Professional sports are an excellent teacher for understanding how a quest for power can rip apart an organization. When too much control is placed in the wrong hands, good situations turn into nightmares. Just look at the St. Louis Rams, Denver Broncos, and Philadelphia Eagles under Mike Martz, Josh McDaniels, and Chip Kelly.
But for every individual who sends a franchise into a downward spiral, there are leaders like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and Pat Riley who remind us that great results can be achieved when power is placed in capable hands.
In the radio business, the person making the final call on key decisions is often the Program Director or General/Market Manager. Some PD’s have strong vision, excellent decision making skills, and are empowered to do their jobs. Everyone inside the organization knows that it’s their way or the highway.
In a few other instances, programmers are hired who are great caretakers, and schedule makers, but not equipped at making important hiring decisions. Some PD’s get hired because they’re willing to concede control to a GM who wishes to decide all key programming decisions.
GM’s can operate very differently. Some put their trust in their programmers, allow them to make decisions, and hold them accountable to their decisions and results. Others are fixated on picking the talent, seeing their names in print, and taking advantage of their power.
It may seem exciting, but when you put your fingerprints on a decision it can be exhausting and extremely stressful. Not everyone is good at it. Even great ones make mistakes. I find that most who have success, do so after they’ve failed once or twice.
In most situations where talent need to be hired, there are plenty of qualified applicants. However, there’s only room for one individual. Making a move that delivers results is all that matters to your employer, advertisers, and the people inside your building. One wrong step, and it’s your ass.
The normal process involves the PD and GM, but when bigger shows and personalities enter the equation, one can make a case that including your top performers is good business. Some staff members may get jealous or annoyed, and listeners may object or get angry when they hear that a key on-air figure has veto power or influence over a big on-air decision, but, you’re not in the popularity business, you’re in the ratings and results business. To involve your best talent, and make sure they’re invested is important, and necessary.
To be clear, not every personality in your company deserves a voice in the decision making process. Just because a show had a good year in the ratings, doesn’t mean they’ve earned the respect of being included in big picture conversations. I’m a big believer in trust, long-term relationships, and track records. If a show has exceeded expectation for a lengthy period of time, beat the competition, generated revenue, developed trust, executed the game plan I’ve asked them to operate, and built a profile as the show of record locally or nationally, I’m more likely to bring them into my inner circle.
Gaining input from shows that have helped you earn a couple of raises and contract extensions is smart. It makes your people feel valued, and respected. It also shows that you share a common goal of making a good decision that will put the show in position to earn future success.
Anyone who has the power to hire or fire an employee, loves the challenge of making the final call. To relinquish that power or allow another individual to influence your opinion might be hard to stomach. But one thing PD’s and GM’s forget, is that nobody has a better read on why a show works than those doing the show on a daily basis. They don’t prep with the show, hang out with the cast outside of work, or understand the highs and lows of the relationship until issues are brought to their attention. If the right ingredients aren’t supplied for the crew to make an award winning meal, everyone starves.
This doesn’t mean your top people will have all of the information that you do, or the vision to see the things that only you can. But, hearing their feedback should matter. As long as they understand that the final call comes from the top, and the goal is to continue winning, they’ll respect, and appreciate you more for hearing them out.
What triggered my interest in this topic was something I read last week.
Having an inside track on sports television news has never been my area of expertise, but when radio people are involved my ears perk up. A few weeks ago, Skip Bayless announced he was leaving “First Take” on ESPN. Fox Sports 1 is expected to become his new home, thanks to a sound relationship with Jamie Horowitz, and a whole lot of Benjamin Franklin’s.
That leaves Stephen A. Smith without a partner once the NBA Finals are over. Which leads to the following question, who will fill Skip’s void?
Mike McCarthy of the Sporting News wrote an excellent piece which gives people an idea of how involved Stephen A. Smith will be in the final decision of who becomes his permanent partner on “First Take”.
Upon hearing that news and tweeting about it, I received a number of emails and social media messages asking “how could ESPN grant executive power to Stephen A.”? I heard the same exact thing when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left WFAN, and Mike Francesa was given the same respect from CBS New York executives.
In both cases, if I was currently running ESPN, or WFAN when Russo left, I’d do the exact same thing.
You reward performers who bring you big ratings, and bigger revenues over a sustained period of time. Having their full support and buy in is critical. That doesn’t mean you have to hire the person they like most, but if you keep them removed, and put someone into the studio that you like, and they don’t, a future trip to the unemployment office will await you.
Can you imagine if “Mike & Mike” were split up? Or some of the top local sports radio shows in America, such as “Valenti & Foster”, “Toucher & Rich”, “Boomer & Carton”, “The Musers”, and “Waddle & Silvy” were separated? Do you think any of those shows would have a chance at future success, if their station’s excluded the holdovers of each program from the process?
It’s hard enough replicating success when the original version of a program has been altered. The odds fall less in your favor if you place a stop sign in front of your most important talent during critical times. Without their blessing, and complete investment in the future direction of the show, you’re dead man walking.
So why is ESPN giving Stephen A. Smith this type of respect? Here are a few things to consider.
- Precedent – Before Stephen A. was added permanently to “First Take”, executives sought Skip Bayless’ feedback and support. The show was rotating co-hosts, but reached a point where it needed consistency. Having their key star (Skip) buy into the concept, and sign off on his partner was important. Judging by the decision that Skip and ESPN executives made, it was a good one. Skip earned that respect, and now Stephen A. has too. The goal now is to have the next decision turn out the same way as the last one did.
- Ratings Success – Whether the show turns your stomach, or soothes your soul, it’s been a ratings hit, and continues to get stronger. The show has been built around Stephen A. and Skip’s personalities, so having the right combination is critical. If Stephen A. doesn’t believe he can find common ground with someone, and create a conversation that is must-watch television, he deserves the right to say so. That should matter when determining who to hire.
- Loyalty – By no means is Stephen A. Smith hurting financially. ESPN re-signed him last year for a reported 3-3.5 million dollars per year. You may feel he’s overpaid, but that’s the going rate for high profile sports television talent, especially ones who move the needle. If Bayless can warrant close to 6 million annually from Fox Sports 1, don’t you think Smith could get the same? One can argue that he brings more to the table than Bayless. He hosts a national radio show, and appears on SportsCenter, and NFL and NBA programming. Skip is rarely seen outside of “First Take”. Stephen knew there were options out there, but he remained loyal to ESPN. When a big show that he’s involved in experiences adversity, loyalty should be reciprocated.
- Pressure – With Skip off to FS1, all eyes will be on Stephen A. If the ratings slip, or his on-air relationship with his new partner seems fractured, critics will be out for blood. TV executives can push their own guy or girl, but if the connection isn’t there, the program is doomed. Chemistry, comfortability, passion, and a willingness to engage in heated conversations without things getting personal are all part of the job description. Nobody knows how to execute the show better than the two men who have done it. If Smith feels a connection to someone outside the company is what the show needs to enjoy future success, it’s management’s job to figure out how to make it happen. The main priority should be making sure the show succeeds, not worrying about who they win with.
If “First Take” falls apart in the future, do you think the blame is going to be directed at John Skipper, Norby Williamson, or John Wildhack? Not a chance. The public will point their finger in Smith’s direction.
ESPN may wish to make headlines by signing the biggest name, excite employees by rewarding an internal candidate who’s well liked, or please advertisers by choosing someone they’re comfortable with, but when it’s showtime, nobody will know the fit better than Stephen A. If the conversation isn’t natural, the vibe and chemistry feels forced, or mutual respect isn’t shared, the only thing guaranteed is cancellation.
Which is why ESPN is making a smart decision by involving one of their most high profile stars in the final process. Executives may love the thrill of making the final call, but when this much is on the line, you owe it to yourself, your company, and your best talent to make sure they’re heavily involved.
A few weeks ago I mentioned four candidates for the opening. I later learned of a fifth. Four of the options had radio connections. They were Max Kellerman, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Brandon Tierney, and Doug Gottlieb. Will Cain was the one television candidate.
I know that trust, chemistry, on-air connection, and a healthy relationship off camera with Stephen will be important, which is why I have a tough time believing Will Cain will be the choice. Will is very talented, and may have support from management, but he doesn’t have history with Stephen A. I can’t picture Stephen placing the fate of the program in Cain’s hands, unless he’s forced into it.
I could be wrong. I’ve never claimed to be nostradamus, especially when it comes to television hires, but, I believe Russo, Tierney, and Kellerman hold the advantage. They’re comfortable debating him, have his respect and prior experience working with him, bring the edge, volume, and style that the show is known for, and share similar interests from living, and/or growing up in the same area.
What will be interesting to see, is whether or not Stephen has the courage to take a risk and bet on someone like Tierney who he has excellent chemistry with, rather than take the safer path with someone like Kellerman. Both are excellent, and offer something fresh, and different than Skip. Max has the internal advantage, and higher profile. BT requires going outside the company, and developing another network star.
The scenario with Russo is also intriguing because Chris is a high profile talent, who’s older than Stephen (so was Skip), and not afraid to mix it up. He’s the one guy best suited for keeping the show similar to where it was previously, although his sound is different, and his knowledge is superior to Skip’s. He’s also earned Stephen’s trust due to hiring him at SiriusXM. The downside is that he’d likely command a higher price tag which probably doesn’t excite ESPN.
The five candidates I’ve listed remain strong options, but there will likely be others who emerge in this process. One of the outside candidates could very well become the choice. The question is, who will Stephen A. love the most?
The only one he should be giving his heart to at this point is ESPN. After all, they’ve given him greater influence behind closed doors than they do on their own airwaves. Now they need to make sure that his decision making skills are in line with Bill Belichick’s not Chip Kelly’s.
Under The Radar:
- 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland has hired Landry Locker to produce the morning show with Ken Carman and Anthony Lima. Locker previously worked for ESPN 103.3 and Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas as an Assistant Program Director, Producer, and Host.
- Dave “Deuce” Mason, who was recently let go by KHTK in Sacramento, was brought in to do some fill-in work at rival station ESPN 1320. Mason stepped in last Thursday with Whitey Gleason of “The Rise Guys” while co-host Mark Kreidler was off. Whether it will lead to future fill-ins or additional opportunities in unclear at this time.
- Congratulations is in order for Mike Taylor who recently signed a multi-year extension to continue hosting mornings at The Ticket 760 in San Antonio.
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.