Having an in-depth conversation about diversity in sports talk radio is difficult. It’s a subject that makes many people uncomfortable and defensive, but it’s one that warrants further inspection.
To recognize the industry needs to do better is the first step. Working to improve it is the next. But progress only happens if the industry’s top decision makers believe it’s a critical issue.
Too often in our business, difficult subjects get addressed publicly, but once the questions stop being asked, it’s back to business as usual. The great Bill Parcells used to say “you are what your record says you are“. Well, if results are how we’re going to judge success and failure on the subject of racial diversity in sports talk radio, then thin-skinned members of the radio industry may want to stop reading, because they’re not going to like the evidence.
Before I continue, let me be candid for a second. I began writing this piece in January and almost decided not to publish it. It isn’t the subject matter I’m afraid to explore. I’ve already gone down this road before.
The reason why I considered keeping this column inside the vault is because our ability as a society to discuss race in a productive manner, especially as it pertains to sports media, has gone backwards in recent years. These days there’s an immediate outcry of racial prejudice whenever someone shares a different opinion or point of view about a particular story involving a high profile white or black personality. Social media for all of its positives, serves as a cesspool of negativity anytime a conversation arises that involves any inference of race.
First, nobody in the sports radio industry has gone on the record to explore this issue the way that I have. I do believe progress needs to be made, and what the business has presented collectively isn’t good enough. Let me make that crystal clear.
But despite pointing out the radio industry’s lack of diverse voices in weekday positions, and regardless of my track record of running brands and working with and hiring numerous minority voices, I’ve also been called out by people who read my website and have no knowledge of my background for ignoring black personalities in other columns I’ve written.
When I wrote the piece “Another 10 Talents You May Not Know But Should” I had a high profile TV personality respond by email adding “No blacks huh? Interesting”. It didn’t matter that the intent of the piece was to highlight people doing quality work in sports radio who didn’t earn a lot of fanfare, or that the people I selected to be featured deserved to be recognized. The simple fact of the matter was that none were black, therefore it was implied that I was ignoring minority voices.
Then in early February, I posted the annual Top 20 of the sports radio format. Over the span of 6 days I showcased who industry executives voted as the format’s top morning, midday, afternoon and national shows. Some of these categories included minority personalities. However, they were once again under represented.
At first I was bothered by the tweet because it led to receiving a few hate emails for sports radio being dominated by white males, as if I created the problem. But after having an opportunity to process things I understood exactly where Howard and some of his supporters were coming from.
As a soon to be forty three year old white male, I don’t enjoy when I hear people criticize those who hold jobs in the industry and assume they have them because they’re white. That in my opinion is irresponsible. It ignores the fact that the employed white individual likely had some degree of talent that appealed to a hiring executive. If they’ve been hired to do a job, and have continued to do it well for an extended period of time, that should be enough validation for the hiring manager.
But it’d also be foolish of me to assume that there’s nothing wrong with a picture that shows every major and mid market local morning show being led by white personalities. This is what African American’s see when they look at a list which includes only two minority hosts, Rob Long in Baltimore and Damon Benning in Omaha.
The story was similar in middays where only 6 minority hosts were part of the nation’s top 40 shows, and in afternoons where 10 minority voices contributed to the top 40 shows in the country. It was more of the same on the national scene, where Stephen A. Smith, Bomani Jones and Tiki Barber were the only African American personalities to be included on the list of the nation’s top 21 programs.
I understand that if you’re a Caucasian male you may not want to hear this. You might even be offended that I’ve raised the issue, but I guarantee that you’d have a very different opinion if you looked at the nation’s top 140 shows and saw only 21 of 271 positions occupied by white personalities.
In order to avoid any confusion, I want to be clear that this article focuses on males and the ethnic composition that exists inside many of the nation’s leading sports radio brands. I will address the challenges facing women in the sports radio industry in a separate column. Although I could combine the two, I have found through previous experiences that messages get lost when you try to tackle too much in the same space, especially sensitive subjects such as this one.
Before I share my findings from this year, I do want to address a few things. The intent of this piece isn’t to suggest to folks on the outside looking in that all executives are against hiring minority voices. That would indicate that every single executive in a hiring position isn’t open minded to changing the look and sound of their brand. I don’t subscribe to that theory at all.
This column also isn’t intended to suggest that influence should be used to force minority individuals into high profile positions. I saw a column a few weeks ago on The Undefeated which took exception with Magic Johnson for not using his influence to make sure a minority candidate received consideration for the Lakers vacant GM position. It was insinuated that by not doing so, he failed to handle his responsibility as an African American executive. Not only do I disagree with that assessment, I feel it creates a further divide rather than progress.
Never mind that Jeanie Buss went to war with her family by firing her brother and GM Mitch Kupchak, but she also gave the keys to the Lakers kingdom to a minority (Magic Johnson) and gave him the freedom to hire the team’s next General Manager. Johnson chose Rob Pelinka (former NBA agent) who had an excellent reputation and relationship with many black players in the league, and great familiarity with the way the Lakers run their business.
Pelinka also had the blessing of another powerful minority (Kobe Bryant), who happened to be the best Lakers player of the past twenty years, and we’ve seen proof of agents (Bob Meyers) making the transition into NBA front offices and helping franchises have success. Magic did not nor should he have had to hire or pursue a minority candidate just to please members of his race. That’s the type of process I would like to see our industry avoid.
But that particular example is not what we’re here to discuss. I brought it to light because I want it to be clear that positions shouldn’t be filled based on a responsibility to pleasing one’s race, but rather in the best interests of the brand, company, and audience which each market serves.
In doing my research for this year’s piece, I focused once again on the weekday lineups of the nation’s Top 20 market sports radio stations and networks. Depending on how you look at it, we’re no better or worse than we were 12 months ago. Usually staying consistent is viewed as a positive, but in this instance, where progress is necessary, I don’t believe that does the trick.
Does this mean that companies and their executives aren’t aware of the problem? Not at all. As a matter of fact, if you flashback to ten years ago, many would say that the industry has made a better effort in adding diverse talent to its airwaves. But to expect sweeping changes or a 50/50 blend inside most brands is unrealistic, especially if a sports radio station is currently achieving success.
It’s also puzzling that minority’s rarely occupy management positions. There’s only one African American sports radio program director (Terry Foxx at 92.9 The Game in Atlanta) in a Top 20 market, and market managers, corporate executives and owners are also rarely non-white professionals. Are we really suggesting as an industry that there are no minorities capable of leading our operations? What type of message are we sending to minorities in our industry who have dreams about one day overseeing a company or sports radio station?
The real questions we must address are related to the processes being implemented inside of each station and company.
How are companies holding their executives accountable to make sure that minority candidates are given a fair look during the interview process? What checks and balances are being implemented to make sure stations place a greater importance on reflecting their communities on the air? How much involvement does a brand manager have in making sure the product is more attractive to non-white audiences?
Other questions that deserve to be asked include, is the radio station sending its leaders to speak at schools, job fairs or creating programs to invite individuals from different backgrounds to learn about their business? Are station executives analyzing their audience composition and working to make sure their brands have the right mix of personalities to reach and connect with their local demographics? Are executives looking for minority talent in different places besides colleges and other media companies? How are HR departments assisting executives to improve upon their shortcomings?
Many people love to point fingers, and express their frustrations with these type of sensitive issues, but when pressed for solutions and ideas they fire blanks. That does us no good in this conversation. Instead, we need accountability, action, and a long term strategy to make our business more attractive to people from different backgrounds.
And let’s be sure this next point is understood. As much as African Americans are underrepresented on sports radio stations, the percentage of on-air jobs that they hold is comparable to their overall population numbers inside Top 20 markets. They hold 12% of the prime sports radio positions, while representing 15% of the population from Top 20 cities.
If there’s a group with an even bigger reason to feel slighted, it’s Hispanics. They hold only 9 of 399 prestigious on-air jobs inside the Top 20 markets and national networks, which is slightly above 2%. Yet they make up 22% of the population from our larger cities, and 17% of the entire population in the United States, and that number is expected to rise in the future.
Similar to an office, locker room, federal government agency or restaurant, I believe that the more people you include from different walks of life, the more interesting your operation becomes. Certain conversations that some individuals can’t tackle on the air suddenly become possible due to the different personalities involved. The sound of a station changes too and becomes more distinct, and the more variety you can offer your local audience, the more likely they are to consume your future content. That in turn helps you expand your fan base.
But as we’re discussing this issue, and how to include more people from minority backgrounds in the process, we also have to recognize and acknowledge a few other important facts.
You can slice and dice it however you wish, but the reality is that the majority of sports radio listening comes from white male audiences aged 25-54. That demographic shouldn’t be tossed aside just because the other side is underrepresented. They are people too, and they equally love the content, and spend money supporting the radio station’s advertisers.
Let’s also not be naive to the bigger picture. Sports radio is a business. If the station and company are turning a profit, and the hosts who they employ are charged with producing ratings and they’re getting the job done, then why on earth would they alter their approach?
Most brands are measured by their ability to generate income and audience. Whether success comes from an Asian host, Hispanic host, black host, female host or a middle aged white male, isn’t as important to a company as an ability to fulfill and surpass company expectations.
I understand this issue is sensitive and personal to many. It’s impossible for some of us to see the world through each other’s eyes and skin. Speaking strictly for myself, I don’t believe that one’s ethnicity or skin color should determine whether they warrant an opportunity or not. If the white individual possesses more talent than the minority candidate, and is more equipped to produce results, then that’s who deserves the job. A major league baseball team doesn’t shape its roster based on fulfilling quotas to satisfy different races. A player either has an ability to pitch or hit and help the team win, or they’re not on the roster.
However, I also don’t think the radio business and major league baseball are an apples to apples comparison.
In sports radio, the words, actions, images and voices of our personalities determine how a brand is received by local listeners. If a station doesn’t offer a minority voice on its airwaves in a key weekday time slot, then it creates the impression to minority audiences that it’s going to take an act of god for someone from their background to gain a bigger opportunity on that brand’s airwaves.
Where it becomes even more challenging is when you consider how many positions exist on each station’s airwaves, how successful the brand is, and what level of interest is displayed from qualified candidates from minority backgrounds. Unlike pro sports where 25 men occupy a major league baseball team’s roster, and 53 suit up for an NFL team, and the entire country plays them at a young age and dreams of one day doing so professionally, some sports stations may only feature 2-5 people in their starting lineups. That’s even less than what an NBA team puts on the floor each night.
The other part of the conversation that remains a real issue is the lower level of interest from qualified minority candidates. I mentioned my personal familiarity with this issue when I explored it fifteen months ago, and after speaking to numerous executives for this year’s column, it appears that not much has changed.
Maybe the guy who works at Staples in the stockroom will turn out to be the next Stephen A. Smith, but when a programmer receives an application, and it includes no experience in the radio industry, no audio to judge someone’s ability, no mention of any type of work that would be related to the field for which they’re applying, and no references to anyone inside your operation who might know something unique and interesting about the candidate, chances are that application is going into the filing cabinet.
We can blame corporations and take issue with those who are in high ranking positions at radio stations across the country, but we also need to recognize that there’s a big issue with minority candidates not pursuing this industry as aggressively as whites. If the applicants pursuing work aren’t from a minority background, and those who do apply lack the skill level necessary to land an opportunity, what’s the hiring manager supposed to do?
These days you don’t necessarily have to be a radio veteran with stops in multiple cities, but you do have to provide something that gives a program director a reason to want to contact you. I may want to be the next President of the United States of America, but if I lack political experience, allies, a shortage of campaign funding, and possess little knowledge on the complex issues facing our nation, that opportunity isn’t going to be part of my future plans.
On second thought, maybe that makes me qualified after all.
But I digress.
Another issue that deserves to be raised is how smaller markets (where many people get their opportunities to learn and develop their skills) also have a shortage of minority on-air personalities. Is that because minorities are being ignored in smaller towns? Or is it due to a lack of pursuing entry level jobs in smaller regions and rejecting the idea of relocating and working for minimal pay?
Most small stations rely on young people who are willing to work for minimum wage salaries, and the trade off for low compensation is experience. Smaller markets should be even more open to giving people of color and different backgrounds a chance to learn the business, but it’s also incumbent upon minorities to explore these situations, and be willing to pay their dues because starting at the top in major markets isn’t a viable option.
I also don’t see a ton of minorities creating original content via podcasts, YouTube, Periscope or Facebook Live. These are all areas where an individual can practice their craft, build relationships with radio station executives, and develop an audience. And it costs next to nothing.
This issue is complex and it won’t be fixed immediately, but what’s critical is that the radio industry is making a collective effort to improve upon its shortcomings. Few can argue that the format is thin of minority voices. Nor can they suggest that enough training, outreach and internal accountability has been implemented to assure that brands take steps in the right direction to improve their diversity challenges.
Which means that each company has to decide if this is an issue they care deeply about, or if they’re content with their current standing. It also tells me that the current crop of minority talent on our sports radio stations can be part of the solution by getting further involved and encouraging people from different backgrounds to explore this industry.
The media business, and for that matter, the entire world, is a changed place. Image, sound, variety, and perception all impact a station’s ability to maintain and expand its business. What may have worked for the past thirty years isn’t necessarily going to work for the next thirty, which is why this is a subject that must be addressed.
Most radio industry leaders are good open-minded people with the right intentions, but the collective results we’ve delivered on this issue leave little to be desired. We can sweep it under the carpet, issue quotes to the radio trades, speak at conferences, and send out internal emails telling our employees how much we value being a diverse operation, but at some point, that noise must turn to concrete action, especially in desirable positions.
Keep in mind, I’ve only drawn to light the lack of minority voices in key weekday hosting positions. What do you think we’d find if we also shined the spotlight on update anchors, reporters and producers? Heck, is there one sports radio station in the nation that uses a minority as its main voice to position its brand? If so, I’d love to know. I study this format intently and I haven’t heard of any station doing that.
The late Michael Jackson said it best in his song “Man In The Mirror“. If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics, they read like this:
I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
Jackson may not have written that song with the thought of sports radio’s lack of diversity on the top of his mind, but the message rings all too clear.
Change starts in each city, building, company, and executive’s mind. If you care about growing your radio station and relating better to the community in which you operate, be willing to consider others who you may not have previously. Explore different avenues to identify talent. Get a firm understanding of where your brand’s strengths are, and what opportunities exist to make larger inroads in the marketplace. Don’t wait until your market’s demographics change. By then it’ll be way too late to make adjustments.
The collective improvement of diversity in sports radio won’t be resolved inside of a conference room by a group of executives joining forces to introduce wholesale changes across multiple regions and companies. But if better systems are installed, and one individual in one city takes action to make his or her operation more diverse, that becomes the first step towards making an entire industry look, sound, and feel better than it did yesterday. And that my friends is where progress begins.
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.