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Points to Ponder From The 2020 BSM Summit

“Jason Barrett reflects on some key moments from the 2020 BSM Summit.”

Jason Barrett



One week ago, I was on stage hosting the 2020 BSM Summit. New York City was an excellent location for this year’s show, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results of this year’s show. Pulling off an event like this requires a lot of help. Without great partners, speakers, and attendees, none of it works. To each of you who gave your time or offered company support, I sincerely appreciate it. It makes the nine month process worthwhile.

I’m a firm believer that we should never stop seeking new ways to learn, and that our industry needs to rally together more rather than try to tear each other down. Each year projections for the radio industry fluctuate between flat and down, and if we expect to turn the tide, then we’ve got to find new ways to innovate and educate, and strengthen relationships. If you attend the show and don’t leave the room with actionable items to improve yourself, your staff, and your brand, then I’d question how much attention you paid at the conference. There’s progress and money to be made by attending the Summit, and it’s good to see many who hold it in high regard.

That said, each year when the show ends, I try to get as far away from it as possible. It’s a mentally exhausting process which involves scouting locations, selling sponsorships, creating sessions, securing speakers, laying out details for each member of the BSM team, and designing programs, signage and on stage presentations. There’s also the work after the event such as video editing, photo gathering, sending thank you cards, and gathering feedback on what attendees valued most.

Having had a chance to clear my head and reflect on what stood out, I wanted to pass along a few of my takeaways. I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting, but these particular points stuck with me.


Bruce Gilbert made the point about radio chasing younger fans who may not be possible to reach over the airwaves during our ‘Power Panel’, and Mike Francesa added to that conversation when he explained why radio is making a big mistake by ignoring older listeners. It got me to thinking about the advertising and ratings world. We’ve measured sports radio’s success for decades based on Men 25-54, but who says that has to continue to be the case?

Mike’s points about people living older, and folks between the ages of 55-64 spending more money on sponsor’s products were fair. It’s also tougher to lure a younger audience to the radio because they consume content much differently. If the main goal of advertisers is to generate ROI (return on investment), and sports radio has the ability to motivate high income earners to support those businesses, then why do we care if the listener is 22 or 62? Shouldn’t the point be to reach people who spend money? Why is a 60 years old listener considered less valuable than a 25 year old male?

Furthermore, who says sports radio is only attractive now to men? Are we going to continue to pretend that women don’t enjoy this type of content too? This notion that sports radio’s success should be based on what mattered 20-30 years ago to Men 25-54 seems antiquated. If the proof shows that older fans watch and listen to games and sports talk more than younger fans do, and the interest in sports talk is growing among women, then maybe it’s time to expect our stations to reach ALL audiences, not just one smaller targeted demographic.

Nobody thinks sports television isn’t big business, yet when it comes to radio, the sports format gets treated like the little engine that could. That needs to stop. There’s no format in radio built for the present and future better than sports talk. Spike Eskin also made a great point about total reach needing to be where we direct our focus moving forward in determining the overall impact and importance of a talent and programmer.


One of the coolest things we did at the show was putting 10 PD’s/GM’s on stage to showcase 30 unique ideas in 30 minutes. Too often people go to conferences to network and tune out the information passed along, but if you were in the room for this session, chances are you were on your laptop or phone taking notes or capturing screenshots. The fact that each PD delivered their presentation on time (or very close to it) was a shocker.

Watching this session from the side of the stage reminded me how critical great ideas are. Judging from what each presenter brought to the stage, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening in markets across the country. Now the challenge is taking these big ideas back to our sales teams, and getting them to feel the same enthusiasm when pitching opportunities to existing and potential clients. There’s certainly no shortage of big thinking.


I’m always fascinated when we do an advertising panel because there’s always something said that resonates. In Chicago in 2018, one of the city’s top advertisers shared that she had never met a program director until our Summit. Last year, Ad Results mentioned that they cared less about Nielsen ratings and more about ideas and podcasting. This year we heard from a key sports radio advertiser that the follow thru from sales isn’t as crisp as it should be. The client was also not familiar with the PD’s of two big stations they do business with.

First, any business spending money on your station’s airwaves deserves five star treatment. That means following up, offering to update copy, checking in to see how the client is feeling about the campaign, and offering added value when opportunities arise. Are you in business with a partner or a sponsor? If it’s the latter, don’t be surprised when they don’t renew.

Secondly, sales professionals should be involving the PD much more in the buying process. If a PD gets in front of the client, and has the ability to hear the client’s ideas and objectives, and share how the station works and what stands the best chance of delivering results, both sides are more likely to have a positive experience.

By nature, most programmers are creative and have an ability to get the talent’s support when executing things to benefit station partners. If you’re in sales and not getting the programmer in front of the client to help you make them feel special, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Don’t get caught up worrying about what the PD might say or who’s idea got used on the air, focus on satisfying the client, following up with them, and delivering what they want most – results!


I was personally excited to spend time chatting with Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini. I find her to be refreshingly candid, one of the brightest and most forward thinking executives in the entire sports media business, and given the success of the Barstool brand, we should all be listening anytime she’s willing to share her wisdom. As I expected, she was tremendous.

There were many great points raised by Erika during our 35 minutes together that were valuable, but a few specific items stuck with me. First, she mentioned how the company understands pace when turning around merchandise. This is an area that Barstool thrives on and radio is asleep at the wheel on. The company has generated roughly a third of its revenue from moving products by recognizing when something is catching on, and reacting swiftly. They also understand that some things will fail, and don’t allow it to discourage them from creating new items. She explained that consumers won’t wait for things today, and compared it to SportsCenter previously being the place to turn to for reaction to the night’s games, whereas now, commentary is available as soon as a key moment occurs on the field or court.

I also appreciated Erika’s insights on podcasting and subscription models. She believes in the value of the live read, and not cluttering digital audio shows with programmatic ads. Erika also said she isn’t as high on the subscription business and feels it’s a lot to ask a brand’s fans to pay for content in addition to buying merchandise, supporting advertisers, purchasing a Rough N Rowdy pay per view, etc..

Lastly, she came across as someone who values radio and believes in fighting for talent. Erika shared that if she oversaw a radio company she’d build more community around talent, taking advantage of meetups, merchandising, and campaigns. She also spoke about the importance of having the back of key talent and not buckling to pressure when outside forces try to harm your business. She expressed how important it is at Barstool to stand for something, and not allow others to push the company around, which in turn has made working with talent like Dave Portnoy and Kirk Minihane valuable to their business.


Between Larry Rosin, Fred Jacobs, and Steven Goldstein, we had a lot of smart people on stage offer insights into audience behavior. Each had different areas of focus that resonated with the room, but I particularly enjoyed seeing the amount of people in the room write notes and react as Larry showed video of a focus group weighing in on the insane length of commercial breaks. The on screen example definitely struck a chord.

I also loved Steve Cohen’s passion when I asked why a PD is still necessary in 5 years. We’ve seen a growing trend in the industry where GM’s are now also serving as sales manager for clusters. Companies have tasked some PD’s with managing brands in two cities simultaneously or overseeing 2-4 stations in one building, all with different needs, personalities, and content. Steve emphatically pointed out that people can’t get better and generate results if they don’t have support, training, and someone to work with them. Chris Oliviero followed up by comparing the PD to the conductor of an orchestra. The music may play without them, but without organization and direction, it’s just a matter of time until things don’t function properly.

My one regret is that our Social Studies session went on last on Thursday. I should’ve put it on Wednesday’s schedule. There were a number of PD’s and executives who weren’t in the room for it but needed to be. Demetri and I shared the results of a survey we conducted with 405 industry professionals on how they view their brand’s social media performance. We then did a deeper dive into two stations, showing how ineffective they were in the social space.

I’ve studied social media heavily for the past few years, and I see a few brands operating well, but most are either using a corporately mandated cookie cutter strategy which may work on music brands, but is less effective with a sports radio crowd. Others don’t even have a social strategy. The growth potential in social media is massive, and if sports radio wants to drive listening and advertising, then we’ve got to be much better at it. When your brand is ready to get serious about it, call me.


The session I hosted with Bomani Jones, Peter Rosenberg, Brandon Tierney and Paul Finebaum was tremendous. It offered an honest point of view from key talent on how they view the world of sports radio. With other mediums available, many paying higher rates for top talent, why do personalities still feel radio matters?

There were a ton of great takeaways in this session, but two specific things that Paul Finebaum said stayed with me afterwards. When I asked Paul what he’d tell a young person who’s thinking about going into the radio business, he said he’d advise them not to. Paul shared how the industry is crowded, doesn’t pay people well enough, and doesn’t support the talent with making sure important support staff are treated well enough to be able to focus on their job. It was a commentary that sparked a few followups and became a topic of conversation with programmers and others in the room.

The other part of the discussion which connected with me was when Paul talked about the value of an agent and why professionals should look into representation when they’re ready. Paul explained how he’d reached a limit when using a local attorney to do local deals, and though some companies may not like dealing with them, agents work on behalf of the talent to help them earn better treatment. That isn’t always an option when representing yourself and trying to handle your own business.

With podcasting paying premium dollars to top talent to do less work, and TV rewarding personalities who have an ability to pop thru the screen, radio needs to do its part to hold on to exceptional talent. There’s a belief among many that I speak with that radio companies will do all they can to not pay their best people higher salaries. If they do agree to pay more, it usually comes with requesting 5-6 outlandish things that most personalities won’t agree to. Skilled performers will always command attention and bigger dollars, so if radio groups want to hold on to their stars, they’re going to have to accept that costs will continue to rise for those who do it well.


I introduced the Jeff Smulyan and Tony Bruno awards last year because it felt right to honor those who’ve made a significant impact on our industry. This year we added the Mark Chernoff award, and that too felt right to me. Just seeing the pride and joy on each of their faces as they talked about their experiences and earned laughs and cheers from their peers was rewarding. When Dan Mason, Pat McAfee and Mitch Rosen collected this year’s trophies, those positive vibes were once again felt in the theater. I also thought Chris Oliviero’s speech was one of the best 5 minutes of the entire two day event. Very sincere, moving, honest and accurate.

But what personally moved me was a moment that took place on stage between yours truly and Andy Fales from KXnO in Des Moines. Andy and his partner Keith Murphy risked their jobs in January after six of their colleagues were laid off. They expected to be fired but were pleasantly surprised when KXnO management re-hired the six employees, and used the opportunity to expand KXnO on to the FM dial.

Keith and Andy knew they were being presented with the Champions Award for their contributions in saving sports radio in Iowa, but they had no idea that I’d be sending them $1000 dollars to enjoy a fun night out with their teammates. I could’ve just recognized their story without digging into my wallet and most would’ve said ‘that’s pretty cool’, but I wanted folks to understand and appreciate what these guys did for their community, and take notice that BSM cares about the sports radio business.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done to highlight this format. Nobody has spent more more time and energy presenting the sports radio industry in a positive and professional light. From our columns, news stories, podcasts, Top 20 lists, the Summit, and every phone call I take throughout the year, people turn to BSM because they know we love the business and want to help people succeed at it. Ben Franklin once said ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest‘, well so too does doing the right thing. It may not always come back in the form of a paycheck, but impacting lives is pretty damn cool. I’ll sleep comfortably knowing the work we’re doing matters, even if it takes a few others a little bit longer to come around.



We’ve done Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, and so far so good. My goal for next year is to bring the conference south, and give folks in other cities a chance to experience it. With that in mind, five cities are possible to host our 2021 show. They are Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Tampa and Las Vegas.

If you could spare a moment to cast your vote it’d be helpful to us. Simply log on to and let us know where you think next year’s show should be held.


I screwed up at the end of the conference and forgot to bring my crew on stage for a final bow. Fortunately, Demetri remembered to acknowledge a few of our team, and that led me to recognize a few others who were part of making this year’s show a success.

Since I blew the final picture opportunity, I’d like to use this space to thank Stephanie Eads, Dylan Barrett, Demetri Ravanos, Tyler McComas, Brian Noe, Brandon Contes, Austin Stellato, Stephen Bolsenbroek, and Michael Matalavage for their help with the 2020 BSM Summit. It takes teamwork to execute a successful conference, and I’m thankful to have had a lot of support from a great group.

It was also very special having my son help out and see his dad in action. Hearing him tell me how proud he was of me, and seeing how the event has since elevated his desire to blaze his own trail in the business has me feeling I’ve succeeded at the one job that matters most – being a dad.

I’d like to close this column by expressing my gratitude to Premiere Radio Networks/FOX Sports Radio, ESPN Radio, Hubbard Radio, Compass Media Networks, Benztown Branding, Skyview Networks, Core Image Studio, Steve Stone Voiceovers, and Harker Bos Group. Their support of the BSM Summit is what makes it possible to produce this show. Any group who supports our business deserves the same in return. I’m more than happy to do my part. I encourage you guys to do the same.

Til next year.

To see some of the video highlights from this year’s Summit, visit our YouTube page by clicking here. You can also see some clips by following us on Twitter.

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



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



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



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 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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