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The 7 Myths of Sports Talk Radio

Jason Barrett

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According to the dictionary, the word myth means an invented story, idea, or concept. No industry makes better use of that word than the radio industry.

We forget sometimes that our actions determine the way we’re judged. Presenting a great speech in a room full of industry colleagues may make you look smarter than you are, and smiling, shaking hands, and nodding in agreement with your corporate bosses may help you keep the peace, but when the smoke clears, and the truth rises to the surface, your results, and relationships can’t be disguised.

I’ve had the benefit of working inside nine different radio stations in seven different cities, and alongside many great people. I’ve also witnessed my fair share of gasbags who preach one thing, but then do another. Whether I’ve agreed with someone’s approach or not, I try to remind myself that there’s a lesson to be learned from every experience, even if we can’t always see it at first.

Since moving into business for myself, I’ve gained the trust of format people all across the country. I’ve gained knowledge of the way different companies, stations, and people operate, and I’ve developed a fondness for some, and a loss of respect for others. My desire to see people succeed is stronger than watching them fail, but when brands and people are mishandled, it’s difficult to standby and watch.

My inspiration to write this piece stems from having a personality that’s very direct, honest, and unapologetic. That approach has helped me gain respect from my peers during my career. It’s also caused a rift with critics, and employees who didn’t row the boat in the same direction.

Not every relationship is a good fit. Would Joe Montana have been the same player if he were on the NY Giants? Would Lawrence Taylor have had the same freedom on defense if he played for the San Francisco 49ers? We’ll never know, but because they landed in situations that took advantage of their talents, and played to their strengths, they turned out alright.

In the radio business, programmers, personalities, and behind the scenes people develop trust or disdain for one another based on the way they view and approach their jobs. Some prefer a hands-on approach. Others want to march to the beat of their own drum and be left alone. It’s for that very reason that the head coach of a radio station must be capable of managing multiple personalities, and having a different message and plan of attack for every situation.

Today, I’m going to focus on seven areas of our business which aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. I could probably extend this list to ten or twenty but I’m not looking to take up eight hours of your time.

I’ve formed my opinions based on personal experience, and conversations with countless members of the industry. This doesn’t mean that certain people, and companies don’t set a good example, but more of us need to take charge to improve ourselves, and our situations. When that occurs, it’s amazing how much better we feel about the work we’re involved in.

Do As I Say Not As I Do

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of being active, creative, and well positioned for digital and social media success. It’s another thing to live it, breathe it, feel it, and be great at it.

How many times do you read one of the industry trades, and stumble upon a quote from a top market program director, or a well respected corporate executive touching on the growth in the digital space and how radio has to be a strong player in it? I see it every week.

When you read what’s offered in print, it looks really good. It makes you think that there’s a vision for the individual’s radio station or company in the digital, and social space. But then reality sets in. You go to find that person on social media to let them know you enjoyed their commentary, only to discover that they don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat account.

You tell yourself “maybe they dislike interacting with the public”. But since they’re responsible for managing a business, you’re sure to find them on LinkedIn. After all, that’s where business people connect.

Once again you learn, that the only proof of their existence is through an email address.

Quickly you flashback to that speech they gave where they raved about having a digital, and social media strategy, and why talent must be accessible everywhere. You’ve heard all of the clever lines about the future of revenue generation, and how the industry will be in big trouble if it doesn’t perform strongly across multiple platforms, so then why are these leaders invisible in the locations they say are most important?

Believe it or not, there are a LOT of executives who can provide a good soundbyte or captivating quote to discuss digital, and social media growth and success, but just because they talk about it, doesn’t mean they are about it. I’m not going to provide names but take a look sometime and ask yourself how it’s possible that business leaders who oversee the digital efforts for some of the industry’s leading brands can be absent in the space.

In my opinion, there’s no excuse as a leader for not having a presence in at least one of these areas. If I’m working for you, and you’re going to sing me a song about the power of digital, and social media activity, and challenge me to provide more content, and interaction for the audience, then I’m going to look in your direction trusting that you’re going to lead by example. If I can’t find you on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, or Snapchat, consider our conversation over until you understand the importance yourself.

We Value The Audience’s Time

People’s content choices are growing. Distractions are increasing rapidly. Developing great content, and being a unique personality matters, but it isn’t quite enough if the listening experience is consistently interrupted. Yet radio continues to turn a blind eye to the problem.

Whether you read it on an industry related website, or hear it in person at a radio conference, reducing inventory is necessary. Media groups recognize that digital listening is growing because it provides a strong listener benefit. Meanwhile, over the air broadcasts focus on pleasing the advertiser at the expense of the audience.

To combat these challenges, some TV (Saturday Night Live) and Radio (107.7 The End) brands have begun making adjustments. It’s clear that on-demand listening and viewing is rising, and the likelihood of it slowing down is minimal. The days of expecting people to sit through seven and eight minute commercial breaks are long gone.

But once again, radio does what it does best, and talks a big game without taking proper action.

I’d love for someone to explain how our business can talk about valuing the audience’s time, delivering a better content experience, and wanting to include people in the conversation, yet then jam twenty five minutes of commercials on to the airwaves during the course of a single hour. It’s like telling someone you care about their health, and then providing them with something that’s sure to make them ill.

On the day of the NFL Draft, one which you’d expect interest to increase on sports radio, five different stations in Top 30 markets rolled out twenty to twenty five minutes of commercials during a single hour. One actually took up thirty minutes when you include commercials, sales features (stock, traffic, weather), and sports updates. And it happened during drive time!

The eight stations I observed were owned by four different broadcast companies. CBS and Cumulus’ brands were the worst offenders. ESPN stations provided the best balance. iHeart was in the middle.

If we’re going to suck up oxygen by telling the industry that we value the time our audience spends with our brands, then we’ve got to eliminate the pitfalls that hurt our radio stations. Do you really think your ratings are going to continue to surge when you overload listeners with inventory? Ask yourself, “would I sit through an eight minute commercial break, just to hear a talk show host discuss a subject I like”? I don’t care how talented the host is, you’d be gone in an instant.

Don’t get me wrong, I know our radio stations need to make money. I want to see every brand in this format produce positive results. But I also know that cramming twenty to thirty minutes of commercials into a single hour is a recipe for disaster.

You may skate by for now if you have weak local competition. But, when your main competitor becomes every single company around the world that produces audio, not just another local radio station, then what are you going to do?

Don’t make the mistake that so many radio stations do – reacting after the storm hits, instead of before it. The longer you brush aside your audience, the more susceptible you are to being replaced. I bet you’ll adjust then. Unfortunately, your audience may not be around to notice.

We Must Bury The Competition

Let’s be honest for a minute, the sports radio format features some of the most egotistical and insecure people in the world. Don’t even shake your head, and bitch at me for pointing it out because you know it’s true.

How many times inside the hallways of your radio station do you hear two on-air talents shouting at one another because they have a difference of opinion over who should’ve taken the game winning shot in last night’s game? It’s not possible that each person could have a valid point because after all, each person has to be right. When you start bringing ratings performances, marketing campaigns, regular guest appearances, and employee contracts into the equation it becomes even worse.

While many in this line of work are ultra-competitive, and eager to be the best at what they do, there’s a misconception when it comes to measuring success.

If a host finishes 3rd in the ratings, and their competition comes in 1st, they see it as a failed month. It doesn’t matter that the company’s revenue increased by 10% because of their performance, or that they generated a quarterly ratings bonus, they simply see their show ranked behind another brand, and it lowers their morale.

This is one of the dumbest parts of our entire business.

Do you think Morton’s Steakhouse loses sleep over whether or not they outsell Ruth’s Chris? If they satisfy customers, make a profit, and enjoy cooking and serving great food, that’s success.

For some reason, sports radio stations can’t feel good unless they see their own name in lights. Is it really better for the industry if only one sports station existed in each town? If you put the competitor out of business, would that make you feel good? If you answered yes, how would you feel when your contract comes up, and there’s nobody else available to bid on your services? Now are you feeling good about your competitor closing its doors?

We should all be driven to want to be the best. If you don’t have that internal desire to kick ass, take names, and force everyone to take notice, then you might want to re-evaluate if this is the right business for you. But, we should also be wise enough to understand that success depends on more than just doing a good show.

If you design a good game plan, execute it well, connect with listeners, earn respect and admiration from your peers and partners, and help your employer turn a profit, that is the true reflection of success. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want more, but having your competitor’s blood on your hands shouldn’t be the only way you identify whether or not you’ve been effective.

Seeking An Opportunity

Waiting for developments to unfold before applying for a job is a mistake. The second I post a story on this website highlighting a change in a particular market, I’m hit with numerous emails asking “do you know anything about the opening?”

Here’s the secret, most of the time, that job has either been filled, or is in the process of being filled before the news trickles out. If you wait until a posting goes up to find your next opportunity, you’re going to be sitting on the beach for a while.

When a professional sports team signs a free agent on the day he becomes available, how do you think it happens? Conversations take place between the front office, agents, and former teammates, and the organization gathers its information to decide if they want to prepare an offer once they’re legally able to do so. Once the player “officially” becomes available, a deal is presented which usually meets the requirements that everyone has previously discussed. The only thing left to do is sign the contract and hold the press conference.

Can you imagine if the team waited until free agency started to begin doing their homework? They’d miss out on every single elite talent.

In radio it’s no different. As a former programmer, I was constantly evaluating talent, and having conversations. Do you think I’m going to put the future of my radio station in jeopardy by waiting until a problem occurs to address it? Not a chance.

Instead, I frequently listened to people all across the country, and asked around to get an idea of what I could expect if I brought someone on to my team. I also followed and interacted with the candidate on social media. I wasn’t going to standby and wait for a resume, demo, and programming philosophy to be sent over to my employer. I did my own research so when it was time to make a decision, I was fully prepared.

Are there times when a position opens up and a radio station makes a call based on the applicants it receives? Yes. In most cases those are behind the scenes positions, or lesser on-air roles. If an unexpected situation arises, that’s when a station may be forced to post a job and go through a lengthy process to fill an important vacancy. Usually though, the programmer has people on their radar before a problem pops up, and they’re deep into the process before the opening becomes public news.

This is why networking on a regular basis matters. Don’t wait until a situation arises to introduce yourself to someone. Do it every single day. The more ‘friends’ you have, and the more information you gain, the less likely you are to be on the outside looking in.

Don’t I Need An Agent?

I’m asked on a weekly basis to represent people or direct them to a group who can make a difference. If I enjoyed legal verbiage and arguing with attorneys I could probably make a great living doing it. But it’s one of my least favorite parts of the media business.

What’s important to understand is that an agent isn’t going to necessarily dive into your job search with the same relentless passion that you do. Most of the time they rely on the leads you send them or input they receive from business associates. Rarely are they burning up their phones or pounding the pavement to make sure you gain employment.

Many in the radio business assume that by having an agent it makes you sexier to a company. They believe that it’s going to put them in a position to find opportunities that others may not. As if there’s this secret paradise that exists and only media agents know about it. Simply put, that’s not accurate.

If you’re programming a radio station, you prefer to deal with as few people as possible. Especially when making a hiring decision. When an agent enters the equation it can complicate the process. If you’re able to deal directly with the employee or the person you’re looking to hire, that’s ideal. Once you tip your hand to others on the outside, it can spread like wildfire.

However, if you look at it from the other point of view, agents are valuable for the employee. The good ones have great relationships with various high ranking executives, and they’re there to serve their clients. They understand the challenges that face the radio station and work with the employer to strike a deal that’s fair for all parties.

The reason why companies prefer to negotiate directly with talent is because it gives them an advantage in cutting a deal which better serves their own interest. There’s nothing wrong with that. They are after all in the radio ‘business’. They’ll tug on your heartstrings, suggest they’re not doing well enough financially to afford more, and possibly even threaten to eliminate your position and hire someone else if you don’t accept their deal.

All that means is that they either don’t value you, or there’s more money available and they’d prefer not to spend it.

A lot of talent go into negotiations thinking they know the business. Assumptions are made about what a company will spend, and when the final deal is done they head home smiling and believing they’ve emerged victorious. What they don’t know is what level the company was willing to go to if pushed hard enough to present a better offer.

When representation is utilized, competition usually enters the equation. That’s because the agent’s job is to create demand for your services. Without demand, you can’t command a bigger increase. If you’re going to pay an agent to represent you, their performance has to be measured by what they deliver that you couldn’t have generated yourself.

More times than not, agents do deliver a better contract for the individual. They also shield the employee from negativity which helps keep the relationship between employee and employer on solid ground. If the individual were to sit in the room and endure what an agent does on their behalf, it would stain the relationship permanently.

Programming people assume that their past performances will be remembered when their contracts expire. They trust the company to ‘do the right thing’ to make sure the relationship continues. But business has a way of turning situations ugly.

If you’re an established talent with a good track record, performing in a top market, and you’re seeking to further your income or expand your brand, hiring an agent can be beneficial for your career. They have to believe that you’ve got the ability to ascend to a higher level because without it, they can’t maximize your earning potential.

But, if you’re at the early stages of your career, or trying to gain your first full-time opportunity, I’d suggest holding off. Yes there are some circumstances that may be beneficial. Especially if you know an agent in your city that has an established relationship with the company you wish to work for. But nobody will pursue a job more aggressively than you, and developing relationships is free. Put your time and focus into becoming great at your craft, and when you reach the next level, then you can explore adding someone to help you elevate your career.

Talent Is The Most Important Attribute

Sports talk radio stations that offer live and local programming sink and swim based on the talent they put on the air. If a great performer occupies the airwaves for 3-4 hours per day, the brand stands a good chance at developing an audience and generating ratings. But, no matter how talented a host might be, certain programmers place higher value in other areas.

For example, one PD may focus on adding people who are coachable, likeable, and a positive influence inside their building, rather than a more talented person who’s a larger pain in the ass. Another programmer may prefer a talent who’s deeply invested in working with the sales team, and views the existence of their show as a 3-4 hour platform to sell products. The next PD may seek a personality who can host a radio show, write a column, and produce video content, and reject another who’s special in one area, but unable to excel at all three.

It’s important to remember that no two programmers are alike, and each market, radio company, and situation is different. I know talents across this nation who have delivered big ratings and revenue for their radio stations, only to be disrespected, devalued, and ignored when it was time to discuss a new contract. Others have had to beg, plead, and threaten to leave for competitors to finally get their due. What may seem like a no-brainer decision to the on-air performer, isn’t always seen the same way by the PD or Market Manager.

You may believe that achieving ratings success and doing a quality show is what matters most, but everything ultimately comes down to internal relationships. You can produce big numbers and be at war with your boss, and as soon as they get their chance, they’re tossing you to the side of the road. Or you can struggle to deliver ratings, but click perfectly with management, and it soon leads to a contract extension. The continuation of a business relationship includes a number of factors, many of which have zero to do with your ability.

The Programmer Is Invested In Your Show

I’m not sure if it’s a matter of aging, or being removed from the daily rigors of running a radio station, but I find myself scratching my head often when I talk to people in the format about the way they’re supported by their Program Directors. There are a lot of really good ones out there, and they deserve respect, and praise for the great jobs they do. Unfortunately though, there are others who drift away from their brands, and care more about ‘being in charge’ than making a difference.

Maybe I missed the memo, but I thought the PD position required working with talent, scouting, creating content, studying programming trends, maximizing ratings, collaborating with teams, connecting with an audience, and setting a tone for how the radio station will operate. The vision is supposed to be supplied and enforced by the brand leader.

Now, I hear story after story about bosses who believe the job revolves around playing golf with clients, eating lunch with play by play partners, creating powerpoint presentations for sales teams, and spending time in ‘top of the food chain’ meetings. Those may be things you do from time to time to further local relationships, but they shouldn’t be placed ahead of working with your talent and talk shows.

If the way a programmer is measured is by the ratings performance of the radio station, and the connection they have with the programming team, how is it possible to have either one be effective long-term if there’s an obvious disconnect?

There are people working in this industry today who seek outside advice to improve, because they don’t get it from their superiors. That they value their development enough to pay for others to help them should tell you how much they love what they do. The only problem is that the one person they care to impress most, and gain a future opportunity from, is the one individual who’s the least invested in their career success. That’s what often puts two people on the fast track to divorce.

If a programmer has multiple responsibilities, and can’t listen to your entire program each day that has to be understood. I’ve always told talent, “I’m going to listen like a listener does”. That means that one day I’ll give you 30-60 minutes of my time, and share feedback based on what I heard. On other days I might consume the entire show, and drop by the office afterwards for an impromptu meeting. Then there are different days when another project requires my time, and prevents me from sampling any of the show.

If a host/show feels that you care, and pay attention to the product, they’ll understand when you can’t be available. They’ll go through a wall to make sure your vision for the brand comes to life because they know you want to help them be great.

But, if you rarely take the time to provide direction, ideas, criticisms, and praise, don’t be surprised when they stop asking, and start seeking it from someone else. Just hope that the party they reach out to isn’t the one which signs your paycheck.

Barrett Blogs

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.”

Jason Barrett

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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.

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Barrett Blogs

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.”

Jason Barrett

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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.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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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.

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