Working in the sports radio industry is a privilege that some of us often take for granted. We get to play in the toy department of life and engage in spirited discussions that are often referred to by industry types as “soap opera for men” and have access to people that most of our friends would pay large sums of money to spend 2 minutes with. We’re not digging ditches or ripping shingles off of roofs and we’re not heading home after each shift talking about how much we dislike our jobs. Face it, we’re pretty lucky….and we get paid to do this!
Over the past 10 years of my career I’ve taken road trips with Dan Patrick, talked about coaching and motivating people with Tony LaRussa and Rick Venturi, attended a barbecue at Steve Spagnuolo’s house, sat with Billy Beane and listened to his views on the business of baseball and shared a stage with former Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen. To say I’ve been treated to some special experiences would be a massive understatement but that’s what you become accustomed to when you work in this industry.
While all of that may be fine and dandy and it showcases the extra perks of working in this industry, it’s not as rewarding as making an impact on the people you work with every day. Sure it looks sexy and it sounds cool when starting a conversation with your friends but in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Not really.
In my opinion, one thing that matters a great deal is something that not everyone is willing to do – pushing people to get better and to take on bigger career challenges! Not every relationship will be positive but I try to make sure that wherever I work, I leave behind more people who felt like they learned something from me than those who didn’t. If a few friendships are made along the way, that’s icing on the cake.
I’m aware that my personality and style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and every strong leader with strong opinions is going to have critics and fans. I don’t worry about whether or not I’m liked or disliked or if people care to have beers with me outside the work place. My job is to coach people, make them better, deliver results, make sure they’re prepared for the next step in their careers, fight for the brands I represent and by doing that it often leads to earning the respect and trust of those I lead. When I head home each day, that’s what matters to me.
In this industry so many of us are conditioned to compete and it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of worrying about ourselves. We worry first about our own needs, our own paychecks, our ratings, meeting our sales budgets and how we’ll personally be impacted if something around us changes. It’s much harder to think about a co-worker and how we can play a larger role in helping them take the next step in their career.
Case in point, when I left the Dan Patrick Show to become the first Program Director for SportsTalk 950 in Philadelphia (now 97.5 The Fanatic), Dan wasn’t initially excited for me. He was concerned about how my departure would impact his show and I didn’t blame him. He had a very successful program on the biggest sports radio network in the country and as a team we were starting to gel. Once the smoke cleared and Dan saw that everything would be fine (and probably better, haha) he was able to genuinely wish me well.
That reaction out of people is natural but I believe that each of us sometimes need to be reminded of the bigger picture and how important it is to help someone take steps in their career rather than focus negative energy on how it may impact our own situations. If we’re good at what we do, we’ll be fine regardless of who’s around us. If we use our talents to grow those around us, it speaks even higher volumes about what you stand for as a professional and more importantly as a person.
That leads me to the headline of this column and how I personally relate to it. In 2002 I was working in Poughkeepsie, NY paying my dues for radio station 1340/1390 ESPN Radio. We had one local afternoon show and I was producing and doing updates on it for about a year. I was making strides inside the workplace and enjoying my role and it led to my Operations Manager Scott Carlin and General Manager Bill Palmeri taking a liking to me.
One day I was called up to Scott’s office and he wanted to talk to me about how we could improve the radio station. Our PD/Afternoon Host had been let go earlier in the day and Scott was of the opinion that if I took on the PD role and afternoon host position we’d get better. I was honored that he and Bill believed in me enough to trust me leading the radio station and I saw it as a great growth step for my career and I gladly accepted the opportunity.
Right after Scott informed me of the salary and shook my hand, he uttered the following words “congratulations, now start training your replacement“. I was confused and asked him if he was referring to making sure we had a new producer and update guy in place to fill my old spot. He smiled and said “No. Make sure you get the next Programmer ready for us“.
Considering I had worked hard to earn this position and had just been offered the job, I wasn’t thinking straight and the thought of getting someone else ready to do the job wasn’t sitting well. Scott then explained his rationale and once he spoke his piece it all made perfect sense. He told me he knew I’d one day go on to do bigger things and when that opportunity comes my way, it’ll be important for me to make sure that the place I leave behind is in capable hands. The building in Poughkeepsie wasn’t going to change locations so it was my responsibility to prepare others for future opportunities with the company.
I then told him I’d do my best to make sure we had great depth at the radio station and I’d focus my efforts on making sure I made those around me better. That conversation that day made a major impact on me because it taught me that what you leave behind matters and it also influences how people measure you and talk about you long after you’ve left a situation.
Since that day, I have taken great pride in trying to help people advance their careers. When I worked at ESPN Radio as a Producer, I pushed my intern Amanda Gifford to become great. She had natural talent and a great way of communicating with people and she loved being challenged. While she was new to the business I wasn’t going to let that be an excuse to not make an impact. Because she worked her tail off and impressed those around her, she kept moving up the ladder. Today she’s a Program Director for ESPN Radio Network.
In St. Louis, I spent 5 years working with Chris “Hoss” Neupert at two different radio stations. I challenged him to showcase his creativity and manage people and collaborated with him on numerous events and ideas. When I left 590 The Fan, KFNS he was named as my replacement and when I left 101 ESPN he wasn’t initially put in as PD but he’s in that position now and nothing makes me happier than seeing him kick ass and take names and knowing I played a small part in helping him reach that level.
In San Francisco when we launched 95.7 The Game, I knew I needed a partner who understood my way of doing radio and had the passion and desire to run a station in the future. I convinced my former ESPN Radio colleague Jeremiah Crowe to leave Bristol and join me as the radio station’s Executive Producer. Over the next 4 years I challenged him again and again and it helped put him in position to earn a promotion to Assistant Program Director. He’s now ready to become a Program Director either here in San Francisco or somewhere else in the country.
Additionally, some of my former producers have made great strides professionally. John Semar who worked for me at 101 ESPN in St. Louis and 95.7 The Game in San Francisco is now the Executive Producer of CBS Sports 920 in St. Louis. Ben Boyd who produced for me at 101 ESPN is the Executive Producer for KMOX in St. Louis. And my former afternoon producer at 95.7 The Game Kyle Englehart, now holds the Executive Producer title at XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego.
In each of their cases, I’ve pushed for them to take on bigger challenges. When Ben came to me at 101 ESPN and asked what he should do when Sirius XM put a bigger opportunity on the table, I told him to take it, even if it meant leaving us where he’d done remarkable work. As it turned out, the Sirius XM situation didn’t last but Ben gained valuable experience from it, and that combined with his strong track record in St. Louis earned him a bigger role with KMOX.
In John’s case, I not only encouraged him to leave St. Louis and join me in San Francisco to take on the challenge of a different show and market, but when he decided St. Louis was where he wanted to live and work and his current boss Tim McKernan asked my advice on hiring him, I told Tim he’d be improving his company immediately by adding John. Tim elected to take my advice and hire John and their partnership has turned out to be very positive.
When my fellow PD and good friend Brian Long reached out and asked for suggestions on strong candidates to become his right hand man in San Diego, I suggested Kyle without hesitation. Kyle was surprised when I called him to my office to tell him I recommended him for a job back home in San Diego and he was very appreciative that I had done so. While selfishly it would have benefited my station and afternoon show to have him stay, I had to think about what was best for his career. I had faith in my own abilities to create a solution that would keep the station and show in strong shape while allowing Kyle to take the next step in his career and everything has since worked out great for both parties.
Some of my staffs have heard me use the line “graveyards are full of irreplaceable men” and whether that’s ignorance or cockiness on my part can certainly be debated but I believe in the “next person up” mentality. You hear it often in pro football and I believe it translates to radio too. Find me an organization without depth and talented people ready to step up and I’ll show you a losing organization.
Nobody is impossible to replace. However, you’ve got to develop your key people and your bench because if you don’t then you’ll never be your best and you won’t help your people reach their full potential. I can accept losing an employee to another company because they did great work and were presented with a growth opportunity. What I dislike is having to part ways with someone because they either didn’t get the job done or conducted themselves unprofessionally.
I remember when I covered the NY Jets early in my career and I had a chat with Bryan Cox who told me that Bill Parcells was dogging him after he had an outstanding game. Parcells walked on to the practice field with two gas cans, one which was full and one which was empty. Bill told Bryan “you started as one of these, now you’re the other one, you figure out which one you are“.
Cox was pissed because he was coming off of a great game but the trick worked because he went out that Sunday and played a great game and the Jets won. The following week Bryan told Bill he could kiss him where the sun didn’t shine for suggesting he was on empty and Parcells loved it because he knew he had pushed his player to perform. However, he also gave Bryan some words of wisdom that stuck with me and I use when developing my radio teams.
He told Bryan “never lose sight of the fact that every single day you’re competing for your spot. What you did last game doesn’t guarantee a strong result in the next one. If a day comes and I think your backup, his backup, another teams starter or another teams backup can do the job better than you, you’re not on this field. It’s your job to make sure you bring it every day and give me no reason to look for other alternatives“.
The point of those examples above isn’t to showcase how they’ve each had success in their careers nor is it to pat myself on the back for helping them. It’s to emphasize the importance of looking out for what’s best for your people and doing your part to help them be their very best, even if it means having to lose them at some point. I believe that when you do that and you show people that you care about them and their future, you get more respect and buy in from them. It also sends a strong message to the rest of your employees and other professionals that you’re the type of person worth going through a wall for.
We sometimes forget that people in this business go to work for other people, not companies. Life decisions are made based on who we like, trust, respect and feel we will gain something from. It isn’t just about money, although that sometimes blinds us when accepting positions. When someone comes to work for me, they enter into a partnership with me and the radio station I oversee. Yes the company has certain standards that need to be met and they issue a paycheck and benefits but the day to day decision making comes from the person you work for. That relationship normally dictates how long you stay in a position and whether or not you enjoy the experience.
Not everything I’ve done over the years has been endorsed by the companies I’ve worked for but the majority of my employers have respected and trusted my approach and I’ve been lucky more times than not to work for good companies and good people who empower me to make decisions. It’s then my job as a manager to make smart choices that are best for the brand and our people. I take both of those priorities very seriously and I treat them equally important.
Even when I’ve parted ways with people in this business, it’s never personal unless someone wants it to be that way. In many cases I’ve worked with people multiple times. Case in point, the late and great Bryan Burwell worked for me twice in St. Louis. Bob Ramsey, Chris Neupert and Sara Dayley did as well. In San Francisco the same holds true for Mychael Urban, Dan Dibley, Drew Hoffar and Matt Steinmetz. If I believe someone can help the organization and they’ve conducted themselves professionally, regardless of the prior situation it’s my job to do what’s best for the radio station. If I think they can help us get better, I don’t hesitate to re-open the door.
If there’s something to take away from this article it’s that I hope if you work in this industry that you recognize how important it is to make lasting impressions on people and lift them up to your level (and hopefully beyond it) rather than keeping them stagnant. A disruption is never ideal and maybe the solution won’t be as good but it’s not the end of the world or your career. If you’re smart, talented, willing to put the work in and help people improve, you’ll be just fine!
If you value those around you and challenge them to get better, they will. When they do, they’ll likely get scooped up or they’ll rise inside your company. Their job is to make sure they’ve prepared their replacement. Because as I learned in 2002, the building doesn’t relocate!
Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network
“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”
To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.
As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.
If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Which brings me to today’s announcement.
If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.
After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.
The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.
I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.
One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.
Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.
Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.
What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.
Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.
Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.
5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs
“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”
I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.
Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.
But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.
Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.
If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.
Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.
For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.
At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.
I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.
Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.
Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.
Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.
Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.
Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.
Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.
But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?
As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.
Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.
Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.
I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.
What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.
As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.
Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.
But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.
Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.
There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.
I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.