When I’m in the moment it can be difficult to enjoy and appreciate the wins. My mind is always thinking about the next challenge or the previous one and what I could have done differently to be more effective. But this week, I’ve allowed myself a little bit of time to reflect back on the BSM Chicago programming summit because this was a brand new experience.
The idea first entered my mind two and a half years ago when I traveled to Chicago for the Podcast Movement Conference. Anytime I’m on the road, I try to find a few local sports radio people to connect with in person. I believe that’s an important part of keeping relationships strong.
During that trip, I dropped by to see Mitch Rosen and Adam Delevitt at each of their offices. When Mitch showed off the Blue Cross Blue Shield Performance Stage area and said “if you do a future conference, keep Chicago in mind” my mind started racing.
I liked Chicago because it’s not only an incredible city, but it’s centrally located. I felt that would make it easier for all who were traveling. I also knew Mitch and Adam were friends despite competing for local ratings bragging rights, and that’s a positive because when you’re considering putting on an event, you want both local brands to be part of it. The event may occur in one company’s building, but having local balance is important.
What stood out most from last week’s summit was how many smart, talented and passionate radio programmers made the trip to share thoughts and ideas on how to evolve our format. We had 20-30 brand leaders in the room, along with a number of exceptional speakers with experiences in a variety of areas related to our business. I wasn’t sure going into the summit if the room would welcome straight-talk on real issues facing our business, but much of the pre-conference feedback suggested that another rah-rah speech on the radio business wasn’t necessary and having honest discussions about ways to improve was important.
I could feel the passion and candor for the topics we explored. That energy grew from session to session. Given that the room consisted of executives from Entercom, Bonneville, Hubbard, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Emmis, Tribune, NRG Media, ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, SiriusXM, VSiN, and the Chernin Group, it allowed us to spread our wings and have more meaningful conversations rather than just echoing one point of view.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you can see some of the videos that were recorded during the two-day summit, but I also want to pass along a few things that stood out while listening and conducting on-stage conversations.
- Sarah Spain and Jason Goff (along with Dan Zampillo) were tremendous on the subject of diversity in sports radio. It’s not easy to be open and honest on a topic like this, especially in front of a number of people who could potentially impact a future paycheck, but they were. I’ve written about this subject before, and have called on our format leaders to step up their efforts to expand the audience and showcase more personalities from various backgrounds. The US population is nearly 50% female and 40% minority yet the representation on sports radio stations is far below that. 13% of M-F hosting jobs belong to minorities and only 12 women are installed as M-F show hosts. Making that even more perplexing is that the overall listening audience is 92% “Other” (white) and 8% minority. One may say “if it’s 92% then you have to superserve them” but I submit that the ceiling has been reached doing it that way, and the real growth is in bringing more minority and female listeners into the sports radio tent.
- Jon Miller of Nielsen and Larry Rosin of Edison Research provided deep dives into the sports radio ratings picture, and growth opportunities in podcasting and smart speakers. PD’s know that digital/social content is a vital part of their present and future, but challenges remain for getting full ratings credit for it. Nielsen is trying to find permanent solutions to satisfy their clients and although that may frustrate programmers in the short-term, a long-term mindset is needed when connecting with an audience. Seeing the data of how podcasting and smart speaker consumption has grown, it makes business sense to continue creating content in those spaces. The questions every programmer should be asking are “How is my brand standing out in those spaces” and “How easy is it to find my station and on-air content on smart speakers and podcasting platforms?”
- I loved the spirited discussion on social media benefits and pitfalls with Danny Parkins, Scott Shapiro and sports agent Barry Meister. I showed a few social media examples involving sports media members, some which may have raised an eyebrow or two in the room. Given that the panel included perspectives from a host, agent and executive, it allowed everyone to better understand how each person thinks and operates when grey areas are reached. Between debating which examples warranted punishment and whether or not social media provided enough of a financial reward for the amount of risks it involves, we couldn’t have had three better people weighing in on an important yet imperfect subject.
- If there was a moment which made every PD stop in their tracks, it was when Laurel Cline of Wintrust Financial said “Until today I don’t think I’ve ever met a sports radio program director.” Unfortunately that’s pretty common in our format. It served as a great reminder that account executives and market managers must do a better job of involving their PD’s in bigger sales discussions. Not to be excused, programmers must also make it a higher priority to help their sales teams. I showed examples in one of my sessions of how certain brands miss the mark with branded content. It’s because social platforms are used as a dumping ground for ads and PD’s turn a blind eye because they’re focused on the radio airwaves. When you look at the lack of reach and engagement on those sales posts, put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask, “Why would I spend more money with a brand when the evidence shows that they can’t deliver one like or share for my business?” Look at how Barstool, Bleacher Report, Vice, Whistle Sports, etc. produce branded content. They weave clients seamlessly into programming, and that’s something we must do better too. It starts by getting reps, clients and PD’s into the room together and thinking beyond the speaker.
- Hearing Tim Spence of KHOW and Orange & Blue 760 moderate a discussion with Todd Manley of WGN, Brian Long of XTRA 1360/Newsradio 600 KOGO and Chris Kinard of 106.7 The Fan on The Trump Effect and sports radio’s challenges with choosing whether to embrace or ignore topics involving the President and life/social issues was really interesting. I thought John Hanson of 610 Sports summed it up best at the conclusion of the summit when he said “No matter how experienced you are in this business, you’re not experienced in this. I’ve made mistakes. My talent have called me out on them, and they were right. It’s something we’re all trying to figure out together.”
- Anytime David Kaplan and Laurence Holmes share a stage together you’re in for a real treat. Hearing them share their insights with Jeff Rickard on the business, how they prepare and use social media, what they need most/least from a program director, etc. was excellent. The passion these Chicago hosts have for our format was evident, and if you have 50-minutes to spare, watch their session. It was very entertaining.
- Sports stations struggle to give their brands a social media voice. Personalities are popular on their own accounts, but future ad dollars in the social space will be reduced if you can’t create impact. I thought Dan Moriarty of the Chicago Bulls, Jen Tulicki of the Chicago Bears and Brad Boron of the Chicago White Sox gave great insight on the way teams operate. They face the same challenges, except they’ve done a better job of using personality and strategy with their approach. Jen pointed out that any post made by the Bears takes into account the words “tough and humble.” Dan’s mention of the Bulls six pillars (Human, Iconic, Timely, Thumb Stopping, Inclusive and Differentiating) and how no piece of content should be published unless it checks at least three of those boxes and never wanders beyond those areas was eye opening. He also noted that the Bulls employ 2-3 FT digital content creators and 2-3 seasonal employees, and their challenge is to take one piece of content and find 10-12 ways to promote that material across multiple platforms in different ways. Jen’s insights on being comfortable with infrequent activity on Snapchat and placing a larger emphasis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram made a ton of sense given that the audience size is smaller. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for radio folks though was when the subject of sports stations posting 50x per day on Facebook came up. Jen said it best “Nobody likes that annoying friend who won’t shut up.” Dan followed with “That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen….posting that much only makes sense if you’re using video where the numbers are huge. Otherwise, it’ll cost you followers.”
- Jim Cutler‘s speech on ways to image your radio station successfully was inspiring. He showed samples of ways to help or hurt your brand, and his airing of thirty seconds of “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah” reinforced the point of just how long that amount of time is and why it’s critical to make good use of it or risk losing your audience. I also thought his input on not boasting you’re great but letting your audience say it for you was smart. Perhaps his most memorable quote during the session was “a line draws a line” and that’s something every programmer should take into account when trying to reinforce the position of being a dominant performer in their local markets.
- We were also fortunate to hear from Mitch Rosen, Ryan Maguire and Chris “Hoss” Neupert on winning with/without play by play. Justin Craig offered valuable insights on satisfying the fan experience and across multiple platforms. Mike Thomas shared his wisdom on how to make your sports radio station rock thru imaging. Chad Millman of the Action Network and Bill Adee of VSiN chatted with Joe Ostrowski about the future of sports betting and why it’s a huge category for sports radio folks. Dave Zaslowsky conducted an engaging conversation with three millennials, Bernie Goin, Julio Rausseo and Joey Alexander about the way they use and view sports media brands. And I scared the heck out of a few folks by offering some input on the future of the PD role, the missed opportunity with merchandising and other areas of the business we should be looking at in my Sports Radio Re-imagined and BSM Blitz sessions.
Altogether the event was a great success. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Entercom Chicago for providing a great room and a professional staff which helped us deliver a positive experience for all in attendance. Now that the summit is in the rear view mirror, I’ve got a few things in mind that I’d tweak if I chose to hold a second one. For those who weren’t there but have kept up via the website or social media, should this be done again in the future? I’ll take your feedback at JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.
I do believe that independent conferences like this are important. Many companies do a great job of bringing their employees together for annual learning, but that just reinforces your internal beliefs and opinions. It doesn’t expose you to different ideas, strategies and people, and there are certainly many other ways to grow ratings and revenue.
It took months of hard work to make this a reality. I didn’t charge a dime for it even though many said I should. In fact, I spent money doing it, but I believe it’s a worthwhile investment. I don’t go into things like this with my hands out or an expectation that it’ll lead to follow up business. I obviously hope it does, but I trust that if I produce good content, bring people together, and teach the business to those in positions to grow it, then companies will find ways to utilize me to help them. That doesn’t always happen, and sometimes it can be frustrating and make me question if industry people value outside support, but I quickly get past those moments of doubt, and return my focus and energy to doing what I love, trying to make our business better.
One thing I’d like to see improve down the road should we do this again is the attendance from market managers. I realize sales are vital and getting out of the building isn’t always easy, but the reason every brand holds a significant place in the hearts and minds of the audience is because of the programming. We have some incredible station managers in this format, and when big decisions have to be made to a programming lineup or an adjustment is needed for a brand’s digital, social or on-air strategy, it helps to be as informed as one can be. Given that there are people involved in the two-day affair beyond the terrestrial radio space, there’s no shortage of information or ideas to help people grow.
Think of it like this, if the PD of your radio station is Steven Spielberg, and your talent are Tom Hanks or Al Pacino, the more you know about the creation, execution and promotion of the film, the better it will perform at the box office. And in that case, you’ll still be helping the bottom line!
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.