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The First 100 Days of a New Brand Leader

Jason Barrett



Sports and politics don’t often mix well. But in this instance, there are some similarities between the job that awaits the new President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the challenge that awaits any programmer, market manager or corporate executive.

When an individual lands a new leadership opportunity, they often feel a pressure to immediately make their presence felt. During the first 100 days of employment, all eyes in the building turn to the new boss, and whispers gain volume in every corner office and lunchroom, as many try to speculate and search for clues to the new head honcho’s master plan.

As tempting as it may be to try and change the world during your first week in power, there’s something valuable to gain from reading the room and processing the information you gather. Most executives don’t have their livelihood or the fate of their brand determined by their first quarterly performance. If you do, you may want to reconsider who you’re working for.

The challenge for a new boss is to slowly weave themselves into the fabric of the brand, and that’s accomplished by forming relationships with the staff, and discovering what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are. Your instincts may be to bring in people who you’ve enjoyed working with previously or install a different clock or content strategy, but it’s not always a good idea to interrupt success in progress.

It’s similar to an NFL defensive coordinator joining a new team and looking to change the entire defensive scheme when the players on the roster don’t fit what they wish to do. In that case you have two choices, get rid of all the players, or make adjustments to your personnel. Once you know who’s got the ability to shoulder a heavier load, then you can introduce new plays and coverage’s and begin to add your own touch. If you eliminate all of the talent and it doesn’t work, you’ll soon be joining them on the unemployment line.

I recognize that this isn’t as simple in politics where republicans and democrats seek to reverse what the previous party installed in order to assert themselves and deliver on the promises they made to voters while on the campaign trail. Fortunately in radio, you’re not performing a task with the eyes of an entire nation upon you, and half of them determined to reject your ideas and beliefs.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if a crisis happens or if a difficult employee is dimming the spirits and affecting the performance of other essential staff members, then you’ll have to make a judgment on the best way to move forward. However, in most cases, you gain a lot of insight, and make your best long-term decisions by being patient, quiet, listening, and observing. 

For those of you who are currently in leadership positions, in pursuit of taking the next step in your career, or if you’re an employee with a new boss and wondering why he or she is taking so long to let you know what they’re up to, here are seven simple things that good leaders do in new situations. Hopefully this gives you a few things to consider, and some information to process, as you adapt to changes in your professional life.

Get To Know Your People – The number one asset to any sports radio or television brand is its people. Without their talent, creativity, passion, and dedication, your brand is meaningless. They live their lives constantly thinking about ways to present a better show, and they crave knowing how their boss’ view their performance. No matter how big of a profile a performer has, they still love to be challenged and validated by people in corner offices, and staff members who they respect.

Before you decide what someone is or isn’t capable of, and what their character is or isn’t inside the workplace, spend time with them. Hold a scheduled show meeting, drop in unexpectedly to chat, take them out to lunch or dinner, socialize at a game or company event, and figure out what makes them tick. More times than not, they’ll let you in, and help you get a better idea of what makes them valuable or dispensable to your company.

Observe Without Reacting – Barring an inexcusable act or company violation, let your people get comfortable and operate without fear. If they feel you’re going to over analyze their execution and harp on each mistake or missed detail, they’re going to get tight, and it’ll show up in their performance. Nobody performs well when they feel they’re operating under a microscope, especially when it’s in front of a new boss who they’ve yet to form a connection with.

Instead, watch how they prepare. Learn how they attack segments. Listen to the way they execute the basic formatics of their talk show. Gauge how they’re received by the audience. Track their show to see if its flexible or predictable. And take some notes on how often they challenge themselves to present a unique experience for listeners, and be prepared to discuss it further with them in future meetings.

As an added bonus for those who are working with new on-air personalities, I’d recommend studying their involvement or lack thereof in being a brand asset for advertisers. Do they meet with clients? Are they familiar with the sales staff? Would they need a GPS to find the business side of your brand’s operation? How well do they understand their responsibility in helping the company retain and generate revenue? Do they take it seriously or consider it an afterthought?

All of these things will come into play at some point. If you want to make improvements and gain a person’s respect, you’ve got to have specific examples to support your feedback. This is why it’s critical to pay attention and allow some short-term sloppiness. It’ll make a big difference on how you operate and nurture your staff over the long-term.

Articulate Your Vision To Your Entire Team – Once you know your people, and have processed the way they operate, then it’s time to gather your group and express your vision for the brand, and the strategy you plan to use to help lead the team to its final destination. You must be confident, focused, and very clear and concise. Nobody on your team should leave the room without knowing where the brand is, where it’s heading, and what the final goal is. Your message needs to be delivered and understood by everyone from the on-air talent to the producers to the anchors and board operators, to anyone playing a role in the daily success or failure of the brand’s programming.

In sports, players play a game expecting that if they invest their time and energy, and train properly, that it will produce results. They don’t just play the game to have fun. That’s what kids do. Professionals play to win.

In radio, people have similar motivations. They’ll follow your lead and run through a wall for you, if you can show them how their sacrifices and hard work will personally benefit them, and the company. If you fail to provide direction and expectations, that’s when confusion and uncertainty takes over, and people become frustrated.

Prior to meeting with your team to share your thoughts on the future, I’d encourage either writing a script, jotting down a few notes, or presenting a visual presentation (whatever you feel most comfortable with) to help keep your message on point. All future decisions and conversations will revert back to this meeting, so make sure you leave no stone unturned in getting the rooms attention and support.

Hold People Accountable – After you’ve established your expectations, goals, and standards of operation with your staff, the next step is to hold them accountable. That’s often easier said than done. Everyone is quick to promise an immediate fix when you identify something they’re doing incorrectly, but check back two weeks later, and you’ll often hear the same bad habits continuing.

These get corrected through consistent feedback, listening, and measurable systems. Sometimes you can even introduce hokey methods and motivational tactics to help an employee get better. I’ve been known along the way to use a green pillow for a host who sits on the fence with their opinion and place a jar on the console and demand a dollar from talent whenever they were late heading to break. You’ll have different ideas or maybe this approach won’t suit your personality. If it doesn’t, don’t do it. It’s important to be yourself, because people will sniff it out when you’re not.

The ultimate goal is to find out how to reach people in order to get them to patch up the holes in their presentation. Many times in our industry, people who come up short do so because of a lack of discipline and failure to make adjustments. They create mental excuses for their inconsistencies or shrug off their mistakes as not being a big deal, rather than putting down their guard to figure out why certain problems keep happening. In sports, if a player keeps committing penalties to hurt the team, he either gets benched, fined or cut. In radio, not so much.

I’m not advocating you should part ways with someone because they’re bad at breaking on time, teasing or using audio clips to enhance their content, but if the difference between 1st and 2nd or 3rd and 4th is small, those minor details that they assume aren’t that critical, can actually make a world of difference.

Each leader has to figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to them, but accountability only works when people feel there’s a consequence for continued shortcomings. Don’t be afraid to expect more from people. The great ones will accept your challenge. Your role is to provide positive reinforcement, and acknowledge them when they do things right, but also point out opportunities for improvement when they mess up. Be sure to have evidence to support your opinions, and suggestions on how to help them get better.

Weed Out The Brand Destroyers – It’s inevitable that someone on your team is not going to drink the kool-aid and may even attempt to poison it. The sooner you weed these people out of your operation, the better. There’s no benefit keeping someone around who’s not going to buy in and is potentially going to infect others on your staff. 

One of my favorite quotes by Henry S. Haskins is “Some people are like wheelbarrows; useful only when pushed, and very easily upset“, and this often applies to the members of your team who aren’t on board with your message.

In every building, the workplace is a sacred locker room. What happens in the locker room is a family matter, and the family works together to solve its problems without allowing noise from the outside to creep in and affect it. The strongest families have fights and disagreements, and that’s going to happen from time to time when you gather a bunch of alpha males and/or females in the same place and challenge them to be their best.

What isn’t healthy though is when team members violate trust and begin sharing information with competitors, newspapers or online sites, and other industry people. If an employee underperforms or makes a mistake, you can live with that. Those become teaching moments. But when trust is shattered, there’s no turning back. You stand to lose a lot more than you’ll gain by keeping someone around who has negative intentions.

If you haven’t read this piece on Mark Zuckerberg and his level of transparency with Facebook employees, I highly recommend it. Rarely do leaks happen at Facebook, and it’s because people in the company value their jobs and each other, and they fear being embarrassed and terminated for committing an act of betrayal. Every broadcast company seeks that too, which is why it’s vital to toss away those bad apples when they appear, no matter how talented they may be.

Add Reinforcements Along The Way – There will come a time when your brand’s performance isn’t in line with the expectations either you or your bosses have set for it. You may also be presented with an opportunity to add someone to the team who instantly makes you better, even if it creates an internal disruption. During these times you’ll take a deep look at your team, evaluate the feedback of your audience, and wrestle with decisions on whether to change course or stand pat. And the reality is, every great team and leader goes through change at some point, whether they plan to or not.

If you think back to the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series team, they were in great shape in July, but that didn’t stop Theo Epstein from pulling the trigger at the trade deadline to acquire Aroldis Chapman. Maybe the Cubs could’ve held onto a few prospects and won the title without him, but why pass up an opportunity to get better when it’s available?

Feelings are going to get hurt from time to time, and change can cause you to have future problems with members of your team that may be executing well or who you have a good personal and professional relationship with. The bottom line, you’re in a competitive industry, and this is a performance based business. The higher you perform, the more money the company makes, and the longer leash everyone is given to retain the jobs they love.

It may be uncomfortable. It may be difficult. And at times it may be unfair. But when companies are faced with decisions on whether or not to make a move to enhance their performance, the good ones often take the plunge. The complacent ones find themselves later on wishing they had taken the risk.

Celebrate Success But Don’t Get Comfortable – You’ve laid the foundation, established the system, identified the right people, eliminated the bad ones, and have earned the group’s trust and respect, and now success is starting to find you. Rather than high fiving each other once and forgetting about it the next day, think about how you’re going to celebrate the special moments with your team. They will have a lasting impact on your people and organization.

Too often we focus on the challenge, and when we accomplish our goal, we’re on to the next one. But if you don’t stop along the way to enjoy the journey and appreciate those who have made it possible, then it leaves many unfulfilled. In sports, after a team wins a title they may pour champagne on one another, hit the town to party, or gather as a group and fly off somewhere to make it a truly memorable experience.

I’m not suggesting to send your entire team on vacation, but a simple happy hour, dinner, conference room celebration, house party or personal gesture goes a long way in telling people you value them, are happy for their success, and are excited to be on the same side with them.


Each individual has to decide their own strategy, and operate in ways they feel are most effective. Some do it thru aggressive action and a brash personality, others use a methodical style and reserved demeanor. Each way works. There is no one size fits all. Both Bill Parcells and Tony Dungy are Super Bowl Champions despite being very different people.

My only suggestion is to think before you act, and be sure in every decision you make. The ideas above are there to guide you should you need help along the way. Best of luck in setting the tone and developing a winning organization!

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Barrett Blogs

ESPN Has Made It Clear, Radio Is Not a Priority

“What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided.”

Jason Barrett




This is not a column I wanted to write. For years, I’ve expressed how much better the industry is when ESPN Radio is healthy. I’ve maintained friendships at the network, the company has supported our BSM Summit, and I reflect fondly on the few years I spent working there earlier in my career. It was a special place to work and I learned a lot about becoming a pro in Bristol.

But this ESPN Radio is not the one that I and many others were fortunate to be a part of under Bruce Gilbert. It is not the one that Traug Keller, Scott Masteller, and other radio-first believers oversaw. This current version lacks radio instincts, focus, passion, and care. That may be an opinion that folks in Bristol, New York, and Los Angeles offices don’t want to hear but the decisions made in recent years make it difficult to see it any other way.

ESPN Radio used to obsess over serving the sports fan, its radio affiliates, and network advertising partners. But serving the company’s television and digital interests is what matters most now. Relationships with radio operators have changed, interest in operating local markets has decreased, and though I’m sure some will defend the network’s interest in satisfying advertising partners, it’s hard to do that a day after the entire national audio sales team was gutted. Thankfully Good Karma Brands is passionate about the audio business and helping their sales efforts. If they weren’t involved, who would be leading the charge in Bristol?

I didn’t start this week planning to drop a truth bomb but as I sat here on Tuesday and fielded text after text and call after call, I couldn’t help but be disappointed and upset. This network has been a staple of the industry for over thirty years. Yet in less than ten it feels they’re closer to turning off the lights than celebrating success. That should not happen when you have the partnerships, history, and talent that ESPN has.

What saddens me is that it didn’t have to reach this point. ESPN Radio had chances to sell in the past to outside parties. They declined. Folks inside of Disney felt the network was worth more. Well, how’s that looking now? If the company wasn’t going to commit to doing it the right way, and was just going to cut its way to the bottom, why stand in the way of others who’d pay to save it? It’s eerily similar to what just happened with Buzzfeed News. The company thought it was better than it was, and within a few years, the whole thing crumbled.

If this were the first time the network looked bad, I’d go easier on them. I understand the business, and sometimes brands or companies make mistakes or have to make difficult choices. It’s why I didn’t bury the network when Mike and Mike ended. Though I knew replacing their stability in mornings would be tough, I felt the network had earned enough clout over the prior years to be given the benefit of the doubt with a new show/lineup. I also applauded the company for replacing Zubin with Max, defended paying Stephen A. Smith top dollar, and supported GetUp! when it was popular to predict the show’s funeral.

But how can leadership in Bristol expect radio operators to trust their decision making at this point? I’ve talked to network executives privately and publicly about these issues for years, and have been told repeatedly that the radio business matters to them and becoming more consistent was a priority. At some point though the actions need to match the words. Unfortunately the only consistency taking place is change, and it often isn’t for the better.

I’ve lost count of the phone calls, texts, emails and direct messages I’ve fielded from PDs, executives, market managers, and ad agency professionals who’ve asked ‘should I be doing business with this network? Can you help me rebrand and redesign my radio station without ESPN Radio?‘ Yesterday alone I took five calls including from two who have expiring deals coming up. Think they’re in a rush to extend a partnership given what’s going on?

If you turn back the clock, some will say that things began to go in the wrong direction when Bruce Gilbert and Dan Patrick left. Though those were big losses, there was still a lot of confidence across the industry in ESPN Radio after they left. The early signs of issues at the network really started in 2014. That’s when Scott Masteller and Scott Shapiro departed. Masteller went on to program WBAL in Baltimore, and Shapiro teamed up with Don Martin to strengthen FOX Sports Radio.

Fast forward to 2020, and the heart and soul of the network, Traug Keller retired. Traug had more in the tank when he signed off, and when I talked to him prior to his exit, he denied being forced out or having concerns about the future direction of the network. Those who know Traug, know that’s he’s a class act and not one to air dirty laundry. But I also know he’s smart. As I look back now, I can’t help but wonder if he knew the ship was headed for an iceberg. I have no doubt that the network would be in better shape today if he were still there.

After Traug’s exit, a year later, Tim McCarthy was let go in New York. The network even cut ties with longtime voice talents Jim and Dawn Cutler, though they stayed on the company’s top stations in NY and LA.

Though I hated to see all of them go because they were good at their jobs and valuable to the network, the one that made a little more sense was Tim’s exit because that had more to do with Good Karma taking over in New York. Tim has since landed with the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and Vinny DiMarco is now leading 98.7 ESPN NY, and I’m a fan of both men.

But now here we are in 2023, and once again, the folks being shown the door are the people who dedicated their lives to radio. Among the casualties, Scott McCarthy, the network’s SVP of Audio, Pete Gianesini, Senior Director of Digital Audio, Louise Cornetta, Digital Audio Program Director, and two good local sports radio programmers, Ryan Hurley at 98.7 ESPN NY, and Amanda Brown at ESPN LA 710. All of them good, talented people with track records of success in the format. I struggle to explain how ESPN Radio is better today without them.

By the way, I haven’t even touched the talent department yet. But let’s go there next.

In less than eight years, ESPN Radio’s morning show has featured Mike & Mike, Golic & Wingo (Mike Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz were added as contributing voices), Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, and Keyshawn, JWill and Max. Middays have included Colin Cowherd, Dan Le Batard and Stugotz, Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Will Cain, Mike Greenberg, Jason Fitz, Stephen A. Smith, Bart & Hahn, and Fitz and Harry Douglas. Afternoons have been a combination of Le Batard and Stugotz, Bomani Jones, Jalen & Jacoby, Golic Jr. & Chiney, Canty & Golic Jr. & Canty and Carlin. I could run down the changes at night too, but you get the picture.

As a former programmer and current consultant, I know that radio is a relationship listen and investment. You can’t build an audience and attract sponsor support for talent and shows if the product constantly changes. Most PDs or executives who make this many changes during a short period of time, usually aren’t around very long. Yet ESPN has allowed this to continue, which leaves me to question how much they value their radio network.

Look, I’m sure this is a tough week for those in management at ESPN. Having to tell folks they’re not being retained and watch friends say goodbye is a crummy part of the job. I’m sure some have even fought to try and avoid this bloodbath. But when the news comes down from up above that 7,000 jobs are being eliminated, it’s not a question of whether or not people are talented and valuable, it’s simply about the bottom line. I feel for the folks at ESPN who have to deliver the bad news this week but also for those who are staying and now have limited support around them to make a difference.

By decimating the radio department there are now bigger questions to be answered by Jimmy, Burke, Dave, Norby and the rest of the management team. How much does ESPN value the radio business and the stations they’re in business with? If most of the people who’ve built relationships with local stations are gone, talented programmers are being ousted, talent changes happen far too frequently, and the company becomes less involved in local markets, why is anyone to believe this space matters to ESPN? What exactly are stations gaining from partnerships besides the use of four letters and the opportunity to air play by play events?

The network expects these stations to provide them with inventory, rights fees, branding, promotion, and clearance of certain programs so isn’t it fair of stations to have expectations of the network too? Don’t radio network partners deserve consistent quality programming, relationships with managers who prioritize audio, and less negative PR?

Most who I talk to about this situation believe the network’s glory days are gone. That’s fine. Just because this isn’t the ESPN Radio of 2005 doesn’t mean it can’t be great. The product exists now to primarily serve mid to small market operators who can’t afford local content, major market stations who don’t want to spend on evening and overnight shows, and company owned stations that can be utilized to promote the company’s digital and television content. ESPN does gain value for their radio shows on TV and podcast platforms, but those benefit the company much more than their radio partners.

The general feeling in industry circles is that FOX Sports Radio now delivers the best national radio product, CBS Sports Radio has better consistency but similar east coast content issues, and others don’t have strong enough brand recognition or content to justify a change. If sports betting continues to gain mainstream acceptance and bring cash into the marketplace, that could help outlets like VSiN, BetQL, and SportsGrid gain greater traction. If Outkick gets more aggressive with offering content to local markets, especially in the south and Midwest, that could be another interesting option.

The bigger question is whether there’s enough audience, revenue, and excitement for national content in today’s sports radio space. If most major markets are focused on local, is there enough out there in rural America to keep networks excited?

I do know that just ten years ago CBS Radio entered the space because they saw value in it. NBC Sports Radio leaped in too. FOX Sports Radio went all-in for Colin Cowherd, and ESPN Radio was healthy. Even SiriusXM continues to expand its national offerings, and three sports betting networks saw value in pursuing national distribution. It’s hard to convince me that there isn’t financial upside for national sports radio brands in today’s media environment. It may not be a big ratings play but from a business standpoint there is value.

What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided. Instead, brands have been damaged, relationships changed, jobs lost, and questions raised about future viability.

If the world’s leading sports operator values radio, they’ll prioritize restoring confidence across the industry. A good start would be putting people in place who champion radio’s future, and make decisions that best serve the radio brands carrying their product. If they can’t do that, then maybe it’s time to step aside, and let someone else try. I know a few groups who’d be happy to take a shot at restoring the network’s pride.

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Barrett Blogs

Radio Must Bring Back The Fun

“The promotions you’re creating are not producing massive recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter.”

Jason Barrett




Five and a half days in Las Vegas can feel like an eternity. Especially when you’re in town for business not pleasure. But though I’d rather sleep in my own bed, eat at home, and avoid walking from convention hall to convention hall, I’m glad I made the trip because the NAB Show delivered. 

Many media members have attended this event over the years, and it’s easy to come up with reasons not to attend. Budgets are tight, you can’t afford to be out of the office, or you think it isn’t beneficial. That’s where I’ll take exception. If you can’t find something of value at a five-day event that exists to serve broadcasters and brands, that’s on you, not the conference.  

Over the past few days, I did what many do and took necessary business meetings at Encore, but I also listened to speakers offer valuable insights on artificial intelligence, marketing, programming, technology, dashboard connectivity, the future of AM radio, and more. All of these are subjects that should matter to media professionals. Having Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso star Roy Kent) on hand to talk about content creation was an added bonus. 

As I spent my final hour inside the North Hall on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about how large this event is, what goes into creating it, and how many different industries and brands are represented at it. What the NAB does to make this event possible for sixty-five thousand plus is amazing, and I commend all involved because it truly is informative, and it helps bring together business leaders and brands to help move our industry forward. 

There were many takeaways from the conference sessions, but one in particular stood out. I thought Mike McVay’s session with J.D. Crowley and Paul Suchman of Audacy was excellent. Crowley’s insights on listener choice, distribution, and personalization were spot on, and I was very impressed with Suchman’s feedback on some of the behavior testing Audacy has done to learn how consumers respond to different types of content and messaging.

Crowley’s final message about people in the audio industry needing to be proud of the business they’re in was easy for me to relate to because I feel similarly. This is a great business to be in. I get tired of hearing folks in and out of the industry tear it down. So much attention gets placed on who exceeded revenue goals, what a brand’s ratings were, and what a company’s stock price is, losing sight of the more important part, our brands, personalities, and content, and the way they’re received by those who consume it.

Additionally, I was honored to speak about the growth of BSM and BNM. Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus Media treated folks to information on advertising and in-car data, and Erica Farber, Tim Bronsil, and Mary DelGrande did a nice job guiding multiple business conversations. I also enjoyed stopping by the Veritone booth and learning about their products and staff. My only regret, I missed Buzz Knight’s session with Nielsen’s new audio team due to a business meeting running long. Thankfully Inside Radio put together a detailed recap of what was discussed. 

But what I want to draw attention to most is something Dan Mason said on stage during his acceptance speech when receiving the Lowry Mays Award at the Broadcasters Foundation of America breakfast. It’s something I raised at last month’s BSM Summit. 

After sharing how local is a key differentiator in helping radio stand apart from other forms of media, and reminding everyone about the importance of longevity, Mason said that radio has to get back to having fun. He shared a story of a promotion he was part of in the 1970’s that wouldn’t fly today. It was a short people’s convention that included six-ounce drinks, pigs in a blanket, and strawberry shortcake. The event put his radio station on NBC Nightly News, and created a ton of buzz.  

Just because that type of event wouldn’t work in 2023, doesn’t mean others can’t. We have got to create special events that produce national attention, local market interest, and fear of missing out spending. This is what radio is supposed to be exceptional at yet it doesn’t happen enough.  

At our Summit in LA, I asked three PD’s to share with me the one promotion in sports radio today that they viewed as a killer event. It wasn’t an easy one to answer. In fact, two referenced WIP’s Wing Bowl, which ended in 2018. Had I asked five or six other PD’s, they’d have likely been in the same boat, struggling to name three or four killer events. 

I mentioned how the Mandy Awards at 710 ESPN in Los Angeles stood out, but this format should be able to deliver more than one standout promotion. I realize there are stations doing promotional events, and if they’re helping you produce revenue, great. I’m not telling you to abandon that strategy. But I will challenge you if you try to tell me sports radio’s report card on promotions in 2023 is superb. It is not.

One gentleman I listened to during the week who was attending a session shared one reason why this is the case. He was asked about creating ideas and said ‘we use a committee to brainstorm and find that sometimes the best ideas come from different departments, in fact, our last successful event was the idea of our engineer.’ 

I’m all for collaboration, and if you’re creating events that satisfy your goals, continue doing it. I’m not here to rain on your parade. But let me share an opinion some may view as unpopular. If the best ideas in your organization are coming from departments other than programming, you have a problem.

The program director and talent are supposed to be the people you turn to for leadership, ideas, passion, creativity, and execution. They’re supposed to be able to think of things that others can’t. Do you think Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino would turn over the direction of their next film to others inside their companies? Imagine the focus of Ted Lasso’s next episode being decided by someone other than Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and the rest of their writing team. You’d be wasting the talent of your best storytellers.

Radio companies pay premium dollars for elite programmers and hosts because they’re supposed to be able to bring things to life that only exists inside their brains. If your HR or engineering department are creating the station’s best promotions, you don’t have enough creativity coming from your programming team. That could be due to having a PD who lacks ideas and vision or it could be the result of the way your creative process is structured.

One of the things I enjoyed most as a PD was coming up with ideas that created buzz, ratings, and revenue. My job was to think and execute BIG, and whether it was Lucky Break in San Francisco, Stand For Stan at 101 ESPN in St. Louis, the Golden Ticket at 590 The Fan in St. Louis, the 20 in 20 tour or Goodbye Roast at 95.7 The Game or the Gridiron Gala in both cities, we produced buzz, grew ratings, and made money. If we did something and it failed, that was ok. I’d rather swing and miss than be afraid to try. I took that responsibility seriously, and feel that when you’re making calls by committee, you’re not allowing your best people to do what they’re best suited to do. 

Case in point, I attended Boomer & Gio Live in Jersey City, NJ a few weeks ago. It was a fun event with a lot of different things going on. WFAN’s PD Spike Eskin worked the event on stage, and if you recall, the station made national news when Jets GM Joe Douglas said that Aaron Rodgers would end up in New York. There were multiple sales activations included throughout the show, and much of the fun content that took place on stage came from the creators. Because the FAN crew were allowed to do what they do best, the station produced a successful event. Had that been an ‘all departments contribute’ approach, it’d have not been the same show. 

What Dan Mason said in Las Vegas was accurate. Radio has to get back to having fun but it also has to be unafraid to take risks. I fear that we worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ and the potential noise on social media that we’re killing creativity, and the next big idea.

If I asked you to list five GREAT sports radio promotions today, could you? And I’m not talking about golf tournaments, charitable bowling events, host debates or bar remotes. If I ask this same question in five years and we’re in the same spot, that’s going to say a lot about where we are as an industry. We have to excite ourselves, our listeners, and our advertisers because when we showcase our creativity in a way that no other medium can, we make a statement, which results in increased attention, and financial investment.  

Some of that creative spirit is still alive. You see it in Boston with WEEI’s Jimmy Fund Telethon, and if you attended the Michael Kay Show 20-year anniversary special or Barstool’s Upfront, you saw what great planning, and execution looks like. But I also remember The Fanatic’s Celebrity Week, The Millen Man March in Detroit, Ticketfest in Dallas, Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, and 790 The Zone in Atlanta becoming a national sensation by creating multiple home run events.

I don’t believe enough brands today create events that deliver meaningful impact. Yet they’re needed. When done right, brands ascend to a different level. Sports radio has too many sharp, creative minds to not be creating the biggest and most successful promotions in all of media. If you work in programming and your station isn’t producing promotions that generate recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter, it’s time to step up your game. If you don’t, the interns, street team, and receptionist may soon be deciding the future direction of your brand’s promotional strategy.

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Reflecting on the 2023 BSM Summit

“Barrett Media president Jason Barrett reflects on last week’s BSM Summit in Los Angeles.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about the world of sports is that every season ends with one team being crowned champion. It doesn’t exactly work that way managing a media company, even though we invest the same amount of time leading up to the BSM Summit, our equivalent of the Super Bowl or WrestleMania.

Having had a few days to recover and reflect after last week’s Summit in Los Angeles, I know that what we did last week was special. I’m a perfectionist and have a hard time patting myself on the back because I know there’s plenty we can do better, but last week, we hit a homerun. The venues at USC were perfect, the signage was spectacular, the tech ran well, the speakers were awesome, the crowd was great, and the sponsorship support was outstanding. It’s the first time I’ve walked away from an event and felt we accomplished what we set out to do. If time allows, check out Garrett Searight’s piece on some of the key takeaways from the show.

In 2018, Mitch Rosen invited me to utilize his space at Audacy Chicago to take a shot at trying to execute an event for PDs. Now here we are five years later with a few hundred people joining us from all across the industry. It’s pretty incredible. We’re only successful because a lot of people have come together to make sure we are. Without the speakers, sponsors, and staff around me stepping up to get things done, I’d just be a guy with an idea incapable of executing it.

In the next week or so we’ll be sharing video clips from the show on the BSM social media pages. I’m also planning to make full sessions available via on-demand for free for those who attended the show in California. If you didn’t come to the event and want to watch it online, it will be available for a small fee. Stay tuned for further details.

What matters most to me with the Summit is that folks in the room get something out of it. I thought many of our speakers delivered a ton of value this year, and there were a few WOW moments along the way as well. Colin and Rome were outstanding as expected, and Jay Glazer and Al Michaels’ speeches had everyone hanging on their next words. I thought the Shawn Michaels and Jack Rose led sessions were outside the box and well received, and I was beyond impressed by Joy Taylor, Mina Kimes, and Amanda Brown. We used 14 hours in that room to explore issues dealing with management, research, technology, programming, talent and social media, so it gave everyone a little bit of everything, which was the goal.

We did have a little bit of friction on stage during the Aircheck on Campus session, which wasn’t a bad thing. Personalities and programmers have passionate conversations inside the office every day. Rob, Mark and Scott just happened to have one on stage. All three are smart, talented, and willing to be candid. I thought that was healthy for the room.

I know networking is important at these type of events and there was plenty of opportunity for folks to do that. I look at it like this, if you can get face time with others, meet your heroes or folks you admire and pick up some ideas and insight in the process to elevate your business, that should justify it being worthy of a few days out of the office.

As crazy as it may sound, I step away from each of these events asking my team ‘is that the last one?’ I know I can create and execute a great conference, and I enjoy doing it, but I also don’t want to invest eight months of time building a show that becomes predictable and stale. It’s why I change speakers and topics frequently. This year’s lineup was phenomenal, and I’m so pleased with who we featured on stage and had in the room, but the competitor in me will also look back and say ‘Bill Simmons, Ice Cube and Lincoln Riley Should’ve Been On Stage Too!


If we do host an event in 2024, it will take place in either Boston, Chicago, Dallas or New York. You can cast your vote on

I want to thank everyone who stopped me last week to share how much they enjoy this event. That support means a lot. I think Good Karma Brands broke a record with 20+ employees in attendance, and iHeart was also well represented, which was great to see. I was also excited to have 15-20 college students in the room. The more we can educate the next generation, the better it is for all of us. I also was thrilled to learn a few of our partners and attendees made time to arrange further business conversations. If two groups can help each other, that’s what it’s all about.

But as much as I love my radio brothers and sisters, I’ve noticed more folks showing up the past two years from areas outside of sports radio. That’s both exhilarating and concerning. This year we had folks in the room from WWE, Amazon, The Volume, Omaha Productions, Dirty Mo Media, Barstool Sports, Spotify, Blue Wire, Locked On, BetRivers, Bleav, etc.. I hope that trend continues because sports media is a lot larger of a business than sports radio. As I told the room, we’re not in the radio business, television business, audio or video business, we are in the content business. That covers a lot more ground for brands than focusing on one specific platform.

I’ve been on cloud nine for a few days because overall, this went as well as I could ask for. If there’s one thing I’d like to make better it’s that I hear from a lot of folks throughout the year who say they want to learn, meet new people and give themselves a competitive edge yet when an event exists that can help them do that, they’re not in the room. Some of my radio friends didn’t come because they weren’t asked to speak. Others said they couldn’t make it because their company wouldn’t cover the costs. A few said they thought the Summit was only for programming people not managers or sellers.

First, growing and selling an audience should matter to everyone not just programmers and hosts. GM’s and Sales Managers can gain a lot at this show. So can advertisers and agencies. I’m hoping to change that in the future. Second, I can’t tell you whether or not to prioritize attending but groups outside of radio are passionate about sports audio and video, and they’re finding ways to be in the room. At some point, you have to decide if investing in knowledge, ideas and relationships matters to you and your business. Your employer isn’t going to cover everything you want to do so especially when the economy isn’t strong. Sometimes you have to invest time and resources in yourself.

Many of you reading this website know my track record in the radio industry. I built my career in radio. My passion for the business remains strong. I consult brands all across the country, and root for the industry’s success. It’s why I sink my heart and soul into this event and share all that I do over two days because I want to help people grow their businesses.

But it is strange that over the course of four live events I’ve still not had one current radio CEO sit down for an in-depth sports media business conversation. It’d be one thing if they were pitched and I turned them down but that’s not the case. I’ve had great conversations and support outside of radio from Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, Erika Ayers, and John Skipper. Jeff Smulyan has been a huge supporter taking part in our awards ceremony, and we’ve had high ranking TV executives in the room watching the show. Maybe things will change in 2024 but whether they do or don’t, I’m going to focus on helping brands and individuals who gain value from this two day event, and continue challenging this industry to think and act differently.


Now that the 2023 BSM Summit is over, my focus shifts to supporting my clients and gearing up for a massive challenge, hosting our first BNM Summit for news media professionals. The conference will take place in Nashville, TV on September 13-14 at Vanderbilt University. I’ll be announcing the first group of speakers in April after the NAB. Tickets will go on sale at that time too.

I know it won’t be easy but I tend to do my best work when I’m out of my comfort zone. This is a space I have passion for and feel I can add something to so there’s only one thing left to do, get to work, and put together the news media equivalent of what we just created for sports media professionals last week in Los Angeles. That may be a tall order but if anyone is ready to meet the challenge head on, yours truly is certainly up to the task.

Thanks again for a spectacular time in Los Angeles. Onward and upward we go!

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