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10 Tips For Getting Hired In Radio

Jason Barrett

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Every Program Director has a different approach when it comes to hiring people so take that into account as you read through this column. I can only speak to my own philosophy and experiences but for what they’re worth, I’m happy to share how I do things. As you pursue future opportunities in the industry, don’t assume that my way is going to work for you in other markets because chances are it won’t. None the less here’s a few things I consider important in the hiring process.

1. Build Relationships First: If you’re looking to be considered for a position at any radio station, don’t wait until you see a job posting for an open position. This is a business that is very much built on who you know and what you’ve done. You can go into Walmart and apply for a job and they’ll call you if they have an opening, Radio works differently. Chances are, I’ve got a number of people in mind for an opportunity before I even post the position for my radio station. Why? Because any solid PD is thinking about the change in his or her building before anyone else is. During the posting process I’ll receive a few applications which stand out and catch my eye but usually I’ve already got an idea for a few different roads to pursue before I turn to the unknown. All the more reason why getting to know the PD prior to a job posting can be important.

2. Follow Instructions: If a job is posted and gives specific instructions of how to proceed and you don’t have a relationship already with the PD, follow them precisely. For example, if it says “no calls please” don’t be the one person who thinks they’re going to stand out because they did what the posting said not to do. While you may think that type of aggressiveness is going to stand out, it will but in a very negative way. If I’ve taken the time to tell you how to approach me and the company for a possible opportunity, following instructions is important. If your first move is to show me that you can’t follow instructions then how can I trust you if I were to hire you? In the past I’ve had people follow me into elevators, approach me in the urinals at ballgames, show up at radio station events when I was with my family and even track me down at a train stop after I posted that I was heading home on Twitter and in every situation, the candidate was not hired. I recognize you’re hungry for an opportunity but so are others who follow instructions and trust in their body of work being good enough to generate attention and a response.

3. Are You Qualified For The Opening: If you’re applying for an on-air position and have never done a radio show, why exactly are you applying? I realize it’s a cool job and we all think we can do it but just because you make your friends laugh or you know every sports stat known to mankind doesn’t mean you’re qualified to entertain an audience for 45 minutes an hour. I may think I can do a better job than the president but that doesn’t make me qualified to run the country and occupy the white house.

4. Are You a Proven Difference Maker: If you’re an on-air talent and haven’t had ratings success, PD’s will find out. If you’re in a weekend or night-time position and looking to take the next step, PD’s will ask you why those in your own building don’t think you’re good enough to crack their daytime lineup yet you expect someone else to see you differently who hasn’t even worked with you. I’m not saying that to be a hard ass or to crush your dreams, I’m sharing it because when you’re hired as a weekday talk show host in a prime daypart, there’s an expectation that comes with it. The PD is saying to his/her bosses that you’re good enough to generate ratings, experienced enough to deliver results for advertisers and the type of individual who will be a great teammate, a strong representative for the brand in the community and someone who will foster relationships with teams and local players which will be beneficial to the product. I’m not saying you can’t go from weekends/evenings in a market to prime time in another because it has happened but I’m telling you that it’s not easy and doing it in a top 5 market or on a national network is going to be extremely tough.

5. Show Your Unedited Work: When you submit a demo, don’t send something that makes you look good for 2-3 minutes but can’t be duplicated when you get in front of a microphone. Numerous times I’ve received a good MP3 or CD and I’ll follow up with a candidate and when I have them come to the studio to hear how they sound, I find out that they had 2 good minutes courtesy of a good Adobe Audition editing job. The reality is this, unedited tape doesn’t lie. Chances are you’ll send me an hour of tape and I won’t listen to all of it. That said, something interesting or funny right away will get my attention and keep me intrigued. It’s no different than what I tell my on-air hosts and what other PD’s tell theirs. If you don’t grab a listener’s attention quickly, they’ll tune you out. Come to the table with something that showcases your style, originality and unfiltered opinion and you have a shot at keeping my ear. If you can do that, I’m likely to at least touch base to have a discussion. Also understand that if a PD doesn’t like your work right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. If they tell you to work on some things, apply the feedback and make sure the next time you submit something that it reflects progress. That attention to detail tells a PD you’ll accept coaching and that’s something PD’s seek out of the people they hire.

6. Network, Network, Network: Between the radio station’s website where you can obtain the email to the PD and social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where many of these same PD’s have accounts, are you connected to them on any platform? Furthermore, have you gotten to know others who work inside the radio station? The more people you know and the more relationships you build, the more likely you are to attract people’s attention. I remember being at 590 The Fan in St. Louis and a guy came in the door wanting to pick the brains of some of our personalities just to find out how they approach their jobs. His research stood out and he was a young guy looking to break into the business. About 2 years later I was launching 101 ESPN in St. Louis and the same guy applied for a Board Operator job just to get his foot in the door and I wound up hiring him. It was that initial visit to my previous building and a few notes in between that caught my attention and impressed me. His name was Aaron Goldsmith and he was the first board operator to put 101 ESPN on the air and now he’s the play-by-play announcer for the Seattle Mariners. He understood the value of networking and so should you.

7. Set Realistic Goals: PD’s talk to one another much like NFL Head Coaches talk to each other. We may not discuss strategies or company secrets but we do provide feedback when asked for it. If you’re an individual sending resumes and airchecks to 20 PD’s in 20 different markets, chances are everyone knows you as the “I’ll work anywhere” candidate. If you’re applying for the board operator, producer and on-air host position then you’re the “jack of all trades, master of none” candidate. I mention these two specifically because any dynamic and entertaining on-air personality who can move the needle for a radio station would never apply for a Board Operator or Producer position. Be smart when you apply and remember, PD’s have long memories. We know when you’ve applied 6 months earlier, 2 years earlier and in some cases even 5-10 years earlier. Know what it is you want to pursue, give good evidence to support why you believe you’re qualified and then follow up when appropriate. If you’ve got the talent to attract a PD’s attention, trust me they’ll be in touch. If they’re not then either you’re not a fit for that specific PD or market or your talent for the position may not be as strong as you may think it is. I will also tell you that if two people are equally qualified for a position and one is local and one isn’t, almost 99% of the time the call is going to go to the person who is already in the market and knows the local scene. If you want to work in a specific market and you’re not there, you may want to think abut relocating first and then continuing to chase opportunities at the radio station.

8. Understand The Job Description: Too many times candidates interview for a specific job and then proceed to explain why the radio station should adapt to fit them as opposed to the individual explaining how they can help fit the position. You may eventually land a bigger opportunity in the company if you’re good but it’s not going to come without doing the current job in front of you first. If a baseball team needs a lead-off hitter who can take pitches, draw walks, get on base and steal bases, do you think they’re going to put someone in that spot who hits for low average and swings at every pitch they see? It’s no different here. If I need a producer who can book guests, produce promos and rejoins, screen calls and make quality cuts, that’s what I expect to be done. If your true ambition is to be on the air that’s fine but you’re not going to get that opportunity at the expense of a prime time talk show. Do the job you were hired to do, request to earn more opportunities and be truthful about your goals and if you’ve built a good relationship with your PD, they’ll give you a chance to go into a production room and put some material on tape, critique it and if it’s good enough, throw you a weekend or overnight shift to see how you do. It’s all about going through the process and having the talent to do the job but you’ve got to touch first base before you proceed to second.

9. The Actual Interview: When you get called to come in for an interview, be on time. You should also show up looking professional. You don’t need to be in a 3-piece suit but you may want to save the running pants and short sleeve t-shirt for another day. Andre Agassi once said “image is everything” and whether it’s fair or not, PD’s want to know that they’re bringing in people who understand that they’re working in a place of business and can present themselves well. In addition to being punctual and presenting yourself well, let the PD guide the conversation. You’re walking in and trying to sell yourself and why you can help the brand but for the PD they can only find out about you by asking questions and seeing how you respond. If you’re confident in yourself they’ll see it and those who can adapt and stay loose, conversational and engaged in discussion will stand out. If you’re shy, quiet, nervous or breaking out in a sweat, chances are the PD’s made mental notes and they’re not going to be favorable.

10. Follow Up: If you interview for an opportunity and don’t get the nod, your career isn’t over. The right thing to do, is follow up and thank the PD for their consideration and let them know you’d like to be kept in consideration for future opportunities. In many situations there are a lot of qualified candidates for an opening and only 1 person gets hired. Those who act professionally when they don’t get the call stand a better chance of being thought of favorably in the future, especially if they remain employed in the business and continue working at their craft. I have a number of people in this business who I keep on a short-list and if situations pop up and I need help, I’m very likely to call on them. What doesn’t work is when someone follows up and proceeds to blast the candidate I hired or fires personal insults my way because they weren’t hired (it’s happened before). Before I got my opportunity with ESPN in 2004, I had reached out a year earlier to Bruce Gilbert and what I was pitching wasn’t needed by the network at that time. I thanked him for considering me, asked him to hold on to my materials and reminded him that if a need came up in the future, I was ready, willing and able to get to work. As luck would have it, one year later he had an opening and because I connected well during the previous process, I was given a chance to interview and ultimately landed the job. While the call may not always come the first time, it certainly won’t come a second time if you don’t conduct yourself the right way.

As I finalize this column, I’d like to share a personal story that applies to this subject. When I entered this business, I hoped to one day be good enough to work at WFAN in NY. For years I reached out to Mark Chernoff seeking his feedback and because I didn’t bombard him regularly, he’d provide me with some of it. I gained a solid understanding of what I’d need to do in the future to earn consideration for a job there, and I’d keep working on the things he told me needed improvement.

After 8 years, I finally received an offer to work for WFAN as a FT Producer and as crazy as it sounds, I rejected it. ESPN presented a great opportunity at the same time, and I couldn’t say no. If I had given up after my first or second attempt, I’d never have been in that position. Because I had a little bit of talent, was accepting of feedback, and didn’t overwhelm Mark with my approach, it allowed me to stay on the radar of one of the industry’s best PD’s.

Many times in this industry, being hired for a position comes down to relationships, fit, financials and subjective opinions. If you don’t get the call today, don’t be discouraged. It’s amazing how a perceived setback on your end can actually be a blessing in disguise and an opening into something even more amazing. Sometimes a great NFL or MLB player has to wait a few turns to get a call to the Hall of Fame and the same type of things happen in radio. If you have talent and want it bad enough, people will eventually find you. You’ll just never know who, when or why they’re watching so always present yourself well, don’t be overbearing and let your body of work do the talking.

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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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