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The Clock Is Ticking on Sports Radio Updates

Jason Barrett

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I sat down recently with Damon Amendolara to tape an upcoming episode of the BSM Podcast and after our conversation he asked me “who out there today is revolutionizing sports radio”? I wanted to respond with a laundry list of sports stations who were doing unique things and staying ahead of the curve but I couldn’t.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a station has a system in place, and it’s working, and their fans are enjoying what they provide, then who am I to suggest that they should change just for the sake of being an industry leader?

But let’s be honest, not every brand in the business today is enjoying ratings and revenue success. Yet there’s a comfort factor that exists inside many buildings, which prevents stations from taking bold steps to improve programming in order to satisfy the growing demands and needs of the listening audience.

If you missed it, KNBR in San Francisco announced last week they were eliminating on-air sports updates. The move cost two update anchors employment at the radio station. While I never like to see anyone lose their position, the radio station made the right call, even if it wasn’t conventional or popular. Even the two terminated employees agreed with the station’s forward thinking.

For decades, sports radio stations have featured two to three sports updates per hour. WFAN in New York introduced the 20/20 sports flash which many CBS stations have adopted over the years, and brands which have aligned themselves with ESPN Radio, have taken a similar approach by using the branding of “SportsCenter Updates”.

In the past, the audience was at the mercy of relying on the radio station, newspaper and television for up to the minute information. We started our day reading the paper, utilized sports radio throughout the work day, and then turned to local sports television or SportsCenter at night to fill us in on what we didn’t know. These services were valuable because our access to information was limited and much slower.

But then along came the internet, which started making everything better, and in real time. All of a sudden, waiting until the next day to read a columnist’s opinion or reporter’s game story seemed ridiculous. As did waiting for the 10 o’clock news to watch a 3 minute sports report of information you learned about 8-12 hours earlier.

The worst of the group to adapt were newspapers. For decades the print business relied on selling advertising and charging people to read their work, but now thanks to the online space, readers were seeking the content online, and for free, causing the print industry to lose a ton of revenue it was dependent on.

The shift also placed more pressure on writers who were now tasked with writing their stories, adding blogs, chatting with readers, and in some cases, creating video. The same began to take place in television where some reporters and on-air commentators were heading into the field with cameras and being expected to edit their own work.

Next came the explosion of social media. Facebook and Twitter took off, and soon we’d have conversations with family and friends, while increasing our connections and relationships with brands and their key people. As we gained more knowledge of the social experience, we started passing along content which we found interesting, helping brands reach more people with their content in the process.

This forced reporters, columnists and personalities to open themselves up even more. Soon they were reporting information on social platforms, before even doing so on their own airwaves or websites. Once again, the audience demanded instant information, and if sports media members weren’t providing it, they’d find others who could.

So that brings us to the present state of sports radio and its connection to on-air updates.

Many have mixed opinions on the impact and benefit of these reports, so let me present both sides of the debate so you can process the information and arrive at your own conclusion regarding their future value.

First, why should they be kept? Those in favor of keeping them on the air will tell you that they provide a few positives. Here are six examples.

  • They air 2-3x per hour, which means sponsors have the opportunity to attach their :05-:10 tag lines to them. Considering that during the span of a 13-hour broadcast day, a radio station is going to provide 26-39 of these reports, which adds up to 130-185 per week, that’s a lot of frequency for sponsors to latch onto.
  • The updates help inform sports fans of the most important stories of the day in a short amount of time and if the talk show host isn’t discussing a particular story, the listener can still find out about it.
  • They are positioned at set times, which allows the audience to develop a routine with the radio station. The listener knows that regardless of what’s happening on a talk show, they can rely on the brand to inform them at specific times.
  • They add an extra voice to the daily conversation, and help break up the talk show. The extra voice in the room also at times becomes a contributor to the talk show, leading to an increase in entertainment value.
  • By having the updates in place, the audience doesn’t have to rely on their phones while driving, allowing them to stay informed without risking the potential of an accident.
  • They serve as a great marketing tool for promoting the radio station’s on-air content, often using audio from other parts of the broadcast day which the audience may not have heard, helping to drive digital downloads or additional listening to other shows.

All of the reasons that I mentioned above are valid and why some programmers and market managers are reluctant to change course. But now let’s look at the other side of the argument.

  • Although the radio station presents 26-39 updates per day and 130-195 per week, and they may be available for sponsorship, most brands use them as value added for advertisers, which means there isn’t a ton of revenue being generated specifically for the reports. Some will argue that the station wouldn’t land the advertisers dollars it does without added value sponsorship’s, but the client cares most about the frequency of their message being communicated on the air. Whether they’re attached to a time check, sports update, on-air reset or show feature, they’re flexible.
  • The update may serve up sports information but most of it is material which the the majority of the audience is already aware of. Sports fans are constantly seeking out information and opinion and feeding them material which lacks urgency, suspense and value gives them reason to change the dial.
  • Routine is certainly a benefit IF the audience values the content being presented. If not, you’ve created a position on the radio station which tells them the exact times of when to tune out the radio station.
  • Adding extra voices to a talk show helps keep it interesting, but does that mean the station needs to feature 8-12 reports during the show just to include the anchor in 5-10 minutes of conversation? Is that really a wise way to use a station’s resources, if this is the best value that comes from the position?
  • Yes it’s true, keeping the phone out of the listener’s hands when they’re in their car is a great idea. Nobody wants to see loyal listeners die or end up in a hospital, but this is assuming the driver in each car is going to act responsible, which we all know, they won’t. There’s also the reality that listening to shows by phone has increased and will continue to do so, and if a station is fielding 13 hours of updates when most people spend 1-2 hours per day in their cars, then the question is, why is that a smart strategy?
  • I love the idea of marketing the radio station’s content in updates but how many anchors actually do that? Most use the time to look ahead to what’s coming up each night or they use the time to share stories they discovered on other sports websites. Scan around the country and aside from hearing a different voice, cadence and energy, much of the content is similar. If it’s not unique, and not redirecting the audience back to the station’s website, talk shows or social media pages, then it’s not taking advantage of the on-air marketing opportunity.

When I raise this issue, I do so with a big picture view of the industry in mind. I’m not one of these people who thinks we should change things just for the sake of change. But I also don’t think that you fix the problem by just having your host read reports or changing the name from your updates. Those are the dumb things that we do as an industry sometimes that just miss the point. It’s not about name changes or who reads the script, it’s about the value of the actual update/content.

To move a brand forward I believe you need to look at things from the inside out. Each station and company has to decide what matters most and direct their resources to the areas where they can make the biggest difference. If your station has a bottomless budget and isn’t under pressure to satisfy the bottom line, then feel free to ignore this entire piece because clearly your brand is in such a unique position that it can do whatever it pleases.

But from where I sit, I see the world of digital and social media exploding and being critical to the future of our brands. It’s already grown leaps and bounds over the past decade and it’s only going to increase as we move forward. Yet when I look at the creativity, execution, originality and engagement of sports radio brands in these spaces it’s very underwhelming.

Have you looked at the iTunes charts to see which shows perform best? Aside from a few national programs which have the scale of hundreds of markets pushing their content, the majority of top rated programs come from shows which aren’t on radio stations. Whether it’s Bill Simmons, Pardon My Take, Richard Deitsch, Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Vertical or numerous wrestling podcasts which have built up dedicated audiences, sports fans who turn to the most powerful digital platform to hear sports audio can’t find sports radio shows here because they don’t stand out.

Keep in mind, sports stations have a megaphone to use to promote their audio offerings. Many of these other digital offerings don’t.

But let’s move iTunes to the side for a second. Have you taken a look at the websites of most of the nation’s sports radio brands? Many operate with the same shell, pull information from the Associated Press or other news providers, and when you turn to their audio section, you find 3-4 hours of audio per show (minus the commercials) and minimal original content of value.

A big reason why digital audio is attractive is because it gives the listener something back that they value tremendously – time! They want to enjoy the show/host, but do so in shorter fashion. Yet most sports stations take the same exact on-air product, throw it on the web, and call it a day.

Except that is not giving the audience what they want. The best 60 minutes of your content gives them reason to click and listen. A GREAT 15-30 minutes of your best stuff makes them even more likely to download your material. Heck, even websites like Clammr allow brands to showcase up to 24 seconds of audio, which can be used as a short teaser to give the listener incentive to listen to the podcast. Sadly not many take advantage of these opportunities.

But that’s only the audio portion of this story. Now let’s examine the social media picture. After all, it is where the audience begins, continues, and ends their day, and a space you can’t afford to not be an expert in. I’ll let you know that I spent 2 days last week evaluating a ton of sports radio stations across the country on social media and I’ll be sharing my findings in a future column.

Take a minute and locate your favorite sports radio station on Facebook and Twitter. Now go thru their last 10 posts, and tell me how much unique content you find on each platform. Then look at how often the station redirects the audience back to the airwaves, its website, its podcasts or another area where the brand can benefit.

You’re going to find a lot of holes, but that’s not even the worst of our sins.

Let’s now examine how often the radio station engages in conversation with its audience on social media. Go thru those same 10 posts, and tell me how many times you’ve seen the radio station respond or acknowledge any comments left behind by the brand’s most important asset, its listeners. It rarely happens.

When I see this occur, it reinforces a few of my opinions.

First, it speaks to a lack of internal focus on the digital and social experience. People just post content and assume the audience will see it. They don’t always think about what they’re posting, how they’re saying it, what times they’re posting it or if it involves a strategic element to redirect the listener to another part of the radio station’s business.

Secondly, it shows a lack of manpower in most buildings. Stations tack on the responsibility of social and digital media execution to their employees, but because they don’t understand the space or how to be experts in it, and don’t sell a ton of advertising on it, they just assume it’s an extra thing the brand must do.

The third thing I’m reminded of is that unless things change, a listener who values their time and making connections, is better served NOT following the radio station’s social media accounts. Instead they should invest their time in the hosts. Why? They’re more likely to earn a response on-air or on social media from the talent, plus they’ll get to know them better. They can also still learn about what’s taking place on the air from the host, and if the brand is only interested in a one way relationship, then what’s the return on time spent supporting the brand for the audience?

Folks, it’s called SOCIAL media for a reason. It’s not “push content at you and ignore your existence” media. If an audience litters your social media pages with hundreds to thousands of responses per day, and you never take a minute to hit the like button or respond to their questions, suggestions, comments or complaints or provide any special benefits or unique experiences that are only available to your followers, then there’s little reason for them to actively supporting your pages.

So now let’s bring this full circle.

The format lacks original podcasts. Brands don’t promote short-clips of their station’s best content to entice the audience to download their programming. They’re not condensing a 4 hour show into the best 30-60 minutes to make it more appealing to the listener. We’re also not engaged or strategically exploring ways to increase brand loyalty with the audience.

Yet here we sit, having a debate about the value of sports updates, an area of the business which many would agree is not critical to the success of our stations. Our reluctance to change what we do and focus on the areas of our business that matter is no different than the print industry’s ignorance of thinking their customers would continue paying to read their stories online. At some point you have to make difficult decisions or risk becoming expendable by the audience.

I’m not saying there aren’t some excellent anchors on the air in markets across the country. I’m also not suggesting that brands like WFAN or ESPN Radio should abandon utilizing sports updates because they’ve built a certain expectation with their products that the audience does tune to them for. There are always exceptions.

But that’s not the case with most brands.

It’s not the anchor’s fault that the audience has gained access to information faster on social and digital media. Or that the listener has been treated to thousands of audio options and now utilizes the station they love for a shorter amount of time. But if that’s what people are doing, and these are the platforms where they are spending time, and it’s where advertisers are shifting their dollars (they are), then your brand has to make a commitment to being great in the space or it will come back to haunt you.

I mentioned this on my last episode of the BSM Podcast, those who are in anchor positions, should be thinking of the ways they can reinvent themselves and offer value beyond two two-minute reports per hour. Can you deliver video commentaries? Write columns? Report on local teams and break news? Host shows? If you have knowledge of how to help the brand master its digital and social media experience that helps too.

Sports updates have lost their appeal because the content isn’t special, the information is available elsewhere, and it can be consumed in a much shorter time. The phone and computer have become great weapons for the audience, which makes it harder than ever to win the battle for their time.

The audience craves our talk shows and personalities. This is our entry point to their hearts and minds. They don’t get interrupted 2-3x per hour when watching a movie, sitcom or sports television show, and we can’t continue to place speed bumps in front of them during our shows and think it’s going to better serve us in the battle to grow ratings and brand loyalty. That makes zero sense.

Whether we like it or not, the audience’s demands have increased. We’re now operating in a sea of audio after decades of being the dominant fish in the pond. Attention spans are shortening, listening occasions are less frequent, and the appetite for social and digital media continues to rise like a phoenix.

The same hurdles exist on television where SportsCenter now finds itself having to reinvent its approach after being the go to source for the entire sports universe. As a result, ESPN has been losing money and viewers, and finds itself in the most vulnerable spot it’s ever been in as a business.

This is the reality of the world today, and when it comes to providing a strong digital and social experience, radio is standing in the batter’s box with a toothpick trying to hit an Aroldis Chapman fastball over the fence. It may not be comfortable, but to stay ahead in this competitive environment, each brand, manager, anchor and company has to evaluate the areas of their brand that matter most, and figure out how to shift resources from areas that are less important to others which provide a significant benefit.

KNBR recognized it needed to change for the betterment of its future, and did so by eliminating a convenient part of their product, but not a necessary one, sports updates. I can only hope that you’re willing to make the same gutsy decision down the line, because it’s not a question of IF it will be necessary, it’s a question of WHEN!

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network

“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”

Jason Barrett

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To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.

As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.

If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Which brings me to today’s announcement.

If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.

After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.

The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.

I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.

One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.

Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.

Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.

What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.

Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.

Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.

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Barrett Blogs

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs

“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”

Jason Barrett

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I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.

Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.

But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.

Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.

If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.

Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.

For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.

At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.

I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.

Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.

Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.

Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.

Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.

Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.

Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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