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Why Knowing and Embracing Your Role Matters!

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That quote above from Shane Battier paints a great picture of what is required for teams to come together and accomplish their goals. Everyone plays a critical role in the direction of the team and without full support from everyone involved, success becomes much harder to achieve.

Another one of my favorite quotes comes from The Rock who was working for the WWE back in the 1990’s-2000’s. He became notorious for delivering the line “Know Your Role and Shut Your Damn Mouth” and when uttered on a live microphone, audiences would eat it up. While the phrase was primarily created to fire up rowdy wrestling fans, the first 3 words of his catch phrase are extremely important to what we do each day that we’re on the air.

homeworkTo start out this piece I’d like you to do an exercise tonight. Trust me, it’s painless and chances are it’s something you likely already do. Tonight when you arrive at home, I want you to turn on your television and watch a sitcom. If sitcoms aren’t your cup of tea, put on a movie. By the time the program is done, I want you to reflect back on the program and see if you can identify the main storyline, the key characters in the show, the roles the key characters play and the way those characters connected with you.

I believe the TV and film industries do a fabulous job with role definition on various shows and featured films. The sports radio industry however has some catching up to do. When you look on the screen, characters are built up prior to being introduced and then they are explained and reinforced with key branding messages. They rarely stray from what you expect them to be and that makes it easy for audiences to identify with them while getting sucked into storylines with regularity.

aiThink for a second of some key television shows and how they’ve connected. If you watched American Idol in it’s heyday, you turned on the channel to either love or loathe Simon Cowell. If you watched The Sopranos you either wanted to see Tony Soprano get away with murder or get a taste of his own medicine. In both cases, they had characters around them who offered something entirely different and that kept the show fresh, interesting and unique.

If you look at it in simpler terms, one medium scripts it’s work, perfects its performance, defines it’s people and delivers content that an audience adjusts their routines to consume, enjoy and connect with each week. The other operates off the cuff and puts the power of a content presentation usually in the hands of 1-2 people with very limited support around them. It’s the equivalent of throwing a good swimmer in the middle of the ocean without a life preserver and asking them to find a way to shore when there’s no sign of land.

tightropeThat being said, those who earn the responsibility of working without a net are often stubborn and not always accurate when it comes to making decisions that are in the best interest of the audience. In many cases they don’t understand their role on a show or the way they’re perceived thru the eyes and ears of the audience. Even worse, sometimes they don’t want to play to the audiences expectations even if they do understand them.

I recall meeting with a show during my time in St. Louis and when I asked one of the two hosts to define how he felt the audience saw him, he said he felt they’d say he was passionate and entertaining. This was a guy who was your typical sports television anchor, very smart, informed, well prepared and usually reserved. By most people’s standards he was a great guy. However, passionate and entertaining he was not.

namethatshowHis partner on the other hand was a polarizing figure who the market either loved or hated and he too responded by telling me he was seen as a smart, likable, funny and well rounded personality. He wanted to be liked because at his core he was a great human being but his stances on subjects were very divisive and therein lied the struggle for this individual.

When I told both of them they had no understanding of the way the audience saw them they seemed perplexed. I then went thru some examples of how they could strike a chord with people and why the imaging we had in place was written the way it was done to promote them. When they left the room, they had a better idea of why I felt they were struggling and suggestions on how to fix it but they kept trying to identify with a role that they had built up in their minds yet wasn’t seen the same way by the audience. The end result was an under performing show that eventually had to be replaced.

lostI can’t even tell you how many times this occurs. Personalities sometimes want so badly to be something they’re not that they’ll try to overcompensate by doing things out of character and even worse, they’ll try to reject the way they’re positioned on the air in promos, liners and in station marketing pieces. The problem with that is that it’s not just about the PD’s vision or the personality’s opinion on who they think they are, it’s about connecting with a listening audience and playing the role of a character that they identify with. Let me give a few examples of role definition and why I believe it’s important for shows.

In San Francisco my afternoon drive time host Damon Bruce has a lot of strong opinions, he delivers his views with a ton of passion and he’s been known to ruffle a few feathers from time to time. You could say he’s not everybody’s cup of tea but whether he’s loved or hated, people know where to find him and usually have an opinion about something he said.

damonbruceNow we could pretend that Damon isn’t edgy or hasn’t made a few folks uncomfortable along the way with his takes but that would be silly because the audience is smarter than that. Instead we positioned the show with some aggressive style promos prior to launching it, we reinforce his strong takes in the promos that we run and we use a godzilla-like stinger heading into breaks which gives the show some extra edge and personality.

The bottom line is we embrace what he brings to the airwaves and reinforce that position. Whether it’s everyone’s taste or not is irrelevant because the fact of the matter is it’s an accurate reflection of Damon’s on-air personality and when you put on his show he’s going to provide a compelling listen and not be afraid to take certain positions that others might not. That in itself makes branding the show pretty easy and the way it’s imaged and branded is in line with the expectations of the listener.

More times than not, brand building with a solo host is pretty simple. All you need to do is take a look at some of the characteristics that they possess and get a sense of what the audience expects from them and then play to those strengths. I often like to use music bumping in from breaks that fits the individual and their style to reinforce the mood and I think that writing liners that reinforce the personality’s key traits inside of the show is another smart tactic.

On the other hand if you look at how a 3-person show is built, it’s a whole different animal. It’s similar to creating a big three in the NBA.

clevbig3For example, LeBron James in Cleveland will likely be expected to take the last shot, play smothering defense, be the vocal leader and attack the rim every chance he gets. Kyrie Irving will be asked to run each play, put his teammates in position to get good looks at the basket and serve as a complimentary scorer when LeBron needs help. And once the Kevin Love trade is finalized, Kevin will be asked to rebound the basketball, crowd the paint and light it up from outside when he’s able to break free. Each player is crucial to the team’s success but each of them takes on a different role to best help the team win.

I have a theory that I’ve developed when it comes to 3-person shows. In most cases it’s worked out alright even though sometimes the individuals playing the roles inside the show may not always embrace it. Coming up early in my career in NY I worked on a few different morning shows with a variety of characters and I remember being told that when it came to group shows, you want to strive to combine people from different backgrounds and in a perfect world, if you can pinpoint the “deer, dick and dork” on a show then you’re in great shape. That line always stuck with me and made a lot of sense.

If those buzz words seem harsh, feel free to substitute the terms “the hero”, “the villain” and “the neutral one” (often this is the journalist, the stat person, the PXP broadcaster, etc.). Just because you have three guys though who fit these terms doesn’t mean the show is going to work. They still need to have chemistry, be entertaining and discuss the right subjects but assuming those things are in place, when you have three people fitting descriptions that make them easy to identify, that’s a huge win. Remember, it’s about connecting with an audience and people are more likely to recall individuals on the air who they can easily identify.

thefastlaneAs an example, when I was in St. Louis I had an awesome afternoon show at 101 ESPN titled “The Fast Lane“. The show as consistently top 3 and even went to #1 and while each guy was extremely talented, the reason it was so successful was because each guy naturally fit the role he was playing and he didn’t try to run from the perception of how he was seen.

In Randy Karraker’s case he came across most times as the “dork” simply because he was so damn informative and the guy you most likely learned the most from listening to the show. He was also the radio captain of the show handling all the formatics. Bob Ramsey meanwhile played the “dick” role because he wasn’t worried about popular opinion and sometimes would get a case of the red ass and not think twice to light someone up. The third member was D’Marco Farr and he came across as the “dear” due to being a big lovable teddy bear on-air and a member of the Rams Super Bowl 34 championship team.

This doesn’t mean that Bob was a jerk and couldn’t be positive or that Randy wasn’t lovable or a hard ass too but rather than trying to complicate things, each of those guys embraced their roles on the show, played them to perfection and as a result, audiences related to and connected with them and made them a household brand in the market. Because they were all naturally different and because they worked at developing their chemistry and embracing their differences, they had a lot of success.

roleThe purpose of this piece today is to get you to think about your show, your brand and how you position it to the marketplace. Are you using the right buzz words to identify yourself? Are you trying to play the role of someone you’re not? Do you have a show you’re involved in that has too many of the same type of styles and not enough variety to stand out? Those are the things that you’ve got to examine if you want people to form deeper relationships and stronger opinions on your presentation.

I’ll say this, one show that gets this probably better than anyone is Mike and Mike. Some guys will quickly say they love the show and tell you every reason they do and when they do that, they’re almost always restating the key words that have been built around the Mike and Mike brand.

Those who don’t like the show will almost always call it corny or proceed to complain about one of Golic or Greeny’s traits that are highlighted in the marketing approach of the show. That is the beauty of role definition and character development. If you can pinpoint who does what in each show, what the individual is about and why you love/hate the personality or show then you likely have a winner on your hands and few will disagree that Mike and Mike have been a winner for a long time. Here’s an older TV commercial of theirs that captures their differences and highlight who they are as personalities.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b146pasyO0E

One thing I like to do prior to the launch of a show is assemble the people involved in the show in a room and write some words on a board that the group feels reflect the individual positively and negatively in the minds of the audience. Often times talent will see them, write things down, counter them, inquire more on why the audience sees them a certain way and by the time they’re done in the room, they have a stronger idea of who they are to the audience and what they’ll need to do to reinforce their character and add to it in order to form a stronger connection.

photo 1This doesn’t work with everyone but if you can get your crew in a room and they’re open minded and willing to self-analyze and allow some outside feedback to better help position the show, it can be very helpful.

Remember, who we are as people and who we are on the air can be very different sometimes but once that light goes on and the microphone is hot, all that matters is finding a way to connect the audience to your on-air persona. When you’re able to do that, it can be very powerful and put you on a path to superstardom. I’m sure you’d agree that creating the radio equivalent of Seinfeld, American Idol or The Sopranos wouldn’t be bad for your career. So what’s stopping you?

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”

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There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.

Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.

Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.

I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.

With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.

BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.

If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!

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Barrett Blogs

Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”

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When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.

Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.

Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.

Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.

Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.

Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.

We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.

To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.

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Barrett Blogs

BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas

“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”

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The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.

Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.

Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.

Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.

Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.

A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.

Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.

Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.

That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.

One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.

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