even went to #1 and while each guy was extremely talented, the reason it was so successful was because each guy naturally fit the role he was playing and he didn’t try to run from the perception of how he was seen.

In Randy Karraker’s case he came across most times as the “dork” simply because he was so damn informative and the guy you most likely learned the most from listening to the show. He was also the radio captain of the show handling all the formatics. Bob Ramsey meanwhile played the “dick” role because he wasn’t worried about popular opinion and sometimes would get a case of the red ass and not think twice to light someone up. The third member was D’Marco Farr and he came across as the “dear” due to being a big lovable teddy bear on-air and a member of the Rams Super Bowl 34 championship team.

This doesn’t mean that Bob was a jerk and couldn’t be positive or that Randy wasn’t lovable or a hard ass too but rather than trying to complicate things, each of those guys embraced their roles on the show, played them to perfection and as a result, audiences related to and connected with them and made them a household brand in the market. Because they were all naturally different and because they worked at developing their chemistry and embracing their differences, they had a lot of success.

roleThe purpose of this piece today is to get you to think about your show, your brand and how you position it to the marketplace. Are you using the right buzz words to identify yourself? Are you trying to play the role of someone you’re not? Do you have a show you’re involved in that has too many of the same type of styles and not enough variety to stand out? Those are the things that you’ve got to examine if you want people to form deeper relationships and stronger opinions on your presentation.

I’ll say this, one show that gets this probably better than anyone is Mike and Mike. Some guys will quickly say they love the show and tell you every reason they do and when they do that, they’re almost always restating the key words that have been built around the Mike and Mike brand.

Those who don’t like the show will almost always call it corny or proceed to complain about one of Golic or Greeny’s traits that are highlighted in the marketing approach of the show. That is the beauty of role definition and character development. If you can pinpoint who does what in each show, what the individual is about and why you love/hate the personality or show then you likely have a winner on your hands and few will disagree that Mike and Mike have been a winner for a long time. Here’s an older TV commercial of theirs that captures their differences and highlight who they are as personalities.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b146pasyO0E

One thing I like to do prior to the launch of a show is assemble the people involved in the show in a room and write some words on a board that the group feels reflect the individual positively and negatively in the minds of the audience. Often times talent will see them, write things down, counter them, inquire more on why the audience sees them a certain way and by the time they’re done in the room, they have a stronger idea of who they are to the audience and what they’ll need to do to reinforce their character and add to it in order to form a stronger connection.

photo 1This doesn’t work with everyone but if you can get your crew in a room and they’re open minded and willing to self-analyze and allow some outside feedback to better help position the show, it can be very helpful.

Remember, who we are as people and who we are on the air can be very different sometimes but once that light goes on and the microphone is hot, all that matters is finding a way to connect the audience to your on-air persona. When you’re able to do that, it can be very powerful and put you on a path to superstardom. I’m sure you’d agree that creating the radio equivalent of Seinfeld, American Idol or The Sopranos wouldn’t be bad for your career. So what’s stopping you?

Barrett Blogs

California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Barrett Blogs

Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett

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In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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