Everybody who loves sports, has an opinion on it, and those who listen to sports radio shows, want to be a part of them. But should they be?
We’ve all heard that classic line “long time listener, first time caller” and depending on your personal preference, you either cringe or smile when you hear it.
I’ve had the benefit during my career to experience a lot of different approaches to creating great sports talk radio. Growing up in New York, callers often drove the content and until I left home to experience other cities, I assumed this was the only way to deliver quality sports talk.
Who could argue? WFAN in New York launched the format, and has been ultra successful for nearly 30 years. They employ great talent, have a pool of fourteen million people to tap into for passionate calls on the area’s nine professional teams, and they’ve had no reason to change their strategy.
Yet when I spent two years in Bristol producing shows for ESPN Radio, we’d rarely take calls. At first I was surprised. If New York had access to fourteen million people, and the lines were flooded, shouldn’t a national network have even more activity?
Well they did, but as I learned quickly on the network level, it was about creating great content, driving the segments, utilizing feedback thru multiple platforms and not relying on people on the outside to carry the conversation. We weren’t a sports bar where people came to have conversations. We were the content provider who was known for delivering insight, opinion, entertainment, huge guests and breaking news.
One line my former ESPN Radio boss Bruce Gilbert used to use which I’ve borrowed many times during my career was “If you wouldn’t give the keys to your car to a stranger, why would you give the keys to your radio show to them“?
It was a great point and one that I connected with. I also realized that a national show operates much differently than a local show, so I saw the value in working with talent to create better segments, features, land strong guests and deliver programming that could work across the nation.
When I left the network, I made a move to Philadelphia where the passion of the local community was off the charts. Jody MacDonald was my afternoon drive host at the time, and he was our version of the local bartender who everyone was stopping by to chat with about the day’s local sports stories.
Jody was excellent at providing comfort and a good solid back and forth conversation about local topics with local people, and I saw that much like New York, Philadelphia was very passionate, and the need to engage with people on sports talk radio shows was important for having success there.
The only time I can remember being ticked off about a call was when I called Jody in and congratulated him on lining up Mel Kiper, Ron Jaworski and Caller George as guests on the show. He quickly corrected me and said “George wasn’t a guest, he was a caller“. I responded “Given that George had more air time than Mel Kiper, I’m not so sure he wasn’t a guest“.
We both laughed and Jody understood my point and gave me the classic Jodyism “Ok bossman, we’ll try to be better tomorrow“. My point to him that day was that while we wanted people to call and connect with him on the show, we also didn’t want them to control the flow of it.
As I moved on to St. Louis, I noticed that the fans were very different. While New York and Philadelphia were known more for being loose cannons who wanted immediate changes, retribution and instant results, fans in the midwest were more relaxed and happy to digest the content, enjoy the experience and give their teams their trust and respect.
While at my first stop in St. Louis, 590 The Fan, we took a lot of calls. Our lineup was solid and a few of our personalities were skilled at engaging with local callers, but the value of the calls as a whole wasn’t as strong, and overall our results weren’t great. That confused me.
If the formula worked for local stations in New York and Philadelphia, shouldn’t it work here too?
When I landed my next opportunity in St. Louis with 101 ESPN, I started the brand with the understanding that we were going to control the content flow, build our presentations around informed and entertaining opinions and conversations, quality guests who moved the day’s stories along and fresh production which helped the station skew younger and sound topical.
I had learned the market better and felt strongly that people were much more interested in listening than engaging on the phones and I was fortunate to hire a number of personalities who grasped what I wanted to accomplish, believed in the approach and had the skills necessary to execute the vision.
While we did take calls on occasion, anytime we took them, they were utilized to contribute to the content we were creating and add to the show. We weren’t offering an open forum for them to dictate what the host talks about next, instead they were reacting to what we asked them to react on.
By employing that strategy, we created memorable content, became more interactive through social media and texts and less reliant on calls and as luck would have it we became a force in the market and were consistently top 3, rising to as high as 2nd overall in the format.
When I accepted the position to build 95.7 The Game in San Francisco I was curious about which approach would make more sense. Would we need to operate how a New York or Philadelphia station does or would we follow the path we employed in St. Louis?
One thing to consider, when you’re in each of these situations, you also need to analyze how you measure up against your competitor. If you’re simply going to present the same type of presentation and experience, then why would a local audience flock to your brand when they already have one that they’re comfortable with?
We kicked off the radio station with the focus of driving connection to our personalities through texts and social media. While our competitor was seen as the “old school” brand which relied on calls to drive segments, we wanted to differentiate ourselves and show that we were more in sync with the way the younger part of the demo was living their lives.
If you pay attention to the way a male 18-44 lives their life today, you’ll find that they rarely want to be on the phone. If they are, it’s to read something, send a text, send a tweet or check Facebook. The likelihood of them calling in, sitting on hold for thirty minutes to chat with you for less than two minutes and doing it repeatedly is very slim.
For the first two years we employed that strategy and our social media numbers and engagement were outstanding, our ratings consistently grew and our talent showcased themselves as a content-first product that local fans appreciated.
It became clear that there were different approaches with the two local brands, each provided different value to different people, and as a result, it gave listeners options to choose from.
I remember sitting in a focus group after our first year on the air and a few people inside our group were concerned that we might be using a bad strategy by not being reliant on phone calls. Once again, it works everywhere else so why are we not doing the same thing?
If there’s one thing that drives me crazy in this industry it’s the old “everyone is doing it so why aren’t we“? If the majority of the world operated that way we’d still be using rotary phones and pay phones, the internet wouldn’t exist, we’d listen to music on cassettes and CD’s and sports radio would be the red headed step child inside most clusters, operating on weak AM signals and seen as the first candidate to consider when the company contemplates a format flip.
During the focus group, the question was asked to a number of local listeners about their feelings on the station not being heavy with caller activity. I was confident that we were taking a smart approach and curious to see how local people were receiving it.
When the room was asked to give a grade, nearly everyone of them said they were thankful that we weren’t operating shows that were built around local calls and they were tuning into the shows to hear the personalities, guests, bits and other ways we entertained.
Afterwards our group chatted and when the subject came up about callers, I was asked if I thought the same approach would make sense in some of the company’s other markets. I responded that while it made sense for us where we were, I wouldn’t take the same approach in some other cities where it’s clear that the passion for caller activity was higher. Case in point, Boston is a hot bed for great sports radio caller participation and not taking calls there wouldn’t be smart.
As time passed, we’d eventually begin to take more calls on shows, specifically in afternoon drive where my host Damon Bruce was excellent at engaging with local people. Damon was also a solo show, which presents a different plan as opposed to working with someone.
For some of our other shows, which featured more than one personality, we stayed true to our content strategy while bringing in the audience when it made sense to utilize them. We also kept pushing reaction through Text, Twitter and Facebook because the amount of activity in those three locations was much larger than having six to eight phone lines lit.
When I began my career on-air, I remember the thrill of seeing the phone light up when something I was talking about generated a response. It’s an exciting feeling to know that something you say connected with a listener enough to make them respond.
However, today there are so many ways to connect and as people listen less and deal with an avalanche of extra distractions, especially while they’re driving, it’s about providing content and making them feel like you’re providing them with insight, opinion and inside information that they can take with them to use with their friends, co-workers and family.
I think there are many factors to be considered when determining whether or not callers should be utilized to add value to your programming.
- How does your competitor operate and how are you presenting a different presentation?
- Are they driving your content or are you utilizing them as props to advance the content you’re discussing?
- How long are you keeping them on for? Is it an open bar conversation where the discussion lasts five to six minutes or is it a network approach where they’re on for less than sixty seconds?
- Are they making your personalities look smarter, funnier, more likable or are they adding a level of entertainment to the show that would be missed if it weren’t available?
- Is your host comfortable and interested in connecting with people? Do they operate better off-the-cuff or when they know what’s coming? Are they better served using a recorded call or taking it live?
- Who’s screening the call, coaching the caller and working with your talent to make sure the pace keeps moving and the show doesn’t go off the rails in a bad way?
One pet peeve of mine, if you’re screening a call, make sure the caller has the radio turned down before they get on-air. They’re not going to hear themselves in real time given the station’s delay.
Also, tell the caller not to ask your host how he or she is doing and simply be ready to dive into the conversation when they’re called upon. The host is fine or they wouldn’t be at work, and the goal is to keep the pace of the show moving, and advance the topic, not bring everything to a screeching halt.
I recognize there’s a big difference in audio entertainment value between reading a text or tweet and taking a good call, but there’s also something to be lost when you take a bad call as opposed to controlling the content flow and reading a short text or tweet.
As a fan of both, I can listen to a host like Bernie Miklasz in St. Louis deliver a monologue and opinion for an hour, and not care less if he ever engages with a local listener. Yet if I’m in New York driving during the morning, I love hearing Craig Carton go at it with people and throw in some verbal jabs and one-liners to make the audience nuts.
I recall listening to Mark Chernoff talk about this subject last year in San Diego and he said something that stuck with me about the way Mike Francesa views his callers. He said “Mike’s view is that when someone calls the show, they go from being a listener to becoming a part of the show”.
I thought that made a lot of sense, and in listening to Mike over the years, that approach has definitely worked for him.
If you’ve ever listened to Paul Finebaum he’s got a very similar approach which also has worked. His audience is at times delusional, hysterical and the entertainment value you gain from listening to him connect with his listeners is enjoyable to listen to. Some won’t like it, others will, but it works for him.
That doesn’t mean though that a host who doesn’t pound phone lines for 3-4 hours can’t be successful or create an excellent program. I’ve seen tons of talent operate that way and have a lot of success.
It’s sort of like trying to pick a favorite national host between Dan Patrick, Jim Rome and Colin Cowherd. They’re all great and for different reasons and you’re going to listen to them when you’re in the mood for their specific brand of content.
Many will listen to Dan Patrick for his interviews, others will turn to Jim Rome to hear him interact with his callers and Colin Cowherd’s going to be your destination for strong opinions and interesting viewpoints. All three have different styles and execute differently and that’s what makes them unique.
For every host like Francesa who sees the value in making the audience part of the show, there are others like Tim and Sid in Toronto who have a different approach.
While their show has moved recently from radio to television, when asked about the transition to the visual side they responded by saying “Our radio show proved you could literally interact, without taking phone calls, with your audience and react in real-time to any news that is going on at the time, or whatever is hot and topical on that day. So now the question is how to take that to TV.”
This is a subject that we all have opinions on and while we’re all going to stay true to what we believe and enjoy, the truth is that there is no right way or wrong way to incorporate callers. Are they valuable to a show? That’s debatable depending on who you ask.
In my opinion, each situation depends on what feels comfortable to the on-air talent, what makes the brand unique in the local marketplace and what type of personality traits exist with your product and how valuable will they be to your on-air presentation.
In the end its all about entertaining the audience and keeping them listening. If you dedicate more content time to your talent or you involve your local listeners more and it works, who can argue with it? And after all, isn’t that the point?
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.