The decision of when and if to retain an agent is an important one for a sports radio personality. When you rise through the ranks in this business, you do it based on your own hard work, and negotiating skills. But when you reach that point in your career when you’re beginning to make a mark on the industry, it’s fair to ask the question “what else am I capable of accomplishing”?
Having the right person in your corner who has confidence in your abilities and possesses the relationships necessary to open up doors is worth its weight in gold. But if the only reason you’re retaining an agent is to help put your resume and on-air samples in front of top decision makers, you have the wrong strategy.
Truth be told, most personalities won’t become dominant national figures or the next Mike Francesa in a local market. Sports radio is ultra competitive and for every person with talent, there are a thousand more with similar skills. It’s not always a question of whether you’re good, it’s a matter of whether or not you’re the right fit for a brand, and if you have the right relationships with key decision makers.
I’m asked for career advice on a regular basis by many members of the sports radio community. While I’m happy to pass along whatever wisdom I’ve gathered from two decades of experience, I don’t pretend to be an agent. I do have friendships with many executives, and understand how many of them think and operate, and I’ve been fortunate to develop friendships and knowledge of how some of the best agents in the business work as well. Whether or not an individual reaching out to me for advice makes sense to put on their radar depends on a variety of factors.
One of the biggest misconceptions I see involves upcoming talent, often younger people, and what they believe is going to happen if they retain an agent. They assume that the agency is going to spend each day chasing down leads for them, and making sure they locate employment. They approach the situation with the mindset of the agent being their personal recruitment center, instead of understanding their role as a career adviser and business partner.
That’s the wrong way to approach the relationship.
First things first, nobody will work harder to find a job than the person without one. But when an opening is identified, it’s often the relationship between the agent and potential employer that can help place the candidate at the top of the list, especially if the agent’s track record is considered strong by the hiring executive.
For example, FOX Sports 1 employs Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless. Both individuals are represented by CAA. If FOX Sports 1 has a future need, and CAA recommends someone else they’re working with, hiring officials at FS1 are likely going to take a look. This doesn’t mean they’ll hire that person, but a strong track record gives them an advantage over someone else chasing the same opportunity.
There’s also this belief among some on-air talent that being skilled should be enough to warrant a high profile position. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by an on-air host “did you see who ESPN hired? I’m ten times better than him”. My immediate response is usually something to the affect of, “the hiring executive obviously had an interest in what they provide, and if you don’t have the right people talking to that executive, it doesn’t matter how good you may be or think you are”.
I’ve seen industry people with limited experience as a night or weekend talk show host apply for positions on First Take and Undisputed. I’ve seen board operators with one year of experience apply for afternoon drive jobs in top 10 markets despite not having hosted regularly at the radio station where they’re employed.
Newsflash folks, if you’re John Skipper or Jamie Horowitz, you are more than likely going to want to see more proof of performance than a couple of hours on the weekend in a local market. The same is true of those Top 10 market hiring managers who are going to see a resume with no hosting experience and toss it to the side when considering applicants for their vacant position. There are exceptions of course, but a strong track record in a top market often helps candidates stand out.
Hosts have little idea of how sought after these jobs are or who’s in the mix for consideration. Having hired people many times in various markets, the flood of activity is enormous. If a market is desirable, and a brand has a good reputation, a PD is going to receive hundreds of applications and air checks, and phone calls. That’s not taking into account the couple of people who drop by the radio station unannounced and decide to try and infiltrate the PD’s office to let them know they’re the next big thing. By the way, that approach rarely works.
If you’re in charge of a sports television network and under the microscope for every hire you make, especially when it involves large dollars, you’re more likely to pledge your commitment to someone with a strong track record and a relationship with a well respected agency than a possible diamond in the rough who nobody has given a big break to.
As it applies to sports radio, it’s slightly different. Local stations don’t work with the budgets that national television networks do, but that doesn’t mean that a good agent can’t be extremely valuable.
Personalities who have built a good foundation in a local market and choose to handle their own business often assume they’ve emerged victorious when negotiating with their employer. If they were offered a 2 year deal with a 2% raise and negotiated a 2 year deal with a 5% bump, they’re heard in the halls bragging about their big victory.
Except they have no idea if the company would have been willing to extend the deal to three or four years or if they had 10-20% available in compensation and other perks. In that case, did the host really get the best deal available?
When personalities handle their own negotiations they also have a harder time separating business from their personal feelings. Many can’t hear that the company doesn’t believe they’re worth more, and they want to believe that because they’ve invested the past 2-3 years of energy into the brand that they simply deserve to receive better compensation. Unlike the federal government though, a raise isn’t granted for time served in broadcasting.
In numerous cases, the host isn’t familiar with the station’s expenses, sales performance, budgets, or additional challenges. They also don’t know how they’re perceived internally when it comes to working with other departments and station advertisers who are attaching their dollars to the station and/or individual. Before they find out those hard truths at the negotiating table, a good agent is able to prepare them, and hopefully guide them along the way so they can fix any issues that arise and ultimately impact the talent’s earning potential.
This is why smart personalities with a long-term view of their careers invest in good representation. It doesn’t always result in an overnight success story, but having a strategic long-term game plan in place with someone you trust, who has your best interests in mind, who’s willing to invest in your development, and has the ability to present your story to prospective employers is how you ultimately help advance your career.
I wanted to get a better understanding of how agents think and approach a variety of these situations so I reached out to four people who I know and have a ton of respect for in the industry. These men have represented some of the best talents in the sports media business, and if you’re considering working with an agent in the future, or looking to gain perspective of what to expect from such a relationship, I encourage you to pay close attention to their advice.
- Matt Kramer – CAA
- Steve Herz – IF Management
- Mark Lepselter – MAXX Sports
- Matt Miller – Miller Broadcast Management
Herz: Personal character issues first and foremost. Are they hard working, passionate and committed to the business for the right reasons (a love of the craft as opposed to a desire for fame)? Are they coachable people (on and off the air), and do they have a growth mindset about life and learning? We have made a policy of meeting every potential new client so you can generally tell in that face to face meeting if your personalities are in sync, and that generally serves as a mutual weeding process.
We ask people to do a writing sample and reflect on their reasons for being in the business and childhood/life influences. It reveals a lot and helps us make an educated decision on whether we think it’ll be a mutually beneficial long term relationship. Obviously, we also look at their talent and skills and while that’s subjective, after doing this for so many years you like to think you develop a good gut/sense of the marketplace.
Miller: I look for a solid combination of talent, skill and radio business acumen. The latter can be taught or honed. Natural talent is of course a driving quality, but it’s not everything. I have known a lot of naturally talented people who just couldn’t get out of their own way on the business side, often because they weren’t willing to listen and learn. I would share their names but unfortunately you wouldn’t have heard of them. Had they received the proper guidance, and listened and followed that advice, they would be household names today.
Kramer: While there are many attributes we look for in a client, we first consider if he or she is a next level talent. If so, we try to determine how we can help elevate them to that next level across multiple platforms.
Lepselter: We are very selective about who we look to represent in the radio arena. We consider, in no particular order, depth of knowledge, ability to entertain and engage listeners, age, work ethic, background and experience.
Herz: That agents have magic pixie dust. This business is a process and careers take time to develop and involve a lot of factors including timing and luck. Agents who sell the career equivalent of lottery tickets should be avoided by talent. Clients who expect immediate results should be avoided by agents.
Miller: That all agents are equal and able to accomplish the same goals on behalf of their client. Our sole focus is to represent broadcast professionals on a local and national basis. Another misconception is that agents will represent anyone who inquires. Maybe some will, but we won’t. As much as an agent is a reflection of his or her client, a client is a reflection of the agent as well. I work with some of the best and brightest in the industry, and if I’m known as the agent that also represents that “nightmare” of a talent, it reflects poorly on all my clients. My clients are my family, and I won’t bring a negative force into my house.
Kramer: The agent is a facilitator who must be knowledgeable about the entire marketplace – television, radio , digital platforms, and beyond. It is important to remember that the network is king, and therefore, has the keys to the kingdom. The agent works for the client and the client works for the network, so the agent must be useful in helping to maintain, manage, and grow that relationship.
Lepselter: I think that’s a question you’d need to ask the talent, more so than an agent.
Once you’ve agreed to work with a personality, how do you help them in their career beyond negotiating their contracts and helping place them on the radar of potential employers?
Herz: We like to find out what the marketplace thinks of their strengths and weaknesses and if we agree and/or there is a general consensus on that, we try to work with them on improving the areas holding them back. For example, we’ve had clients where the feedback was about the lack of authority in their voice so we engaged a professional voice coach.
Miller: Once we dive in it’s more than just placement and negotiation of contracts. We work with the talent to improve their knowledge of the business, and guide them to be a greater asset to their broadcast partner and to their future success threshold. If you are looking for someone to “yes” you to death and just keep the status quo, we probably aren’t the company for you. If you are looking for someone to be honest and challenge you to raise your game to the next level, both on and off air, then we may have something to talk about. I’m tough (my clients reading this are nodding voraciously), but it’s because there are only so many hours in the day and if I represent you I dive in 100%. If you aren’t listening or working with me to raise your game, then it’s wasted effort.
As to getting on the radar it’s about career planning and taking advantage of our network of contacts and reputation with broadcast companies. But beyond that I am goal oriented. There has to be a plan. Let’s target particular companies for which your skill set is a match and start creating familiarity before there is an opening, so that when opportunities arise the decision makers are already familiar with you.
Kramer: A successful relationship is incumbent on the sharing of information. The agent has to obtain the information and then be able to help connect the dots for the client. The agent needs to convey information – positive and negative – quickly and efficiently to the client. As an agent, if you have information, and know how best to utilize it, your client usually wins.
Lepselter: Listening and reviewing their shows certainly is important. Helping them diversify their portfolio is imperative. You can no longer be a one trick pony in this business. Introducing our clients to the decision makers is critical for them.
For a personality to warrant consideration for a high profile national or local opportunity, what must they already possess? (track record, market familiarity, industry relationships, unique style, etc.)
Herz: They must have some track record of success, hopefully some level of relationship/connection to the potential hiring executive either direct or thru a referral, and they have to be consistent with the goals of the hiring company. Someone who might work on ESPN might not be a fit for CBS. In our case, since we represent a small select number of clients, we hope our clients merit a serious look based on prior success with those execs.
Miller: Track record of success, and a reputation for being a positive force in a company environment. Look, it should be enough to just be talented on the air, to garner ratings. But it’s not. This is a business and the talent who can drive ratings yet understand that we live in a revenue driven world, who can partner in and give the extra effort to help their company drive revenue, develop relationships with sales clients, get out and participate in promotional and sales events and meet current and future P1’s, will always find success. A good agent can get you in the door, that’s the industry relationship portion, but it’s very easy to find out everything about you through various sources. If you’re known as a pain in the ass or unable to work with sales, or countless other shortcomings, you will be passed over.
Kramer: You have to have a laser-focus on what you do to have a shot at making it. You must watch everything and have a strong take on what is happening and what might happen. You can’t fake it through a three or four hour daily radio show. It’s too easy to get exposed in a 24/7 social media world if you aren’t on top of your game.
Lepselter: All of the above. I always say that in this industry, timing is everything.
What advice can you pass along to a personality who has established a good track record and is considering utilizing an agent to help him get to the next level?
Herz: Make sure your personalities, objectives and expectations of each party are consistent and aligned when you enter the relationship. And continue to be an active part of the process of advancing your own career. Continue to build a track record and relationships. The best agent/talent relationships are partnerships.
Miller: I have spoken with hundreds of personalities for whom the timing wasn’t right to hire an agent. Every circumstance is different. I would say reach out to an agent if you think it’s time, but be wary of the agent that will rush to sign you. Research that person or company, and talk to them more than once. As I said earlier, your representative is a reflection of you, and the right agent can reflect positively on your reputation and be effective in accomplishing your career goals.
Kramer: Be meticulous when it comes to the actual representation agreement. Agents know when a client wants to be represented by them. Too many agencies use that to their advantage; pressuring a new client to sign an agreement that requires them to pay that agency in perpetuity – literally forever – for what, in many instances, may be an unsophisticated approach to representation. I would advise talent to take a step back and understand why an agent, who has a fiduciary responsibility to put the client first, would ask for this.
Lepselter: If you truly believe you have the “it factor” you have to decide if you are willing to invest in yourself.
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.