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How Much Does Being Right Matter?

Jason Barrett

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Sports is a subjective business. On the field or court, players are paid a lot of money to perform and make sound decisions. We determine their success or failure based on batting averages, shooting percentages, yards gained, touchdowns, home runs and of course, wins, losses and championships. It matters less to fans if a player is a good locker room leader or valuable to the organization in other ways. If it can’t be measured in a positive way statistically, we deem them ineffective and replaceable.

But in the sports media business, we’re not paid to play. We’re paid to talk. And as groundbreaking as this news might be, it doesn’t take much to deliver a passionate opinion and generate a response. You simply read or watch a story, form a thought in your mind about how it makes you feel, articulate it to the audience in a passionate manner and support it with a few facts you uncovered while researching the subject.

But not every individual has the ability to provide thought provoking opinions in a unique, colorful and memorable way. It’s what separates a good host from a great host. Colin Cowherd has often said the sports media business is less about about being right and more about being interesting, and in the climate that we operate in where attention spans are shrinking by the second, it’s hard to disagree with him.

Whether you like it or not, sports audio and video is all about entertainment. There are no passing grades handed out for accuracy. And it’s always been that way. This is not a new trend.

When an audience consumes sports content they’re often looking for a mental escape, a breather from life’s challenges. They’re not interested in the additional responsibility of tracking a host’s win-loss record when offering predictions and opinions. They simply tune in and expect to hear an interesting conversation, learn a few things relevant to the story being discussed, and then take that information with them to use with their friends or family members in their daily conversations. If the host turns out to be right, great. If not, life goes on.

https://youtu.be/nzeuk52sd40

But if you survey the media landscape today, there’s a growing belief that we should expect more from public figures who are paid to offer sports opinions. If an individual is given a platform to speak to an audience and inform them on what’s taking place in the world of sports, there’s a contingent of folks who feel it should be expected that the hosts are not only accurate with their facts and information, but also more successful with their opinions.

A big factor in the changing perception among fans is social media. The rising influence of Twitter and Facebook has given people an ability to permanently store, dissect, and use a personality’s commentary against them. That’s certainly different from TV or radio where a listener or viewer’s ability to recall specific points, opinions, and predictions vanishes quickly.

The positive side of this development is that it puts added pressure on personalities to be more thorough and accurate with their opinions and predictions. The negative is that it feeds this growing trend of judging people on fifteen seconds of commentary, while disregarding the countless hours of additional accuracy and entertainment they may have provided.

Maybe in the past it was worse than I’m giving it credit for, but it certainly seems like we’ve seen a lot more misses from talk show hosts over the past few years. That perception has been shaped by the increased visibility on social media. Years ago when Mike and the Mad Dog were the dominant duo in sports radio, they were praised for how much they knew about sports and how often they were right. Today, you’d swear neither knows much if you didn’t listen to their show and relied solely on social media to form your opinion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5atUH2VTJc

One Twitter account which does a fantastic job of keeping personalities in check and showcasing their missed predictions is Fred Segal’s Freezing Cold Takes. It may ruffle the feathers of some personalities who reject the idea of being called out for being inaccurate, but it’s become a badge of honor for others to have their misfires recognized by the account. And it’s clearly attractive to listeners and viewers, because over seventy two thousand are following the account on Twitter.

As much as the audience, media critics and an occasional colleague or two may take exception with a host’s ability to be accurate with their predictions and positions, we’ve also got to remember that opinions are personal beliefs. Many factors can influence how a situation turns out, and each person reserves the right to change their mind.

For instance, you may pick the Golden State Warriors to sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals before the upcoming season begins. However, if Kevin Durant and Steph Curry went down with season ending injuries in November, that’d certainly change the likelihood of your prediction being accurate. That doesn’t mean though that you didn’t provide an informed and rational prediction when initially making it.

If there’s an area that frustrates many critics, fans, and listeners, it’s when a host is unwilling to adjust their stance and own a blemish on their record after misfiring on an opinion or prediction. A personality only helps themselves by doing so. It’s fine if you take your sports seriously and strive to be accurate when delivering opinions, but it’s also OK to be wrong.

I’m a firm believer that one of the best traits a host can possess is self-deprecation. If you can own a mistake, laugh at yourself, and show the audience you’re a human being who’s as flawed as they are, it shows you’re relatable. People tune into a show because they want to laugh and learn. If they like you, that’s even better. When you’re accountable and able to acknowledge your personal blunders, it increases your approval rating. If you’re arrogant and unwilling to fall on the sword when you screw up, it’ll cost you fans.

https://youtu.be/JgEchVFi2sc?list=PLJTqmdE_6UmmzA3Og07oEU9pTGZT6CG1q

The idea of being more accountable and accurate is welcomed by most people in the sports media business. It’s also beneficial to every on-air talent to be challenged to do their homework and find unique angles to deliver to the audience. But while those areas can certainly be examined and improved, it’s important to remember and never forget that being right matters far less than being entertaining.

As consumers we sometimes scrutinize every detail of a show and every character trait of a host that we become incapable of allowing ourselves to be entertained. We forget that the biggest reason we watch or listen to a show about sports is because it’s fun. It brings people from different backgrounds and communities together to debate, discuss, and publicly express love and support for a common cause and in doing so, the presentation entertains us.

That connection is what makes a program necessary. It’s far greater in value than any host’s ability to provide a stronger winning percentage when spitting out sports opinions and predictions.

This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t some holes that need patching. For one, I’d like to see hosts and networks spend less time rushing to judgment and invest more time putting things into proper context. That happens a lot, especially after a big sporting event when shows/hosts immediately declare a team, player or play as the best of all-time. They disregard the past and live in the moment because it’s easier to ride an emotional high instead of pushing the pause button to process what’s transpired, research and analyze it, and come to a conclusion about where it belongs in a historical sense.

I was curious how programmers and personalities felt about this topic given that it has a direct result on everything they do on a daily basis. Here’s what I uncovered from talking to a number of industry professionals.

  • Joe Zarbano – Program Director, WEEI
  • Ryan Maguire – Program Director, WQAM
  • Don Kollins – Program Director, 95.7 The Game
  • Isaac Ropp – Host of Isaac and Suke, 1080 The Fan
  • Randy Karraker – Host of The Fast Lane, 101 ESPN
  • Scott Shapiro – VP of Sports Programming, FOX Sports Radio
  • Evan Cohen – Host of the Morning Men, SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio & Director of Content, Good Karma Brands

Why Is It More Important For a Host To Be Interesting Instead of Right?

Shapiro: It is a human impossibility for any host to be right 100% of the time. Wouldn’t that be nice though? Because it’s a stone-cold lock that our hosts will be incorrect frequently, there’s nothing more important in this business than them being interesting. It’s why Colin Cowherd always refers to the radio industry as the “interesting business,” not the “get it right every time business.”

Cohen: Our job as a host is to properly serve fans, teammates and advertising partners. Nowhere in the job description does it say anything about our opinions needing to be right. It is most important to consistently engage our fans, teammates and advertising partners in relatable conversation.

Zarbano: It’s much harder to be interesting than right. How many times have we heard someone say “I predicted that” or “I knew that was going to happen”? I don’t care. Anyone can get lucky and pick the correct result. Can you consistently tell me something interesting and say something compelling enough that I’m engaged and reacting to what you’re saying? That’s the true indicator of radio talent.

Karraker: To draw a listener in, he or she needs to hear an opinion or a side of a story that they hadn’t thought of and/or don’t necessarily agree with. A good communicator can come up with a strong foundation for their opinion, and that’s what I try to do. I know the background of what I’m talking about, and I’m able to form a reasonable opinion based on a foundation of facts. At the end of the day, we are offering opinions, and there’s no such thing as a wrong opinion. You can take the side you truly believe in, whether it’s popular or not, and be interesting. That said, a talk show host should never present incorrect facts. It’s our responsibility to educate the listener and use our place as “fans with access” to present our opinions based on correct facts, and be interesting with them.

Ropp: Being interesting translates more. As long as your content is interesting you can keep ears on your show. Most reasonable people know a host will be right some but also wrong some. Most are NOT keeping score. And to be honest, the idea of needing to be right is merely an ego thing for the host. The listener’s perspective isn’t coming from that place. They just want something to chew on for the 10-30 minutes they’re tuning in. Hosts fret FAR more about what they say than the listener does.

Maguire: A host needs to be accurate in terms of getting their facts right, but people spend time with the host/show that is the most compelling to listen to. The landscape is flooded with radio shows, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, snaps and tweets of people giving opinions and making predictions. There are so few though that can do so in a way that will make listeners want to invest their precious time with them.

How Concerned Are You of Losing Credibility With The Audience If Your On-Air Opinions and Predictions Turn Out To Be Wrong?

Kollins: The best host(s) can admit they were wrong to their audience. That’s absolutely the most powerful tool in the radio host handbook. It seems there are many hosts that get on their soapbox, spew their opinions, then move on to spew more on the next topic without much back and forth. If a host is willing to listen, ask questions, engage with listeners, and acknowledge when they’re wrong, that’s very valuable and powerful.

Maguire: If a host is compelling enough to listen to, then who the hell cares if they went 0-12 vs. picks against the spread? Stephen A Smith picked seven consecutive NBA finals wrong and is still pulling down an impressive paycheck. Why? Because he knows how to get people talking and keep them watching. The only kind of opinions/predictions that concern me are uninformed ones. A host has to do their homework before opening their mouth and putting themselves out there. Listeners will tune out a host who bloviates for hours with little or no substance behind it.

Cohen: When did I have credibility in order to lose it? I’m being serious. I have no interest in whatever credibility means. Relatability and sellability, those are the abilities I want.

Zarbano: I’m not concerned at all. Predictions aren’t always going to be correct. We constantly see the “experts” getting their predictions wrong whether it’s a game, the NFL Draft, March Madness, season predictions, etc. How many times have Mel Kiper and Jay Bilas been wrong? Tony Dungy is wrong quite often with his game predictions. Media personalities are not going to be right every time and the audience understands that.

Shapiro: What I look for in an opinion on the air is a well-thought out, well-researched opinion. Would I prefer that it ends up being the “correct opinion?” Sure. Who wouldn’t. But with thirty-plus hosts on a 24/7 national network, there will always be times when hosts are right and wrong. What I want is authenticity. I never want someone on the air to take the other side just because. Our audience is smarter than that and can see through the B.S. If the audience are treated like adults, and a strong stance is nuanced via research, context, and storytelling, then I care far less what the outcome of that opinion is. If it’s genuine and sincere, and you can make someone stop, listen, and think, then that’s what good radio is all about.

Ropp: I believe the best approach is to be known for holding a good discussion. If the host(s) present material with good points on both sides of an issue, each listener will identify with the one that matches their sensibilities. It becomes less about right/wrong and more about wanting to listen to a good discussion on the hot button issues of that day.

How Should Talent Be Held Accountable For Providing Accurate and Informed Sports Opinions and Predictions?

Karraker: I try to be as accessible to my listeners as possible. They can reach me on Twitter, Facebook, and via e-mail, and they can call my office phone. If there’s something a listener vehemently disagrees with, I’ll engage them and explain my thoughts more clearly. I want my consumers to hold me accountable for the product I’m turning out. Program Directors should have a playbook for how their hosts present opinions and predictions, and if the talent adheres to the playbook and there isn’t anything to account for, ultimately the listener will make the decision as to whether they like what’s being delivered. That’s the ultimate accountability.

Maguire: A programmer should talk to their hosts and producers and make sure they’re in the loop on what’s important. Usually it’s as easy as “did you see this?” Show prep is like staying shape, you don’t want to let your team skip too many days at the gym. If a host gets something wrong, own it. Some of the best hosts I’ve worked with make fun of their incorrect predictions in a humorous way. Being wrong isn’t a sin. It shows you’re human.

Ropp: This polices itself. Your reputation precedes you. People will figure out if you are a fraud or uninformed, etc. It’s very hard to fake it in radio. The host doesn’t have to be the expert on all things either. He or she can be a person that is thinking the same things about a game or topic that many of the listeners are. It’s OK to tell the audience you don’t have an opinion on something or don’t know enough about a topic to give an informed opinion. It enhances credibility because people know you aren’t going to BS them. It also makes the times when you are very passionate and informed about a subject that much more real and meaningful.

Zarbano: It’s the host’s job to be prepared and put in the proper effort to be the most informed, opinionated, and entertaining they can beIf that’s not happening then that person isn’t doing their job. It should be explained to them what the expectations are and if the prep work and effort still aren’t satisfactory then it might be time to find someone else.

Cohen: Hosts should be accountable for serving fans, teammates and partners. If the #1 thing that all three of those groups care most about are accurate opinions and predictions, then a host should be held accountable for them.

How Do You Feel Social Media Has Changed The Game When It Comes To Recalling Positions and Predictions From Talent on Various Sports Subjects?

Ropp: Predictions or commentary on social media sits on the internet for everyone to refer back to. What is said on the radio vanishes off into the cosmos and most people don’t remember what was said. For this reason, social media has created a currency. It can help some hosts and hurt others. That all depends on the hosts approach on these various platforms.

Kollins: I consider social media the new studio phone. It’s a great way for hosts to get a sample of “how hot” a topic or opinion is. In addition to the phones, it’s absolutely essential to incorporate social media into all opinion based segments.

Karraker: The audience is smart and likes to use social media to remind hosts of things they’ve said. I give opinions for twenty hours a week, and don’t necessarily remember every point, opinion or prediction I make on the air. If a listener hears me say something that they disagree with, especially if it’s one that’s gone awry, then I’m going to hear about it. And I should. That’s what makes the show work. Social media helps increase the engagement.

Maguire: Once you say or post something in a public forum it’s chiseled into the internet for eternity. Don’t try to back track it or split hairs over something you got wrong. You’ll only sound like the kind of person nobody wants to be around.

Cohen: It makes it more fun because we can all be more interactive and trackable in a relatable way.

Zarbano: I believe it has helped. It gives the audience a better opportunity to react to a host’s prediction, whether right or wrong. It also gives the listener a chance to engage in the show and with a personality outside of the normal show hours which helps strengthen relationships.

Why Should a Listener Invest Time In a Host or Radio Station If The On-Air Talent Is Consistently Wrong With Their Opinions?

Maguire: If a host is unique, compelling and entertaining, listeners will return no matter how often they make an inaccurate prediction.

Karraker: As a consumer, I have trouble giving time to someone that hasn’t earned credibility. If they’re consistently wrong, they don’t deserve the listener’s attention. There are hosts that never make it to a game, don’t talk to people to try to find out WHY something happened, and will spout off about things and be completely wrong. If someone is only correct once in a blue moon, I can’t listen to them. There are different kinds of listeners, and I’m glad there are alternatives for those consumers. But, I think people in our business that don’t do their homework and don’t build their opinion on a foundation of facts are being incredibly irresponsible and are doing a disservice to their listeners.  We’ve heard the term “fake news” a lot over  the last few months, and I don’t think there’s a place for opinions based on fake news in sports talk radio. It’s lazy and unnecessary, and I’d hope listeners would see past investing their time in stations and host that produce it.

Shapiro: A host who can admit he/she is wrong and provide additional perspective, has great potential to gain credibility points with people, even if they were wrong initially. If we can poke fun at ourselves and admit that we aren’t perfect with our opinions/predictions, listeners won’t have an issue investing their time with us.

Cohen: If a fan of a host knows that the host is always wrong, then that host has done a great job of getting the fan/listener engaged enough to track his or her opinions.

Kollins: Sports is opinion and every sports fan and host have an opinion on every topic. IF the topic is well-researched, well-executed and the host has an open mind for discussion on all platforms, it’s worth discussing in the pre-show meeting.

Ropp: If a host is consistently wrong, they should stop trying to be right. If they don’t change up their approach, I’m not sure why a listener would continue to invest their time.

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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