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What I Learned From The Best In Sports Radio Series

Jason Barrett

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After six days, List-A-Mania has officially stopped running wild. It was fun putting together Barrett Sports Media’s “Best in Sports Radio of 2015” but now that all of the categories and winners have been announced, I thought I’d take some time to share some of the things I learned from overseeing this project.

I couldn’t have put this together properly without the full support of the industry. For those of you who read the columns, shared them on Facebook and Twitter, discussed them on-air, and personally sought me out to share your input, I simply say thank you! These things only work if the individuals and groups involved get behind them, and I was pleased to see many professionals take pride in the way the format and its top performers were presented.

As I stated from the start, these results are very subjective. Unfortunately in our line of work there is no head to head competition to determine which show, host and station is the best in the format, and there are so many factors to consider that it’s not possible to put together a perfect criteria. But by involving 35 executives from 23 U.S cities and 15 broadcast companies, I think we did as thorough of a job as we could.

That said, there are always lessons to be learned, and areas to be improved upon. The past few weeks taught me a lot about research, talent, perceptions, misinformation, competition, pride, and why projects like this are important for people in the sports radio industry.

When I decided to take the plunge and start working on this project, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I knew there’d be tons of feedback, some of it very negative, and with an imperfect criteria and the identity of the executives being kept private, I felt it would leave open too many holes and put me in the line of fire.

I was also concerned about company bias and geographical influence playing a big role in the final decisions. Luckily, I was able to assemble a strong group spread out across the nation, and the members of the executive committee did a nice job of trying to be fair and balanced with their votes.

Was it perfect? No. But a number of shows/hosts who have been overlooked or discredited in the past, received their due, and I was personally comfortable with the finished product.

So what could we have done better, that we may want to adjust if we decide to do this again?

Well, I came up with a few things.

Voting:

As I mentioned repeatedly, I did not vote on any category. I had to remind folks of that because there was this belief that I either recognized or excluded a show, station or programmer from the list but nothing could be further from the truth. I stayed out of the voting process on purpose because I was creating the content and I thought it was important to remain neutral and let the votes of industry executives determine the final selections.

Should I be involved? Should my ballot be available for everyone to see? That’s something to consider next time around.

East Coast Bias:

If you look at the results from the outside looking in, you’re likely to come away with the opinion that the voters favored the East Coast brands. Six categories were decided, and 5 included winners from New York, Boston, and Washington DC.

So that must mean that the East Coast voters helped shape the outcome right?

Not exactly.

17 of the 35 voters were located in the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast, and twelve of those executives listed WFAN in the Top 5, including 7 who ranked the station #1 overall. The Sports Hub meanwhile was in the Top 5 on 10 of those ballots, and earned three 1st place votes. Only two of the 17 listed WFAN or The Sports Hub outside of the Top 10.

It’s easy to criticize the voters for giving a lot of respect to WFAN, The Sports Hub and other top East Coast brands, but the fact of the matter is that each of those radio stations registered high because they’ve earned that respect by being consistent performers.

The Sports Hub’s ratings have been among the industry’s best, WFAN delivers big numbers in the nation’s #1 media market, and the same holds true for brands like WIP, WEEI, 97.1 The Ticket and 97.5 The Fanatic. To suggest they’re not worthy of top billing is to carry bias towards those brands or markets, because there’s no doubt that they’re some of the best our format has to offer.

Small Market Rejections:

A number of folks reached out to voice their displeasure with the way the smaller markets were left out of the Top 20 in multiple categories. They have a valid point. If you’re a small market show or station, I understand how frustrating it must be to do good work and have it overlooked because a larger market station with a similar performance took your spot. There is no perfect solution when you include brands from all locations in the same categories.

Although it may not sit well with you, this exact situation happens in professional sports all the time. How many times do we hear people complain about seeing the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs on national television? Those same complaints are heard when big market teams spend big on free agents, making it harder for smaller market teams to compete.

Is it fair? Of course not. But it’s within the rules, and if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to do what the Kansas City Royals did last year, and overcome the odds and force the world to take notice.

I can make a strong case for 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, 101 ESPN in St. Louis, WJOX in Birmingham, and 97.1 The Fan in Columbus earning more respect. Each of those stations deliver big in their respective markets, and shows like “The Fast Lane” in St. Louis, and “3HL in Nashville” are top rated and very enjoyable to listen to. They are absolutely worthy of being in a conversation with the best 20 afternoon programs in the country.

But what I discovered is that if those brands/shows and other smaller markets with strong sports stations/shows don’t promote their performance and make sure the industry is aware of what they’re doing, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to overcome a top tier station from a Top 10 market.

We’d all like to believe that everything is created equal and it’s an apples to apples comparison, but the reality is that an 8 share in Missouri or Alabama isn’t going to lure as many votes as an 8 share in Boston, Philadelphia, or New York. Not because the talent and performance isn’t special or equal, but because those larger markets reach more people, and they perform under higher company expectations.

The reason broadcasters in this business chase bigger market opportunities is because they want to be seen as the best in the industry, make more money, and perform under the brightest lights. When you succeed in these locations, you earn more respect. That certainly was a factor in the voting process.

You can knock the larger market stations/shows for being ranked above some others that are equally as deserving in smaller regions, but if you expect to change perceptions in the future, you’re going to have to perform higher than those brands, and make sure that everyone is aware of your story.

Perception Trumps Performance:

If there was an area that I felt was inconsistent it was this one. To be fair, it’s difficult to expect every voter to have intimate knowledge of every single brand, when they themselves are running companies and/or radio stations. Even those who aren’t running operations don’t have the hours available to listen to every single station and show on a daily basis.

This is why gaining information about the performance of brands is important. Call me old-school but I do believe that delivering ratings should matter in a process like this.

For example, I am a big Tony Kornheiser fan. Many who voted on this panel are as well, which is why he earned the honor of being named “Midday Show of the Year“. However, while I’m well aware of his track record in the format and the digital impact he’s made for ESPN 980, I also know that his ratings are 3-4 points lower than his competitor. I’m not sure if every member of the executive committee was aware of that fact or considered it when deciding where Tony deserved to be placed.

This doesn’t mean that Tony doesn’t deliver the better show in the market or that he’s not worthy of being rated at the top, because if you’ve listened to him you know he’s unique, interesting and very entertaining. The reason I point it out is to show how perception and a lack of awareness of some facts can play into the process.

I saw this same situation pop up in Seattle, where KJR’s afternoon show made the cut but their competitor 710 ESPN did not, even though they won the Men 25-54 ratings battle for the majority of 2015. I also felt KFAN in Minneapolis and SiriusXM deserved higher placement in a few areas but I’m not sure if everyone involved was as familiar with their content offerings or what they had accomplished during the past year. In KFAN’s case, their ratings story is one of the best in the country.

One other surprise was Jim Rome’s showing in the national voting. He didn’t receive one 1st place vote from the executive committee, and despite ranking 5th, was separated from 4th by over 100 points. Rome gained support thanks to his reputation and previous track record but not many were subscribing to him as a difference maker on the national scene.

Now before you blame the executive committee for these things, I want to ask one question of those brands and personalities who finished ranked lower than their competitor or not on the list at all — “What did you do during the past year to promote your success and make sure the industry knew you were ahead of your competition?”

I’ve touched on this issue before and I won’t let up until it sinks in – if you want people to take notice of the great work you do, you’ve got to let them know! It really is that simple.

One of radio’s biggest issues is its inability to promote its own success. If brands chose to operate behind a wall of secrecy rather than inform the public of the way they’re performing, then they’ve got nobody to blame when they fail to receive the credit they deserve. The reason why New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago stations appear on the radar is because their ratings performances are reported frequently. Why other markets don’t follow suit I’m not sure, but they’re missing out on an opportunity.

If there’s one last thing to remember about perception, it’s that regardless of the way we see things, it doesn’t make us right. I heard from multiple people in the format who were critical of Mike Francesa being ranked #1 as the top afternoon show. They’re entitled to their opinion and I understand where they’re coming from, but that doesn’t make them right.

You can argue whether or not his content is as stellar as the other shows he’s measured against, but you can’t dispute his ratings success in the nation’s top market. Judging by the way the voters voted, being a top dog in New York seems to be important. That doesn’t make it right, but it also doesn’t make it wrong.

Where Is The Diversity?

As I browsed through the shows that made our Top 20 lists, I couldn’t help but be reminded and disappointed by the format’s lack of women and minorities. The morning show category featured only one female, and one minority talent. Three of the twenty midday programs contained a minority host and no women, and four afternoon shows included a minority host and no women. There were also zero minorities or females on the program director list.

The national picture was better, but only slightly. In that case, five of the twenty programs included minority talent, but once again no women! Two of those shows (Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones) were built around a minority personality, something none of the local programs offered.

I’ve written before about sports radio’s challenges with diversity and the need for more women in key roles and if these results didn’t open your eyes to the balance issues that exist in the format, I’m not sure what will.

How can we improve it? Should it even be changed?

Those are questions each station will need to answer on their own. I only hope that as we look at these lists in the future they include more people from different backgrounds because it’s an area that will help the format grow and enjoy larger success.

The Voting Totals:

I thought it’d be beneficial to share an example of what one of the scoring charts looked like. For this particular exercise I included the Program Directors chart and listed the candidates who were 1-25 in scoring. This allows you to see which 5 programmers were on the outside looking in, but not far away from reaching the Top 20. These types of grids were used for scoring each category.

PD

I was also asked by a couple of people which shows were within striking distance of reaching the Top 20 and I’ve listed below the different categories and who was slotted between 20-25. You’ll see a number next to each show which is the amount of points they needed to reach 20th place.

Morning Shows:                                             

20. Bob Fescoe – 610 Sports Kansas City = 136

21. In The Loop – KILT Houston = 135 (-1)

22. Norris & Davis – 105.7 The Fan Baltimore = 111 (-25)

23. Joy & Zaslow – 790 The Ticket Miami = 100 (-36)

24. The Wake Up Zone – 104.5 The Zone Nashville = 92 (-44)

25. The Morning Animals – WWLS Oklahoma City = 87 (-49)

Midday Shows:

20. Mad Radio – 610 KILT Houston = 118

21. Soren Petro – 810 WHB Kansas City = 115 (-3)

22. Bickley & Marotta – Arizona Sports 98.7FM Phoenix = 115 (-3)

23. Big O – WQAM Miami = 107 (-11)

24. Darren Smith = Mighty 1090 San Diego = 94 (-24)

25. Vinny & Rob – 105.7 The Fan Baltimore = 93 (-25)

Afternoon Shows:                                                  

20. DMac & Alfred – 104.3 The Fan Denver = 113

21. Burns & Gambo – Arizona Sports 98.7FM Phoenix = 110 (-3)

22. Chuck & Chernoff – 680 The Fan Atlanta = 110 (-3)

23. Starkey & Mueller – 93.7 The Fan Pittsburgh = 98 (-15)

24. Kevin Keitzman – 810 WHB Kansas City = 94 (-19)

25. The Fast Lane = 101 ESPN St. Louis = 74 (-39)

National Shows:

20. Damon Amendolara – CBS Sports Radio = 159

21. Jason Smith – Fox Sports Radio = 146 (-13)

22. Freddie Coleman – ESPN Radio = 97 (-62)

23. Gio & Jones – CBS Sports Radio = 92 (-67)

24. The Morning Men – Sirius XM Mad Dog Radio = 84 (-75)

25. Ferrall On The Bench – CBS Sports Radio = 79 (-80)

Conclusion:

Although I felt the finished product was reflective of the industry’s viewpoints and showcased the shows and stations in a positive light, I’m always contemplating what I can do to make it better. The response was strong, and many personalities, programmers and radio station executives felt good about the way they were presented, so that gives me confidence to explore doing it again.

However, if we do so, I’ll have a number of things to consider. Are 35 executives too many or not enough? Should there be a major market and smaller market category? Do we create a category for the Top 20 sports anchors? Does podcasting enter the picture as a future category? What other suggestions will pop up between now and then?

There’s a lot to think about and fortunately I’ve got a lot of time to mull things over before diving back into it.

If I do this again in 2017, there’s one thing I know for certain, it will once again be presented during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. I have had my fair share of misses in this business but if there’s one thing I know made sense, it was the decision to present these awards during a time when 75-100 media brands were at radio row for a full week. What can I say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

To close this out, I want to congratulate everyone who received recognition from our executive committee and thank the members of the panel for taking part in it. If you have an opinion you’d like to share about this year’s awards, please email me at JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me. It’s been a fun process, one that drew a lot of attention to many great performers and brands in our industry, but for now it’s time to give the lists a rest! At least until next year’s Super Bowl!

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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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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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