One of the best things to happen to me during my career was something that I initially rejected, and felt was a major step backwards.
In 2002, I was hosting afternoons and programming 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY. I spent a few years prior working for a smaller local station (WTBQ), so this was my first entry into working for a corporate group, and having an opportunity to test myself on a bigger station with a bigger audience against larger expectations.
Everything was going great, and I felt I was making inroads in my career, when all of a sudden, the bottom fell out.
I was called into the upstairs office, and informed by my GM (Chuck Benfer) that our new owners had made a decision to flip my sports station to Spanish. Chuck and I had a great relationship and he wanted to keep me around, so he asked if I would consider moving over to the rock station 101.5 WPDH, where I’d serve as Producer of the Morning Show “Wakin Up with Coop and Mikey“. I’d also host a weekly wrestling show on Sunday evenings, which allowed me to maintain my on-air chops.
In that moment, I had to choose between staying in the business, and doing something outside of my comfort zone, or declining the opportunity, and pursuing other jobs in sports radio while being unemployed. Having a family to feed, I chose the paycheck, and to this day, I am extremely glad I did.
At the time, this was foreign territory for me, and while I loved Howard Stern, I wasn’t a big fan of morning shows on music stations. A lot of the entertainment felt forced and hokey to me, and I worried that I’d be involved in a similar situation. Waking up at 3am also didn’t have a lot of appeal, but getting a 2 second cameo on the first season of “American Chopper” made up for it (sort of).
I often reflect on the 2 years I spent working outside of sports radio as a huge positive, because it taught me a lot about being able to entertain an audience in a short period of time. It also pushed me creatively to think about things differently, and take chances with content that I might not have otherwise considered.
When you’re hosting a sports talk show, you do a lot of reading, and you beat to death the two or three local stories with a few opinions, phone calls, and interviews. Rarely do you look at each minute of your show as being critically important. The mindset usually is “we have 3-4 hours to cover, so there’s plenty of time to do things, and the audience will accept it”.
When you work on a morning show that plays music, and allows for short talk segments, your content selection and execution has to be crisp, and if you miss on an opportunity, it could be another 30-45 minutes before you get a chance to redeem yourself. That is a personal hell for any on-air entertainer.
My time with WPDH lasted a little over a year, and I moved from there to another rock radio station (PYX 106 in Albany, NY) where I spent 6 months producing the “Wakin Up With The Wolf” show with Bob Wohlfeld, Ellen Z, Ethan Youker and my personal favorite, John Tobin.
John built a strong brand at WPDH prior to moving to PYX 106, and although we knew each other, and shared mutual friends, we had never directly worked together. He delivered big ratings on the shows he was part of, and I was a big fan of his work, so I knew it’d be fun collaborating, and learning from him.
I quickly learned that despite being a phenomenal morning talent, John hated waking up and doing mornings. However, once the light went on, he was ready to perform. His natural talents and energy took over, and his ability to be spontaneous, and keep his partners on the edge of their seats, fueled the show to have incredible success.
That talent led to him having multiple successes in Albany. He made a huge impact on the morning show on PYX 106 , and then switched gears and hosted an afternoon sports talk show on the Fox Sports Radio affiliate with Freddie Coleman. Freddie as you know has since gone on to a very successful career at ESPN Radio.
What I learned during the time I worked with John was that there is a method to the madness when it comes to creating bits, characters, impersonations, and parodies. John is creatively brilliant, and enjoys performing, but he’s also a harsh critic. He’s not afraid to throw an idea away, even if it might be suitable to the rest of the room. If it’s not great, doesn’t leave the audience craving more, and doesn’t leave the cast on the show in stitches, he’ll revisit the idea later, or throw it out and work on something else.
As someone who listens to, and appreciates great comedy in radio, I believe bits, characters, impersonations, stunts and parodies can greatly enhance and compliment a show. Look around the country today and you’ll find a number of people doing this well. Lance Zierlein in Houston, Joe Conklin on WIP, Mike Bell in Atlanta, Whitey Gleason in Sacramento, Jay Mohr at Fox Sports, and Gregg Giannotti at the CBS Sports Radio Network all come to mind. Another guy who’s still developing but also has a knack for this is Clayton Miller.
Turn on your television and you’ll also find shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, South Park, and the Impractical Jokers who employ this same approach, and make a LOT of money, and generate large audiences. I watched the same strategy work firsthand for one of my best friends’ brothers, Johnny Brennan, who created the Jerky Boys, and built his brand into a mainstream success.
Bear in mind, all of these elements have to be executed well in order to be effective, and the talent has to have great ability to pull them off. When done right, they create a surprise in the programming, and keep an audience craving more, and sharing their listening experience with anyone around them who will listen. When done poorly, it can add a speed bump the size of a mountain into your show.
I thought it’d be fascinating to get inside the brain of someone who does this well, and knows what to look for and avoid when introducing new elements into a show. John was gracious enough to take some time and share his own personal account for what goes into the creative process, and if you’re curious to learn what works, what doesn’t, and the challenge with executing each strategy, I think you’ll enjoy this.
On an unrelated note, if you work on a show and John is ever coming through your city doing stand-up, or you’re just looking for someone to add some entertainment value to your show, get in touch with him. He’s very entertaining and skilled in creating memorable radio moments.
Here’s a quick sample from one of his standup performances. Be advised, there’s some colorful language in it.
Creating Bits, Characters and Impersonations by John Tobin
When it comes to radio bits, here are some simple do’s and don’ts.
DO: Be Funny!
DON’T: Be Unfunny!
Sounds obvious, right? However, executing this requires a sense of what the audience will react to with laughter. A sharp sense. I recognize that this is the equivalent of telling a would-be musician, “be musical“, but that’s the reality of it.
Let’s talk about a few different types of bits.
This will take some imagination and probably 2-3 voices. Basically, it’s sketch comedy. Let it build. These are fun to create and will allow you to depart from the typical, “Host A and Host B discuss an issue.” Work it out. Record it. Roll it out on the air.
Song Parodies and Produced Pieces:
A song parody is a great vehicle for humor. If you don’t believe me, look at the size of Weird Al’s pool. Try to jam your parody with jokes. Write the jokes first. Keep them on the side. Then make them rhyme. Try them out on people. The stronger ones go deeper into the tune.
The punchline of a parody is typically a pun on the title of the original song. If the pun is the only laugh, keep the parody short. Give the context with the verse, drop the punchline on them and scram.
EMPHASIS: If there’s only one joke don’t try to extend the bit.
There’s nothing worse than a parody with a throwaway (non-humorous) verse that goes beyond the punchline. All you’re doing at that point is offering another throwaway verse and making the audience wait for the same punchline, which is no longer a punchline since they’ve already heard it.
If you’re loading it up with funny lines, by all means go 2 verses (and if it’s hilarious, go for three, as long as the third verse has some kind of twist). Recognize when you have a one-joke bit, and resist beating a dead horse.
I used to argue with a partner about a particular bit by a band that called itself, “Hayseed Dixie“, who covered AC/DC songs in bluegrass style. “She was a fast machine / she kept her motor clean“, check please. I get it, “You Shook Me (all night long)” over banjos and washboards.
I get it. No, really, I get it. TURN IT OFF.
It’s funny…. for about 15 seconds….then it gets tedious because the joke is over. We used to argue every time because he insisted on playing the full 2 minutes. But the joke is OVER! This is where your sense of “audience” has to come to the rescue.
As far as a tempo, bear in mind that you want them to hear every syllable, so, not too fast. Too slow is bad too, because you don’t want the audience to have SO much time that they can figure out where you’re going. Pace is important.
John Tobin’s “Sofa King” Commercial
LIVE Character Bits:
These have always been a favorite of mine. If you can break into (and think as) a character it adds such a dimension to the show. If you do it spontaneously, even better. Surprise everyone in the room. Of course, you need to have that sort of leeway, but if you do, it’s always a turning point in the mood and feel of the show. Such a great pivot.
One way we’d shoehorn a character into the program was via a corny “knock on the door” which was literally knuckles on the console. “Oh, hey, look who’s here!”, and off you go.
I always found that characters who had an attitude worked best. Don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive and OWN the room. One character bit you can go to pretty easily is “the fan of your rival“. Think Red Sox fan. Think Yankee fan. Think Auburn/Alabama.
Use the accents, use the attitude, create a caricature. It’s a great device, and easy to score with since the resonance is built-in.
John Tobin’s character “Esteban” delivers bad pickup lines
Phone-ins and Impersonations:
These are also fun and can be very short & sweet. One great use of an in-studio phone is the “second-life“. If, in the middle of a busy break, you think of something funny to say but you can’t fit it into the show in that moment, do not despair. Sure, the moment may have passed for you to use the line as YOU, but if there’s a phone in the studio, you’re golden.
I’ll grab the console phone and lean out of sight. My partner will see me wiggle four fingers (meaning Line 4, our Hotline) and give the call letters as he picks up. I’ll then do a 2-second re-set, “A minute ago you were saying“___<reset>___” and I was thinking, “____<joke>_____”.
The phone-in can also be used in the exact same way as the LIVE character.
I started in radio as a freelance contributor to a morning show (i95 in CT). I used to write scripts at home and fax (yes, fax…Pony Express had shut down by then) the in-studio guys their parts. Their scripts would have only a slight hint of my line, because I didn’t want to tip the punchline. They’d take my call LIVE and we’d roll with it. For this, I received the grand sum of $12.50.
As far as impressions go, it’s something you’re either born with, or not. Just like musicality. However, sometimes you can fake it.
The Rik Smits voice, for example, is completely something I ascribed to him. I have no idea how Rik sounds so I just created a character and made him into Arnold Schwarzenegger as a nasty pro wrestler. I was so committed to its delivery and its attitude that I established it as his voice. From what I understand, Rik is actually fairly soft spoken.
That’s one way out of doing an inaccurate impression. You decide what the impression is going to be and commit to it 500%. To make it work, try to find the salient characteristics of it and caricature them. That’s another way to bail out of not being able to nail an impression 100%.
John Tobin’s “I Am Enormous” as sung by the Rik Smits character
For Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, the impression I performed was significant because he was local and he was popular. He also has a loud, over the top persona which was easy to parody. What you try to look for are things that other people might overlook.
For instance, “Mad Dog” does this “gasping-for-air inhale” after he laughs. I always exaggerated it and dragged it out to about two and a half seconds.
He also has a problem pronouncing the R and L. I did a bit once where he discussed nothing but the Royals, Orioles, and Oilers. All of which he pronounced identically ERLLOLRRLLERL.
I would get the character speaking so fast that everything became unintelligible except for every 19th word. Gibberish–gibberish-gibberish Yankee Stadium. Gibberish-gibberish-gibberish $10 beer. Of course, you want to latch onto a couple of catchphrases that the individual uses. In Chris’ case, “give me a break, for Pete’s sake and for crying out loud”, were all part of his repertoire.
John Tobin’s “Chris “Mad Dog” Russo” Impersonation
There was a Lawrence Taylor-themed hole. A Pete Rose-themed hole. Today, you could go with a Patriots/Brady-themed hole or maybe one for Rex Ryan. One theme/one joke. However many solid jokes you can come up with, that’s how many you talk about. Then, you’re done.
Another character I used to do was Dunkin Downe, a 6’9 goggle-wearing power forward with a sense of humor. One time Dunkin called in and did an entire bit on the size of the Piston’s Vinnie Johnson’s head. “Vinnie Johnson was standing on a corner in his blue Pistons warmup….a woman pulled down his bottom lip trying to mail a letter, man.”
In my opinion, voices kill. They add such a dimension to a program and can differentiate you from your competition. If you have that kind of talent under your roof exploit it until you bleed.
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.