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Does Being A Fan Matter?

Jason Barrett

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There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to creating content, and performing as a sports talk radio personality.

On one side you have the talk show host who’s not emotionally attached to their market’s local teams, analyzes stories from a neutral point of view, and cares more about the creation of good content and interesting storylines, than the success or failure of the local franchises. At times they can be accused by the audience of being cynical or negative, and they value their credibility and integrity, and will stop at nothing to defend it.

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On the other side, you have the talk show host who lives and dies with their team’s results and daily decisions. They watch every game because they genuinely love the franchise, and each day’s outcome tugs on their heartstrings. They go to the stadium as much as possible, forming as many relationships as they can, and they openly acknowledge their rooting interest with the audience. That often leads to being accused of being too positive and soft (homers), which calls into question their objectivity, whether it’s warranted or not.

While each person has their own personal preferences, both approaches work. Audiences are made up of people from many different backgrounds, with multiple views, and as long as the individual providing the content delivers their dialogue in an authentic way, and is willing to be open and honest with the audience, they’ll be accepted for who they are.

Some listeners put on the radio to hear a host who loves the local team as much as they do, because they want to feel good about their favorite players, hear interviews with members of the local organizations, and they want someone to pump them up for the next game.

Then there are listeners who are mentally stimulated by negative discussions built about what’s wrong with the local team, and who should pay for the team’s failure. The local team could win a championship, and the next day their more concerned about which members of the team will leave via free agency, rather than celebrating.

thinkThat got me to wondering, do we gain more listeners and higher ratings by being detached from our fandom, or by embracing it? It seems the older we get, the more cynical we become, and we spend less time watching games, and rooting for storylines over victories. But does that matter to the audience? Should it?

We’re in the sports talk radio business. The key word being “business“. The job is to present angles, opinions, insight, and information, and make it compelling enough to entertain an audience. The job description doesn’t say “one must passionately care about our teams and form a bond with them that becomes ever lasting“.

However, when a listener puts on a sports radio station, they expect that they will hear a conversation about sports. Many of us though don’t always provide that. Instead we venture into discussions about our favorite foods, favorite television shows, best concerts we’ve attended, and other lifestyle focused topics.

notI’ve often found that those who take this approach, are usually more detached from their fandom, and the local teams. Yet they are passionate about what they’re discussing, and you can argue that the subject matter has broader appeal. In many cases the ratings go up when personalities let the audience in on their other views and personal interests. But is this content being created for the audience, or because we aren’t as interested in sports as maybe we should be?

For those who are more in touch with their fandom, they’re usually eager to dive into a sports discussion. Sure they’ll touch on other aspects of life too, but sports is the center of their universe. They dedicate the majority of their show to it, and they don’t have to manufacture enthusiasm to get into a conversation about their local teams.

angeloI’ve been in numerous markets and seen both styles work well. I recall working in Philadelphia in 2006, and WIP morning host Angelo Cataldi was open with his audience about not attending games, and forming relationships with players, because he felt it could compromise his judgement. I don’t remember the exact quote but it was along the lines of “My job isn’t to make friends in locker rooms or break news. I’m here to share my honest opinions, and look out for my audience”. 

By staying out of the room, Angelo felt he was in a better position to serve his listeners. I knew exactly where he was coming from, and because it was consistent with who he was as a personality, his audience accepted it.

On the other hand, I’ve watched in St. Louis and San Francisco, how guys like Randy Karraker, Bernie Miklasz, Chris Dimino and Brian Murphy, have utilized their time around local teams to gain added perspective, inside information, and form relationships with organizations which has given the audience a better understanding of how teams think and operate. They too have stayed true to who they are as people, and their approach has resonated with their audiences.

debateIf there’s one thing that is vital for all talk show hosts, regardless of whether or not they’re fans, it’s to be willing to criticize and engage in difficult conversations. It’s not easy delivering an opinion, and knowing that it can damage a relationship, but if you’re focused on serving the audience (your true employer), then you’ve got to do what’s best for them. It’s ok to root for your team, and lean towards positive content, but when bad things happen, you’ve got to address them. Avoiding them compromises your credibility and integrity.

To gain further insight into this discussion, I reached out to a number of personalities across the country, who face this challenge on a daily basis. I wanted to get a sense of how they manage their fandom and objectivity, why they approach their programs the way they do, what they believe matters most to sports radio listeners, and what type of talent they’d feature on their stations if they made the final decision. I think you’ll enjoy their answers.

Special Guests:

  • Mo Egger– ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati
  • Shan Shariff-105.3 The Fan in Dallas
  • Chris Dimino680 The Fan in Atlanta
  • John Kincade-680 The Fan in Atlanta
  • Randy Karraker-101 ESPN in St. Louis
  • Nick Wright-Sports Radio 610 in Houston
  • Brian Murphy-KNBR 680 in San Francisco
  • Chad Doing-95.7 The Game in San Francisco

What does the term “homer” mean to you?

randykarraker4Karraker: The general perception is of someone that won’t challenge the front office of the local teams and won’t criticize. But to me a “homer” is someone that pays intense attention to the teams in his home market, and has the same emotional investment in those teams as the people listening. Being a fan is being part of a community, of shared interest in your team. There’s no question that when I come on the air, I have an emotional investment in the Cardinals, Rams and Blues, and like most fans, I’m capable of being objective and critical. I don’t blindly agree with everything the franchise is doing, I just want them to succeed like my listeners do.

Murphy: A “homer” is a fan who is blind to reality. They refuse to see their team’s shortcomings, often to the point of irrationality.

chaddoing5Doing: I think of a local broadcast team that will never criticize the play of the team they work for regardless of the performance of the franchise. In relation to sports talk, I think of a local host who is a fan of the teams in the city that he/she works. I don’t think that’s necessarily a negative.

Kincade: It’s the blatant inability to talk about a team in honest fashion. It is the trademark of a host that wants to pander to the locals. They desire to be loved, not willing to earn respect for fair evaluations.

eggerEgger: “Homer,” when applied to a host means that he/she is someone who allows their rooting interest to influence their opinions and willingness to criticize, often at the expense of the listener. Homers placate the lowest common denominator of an audience, and usually alienate their smartest, most savvy audience members. A good sports-radio host, whether they’re fans of the local teams or not, always has the backs of the fans. Homers place the teams (often times, they’re in a relationship with the teams) ahead of fans.

How does it make you feel if a listener refers to you as a homer?

shanshariffShariff: If someone calls me a Jerry Jones homer, I don’t get upset because it’s true. We all have natural bias and I don’t see anything wrong in acknowledging it. If someone calls me a Cowboys homer because we’re the flagship, I try to correct that perception. I don’t like someone thinking my opinion is formed because of other factors outside of what I see and feel.

Kincade: I can honestly say on-air in Atlanta since 1995 I have never been referred to as a homer. I far prefer to be known as the guy willing to tell you that your baby is ugly when deserved.

chrisdimino3Dimino: The initial reaction for most hosts is defensive. It becomes credibility being questioned. I have been honest about liking some guys and teams and front offices more than others. But I’ve dealt that from the top of the deck. I also made a conscious  decision years ago that I have to sleep at night, and in our job that means you better believe it before you say it, and more after you say it. Your body of work speaks more than any isolated incident.

Doing: It’s never bothered me. I want my listeners to know that I embrace my local surroundings, and that I’m going to root for the teams in the town in which I work. In my  mind, I can be a “homer” while still being objective. I’m going to celebrate when they win, but when they don’t perform, I’m going to be critical.

randykarraker2Karraker: I have no problem with being called a homer. Jack Buck once told me that a listener had called him a Cardinal homer, and his reply was “what do you want me to do, root for the Padres?” Many times, people will hear what they want to, rather than what reality is. I’d actually rather be called a homer than a hater.

Shouldn’t the audience want to hear a host who lives & dies with the same teams as they do and is proud to admit it?

nickwright3Wright: The audience should want to hear a host who is honest and transparent. If that host truly lives and dies with the local teams, then they shouldn’t hide it, but the worst thing a host can do is fake that loyalty. The audience can sniff that out.

Shariff: Depends how interested you are in the truth. I had many listeners in Kansas City who recognized their own bias and wanted to hear an objective view of their favorite teams. I do think you better cover every facet of your city’s favorite teams with as much passion as possible.

murph2Murphy: Every show is different, and every host has a different voice and vibe. Some make their living being cynical, and that appeals to listeners. Some (me included) wear their heart on their sleeve, and allow the listeners to judge us for who we are.

Dimino: If you’re going to have your fandom, own it. This isn’t soup at a restaurant. The “Fan of the Day” shit is much worse than living and dying with your teams. Secondly, it better be genuine. Don’t bandwagon it. Listeners can smell that a mile away. You better save the rants for rant like moments. The overly negative “homer” exists and I can play the glass is empty with the best of them. But killing teams and people just to kill can get old. I want parades in my town, I want our teams talked about nationally, and I like seeing our team’s games on national television in the postseason. I’m unabashed and unapologetic about those things.

johnkincadeKincade: You can do that! I’ve worked with a few guys that are huge fans of the local teams, but still will criticize when warranted. They are far more credible to me than the guys who prefer to kiss butt so they will be liked by the local teams. If the audience prefers a homer, they tend to be caller driven pep rally shows. I turn those off quickly.

How important do you believe it is for a host on a local sports station to be interested in & passionately & emotionally involved in the success & failure of the local sports teams they cover?

chrisdimino4Dimino: It’s huge because success and failure drive conversation. From a business point of view, I root for storylines. I want ultimate successes or total disasters. Anyone who elicits no reaction is death. I don’t root for horrible but if that’s what it is or becomes, that drives conversation. “What needs to be done” talk is even more interesting and passionate than the ones about first place teams.

Wright: I think a local host absolutely must be interested and passionate about the teams in their market, but does not need–at all–to be emotionally invested in order to be successful.

chaddoing2Doing: Like my listeners, I am a sports fan. So, I want to be able to relate to them and feel what they feel. I accomplish that by choosing to become invested in the teams I cover. Once I get around the players, I create relationships and learn more about them, so that I eventually begin to pull for them as individuals. When I do this, I naturally become emotionally invested in them and my passion for them is genuine.

Shariff: Interested? Hell yes. Passionate? Absolutely. Emotionally involved in wins and losses? I don’t believe you have to live and die with every loss, but your audience better have zero doubt that you’re qualified and prepared to dissect their teams.

johnkincade4Kincade: I came from Philadelphia in 1995. I’ve been on-air here for 20 years, and I have never dropped my hometown team allegiances. I’ve also never hidden it from my audience. I’m honest with them and prefer that the local teams do well. It’s better for the station when they do. My audience knows that I watch the teams and am prepared to get into conversation about them every day. It allows me to be a different voice. As long as I have been fair, the audience respects you for your talents and insights.

When a host says “I don’t care if the local team wins or loses, my heart isn’t attached to them. My job is to talk about the story/result and what it means for the audience” – do you think that’s a good or bad thing for the audience?

murph7Murphy: It depends how well the host conveys that. If it comes off as cold and distant and clinical, surely the host will turn off some listeners. But if it comes off as informative and enriching and instructive, the host will earn respect.

Dimino: If you don’t care about winning or losing, you’re in the wrong line of work. Your opinions, not final scores, will come from that caring. Your audience can understand 7-4, 28-21 and 104-98. That’s an update. It’s not a conversation. “How and why and what to do about it” IS our business. This idea that being a fan is a bad thing is ridiculous. It’s why you got the job. It’s what most of us have been preoccupied with since 6th grade study hall. If you can’t feel the ups and downs, why should anyone care what you think or believe?

randykarraker3Karraker: As a consumer, I don’t want to listen to a host who doesn’t care whether the local team wins or loses. If he says that privately, that’s fine. And if the host can talk about the story and analyze the result without caring, I don’t think that’s necessarily bad for the audience. However, sports fans care deeply about their teams. Any time we care about something, and the person we’re talking to says they don’t care about it, it’s going to affect that relationship.

Egger: As a whole, I don’t think the audience is looking for either. There are fans who clearly prefer a host who’s as attached to their teams as they are, but I think the majority of listeners are looking for content that’s entertaining, smart, curious, and relatable. If the host is a fan, he/she has a responsibility to be objective at times. If they’re not, they have to at least understand and convey an understanding that these teams and their fortunes do matter to their audience.

johnkincade2Kincade: That is a horrible thing to say. You have to care about the teams and their performances. Even if you care just to create great conversation, you better garner passion for yourself and your listeners!

How possible is it to be a homer in a local market if the on-air talent isn’t from the area?

shanshariff2Shariff: In my experience, you lose some rooting interest in your favorite teams the longer you do this job. My DFW motto has been “I root for ratings” and I’ve said that many times to our audience. The Cowboys and Rangers winning helps our ratings and my wallet. Why wouldn’t I become emotionally invested in their success? Personal relationships are also a factor. A major reason I root for the Cowboys success is Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett, Witten, Romo, Sean Lee and Tyron Smith. We’re not best friends, but I believe they do things the right way and I root for that. With all that said, I think it’s important to be genuine. People are instinctive and smart. They know if you’re being fake or feeding them what you think they want to hear.

Karraker: It’s very possible. Our morning guy, Bernie Miklasz, came to St. Louis from Baltimore in 1984. He grew up a big Colts and Orioles fan, but he’s been around St. Louis for such a long time, that he wants to see the hometown teams succeed. He developed an emotional tie to the city and the teams. He’s my version of a homer. He wants to see our teams do well, but is objective and willing to point out problems even for winning teams. Secondly, if you get to a town and do your job, you’re going to develop relationships that cause you to root for individuals. I became a huge Arizona Cardinals fan when Kurt Warner went there. He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever met. Any man who meets and gets to know Mike Matheny and understands why he’s successful is going to want him to succeed. So while it might not be the team you grew up with, it’s the team and people you’re with now, and you do develop personal relationships and rooting interests.

chaddoing1Doing: It’s very possible. I moved to San Francisco last year. In the 12-months I have lived in the Bay Area, I have been to the majority of games for the Giants, Warriors, Raiders, and 49ers. It was a challenge at first, but as I got familiar with the area and began to speak with fans, I started to develop a better understanding of the market I was in. Going to games and interviewing the athletes was the best part of the process for me. For example, the Warriors locker room was filled with high character guys who were easy to root for, and when I combine that with the buzz in the city coming from fans, my conversion process happened at an accelerated rate. But you have to put in the time and commit to going to a number of games.

Wright: If you happen to be in a market where you’ve always loved the team, despite not being from there (EX: A Lakers fan who is from Kansas City but now works in LA) you can obviously be a homer. Also, if you’ve lived in the area for a long time (10+ years) you can probably become a homer because it becomes your adopted team.

moegger5Egger: I can only speak for my market, because this is the only one I’ve worked in. We are a parochial town, a little wary of outsiders. Some have called Cincinnati the “biggest small town in America,” and I often joke to Cincinnatians, if something doesn’t happen inside the 275 loop (the interstate bypass that circles our city), it doesn’t happen. It’s an uphill battle if you’re a host who isn’t from here, especially since the most successful talents in this city so rich in broadcast history have been from Cincinnati. If you come to Cincinnati to talk sports for a living, you better do some work. Recite what the Reds did in the 70s. Familiarize yourself with why the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in a quarter-century. Understand the depths of the many regional college rivalries. These things matter here. Maybe more than other markets.

If you were the program director of a radio station and trying to satisfy the desires of the local audience, would you put more people on the air who are more or less emotionally attached to the local teams?

Dimino: Hosts and radio stations are not widgets. Everything being the same serves no one. It’s what creates chemistry inside a show and weaves the fabric of the station. Emotionally attached does not for a second imply marching in step with some manifesto of rainbows and smoke blown up asses. It rides good and bad time waves and relatability with an audience. The trickier part is the “Rights Holders” aspect of this. Do you have the freedom to speak your mind? Do you get blowback from management or the teams themselves if you criticize? If I was PD I want genuine. The guy attempting to figure out which way the wind is blowing daily will be rooted out by smart listeners.

nickwright4Wright: I would have locality be the only tiebreaker in selecting talent. I would try to build the best team possible and let the chips fall where they may.

Murphy: I think a balance is probably best. And I think it’s important for hosts to be themselves. I think audiences can smell a phony. I think they like hosts who are true to themselves, and care about entertaining the audience.

shanshariff3Shariff: I would side with more attached. While it’s important to be genuine and objective, sports are still driven by passion, excitement, anger and all the emotions that come from die-hard fans that can relate to others who think and react like they do.

Egger: Ideally, I’d like a mix of both because the best-programmed stations are focused on what’s important to their audience but have hosts with different backgrounds, perspectives, and can bring fresh and different angles that differentiate themselves from the other hosts, even if they’re all focused on the same basic subject matter. If I’ve got shows with hosts who are emotionally attached to local teams, I might look for someone who’s a little detached. More than anything, I’m just looking for people who can create compelling content, regardless of how they approach the delivery of it.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network

“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”

Jason Barrett

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To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.

As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.

If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Which brings me to today’s announcement.

If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.

After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.

The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.

I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.

One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.

Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.

Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.

What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.

Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.

Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.

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Barrett Blogs

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs

“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”

Jason Barrett

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I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.

Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.

But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.

Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.

If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.

Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.

For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.

At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.

I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.

Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.

Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.

Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.

Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.

Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.

Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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