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Staying Ahead of the Curve In Sports Radio

Jason Barrett

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In sports media circles it’s well documented that Jamie Horowitz is looking to turn Fox Sports 1 into an opinion driven programming network. He’s gone on the record numerous times stating that he’d like to add what he calls “opinionists” to his channel’s roster. Personalities such as Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock, Clay Travis, and Nick Wright are fit that description.

Whether the vision and execution will work is yet to be determined, but what I appreciate about Horowitz’s strategy is that he’s aiming to develop his network as the place to turn to for the opinion leaders in sports media. So much of today’s sports content is built from reaction to what unfolds in sporting events, and commentaries made by those playing or talking about sports, so choosing to build a brand around opinionated personalities and content isn’t a bad idea. Many have said he’s essentially taking sports talk radio and putting it on television.

When you look at how Fox Sports 1 stacks up presently, they’re way behind the worldwide leader in sports in many categories. Awareness, ratings, play by play deals, digital growth and even the size of the talent roster, all fall short of ESPN. They’re also nearly forty years behind in terms of branding, comfortability, and dependability with the audience.

To turn the tide in their favor it’ll likely take a decade or more, and that’s assuming they continue to make major improvements. The process will be long, painful, emotionally exhausting, and it’ll require smart strategy, risk taking, change, and achievable short-term and long-term goals, and a firm commitment, and great amount of patience from the higher ups at Fox Sports.

Even then, the plan still may not work. But what will take place if they stay committed is the creation of a legitimate competitor, and a brand with an identity which differs from ESPN. That gives the viewer a choice when seeking sports programming.

The reason I’m interested in their approach is because I see them seizing one part of ESPN’s identity, and looking to build their own empire around it. For sports fans, ESPN represents multiple things. They offer an abundance of play by play, SportsCenter, high level reporting, opinion driven programs, documentaries, and a collection of high profile personalities. It’s their mission to serve sports fans everywhere, and venture into all areas of sports programming, not necessarily focus on one particular area.

By placing less focus on highlight shows, documentaries, and reporting, Fox Sports is putting all of their eggs in the opinion basket. In doing so, they’re hoping to establish an identity, and generate enough traction to put themselves in position in the future to consider adding other elements to that strategy.

Which brings me to the radio industry. If there’s one area where the business underperforms, it’s in creating the next big trends in original programming. From digital to podcasting to ratings measurement, and other areas, staying ahead of the curve has never been radio’s strong suit.

Today, if you turn on your television, you’ll find a strong supply of sports programming options. Channels such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, SEC Network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network, NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, and the NHL Network all have something for you to enjoy. I didn’t even mention all of the regional sports programming channels, TNT’s select coverage, the Tennis Channel, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, Pac-12 and Big Ten Networks, or the slew of others.

When you examine the digital space, another wide variety of options exists. If you’re in the mood to read sports content, ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, Vice Sports, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, and Sporting News are available. If those brands don’t meet your needs, each sports league, and every single team in collegiate and professional sports has their own website. There are even other smaller sites which are built around specific sports, leagues, local regions, and personalities.

In sports radio, we find nearly eight hundred stations offering sports content. The majority of the formats though are similar. Brands are often attached to one of six national networks (ESPN, CBS, NBC, FOX, Yahoo, ESPN Deportes), and a large number use the same brand names, voice talent, and programming strategies.

Some of these stations will rely on their network associations to identify their brand. Other local talkers use monikers such as The Fan, The Ticket, The Game, The Score, The Zone, or The Team. The only things major differences are the personalities, content focus, network affiliations, and play by play associations. Even then, the content on these stations revolves around all-sports talk programming targeted towards each market’s local teams, and the biggest national stories making news.

We could debate station names, network associations, and the way many brands implement similar sounds and strategies, but I want to shine the light on a bigger issue – a lack of choice and originality for local audiences.

If you look at the top 25 markets, you’ll find a minimum of two sports stations offered in each city. In many cases, there are three or four radio stations offering sports talk programming. In nearly every one of these situations, each station provides all-sports programming. This means that the topics are driven by the news and results produced by the area’s local teams. Big national stories also warrant discussion.

Take for example the cities Denver, Houston, Miami and Portland. They each have at least four stations offering sports programming. Aside from offering different local shows, and on-air talent, and entering into business with different national sports networks, much of what they provide in terms of content is the same.

Sandwiched around their network hours are local programs which talk about the local market’s teams, take calls, interview guests, and possibly offer play by play of local or national games. They even provide sports updates two or three times per hour.

When the ratings and revenue are taken into account, some of these brands perform well. Others fall far below the mendoza line. For those that don’t pull their weight, they’ll either invest less, change the talent, or entertain a format change to something non-sports related. The one thing they rarely consider is a different way to present sports programming.

I want you to place yourself in the position of an owner of the third or fourth best performing sports station in a marketplace. If your competitors have a dedicated audience, strong ratings, and high revenues, do you honestly believe you’re going to make inroads by doing the same thing they do? Here let me save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation, you won’t.

So what can you do? How about doing some research in your market, discovering what matters most to people, and then creating a different form of sports programming?

Sports radio doesn’t have to consist of all-sports focused shows on radio stations which feature a mix of local and national content. It also doesn’t have to feature sports updates, personalities from the same walks of life, or the same voices and sounds that we’ve grown accustomed to.

This isn’t to suggest that you’re going to become the market’s leader by introducing a different version of the format, but if you want to create an identity, separate yourself from the competition, and help your ratings and revenue, sometimes being bold, and original pays off.

As you scroll through some of these possibilities, remember that they may work in some locations, but not in others. For example, a college sports radio network may be well received in the southeast, but not up north. This is where research comes into play. If you analyze the makeup of people in your city, and tap into their passions for specific sports, teams, people, and content, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance. That can be the difference between staying afloat, or sinking.

College Sports Programming Network: SiriusXM has done this incredibly well, and we’ve seen the same occur on television with the launch of the SEC Network, ESPNU, Pac-12 and Big Ten Network, and many others. So why hasn’t the format been offered by terrestrial radio?

Is it not possible for a company to create it and offer it to a number of stations in markets where the programming has mass appeal? Don’t you think local radio companies in college towns would have an interest?

If a group launched an all-college sports programming network, and partnered with a company like Learfield, IMG, or Westwood One to add college play by play to the mix, they’d have the ability to stand out in a number of locations. The focus would primarily be placed on football, and basketball. Other exceptions may be worth considering from time to time.

The right cities, towns, and regions have to be considered, and local operators have to be open to changing network affiliations, but if ratings and revenues aren’t high, that becomes a much easier conversation.

Hispanic Sports Programming Network: This is an area that even the television industry should be taking a closer look at. First of all, there are over three hundred and fifteen million people in the United States. Caucasians are the largest group of people, but Hispanics now represent 15% of the total population. That makes them the second largest race in our country.

When you look at states like New York, California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, the percentages rise to well above 25%. In major cities it’s an even bigger deal. For example, Miami is 51%, Los Angeles 43%, Houston 34%, San Diego 31%, and New York City is 24%. Other major cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, and San Francisco are all above 20%.

These aren’t just some of the largest markets in America, they’re also the locations where most of the nation’s advertising gets done. Buyers realize that the Hispanic population is rapidly growing, and selling products has to extend beyond Caucasian males and females.

Rather than introduce the seventh or eighth sports television channel or launch another sports radio station which does the same exact thing, how about building a programming around Hispanic talent? I’m not suggesting either that the content be presented in Spanish. It would be delivered in English by a station comprised of Hispanic personalities.

Many in our industry label Los Angeles, Miami and Houston as weak sports markets, yet each of them are heavily Hispanic and under represented on the local airwaves. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that connecting to that audience in each of those cities is important. If done right, it could produce great results. Some will suggest that it won’t, but until I see someone try and fail, I remain optimistic about the idea.

Black Sports Programming Network: Similar to the Hispanic programming idea, African Americans are also under represented, especially on sports radio. In television, we have channels like BET which cater to the African American viewer. In radio, multiple companies have launched urban brands which have been well received by predominantly black audiences. Urban sports for some reason hasn’t been considered, at least not on-air.

In the digital space, The Undefeated was launched by ESPN. Another website Black Sports Online operated by Robert Littal has also entered the fray.

But why hasn’t radio examined the possibility? It can’t be for a lack of options. Personalities like Stephen A. Smith, Michael Smith, Jemele Hill, Stuart Scott, Jason Whitlock, and Michael Strahan have proven they can shine on the national stage, and local talents such as The 2 Live Stews, Michael Holley, and Terry Foster have demonstrated they can be difference makers too.

So why not explore it further?

According to the U.S Census Bureau, in Washington DC, African Americans outrank Caucasians 48% to 36%. In states like Mississippi, and Georgia, blacks represent 31% of the population. In Maryland it’s 29%, and in South Carolina, and Alabama, the number stands at 27%.

I’m not suggesting that a network or locally programmed station featuring all black personalities would play in every part of the country, but I challenge you to show me proof of why it wouldn’t work in some of these locations. I can find local brands built around network programming in many of these towns that don’t deliver a big number, yet an idea like this isn’t even considered, even though the statistical data suggests it’d be worth discussing.

Team Centered Sports Radio Stations: We’ve seen a few teams own radio stations, and face backlash because their content is viewed as being team controlled. But what if an independently owned radio station chose to brand themselves around a local team, and focus their entire content presentation around them? Would it be different?

Some stations seek to be everything to everyone, rather than tapping into the one or two teams that matter most. Imagine if you ran a third sports station in New York. If you went up against WFAN, and ESPN NY, and offered the same strategy that they do with different talent, you’d get killed. But if you positioned yourself as the New York Football Network, that would at least peak the curiosity of local football fans.

Using that approach, all of your shows would be built around the Giants, and Jets, and the rest of the NFL. Your talent roster would feature people who were recognizable to New York football fans, and had strong knowledge and passion to discuss the sport. You could even supplement your coverage by adding Monday, Thursday, and Sunday night football, or aim to pry away the rights to one of the market’s two local teams when their deals expired.

This isn’t just a New York idea either. If you were running the third or fourth station in another market, and a local team had a stranglehold on local audience and advertiser interest, connecting your brand to them would be wise. Teams love being the center of attention, and certain ones carry such prestige with the audience that it’s impossible to deny the value of being connected to them.

If your radio station was built around non-stop Lakers in Los Angeles, 24/7 Cowboys in Dallas, or all access Giants in San Francisco, you’d be further ahead than you would by positioning yourself as the third or fourth all-sports programming alternative. Would there be periods of the year when your station isn’t a destination? Yes. But, when you add it all up, you’d have many more months of strong listenership, and a unique identity in the marketplace. The brands sitting on top would definitely be aware of your presence.

Action Sports Programming Network: Imagine if a channel was built around the UFC, Boxing, and Pro Wrestling. Your immediate reaction is to tell me that it’d be too niche. A format like that would only make sense for SiriusXM or on a podcasting platform. And therein lies one of radio’s massive problems. It operates inside of the same box too frequently.

Did you know that of the top 50 podcasts in sports and leisure, 11 of them are either wrestling, or mixed martial arts related? Did you know that over one million people subscribe to the WWE Network? How about the pay per view business, what brings in its largest revenues? That would be Boxing, and the UFC.

Do you think the UFC, WWE, and Boxing world don’t attract advertisers, audiences, or ratings? On a weekly basis, the WWE is watched by three to four million people on Monday night’s and a few million more on Thursday’s. They also reach younger audiences which is why ESPN entered into a partnership with Vince McMahon’s company. I’m not even taking into account the audiences which watch other wrestling promotions on television.

Would this type of format work everywhere? No. Is it built better for SiriusXM than others? Probably. But would it not have appeal in certain local cities? That one we can debate.

How many local stations do we see across this country deliver weak ratings, little revenue, and offer the same exact strategy as the competition, only not as good? It happens more than you may realize. If a station or network was built around personalities like Jay Glazer, Joe Rogan, Mike Goldberg, Teddy Atlas, Chuck Liddell, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Jim Ross, it would have appeal.

Audiences are already seeking out the content. If radio made it easier to hear and find, some cities might just surprise you with their level of interest in the programming.

Bye Bye Sports Updates, Hello NFL Reports: The NFL is now a twelve month, three hundred sixty five days per year sport. It’s the number one subject that audiences crave, and it stretches beyond local borders. Ratings, and rights fees are at record highs, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. It’s why sports radio loves the fall, and dreads other parts of the calendar year.

In 2016, sports fans seek out information by reading multiple websites, and following specific brands and people on social media. If you think you’re giving them something they don’t know in a sports update by pointing out when your local team’s game airs later that evening or what happened the night before, you’re simply insulting their intelligence. That’s the classic case of doing updates the way they’ve always been done.

I should point out that I don’t believe sports stations need to air three updates per hour. I’m not sure they’re even needed. I love the addition of an extra voice, and I see value in using audio to redirect the audience back to your website to listen to a podcast, or piece of content from another show, but game previews, recaps, and scoring updates are a waste of air time.

However, what is undisputable, is that sports radio listeners love football. Having three to four minutes per hour to use on your airwaves for updates can be worthwhile if the content is branded, and presented around the NFL. If a station were to switch their SportsCenter, Sport Flash or Sports Update, to NFL reports, I believe the interest level would increase.

First of all, the audience is aware of local sports issues, and the bigger national stories. They aren’t always aware of what’s being discussed in other cities in print and on sports radio. If you can gather good football related audio or written stories from other areas, and present something different than what the on-air host is providing, they’ll gain value from your reports.

One thing we know about football fans, they want to be informed, or given insight that will help them with their fantasy team or upcoming bets. If you’re going to remove two to three minutes per hour from your top talent to air a sports update, it better be news that your audience can use. Football content gives you that.

Facebook Live Programming Opportunities: Sports fans are voyeurs. They love video. They’ll even watch it online without the sound. They tune in for simulcasts of a local radio show on television. They eavesdrop on personalities who broadcast on Periscope. Now with Facebook Live available, it’s become an even bigger sensation.

So how do you take advantage of it?

If you’re programming a sports radio station, have you considered conducting video chats with your audience to discuss things taking place on your airwaves? If you’re a host, are you utilizing it before or after your show? How much more invested would your audience be in the current day’s show, if an hour before you hit the airwaves, they had an opportunity to share feedback with you on something you were considering doing that day but weren’t sure about? What if your show meeting was captured on it?

Maybe your brand has a deal with a local player to call-in weekly during the season, and as part of your next agreement, it includes one in-studio visit to one of your shows, and a separate 15-minute video chat with your audience. Players and agents are usually receptive, especially when they’re being compensated and given a platform to extend their brand. You might even offer to do the chat on their turf or an area of their choosing that would make the experience unique for the audience.

The world lives on Facebook. It’s your responsibility to figure out how to utilize it to your advantage. Between the airwaves, your website, email distribution, text message pushes, and social media, the opportunity to draw people to your Facebook Live video offerings is easy.

Remember this, every single thing you do in life now is a potential video moment. Every relationship you create and develop, possesses video potential. The more you dive in, and present yourself, the brand, and those you interact with in a strong light, and the more unique experiences you create in the space, the more attached your audience will become.

Closing:

I could spend another thousand words explaining why an all-female sports programming network on television would have appeal. Why a network built around the greatest games in sports history would generate interest. How sports documentaries could be created for radio and turned into compelling programming. Or why a Spanish sports podcasting platform would draw an audience. But I think I’ve given you enough to chew on at this point.

I’m not going to predict that every one of these ideas will work. If introduced properly, offered in the right locations, and given reasonable goals and time to connect, they could. In the wrong places, with inferior talent, and run by groups expecting instant gratification, they’d fail.

It’s easy to debate what would or wouldn’t work, but the challenge is to continue thinking of different concepts, researching your market, and focusing your product strategy on what matters most to the people in your region. There’s no reason why we should consider ourselves restricted in this format. Music formats have discovered ways to create extensions of their formats, and sports can do the same. Given the results of some brands, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be testing more ideas.

Those that take the risk, not only will be trendsetters, but they’ll create additional buzz, and give themselves an opportunity to enjoy better ratings and revenue success. They’d also add some spice to a format that’s built on predictability, and either lacks the imagination to create new ideas, or fears the consequences of what might transpire if they installed them.

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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