When we look back at 2020 years down the road, chances are most of us will remember it as the year we were rocked by Covid-19. The pandemic caused death, economic pain, a surge in unemployment, shut downs across the country, and even a Presidential change. Although each of the issues we’ve dealt with are much more significant than news created in sports media circles, this is after all a media site, and 2020 was a year full of activity.
During the past twelve months, Joe Rogan and Bill Simmons got paid big by Spotify. Outkick became a bigger brand due to Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis teaming up to form a strong 1-2 punch. Mike Francesa stepped away from the daily sports radio chaos in New York City after three decades on top. Sports radio stations 98.5 The Sports Hub, 97.1 The Ticket, and KFAN proved they could deliver monster ratings without sports, while top notch talent such as John Kincade, Steak Shapiro, and Bernie Miklasz learned that even a strong body of work wasn’t enough to survive the havoc created by Covid-19 on the sports media industry.
The coronavirus also taught the sports television industry a valuable lesson about storing quality programming, as networks aired content of little value due to the sports world shutting down. The national sports radio scene saw Mike Greenberg return to ESPN Radio while Mike Golic, Trey Wingo and the Dan Le Batard crew exited. Damon Amendolara even showed how a national sports radio show can bring together a host, listener and community by introducing the world to ‘Lil’ Mo Gaba and continuing to honor him after his passing.
There were many examples of great content, touching stories, head scratching decisions, and personality rants, but I’m going to focus on twelve things I liked, observed and remain bullish on heading into 2021. This list is not in any particular order. It’s just a series of things that have either caught my attention or are floating thru my brain as we brace ourselves for a brand new year.
#1 – Layoffs were unfortunately a frequent part of the 2020 conversation. ESPN, iHeart, Entercom and others all went thru it. Personnel were cut and in some cases temporary salary reductions, hiring freezes, and mandatory furloughs were installed. Entering 2021, there are a lot of talented people sitting on the sidelines. Though some decisions were necessary as a result of unexpected economic pain caused by the pandemic, cutting jobs isn’t a path to long-term prosperity. Brands become weaker, retained employees become bitter as their responsibilities increase, and competitors get stronger due to skilled people being available. With another stimulus package expected to give more relief to media groups and a vaccine on the way to help society in its fight with Covid-19, better days should be coming our way. If though future cuts become necessary again, executives should learn from the mistakes they made in 2020. Introducing poorly thought out terms such as ‘employee dislocation‘ and ‘excellence centers‘, and failing to be open and honest with media professionals who were being let go after investing decades of time to help brands succeed leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. It paints a picture of a company and its leadership team lacking awareness and compassion during difficult times. In the long run that’s never a good omen for growing a business. Professionals understand the realities of the world. They can handle bad news. Treat them with respect rather than worrying about how your message might resonate in the trades and press. Trust me, no fancy quote or created term is going to make your company look better when you’re eliminating hundreds of salaries.
#2 – You can have the best talent on earth, a sales team that can sell ice to an Eskimo and a loyal audience that will listen to anything you present thru their speakers but it’s all irrelevant if you can’t actually get on the air. 2020 was The Year of the Engineer. Brands learned how fortunate or screwed they were this year based on who was in charge of their engineering department. Engineers usually fly under the radar inside most stations, only being called upon when something goes wrong. Well, given how many challenges there were to deal with in 2020, few departments earned their money more than these folks. So when you’re enjoying an adult beverage celebrating the arrival of 2021 and putting 2020 in your rear view mirror, feel free to raise a toast to the men and women in these departments across the country because without them, the damage our industry felt in 2020 would have been much more severe.
#3 – No brand had a better 2020 than Barstool Sports. Regardless of whether you love or loathe Dave Portnoy and Erika Nardini, Barstool was acquired as part of a $450 million dollar deal with Penn National. They then rewarded their new ownership group by continuing to dominate social media, introducing new apps, podcasts, and personalities (Deion Sanders, Joey Mulinaro, Ben Mintz), monetizing commentaries and social moments thru a mixture of strong advertising and merchandising strategies, explored new territory (Coach Duggs on Twitch), and they’re positioned well to enjoy a strong share of the sports betting market. Portnoy in particular continues to evolve by diving deeper into the stock market, moving to Philadelphia to grow the brand’s sports betting opportunities and fan base, and by being more active in the political arena. He weighed in frequently on decisions made by politicians during the pandemic, offered video commentaries on the presidential election, and has appeared on CNBC and FOX News, even traveling to the White House for a face to face conversation with President Trump. Don’t worry he didn’t change everything though. Pizza reviews remained a hit, and feuds with former HBO exec Peter Nelson and media critics remained alive. The brand’s best effort though came at the end of the year with the creation of The Barstool Fund to help small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The idea was an instant success, generating over 11 million dollars in donations, and helping more than 45 small businesses. The videos submitted by local businesses have been powerful, and the calls made by Portnoy to each owner informing them that help is on the way have been uplifting, proving to the world that Barstool can do amazing things with its platform when it rallies around a cause. Barstool has taken a lot of hits over the years for its prior actions and commentaries but their ability to make an impact is undeniable, and they’re unlikely to slow down anytime soon, even with a pandemic causing all sorts of pain and disruption.
#4 – Some were pissed that Craig Carton had a seat waiting for him in New York at WFAN following his exit from prison. I’m not one of those people. Hearing Carton back on the air, doing what he does best, entertaining sports radio listeners, was a smart programming and business move for FAN. Craig is gifted at what he does and added instant star power to the radio station, but finding chemistry with Evan Roberts and beating 98.7 ESPN NY’s The Michael Kay Show is going to be a lot harder than teaming with Boomer Esiason and beating a national morning show featuring Mike & Mike and/or Golic & Wingo. Whether Carton & Roberts win or not though in the future is besides the point. Sports radio is better with Craig Carton on the air. If you want to pout about him getting the job without serving a life sentence for his prior transgressions that’s fine. But I think it comes down to four simple things; Results, Relationships, Talent and Timing. Like it or not, Carton had all four on his side and now it’s up to him to make the most of his second chance. I’m rooting for him to do just that.
#5 – Timing is everything when it comes to creating an impact, and for ESPN, the decision to move up the release of The Last Dance was both smart and necessary. With sports shut down and networks relying on old games and programming that looked and felt different and unimportant, the arrival of the ten part series directed by Jason Hehir, highlighting Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s, gave people a sense of normalcy and something to look forward to on a weekly basis. It was the most tweeted about show in 2020 and a heavy part of conversation on sports radio as hosts took to it like moths to a flame. Though the series had Jordan’s influence all over it and generated mixed reactions among former Bulls and sports media members, I enjoyed it. It gave people a reason to watch sports on television during a time when they were desperate for good content. Sometimes that’s more important than the facts themselves.
#6 – Four individuals earned my respect and appreciation for their social media creativity in 2020….Barstool’s Kevin ‘KFC’ Clancy created two digital hits with his social video series One-Minute Man and The Goddamn Jets. The Jets series delivered what you’d expect, the rantings and ravings of a pissed off Jets fan. As a Giants fan, I’m used to Jets fans being upset so that didn’t move me as much, but One-Minute Man was an absolute gem. The series features Clancy looking at trending sports and pop culture topics, it’s well edited, cleverly produced, and laughter is provided throughout each episode. Few talent understand how to reach and connect with younger audiences while still serving traditionalists like myself better than Clancy……another sports media star who created a social media impact was ESPN’s Katie Nolan who turned a Zoom call with ESPN friends into one of the coolest moments of the year. With the country locked down and looking for positive things to latch on to, Nolan used her creativity, connections, and media guests to turn a normal video chat into a special piece of content that was better than most of what aired on ESPN television during the same week…….since we’re on the subject of Zoom, Annie Agar arrived on the scene and used her creativity to show how certain scenarios would play out if the key parties involved were to take part in a Zoom call together. The originality of Agar’s work got the attention of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown producers and landed her an appearance on the show. If Agar was able to make this quickly of an impression on social media in 2020, I’m curious to see what she has in store for us in 2021….but the best social video content I saw this year was more serious in nature. FOX Sports’ Emmanuel Acho tackled the issue of race in America with the introduction of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. The series was an instant success and has since been turned into a best selling book. Considering all we witnessed on our phone and television screens as city’s across America dealt with public unrest following controversial deaths involving police and black men, Acho leaned in to an important issue, and invited notable guests such as Matthew McConaughey, Roger Goodell and the Petaluma police department to explore ways to improve racial tensions in society. The all white backdrop to each episode made an immediate impression, and Acho’s ability to guide and advance serious discussions showed why he’s rapidly becoming a sports media sensation.
#7 – We heard mixed reactions initially when news broke that Pat McAfee was leaving CBS Sports Radio for SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. I was surprised because I couldn’t understand how Entercom and Westwood One could let a rising star like McAfee get away less than a year into a deal or why anyone would think McAfee wouldn’t fit in on the Chris Russo branded channel. From the start I thought it was a no-brainer decision for SiriusXM’s management team and am even more convinced now that Steve Cohen and his leadership group hit a homerun. McAfee is a star in every sense of the word. His style is better presented on satellite radio than on terrestrial, and his placement in the lineup between Adam Schein and Mad Dog is perfect. Does he deliver a traditional sports talk show? No. The great ones usually have their own style and ability to generate interest and McAfee does plenty of that whether it’s on television, radio, social media or inside of a wrestling ring. With his arrival on the channel, McAfee has added more star power, appointment conversations, and another reason to continue listening to one of sports radio’s best national channels.
#8 – I said it three years ago and believe it even more now at the end of 2020. Stations are going to use Virtual Program Directors in the near future. The majority of communication is done thru email and the phone. A good leader with creative ideas, strong technical skills, an ability to coach talent, industry relationships, and accessibility doesn’t need to be in an office to be effective. Most groups learned this during the pandemic. If talent can perform from their kitchen tables, so too can a PD inside a home office, whether living locally or elsewhere in the country. With brands looking for ways to reduce costs and maintain efficiency, and professionals seeking flexibility if asked to adjust their economic situations, don’t be surprised if this becomes a more popular trend down the line.
#9 – ESPN Radio ends 2020 in an unfamiliar position, having to regain trust and confidence from a large number of affiliates. Longtime executive Traug Keller departed in February, and months later a few other prominent execs, most notably Connor Schell, also exited. Since then the Bristol run network has made two major lineup changes, losing key people such as Mike Golic, Trey Wingo, Dan Le Batard, and Jon ‘Stugotz’ Weiner. The loss of those high profile talents and the reports in the press surrounding their departures, has left decision makers questioning if staying in business with ESPN Radio is in their best interests. ESPN executive David Roberts tried to alleviate some of those concerns during a conversation with yours truly, but if ESPN wants to retain a firm grasp on the successful business its built then it’s going to have to deliver results, offer more executive access to radio leaders, and provide lineup stability. Radio operators don’t do well with frequent change, especially on a national level where one tweak can affect hundreds of radio stations. It’s too early to say whether or not the changes made will make ESPN Radio stronger but most industry folks we spoke with aren’t optimistic about the network’s direction and feel FOX Sports Radio has become the strongest national product. It’s up to Roberts, Justin Craig, Norby Williamson, Tim McCarthy, Amanda Gifford and everyone else involved to prove the new path can be just as successful as the old one.
#10 – Since we’re on the topic of national sports radio, one brand I’m going to be keeping an eye on in 2021 is VSIN. The brand established itself well over the past few years, added to its talent roster in 2020, and has its sights set on expanding its terrestrial footprint in the new year after announcing its exit from SiriusXM. To help them do that they’ve expanded their partnership with IHeart and will soon announce the hiring of a Director of Audio. With sports betting gaining more political support across the country, the Las Vegas based audio/video brand is built to capitalize on it. The category itself is red hot in advertising circles, and given some of the changes and uncertainty surrounding some of the national sports radio networks, it’ll be interesting to see if a growing market and new relationships can help Brian Musburger’s brand ascend to a higher level. Based on what I see and hear, I’d bet on them making strides in 2021.
#11 – A position that doesn’t exist inside most sports radio stations which absolutely should is a Director of Merchandising. GM’s and Execs don’t like to pay off-air folks because they can’t attach dollars to their roles, but this is one position that absolutely can. Brands have 168 hours per week to use their airwaves, and unlimited opportunities on social platforms to market their products and generate revenue. Heck, stations use these hours to sell thousands of minutes of commercials to clients, stressing the value of the medium and its ability to drive sales. Maybe it’s time to take our own medicine and use the air time to move our own products. To do that, programmers are going to need to reevaluate the importance of a promo and work closely with the Director of Merchandising to better use promo time to grow business. This should easily be an annual six figure business for sports radio brands. WWE, Barstool Sports, ProWrestlingTees and others are making a fortune on merchandise, and sports radio should be doing the same. Before you bitch about the expenses associated with creating merch, save it. Ordering in bulk cuts costs and in this 2020 economy I’m sure local t-shirt shops would love to work with radio stations to stay busy and keep their doors open. You don’t make money without spending money and companies can’t afford to say no to adding six figures worth of revenues to their bottom lines. At this stage of the game, radio must rethink how it’s growing NTR and merchandise should be at the center of the discussion.
#12 – Why radio groups and advertising agencies throw large sums of money in the direction of Nielsen is beyond my understanding. 2020 should have been a wakeup call that when business survival is on the line, spending big for a flawed ratings service makes little economic sense. Yet most radio groups kept feeding the monster while absorbing financial losses and staff reductions. Kudos to Saga Communications, Midwest Communications and Townsquare Media who realized there are other ways to grow a company without relying on the service. I have nothing against Nielsen. I love research, examining listening trends, analyzing meter counts, and studying the game within the game. I also like a few people in the company who try to lend insight whenever I have questions. My problem is the information. First, streaming has been poorly captured. The company just finally started measuring headphone listening. Think that could be a problem when a pandemic hits, shutdowns create record unemployment, and less people are on the road? Now add to that consistently low meter counts which can see a market’s results affected by one individual. When a business is hurting, your ratings won’t be enough to convince them to buy advertising. The only thing that might save it is a relationship between the client and a salesperson or manager. I also didn’t like the way Nielsen announced their new ‘Subscribers First‘ policy. Although I can see why they’d want to stop providing information on brands that don’t use their service, they’re also providing less full market information to companies who are paying for the service. As expected, it produced reactions from a few media professionals. Click here, here and here to read some of them. Maybe one day radio’s measurement service will produce statistics and evidence that help executives trust and understand the listening patterns of their audience, but that day has yet to arrive. In the meantime, executives keep throwing money at the problem, worrying more about what they could lose rather than what they might gain by pursuing a different path.
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.