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Traug Keller Is Exiting The Game While Still On Top of It

“I loved ESPN. I couldn’t have worked for a better company with better people, but it felt like the right time to step away.”

Jason Barrett

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For over 25 years, Traug Keller has been a steady force in the radio industry. 10 of his years were spent as the President of ABC Radio Networks where he led all aspects of network programming, affiliate relations, engineering, finance, research, IT, international programming, and marketing. The last 16 have been dedicated to ESPN where he’s served as Senior Vice President of ESPN Audio, managing all of the network’s business matters including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling, and event production. He added oversight of the ESPN Talent Office in 2016.

With Keller in charge, ESPN Radio has been the country’s largest sports radio network with programming carried by more than 500 stations, including 375 who operate as full time affiliates. Content is also delivered thru ESPN apps, SiriusXM, Apple Music, TuneIn, Slacker Radio, and ESPNRadio.com, which has been the most listened to live stream of any terrestrial broadcaster in the world, reaching more than 700,000 unique listeners per month. Altogether, ESPN’s audio division produces over 9,000 hours of talk and event content annually, reaching nearly 24 million listeners per week.

But on February 6th, Traug Keller will wake up without a commute to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, CT. That will be the first day when he no longer bears the responsibility of managing ESPN’s audio business.

“It will take some getting used to, but I always earmarked 60 as the end of a corporate run,” Keller told Barrett Sports Media. “My favorite team growing up was the NY Knicks, especially the 1972-1973 team with Willis Reed, Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere. When Bradley and DeBusschere retired, I remember my dad saying to me ‘That’s great. They’re leaving while they still have something left.’ That always stuck with me. I wanted to be able to leave while I still had game.”

The decision to leave one of the most important positions in sports audio didn’t happen overnight. Keller started thinking about it within the past year, and when he initially told his bosses what he was considering, they had the reaction many industry folks did when we broke the news two weeks ago that Keller would be signing off.

“Are you nuts? That’s what they asked me,” said Keller. “When you’ve logged the corporate miles that I have, you start to realize there’s an end date. I loved ESPN. I couldn’t have worked for a better company with better people. The relationships I’ve made both internally and externally have been special and I’ll carry those with me forever. But there are still things I want to do in my life without being involved in the corporate world on a daily basis. It just felt like the right time to step away.”

But after twenty five years of working for a company, and having a large role in the growth of one of America’s most well known brands, it’d be understandable if one were to step away, miss the challenge, and seek to return. For Keller though, that’s not even a consideration.

“Oh god no,” Keller passionately voiced when asked if he’d consider reversing course. “I’m not Mike Francesa. This is it. As I told Jeff Smulyan, this is kind of like being alive at your own wake. Everyone has reached out and offered kind words, and they’re greatly appreciated, but I’m looking forward to watching the business grow from afar.”

Leaving a key position of this magnitude without a lot of lead time appeared curious at first. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to it. Anyone who knows Traug, appreciates how much he loves the audio business, how loyal he’s been to the company, and how talented of an executive he is. Keller though said it really was cut and dry. There was no internal pressure to move on nor was he looking for a different challenge inside the company. It was simply a matter of feeling like the time had arrived to move on.

The one wrinkle thrown into the situation was America Media. Having recently agreed to become the company’s COO, Keller said he initially planned to take a break from working, but the situation was one that he felt a personal connection to.

“It’s a calling. This came along and appealed to me. It was a chance to join a great team in the noble cause of expanding dialogue around faith and culture, returning to my Jesuit roots. I’ve been a longtime reader of America Magazine, and I’m excited about working with them.”

Though he’ll soon turn in his ESPN badge, and take on a new professional challenge, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick his brain on a few industry items before he heads out the door. I was particularly interested in hearing his final assessment of ESPN Audio.

In the sports radio business, it’s common for industry people to have mixed opinions about talent. Everyone wants a station or network programmed to their personal tastes, which isn’t realistic. Knowing though that opinions are divided on ESPN Radio’s shows, I wanted to get Traug’s thoughts on the current lineup. As expected, he was steadfast in his belief that the network features great personalities and programs, and expects that they’ll continue to be an asset to local stations moving forward.

“One of the best things we did was give the morning show time to bake,” said Keller. “Golic and Wingo were just up 5% in the ratings, which is a reminder that sometimes you have to nurture things. We have a rising star in Will Cain. Le Batard has his audience which is extremely loyal, especially younger fans who stream his content on demand. Jason Fitz is another talent who I believe has a high ceiling.”

But where might the network need to improve to remain viable and important to local stations as it has over the past few decades? Keller offered a few interesting takeaways.

“It’ll be other people’s decisions, but having multiple offerings in the same dayparts to suit different affiliates is one way to go,” Keller shared. “I think a robust push will need to continue being made to push digital. In that space, it’s all about content. We’ve been fortunate to have some of the best talent in the business under one roof. It’s not rocket science, you build it, promote it, have patience, and consistently execute. If you do those things, it’ll work out most of the time.”

Having had the opportunity recently to hear from people following the news of his forthcoming retirement from ESPN, and reflect on his professional journey, summing up his proudest accomplishments in one or two sentences isn’t easy. When you’ve operated a national network for as long as Keller has, it’s hard to single out one or two decisions, but a few important choices and relationships stand out.

“At the top of the list was moving the company from radio to audio,” Keller proudly acknowledges. “It was important for us to make sure our audio content was available everywhere and anywhere, and to get our people to buy into that mindset. We formed a great partnership with Sirius, started streaming and working with Apple and Spotify, and have been fortunate to have great support from local radio stations. Those are just some of the things that I’m proud to have been a part of.”

Great executives win more than they lose, and Keller has done a whole lot of winning, but in every business, even the best have one or two decisions that they wish they could reverse. I asked Traug, ‘if there was one move over the years that he wished he could do over, which would it be?’ He didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Losing Colin Cowherd. I’ve got no problem saying that,” said Keller. “He’s a great talent, and special person, and we should’ve done whatever we had to do to keep him. That’s the one decision I wish I could change.”

With his giant presence on the verge of fading away from ESPN’s offices, the challenge of moving the network forward will now belong to Dave Roberts, Tim McCarthy, Scott McCarthy, Amanda Gifford, and Justin Craig. All five are no stranger to audio. Dave and Amanda have important roles in TV but have previously programmed the radio network. Justin’s spent most of the past fifteen years either programming at the network or in Chicago and New York. Tim has managed 98.7 ESPN NY along with the network’s play by play operations, and Scott recently ran ESPN LA 710 (Tim will now assume oversight of the station) and has been an integral part of running the network business with Keller for the past twenty years.

The leadership team that’s been assembled to move the company forward is a big part of why Keller has confidence stepping away. He says they’re not only ready for greater responsibilities, but they’re all audio people at heart who affiliates have formed relationships with over the years. By having qualified leaders ready to drive the company’s growth, Keller is thankful that he didn’t have to delay his exit.

As he prepares for a world with much less fanfare and chaos, it’d be understandable if Keller has days in the future where he wakes up missing the daily grind. Radio has been a large part of his professional life, and once the business enters your bloodstream, even a transfusion can’t get rid of it.

But with so much uncertainty facing the industry, how does he feel about its future? Will radio remain vital? Does podcasting become the phenomenon that many expect it to? Is sports radio permanently branded as a niche format with little chance of escaping that perception?

“Podcasting is going to continue to grow, that I do believe,” stated Keller. “But nothing replaces live listening, especially when it relates to sports talk. This format has a special connection. Just look at the combined share between Mike Francesa and Michael Kay this fall. You couldn’t find a sports fan in New York that didn’t know those two shows. I’m bullish on this business, but we do have to keep preaching to advertisers how the connection between listener and host in this medium is superior to anything that can be offered elsewhere. Collectively in the radio business we need to explain and demonstrate that in a powerful way.”

There is one item though that bugs Keller. It’s the way the radio industry is presented by other forms of media. Having seen firsthand how fruitful the radio business can be for a major company like ESPN, Traug points out that others should get a better read first on what’s really going on.

“This industry is not as sick as the media makes it out to be,” Keller reminded me. “The largest radio companies are suffering from debt, not cash flow. If you compare this business to print, radio’s actually pretty good. It’s held it’s own despite the onslaught of digital media. So much of the headlines revolve around some of the troubles that the big 3 have run into, but there are a lot of other radio companies that are growing. Good Karma for example has done a great job and continues to invest in audio. We’ve even turned over some of our digital selling to them because they understand it and have success with it. These type of stories aren’t always told, but they should be.”

As we wrapped up our call, I couldn’t help but put Keller on the spot one final time. He’s always been positive, supportive, and quick to give credit to everyone but himself, and he kept that streak in tact when I asked “so when the hall of fame comes calling, who introduces you?” In typical Traug fashion he replied “it’d be presumptuous of me to assume they will, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Traug Keller will exit ESPN Audio on February 5th with plenty of game left, leaving the network in position to remain successful for years to come. What he won’t have moving forward is the ability to put our annual lunch on ESPN’s dime. I guess that just means it’s time for Barrett Sports Media to pick up the next tab. Given what he’s done for this business, it’s the least we can do.

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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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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