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Collaboration Benefits Sales & Programming

“Living in a silo isn’t going to work inside of a radio building these days.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Buildings that house radio stations have always been literally divided into two sides. There’s the side of the building that houses the studios. It’s where live shows are done and where production pieces are put together. Then there is the business side, where you will find the executive offices and sales bullpen.

It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time where you tended to stick to your own side. Sure, sales people had a favorite member of the air staff to pitch for endorsements and talent had a favorite seller to make sure their ideas came to life as they envisioned, but it really was possible to go a full business day without interacting with people from the opposite side of the building.

Now, we live in a world of collaboration. Hosts bring potential clients to ad reps. Ad reps work with PDs to develop branded content ideas to take to clients. It is that Steven Spector, program director of 610 Sports in Kansas City, told me he encourages his staff to be a part of as often as possible.

“Relationships with the clients and relationships with the sales staff are vitally important to the success of a radio station and its talent,” he told me in an email. “In non-COVID times, when everyone was in the building, the talent who would walk the sales pit and just interact with the AEs was often more successful in getting endorsements. Sometimes endorsements and promotions are created out of conversation unrelated to business.”

Nick Cattles, who hosts the afternoon show on ESPN Radio 94.1 in Virginia Beach, says it is a fine line for hosts to walk sometimes. Sure, he wants to help his own bottom line however he can, but he is also aware that unchecked ambition could create problems for folks on the sales side.

“I don’t know what kinds of relationships, good or bad, may already be established,” Cattles says. “The worst thing I could do is act as interference in any possible deal that sales is working on. I am, however, always open to discussing ideas, pitches, segments, calls and/or zoom meetings with any of the sales staff if it could help in any kind of way. I consider my job to help sales achieve their goals in any way I can, instead of trying to be the point person.”

All Cattles asks is that he not have an endorsement sprung on him. He thinks most of his sales staff would agree that he is easy to work with.

“The way our building works is that whenever the staff has an idea or is contacted by a company, they reach out to and ask if I’d be comfortable promoting that product/service/bar on the air. The vast majority of the time, the answer is yes.”

Andrew Downs is the program director of KXnO in Des Moines. It is a station that was built and thrives on sales relationships. He told me many of their clients are lifers with the station. That could be the result of KXnO talking Cyclones and Hawkeyes all day long. It could be the result of who is on the station and the relationships they have gone out and formed in the Des Moines community.

One thing Downs knows is undeniable is that the strength of those relationships can only benefit himself and his staff. That is why he says everyone at KXnO treat clients like they are part of the team.

“We’ve had several clients on-air for well over a decade, whether that be endorsements, station sponsorships, or simply running ads within our local shows. We’ve had local agencies that steer their clients towards us because they’ve seen the results of working with our talent. We’ve had businesses change ownership but continue to work with us. We’ve even had the General Manager of a local auto group change jobs, but bring us with him to the new company. 

Media Timeout: Downs in KXNO driver's seat

“We foster relationships, both with our clients and our audience, and so when we put the two together everyone feels like we’re all helping each other out. This was never more true than in the past year between the firing and subsequent re-hiring of our staff followed by the pandemic where many of our clients have relied on the strong bond we’d helped them form with our audience. “

“Ah, yes!” you’re probably saying to yourself. You knew that KXnO and Andrew’s name sounded familiar. You just couldn’t remember why.

It is the station where nearly the entire air staff was laid off only to be rehired after listeners and advertisers told iHeartMedia management that they were done supporting the station if it was going to lose its local identity. In response, not only was everyone that was laid off eventually re-hired, but KXnO got an FM simulcast to strengthen its signal.

Downs told me that he knew his station’s clients valued what was on air at KXnO. It was that moment though that he could say that what he had suspected was definitely true. KXnO was as important to its advertisers’ business as the advertisers were too KXnO’s.

“Brands are important, and we have a strong one with KXnO in Des Moines, but the brand can’t sell a product to our audience; our people do that. Without those people our clients understood that their message was not going to be effectively communicated, and they reacted accordingly. I know they were all glad when we were re-hired, but that was not something anyone expected to happen; they were making a business decision to place their money elsewhere because they understood that it was our connection with the audience that created loyalty between their customers and their business, not some monolithic brand or national voice.”

Not every advertiser is going to be right for every host. Even if a host is really into a particular product or business, it may not be a fit for the station or it might step on the toes of someone else’s longer held deal. Spector says he is usually open to any advertising idea a rep brings to him. He just needs a few answers first.

“Most important, the advertiser has to fit who we are as a station and who our listeners are. Then, it has to fit our host. Second, what type of money is being spent & what are the expectation from the client. If those two don’t match then there is a conversation that has to be had.”

Steven Spector | RADIO.COM

Living in a silo isn’t going to work inside of a radio building these days. Sure, the two sides of the business can sometimes have conflicting goals, but right now the industry is in a state of needing to mine every bit of potential revenue that exists. A collaborative approach, where each side makes their needs and goals clear, benefits programming and sales equally.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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