It’s been a tumultuous time for the worldwide leader in sports. In 2015, ESPN lost a number of their best on-air talent, as Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, and Keith Olbermann all vacated Bristol University. The company also shut down Grantland, and eliminated three hundred jobs, painting a gloomy picture for the largest sports media operator in the country.
But then 2016 arrived, and many assumed that the worst for ESPN was in the rear view mirror. Yet aside from the devastation of losing 300 positions, ESPN finds itself in similar territory, dealing with major talent departures once again.
In just four full months of the calendar year, the company has already lost or terminated Skip Bayless, Mike Tirico, Brad Nessler, Robert Smith, Keyshawn Johnson, Curt Schilling, Joe Schad, and Robert Flores. Another talented analyst Trent Dilfer is also expected to depart.
If there’s a media company capable of overcoming these types of losses it’s ESPN. But, when you lose high profile talent consistently, it has a way of coming back to bite you in the ass.
Keep in mind, we don’t know yet if Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson will get scooped up by an NBA team looking for a new head coach. It’s too early to tell how a change in the Monday Night booth will affect Jon Gruden, and making the wrong hire on First Take could create a situation where the show has to be changed or possibly even cancelled down the road.
Even the network’s signature morning show “Mike and Mike“, which has been on the air for more than sixteen years, recently added Molly Qerim and it’s changed parts of its presentation. Depending on who you ask, the reviews are mixed.
Will the morning show continue to undergo future tweaks? Does the show finally move permanently to New York City? Or has the network reached a point where it’s decided it needs a fresh new program to kickstart a new era in mornings on ESPN Radio and Television?
ESPN Executive Vice President of Production and Programming, John Wildhack said “Understandably when there is a high-profile change, the picture might be viewed through a very small lens. Yet the facts are that more than 95 percent of our talent have remained at ESPN and there are a wide range of circumstances surrounding the few who don’t.”
He has a valid point. The company has indeed signed agreements with 200+ talent over the past twelve months. Given their ability to employ a large number of high profile positions, ESPN is well equipped to continue meeting the needs of sports fans across multiple platforms.
Remember that they’ve been stung by departures before. Great talents like Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, Craig Kilborn, Charley Steiner, and Rick Reilly have all exited, and although they’ve gone on to successful careers, ESPN has remained dominant without them. To write off the most successful sports media company in America, and suggest that it’s on the verge of turning off the lights would be a bit presumptuous.
However, consumers and investors do have a reason to raise their eyebrows. With every talent defection comes larger questions about the company’s future, and its willingness to invest in keeping its best talent. A simple way to eliminate that noise is by locking up the company’s top people, introducing new media stars, and adding new programming that energizes viewers, and gives them confidence that ESPN is healthy and committed to being number one.
It’s rare to see ESPN getting outbid for quality personnel, but with Fox, CBS, and NBC chomping at the bit to take the next step, it’s the four letter network’s responsibility to make sure they protect their turf and retain their best assets. Failing to do so could open the door for others to make deeper inroads, and possibly lead to a larger competitive threat in the future.
Did ESPN Eliminate Curt Schilling’s Game 6 Heroics on Purpose?
Prior to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees, the network chose to air the 30 For 30 documentary “Four Days in October“. The story covered the Red Sox miraculous upset of the New York Yankees during the 2004 ALCS, except it was missing one critical piece of the story – Curt Schilling’s Game 6 performance where he helped the Sox even up the series while pitching with a bloody sock.
ESPN said the program was edited because it needed to adjust its broadcast time to get back on track due to the Arizona-Oregon softball game running long. They supplied the following statement:
“When a live event runs long, it’s standard procedure to shorten a taped program that follows. In this case, we needed to edit out one of the film’s four segments to account for the extra length of the softball game.”
I recognize that there are times when edits need to be made to fit a schedule, but if you’re going to air a program, you cannot remove one of the most important parts of the story. Any baseball fan who watched that Yankees-Red Sox series will always remember Curt Schilling’s heroic performance in Game 6. It would be like removing the scene in Rocky 4 where Apollo Creed gets killed by Ivan Drago, and fast forwarding to Rocky’s fight at the end of the film. By removing the Game 6 drama, it showed a terrible lapse in editorial judgment, and denied fans the opportunity to understand the whole story.
To make matters worse, the issue occurred during the same week when Schilling went on the record blasting ESPN. It also involved a team which plays in a city (Boston) where ESPN’s image has been tarnished. If the company was looking to get back in the good graces of New England sports fans, they didn’t help their cause with this decision. Why they couldn’t edit out an earlier part of the story, or air a different program, I’m not sure.
Fox Sports Looks To Attack ESPN With Its Own Strategy!
Fox Sports National Networks President Jamie Horowitz has been unafraid to spend big for talent, while aggressively calling out his former employer. At The CAA World Congress of Sports in April, Horowitz touted ESPN’s decline of SportsCenter viewership, and proclaimed he would take a page out of the Fox News playbook and build FS1 around opinionated talk programming and polarizing personalities. He said that the approach would not only stand out more in today’s cluttered sports media environment, but it would cost less than sports programming built around news and documentaries.
That may seem hard to believe when Horowitz is opening the Fox checkbook to pay talents like Cowherd and Bayless. According to reports, Cowherd is making in the neighborhood of six million annually. Bayless is expected to receive more than five million per year. But featured presentations like 30 For 30 cost a pretty penny too.
The reason why Fox has aggressively pursued personalities is because they see their programming future driven by what Horowtiz likes to call ‘opinionists’. Cowherd, Bayless, Jason Whitlock, Katie Nolan, Clay Travis, Nick Wright, and Joy Taylor all fit that description.
But is replicating ESPN’s talk show programming a wise play? Or is it a subtle reminder that Fox is offering a replica, not the original?
Fox confirmed plans this week to launch a new television show with Cowherd and Whitlock titled “Speak For Yourself”. The show is expected to follow a PTI-style format.
Cowherd and Whitlock should make for a great pairing. They’ve forged a nice chemistry thanks in part to Whitlock frequently appearing on Cowherd’s radio show, and are both comfortable at offering hard hitting opinions, and in-depth commentaries. The duo will benefit from Colin’s radio/television simulcast serving as a promotional tool to help drive people to the new show.
Tony Kornheiser, and Michael Wilbon on the other hand are in the midst of their fifteenth year hosting PTI. Quality, consistency, and chemistry are three things they’ve supplied to audiences during their run on ESPN, and beating them at their own game won’t be easy.
Cowherd and Whitlock should be able to present a younger, edgier, and wittier presentation on camera, and the fact that they’re seen as the shiny new toy should help generate some early sampling. Whether or not they can produce an equal or better television show than PTI though remains a big mystery.
Fox is also said to be developing another opinion based program with Bayless. The show is expected to feature a second personality opposite Skip. No word yet on who that might be.
It’s hard to argue with the strategy since it involves well established talent, and a formula which has paid dividends for ESPN. The questions though are “can Fox do it better“, “will Skip’s exit from First Take bring new viewers to FS1” and “is the audience willing to abandon the brand they’ve spent a lifetime with in favor of something new“?
How the audience responds will tell us whether Horowitz has the right gameplan or not. Regardless of the result, you have to commend him for having the chutzpah to challenge one of the world’s most powerful media brands.
Saturday Night Live Eliminating 30% of Commercials
Media groups find themselves in an interesting predicament. On one hand, they’re fighting for every advertising dollar available, trying to hit this month’s budget, and ignoring the future. On the other hand, they find their products being consumed less, because listeners and viewers refuse to sit through long stretches of commercial breaks.
So what do they do?
In Saturday Night Live’s case, they’ve chosen to protect their programming by reducing their ads by 30%. SNL’s creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels said, “As the decades have gone by, commercial time has grown. This change will give time back to the show and make it easier to watch the show live.”
SNL’s skits have performed well when distributed on social media, but ratings for the program on both cable and broadcast television have suffered in recent years. One reason is because younger viewers have fled to on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
To offset the loss of inventory, NBC will bring in more original sponsored content from advertisers who will partner with the show for branded sketches, something the show is known for. Plans are also in place to add more pre-taped segments, and extend the length of some of the live sketches.
Over the past year, Viacom and Turner have reduced the commercial load on their networks, and Turner, TruTV and TNT have announced intentions to cut their ad inventory by 50%.
This resonated with me because the opposite is happening in sports radio. I see stations adding more inventory than subtracting it, and that’s a pattern that’s going to cause long-term damage to brands if they don’t take steps to address it.
For example, I listened to eight different radio stations last Thursday (the day of the NFL draft). Four of them treated their audiences to twenty minutes of commercials/sales benchmarks during drive time programming. If I include the sports updates that number increases to twenty four or twenty six minutes.
Three stations I observed ran between sixteen and eighteen minutes of spots, not including the updates. The worst sinner of them all aired twenty four minutes of commercials, and benchmarks, plus three updates that were between one and two minutes each. That means that half of their hour was spent running commercials.
If the key to building a connection with the audience includes treating them to entertaining personalities and topical content, how can you do that when you’re not available to be heard 33%-50% of the time each hour?
From a ratings perspective, if you’re required to generate at least five minutes of listening in a quarter hour to gain credit, is that realistic for your radio station when you’re providing only six to seven total minutes of programming? I didn’t even include the use of production opens, or liners which also takes away from your time.
If five major television companies can see where the world is headed, and why it’s critical to adapt before it’s too late, then why is radio consistently late to the party? I don’t care how storied your brand is, if you consistently feature twenty five minutes of interruptions, you’re begging your competitor to crush your business. Do you expect your audience to be loyal to you when you feed them twenty five minutes of spots, and another five to six minutes of generic sports updates each hour?
Once your numbers start to evaporate, don’t dare put that blame on your talent. The failure belongs to the programmer who wasn’t willing to stand up to protect the brand, and the sales manager and market manager who were naive enough to think that they could abuse the audience to enjoy a short-term benefit.
We have shifted towards a world where including advertising in content is normal. How we weave it in may be a work in progress, but it’s what we’ll need to provide to keep revenues high, and commercial time low. You should be thinking about the things you create on a daily basis, and how you can attach your clients to each of those assets. Listeners will endure hearing a sponsor’s name and ten second tag during a quality piece of content. What they won’t accept is a seven or eight minute barrage of commercials and equal or less content time.
If television can get creative, and sacrifice millions of dollars in ad time to help improve their programming, and ratings, then surely radio can figure out a way to do the same.
Under The Radar:
- Congrats to John Cassio who has earned a promotion to Program Director of 1240/1270 The Fan in Fort Myers/Naples, Florida. He added the PD stripes in early April.
- Mitch Nelles has gained additional air time on The Big 920 in Milwaukee. His program “The Mitch Nelles Show” added an extra hour, and is now broadcast weekdays from 1p-3p CT.
- A tip of the cap to Jeff Parles who was named afternoon producer of “The Big Show” and host of the Saturday morning show “The Sports Wire” on KTGR in Columbia. Parles took over for Brandon Kiley who left to produce Kevin Wheeler’s show on 101 ESPN in St. Louis.
- Paul Jarvis has left Greater Media’s 92.9 in Boston to return home to Burlington, Vermont where he’s taking over as Operations Manager of Vox AM/FM’s four station cluster. As part of his new job, he’ll be overseeing two sports radio brands, 101.3 ESPN, and 960 The Zone.
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.