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The 3 L’s: Laugh, Learn and Likeability

Jason Barrett

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During my time in St. Louis, I had the privilege of hiring Rick Venturi as a talk show host. Aside from being a very talented communicator, Rick had spent his entire adult life coaching college and professional football. More than 35 years were spent designing schemes, motivating players and gaining knowledge with the ultimate goal being to use it all to help the teams he worked for win a championship.

While Rick didn’t win a Super Bowl or National Championship during his career, he had a wealth of knowledge to share and after working with great leaders such as Bill Belichick, Mike Ditka, Jim Mora, Jon Gruden and Jim Haslett, I was curious to find out what made each of them and their teams unique and successful.

What I remember most was a discussion we had about the importance in every team having an identity and philosophy that was understood and shared by every member inside the organization. During our chat, Rick mentioned how he could look at a team in the NFL and know if they were a sound organization with a strong game plan or if they were a collection of parts just hoping to stumble into the right place. In most cases, he felt it was reflective of the Head Coach and GM’s attention to detail and overall vision for the organization.

I recall asking specifically about Bill Belichick because Rick had worked under him in Cleveland from 1994-1995 and following a number of Super Bowl titles in New England, I felt Bill knew a thing or two about winning and getting the most out of his players. Bill not only had a strong plan but he also surrounded himself with outstanding leaders who understood his vision and were committed to helping him realize it.

If you look back at the group that Belichick assembled in Cleveland it’s one of the best groups of all time. Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, Al Groh, Jim Schwartz and Kirk Ferentz were all coaches under Belichick and every single one of them went on to be a Head Coach. Inside the organization, the team employed Scott Pioli, Thomas Dimitroff, Ozzie Newsome, Michael Lombardi and Mike Tannenbaum. Each of them went on to become a General Manager.

While the Browns didn’t deliver on the field the way they should have given that amazing array of expertise, if you look at the Patriots of the past 14 years they’ve been one of the NFL’s most consistent and elite franchises. Once again Belichick surrounded himself with great people. Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels all have worked under him and each has gone on to become a Head Coach too.

What jumped out to me when I spoke to Rick was how quickly he could tell you what a Bill Belichick football team looked like. He took me through the way Bill looked at various positions on a football team and what he expected out of those positions from a performance standpoint but even more important, he could tell you every detail of what the position should look like from the player’s height, weight and speed. If a player didn’t fit the description of what they looked for, more times than not they’d take a pass.

I asked Rick to provide a few examples and he was able to do so without missing a beat. He mentioned how Bill would look for physical running backs who could take a toll but wouldn’t necessarily be the fastest guy on the field. He liked wide receivers with a chip on their shoulders who weren’t afraid of contact. He liked taller corners who could play man to man and punish a wideout for 60 minutes even if they weren’t the fastest at their positions and he preferred heavier defensive tackles who could clog the middle and stop the run, even if it meant less ability to sack the QB.

When I took a look at Belichick’s teams I was blown away by the similarities. From Andre Rison in Cleveland to Randy Moss and Wes Welker in New England. At RB he went from Leroy Hoard, Tommy Vardell and Kevin Mack in Cleveland to Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney in New England. All very much similar type of players from a height, weight and style standpoint. If you log on to Pro Football Reference and look at some of those Browns and Patriots rosters you’ll be really surprised at how many similarities exist for players at each position.

Now when you ask Rick about his time with the St. Louis Rams, it’s not something he enjoys spending much time talking about. While he liked and respected Scott Linehan and was grateful for the opportunity to coach with the Rams, Rick knew the team was in trouble the first day he walked into the locker room.

He’d recall how each position had inconsistencies when it came to player attributes and styles. The vision on draft day would be cloudy which caused confusion on what the team was trying to become and when it carried over to the field, the organization lacked an identity and as a result finished with an 11-25 record under Linehan.

That isn’t to suggest that Scott Linehan can’t coach because he did a nice job for the Detroit Lions as their offensive coordinator and now he’s the passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys but it illustrates the importance in knowing what you want your team to look like, feel like and ultimately play like in professional sports.

When you think of how that applies to sports talk radio, the comparisons are endless. Every detail inside an organization is critical to having success and it’s very true that much of the personality of the leader is reflected in the mindset and overall attitude of the team.

When I started programming radio stations I didn’t think about this at all. I was just trying to focus on helping guys out with doing a good show while also trying to convince myself that I was ready for the opportunity I had been handed. I didn’t know what I wanted out of each position on my radio stations, I just knew I wanted to win.

While that goal was one that everyone shared, having a plan for how to do it was absent. I certainly didn’t have enough of the right type of people around me to reflect my vision, but that wasn’t their fault, it was mine. I didn’t create the identity and brand vision that was needed for everyone to have success.

Since that time, I’ve grown a lot as a leader. It started at 101 ESPN in St. Louis and has continued for me in San Francisco with 95.7 The Game. The best thing to happen to me was going through a bad situation at 590 The Fan in St. Louis. Because the end result was failure and a 6-month stay on the beach, I used my free time to analyze every aspect of my game. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish if I got another chance, and who would be part of my team to carry out my vision if I got the call.

What I ultimately came up with was, any Jason Barrett programmed radio station was going to carry with it the identity of the 3 L’s. While there are other things that are important to a show or radio station’s success, these are the core principles that I believe in and seek out of my personalities. If I don’t feel an individual possesses these traits, then it’s difficult for me to bring myself to adding them to my team.

Learn: On the radio station’s that I have programmed, I have hired on-air personalities who possess the ability to help our audiences learn something new about the subjects were discussing. Any talk show host can throw out a basic statement and get an audience to react if they do it with passion. I want my hosts to dig deeper and give me some piece of insight I can’t get anywhere else. I should always feel as a listener that the host on the radio station is smart, prepared and informed and gives me things to think about that I can use with my friends to make myself look good. A few examples of hosts who’ve worked with me and fit this bill would be Bernie Miklasz, Greg Papa, Ric Bucher, Chris Dimino and Randy Karraker. There are plenty of others too.

Laugh: Let’s face it, the audience looks to us to take them away from the stress of their day. We are in business to entertain people. If you can’t laugh at yourself or with the audience, then what’s the point? Sports is supposed to be fun. So is doing a sports radio show. We’re not digging ditches or searching for the cure for cancer. Those are tough jobs. This is a labor of love, a passion play if you will. If you don’t have the ability to laugh, make people laugh, be vulnerable, and make an audience feel like they’re entering a sports bar to have a beer and shoot the shit with you, then you’re missing the point. Laughter brings people together and our job is to form a bond with our audience. When I think of hosts who deliver the laugh trait consistently I immediately think of John Lund, Zack McCrite, Whitey Gleason, Tim McKernan and Damon Bruce. Once again, I’m leaving some others out.

Likeability: This is the toughest of the 3 because the audience ultimately decides whether or not you’re likable but there are some factors that I look at that play into it. For example, are you willing to put your heart and soul into your content and let your audience into your world? If so, that matters to people. Can you acknowledge you’re wrong when you miss on an opinion or statement? It’s OK to be wrong in this business. You can strive to be right but need to be smart and own up to it when you’re not. People appreciate it because it tells them you’re human and you make mistakes just like them. Last but not least, are you approachable when you’re in front of people or are you the person who can’t wait to break away from the crowd? We’re in the people business. If you don’t like being around people, then that’s going to make it really hard to build lasting relationships. When I think of some hosts I’ve worked with who have the Likability characteristic, D’Marco Farr, Chris Duncan, Rob Ellis, Guy Haberman and Frank Cusumano all come to mind. Yes I know, I’m leaving a few others out too.

While I may seek personalities for my brands who possess the 3 L’s, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be successful if you have them. You could have a slow pace show that bores the audience. You could conduct 30 minute interviews each hour that fatigue the audience. You could talk fast and loud and cause the listener to only listen in small doses. Or, you could use references to help your positions that the audience simply can’t relate to.

In each of those cases, I believe coaching can help make a difference. Having the ability though to make an audience laugh and learn and come across as someone who’s likable is something you either have or don’t. It’s kind of like following the Belichick system. You can check all the boxes but if you’re not a good football player eventually you’ll be exposed.

The purpose of this exercise isn’t to instruct you to go back to work tomorrow and implement the 3 L’s, it’s to get you thinking on what makes you or your brand unique and what strategies you plan to use to help you further establish that philosophy.

Think about how it compares to sports since that’s what our format focuses on 24/7. Bill Walsh teams were known for playing the west coast offense and the players who were picked to play for his teams either fit that system or they played elsewhere in the NFL.

This didn’t mean that other players like Dan Marino, Lawrence Taylor or Marcus Allen couldn’t adapt and fit in, it just meant that the people who were already in place fit the system so well and helped the team win so much that there was no need to worry about changing anything. The same applies to the radio business.

There are always talented people out there who could help us perform. The question you must ask though is, do they fit the organization and my philosophy or not? If they don’t then it doesn’t matter how good they are because the end result will be your own dissatisfaction. That’s not just for a PD either. It can be a Host’s view of a Producer. A Producer’s view of a Board Operator or any other part of your organization.

Yes we all want to win but we also want to win with people who we enjoy working with and who we believe reflect the values and mission statement of our brands. Having an understanding of who you want to be and how you’re going to become that type of team is essential to determining whether or not you’re built to succeed or fail. Knowing or not knowing could be the difference of whether you become Bill Belichick or Scott Linehan.

Barrett Blogs

Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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