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When Teams Gain Influence Over Content

Jason Barrett

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One word that few people respond favorably to is censorship. By definition, the word implies a practice in limiting or removing key information and opinion from an important conversation or story.

If you’ve paid attention to the news cycle since Donald Trump entered the White House, the topic has been a heavy focus for the American people. Many feel the media have positioned Trump unfairly and support his desire to derail the nation’s news outlets. Others believe he’s entered dangerous territory by attempting to block free speech and silence honest reporters who have brought to light questionable actions and decisions that have occurred under his administration.

One of the very freedoms of our country that makes it great is having the ability to speak our minds even if others disagree. The talk radio business itself would be pretty bland if not for the thousands of men and women who grace the airwaves each day expressing their points of view, stirring up conversations, and engaging our minds and giving us different things to consider and take exception with.

But while it may be exciting to be granted access to a microphone and deliver your opinion to thousands of local listeners, there are responsibilities that come with the talk show host position.

My first rule of thumb for any personality who’s performed on one of my previous brands is to never get personal. Once you do, it’s an impossible conversation to recover from. You can criticize on the field performance, off the field behavior, and anything that comes up and is relevant to a franchise’s failures or which paints an individual or organization negatively in the public eye. But there is a fine line between attacking one’s actions and their personal character.

If you work in the sports media or enjoy reading about it, you’ve likely seen the story this week that took place in Sacramento. Sports Radio 1140 KHTK host Damien Barling, who’s part of the station’s midday program “The Lo-Down”, was off the air on Wednesday following a critical commentary against the Sacramento Kings organization after the team traded away its franchise player DeMarcus Cousins. The station opened up Wednesday’s program with a brief response from Barling’s partners Jason Ross and Ken Rudolph before turning the airwaves over to a nationally syndicated show.

The incident occurred on Tuesday during the final hour of Barling’s show and has caused a firestorm in sports media circles. Here were his remarks, which included midday host Jason Ross in the conversation. You can hear them by clicking here.

Barling: That was embarrassing. That was absolutely embarrassing.

Ross: In what way?

Barling: In every single way imaginable. That dude is not fit to be the general manager of a basketball team. This is real life. You just heard a general manager say publicly at a press conference ‘We had a better deal two days ago’. You moron! You can’t say that! ‘Oh why didn’t you wait till Thursday?’ ‘Oh cause we had a better deal two days ago?’

Ross: It was getting worse.

Barling: Are you serious? Bro… I don’t even know what to say. If you’re a Kings fan, you should absolutely be embarrassed by that. That was awful. That was absolutely awful. You cannot do that. You can’t do that. Awful. That’s awful dude. Absolutely incredible.

Barling was upset with the way the Kings front office handled the Cousins trade. The majority of media outlets across the nation have painted the Kings organization as being in over their collective heads, and the KHTK host was echoing what many others thought and felt of the franchise’s top executives.

Except there was one small problem – KHTK is the radio home and play by play partner of the Sacramento Kings.

The Sacramento Bee reached out to KHTK for a comment on the situation and were told “We respect the right of all of our on-air hosts and employees to voice their professional opinions on a range of topics. However, we do not condone malicious personal attacks on or from anyone. Comments of that nature do not reflect the views or sportsmanlike conduct of this station”.

Truth be told, I know program director Kevin Sherrets who the quote was attributed to (even though it was an official statement from the station, not one from Sherrets), and like him a lot. He’s a good guy with good intentions, who wants to help his brand make an impact in the community, and I have no doubt he’s trying to do the best he can to manage a difficult situation. Only he and his market manager Steve Cottingim know how the Kings front office feel about the situation and whether there was or wasn’t a request for more action to be taken against Barling.

But what’s troubling in this situation is the prior track record of KHTK when it’s involved members of its on-air staff speaking out negatively against the Kings. It should be noted that these past issues have taken place under the watch of multiple program directors, so this isn’t a reflection on Sherrets.

Former reporter John Dickinson, who now works for 95.7 The Game in San Francisco said he was pulled off the air multiple times by management after being critical of the team under previous owners the Maloof family.

Former KHTK program director and morning personality Don Geronimo said on Twitter that management operate this way consistently when it involves criticism of the Kings.

KNBR 1050 morning host Drew Hoffar, who previously held numerous stints on the Sacramento sports station said you pay the price if you’re not on board with the way the Kings do business.

Now maybe it’s entirely possible that all three former station employees have bitter feelings towards their former employer, but given the events of the past week, it’s hard to ignore that there might be some truth behind their words.

In analyzing Barling’s commentary, I felt 95% of what he said was fair game. He felt passionately about the subject, there were mixed reviews on the trade, and he had a right to communicate to the audience that he thought the organization failed and embarrassed themselves by acknowledging they had a better offer on the table two days earlier for Cousins.

Where Barling screwed up was when he proceeded to call Vlade Divac a moron. To those on the outside looking in, that may seem small, but when you’re in business with someone, especially in a one-team town, you have to be careful with the way you criticize a key figure of an organization on your airwaves. You can attack Divac’s performance and job qualifications but there’s no need to get personal.

Had Barling said something like “Vlade Divac proved he is not equipped to be the Kings General Manager. You can not publicly admit that you had a better trade offer two days ago. You just can’t. It tells the entire league and your fan base that you didn’t execute your best and right now I have no confidence and am utterly disgusted with the way he handled this situation. This is an embarrassment of epic proportions and makes me question whether or not this team will win in the future with him making important decisions on behalf of this organization“, it’d be very difficult to remove him from the air. The commentary remains strong, but avoids any personal references.

That said, there is another part to this story to take into consideration.

People are human. They make mistakes. They mean well, but sometimes say things the wrong way. I’m a big believer in personal track records and accountability. If an employee is under fire for saying something that ruffled a few feathers, and has been consistently dependable, respectful and responsible, then you often give them the benefit of the doubt.

In this case, Barling had not been removed from the airwaves at any point since joining KHTK last April. He also worked for CBS Sacramento from 2001-2008 which tells me he wouldn’t have been employed for 7 years the first time, and re-hired in a bigger position in 2016 if he didn’t have a decent reputation inside the company.

Ironically, the word Barling used on the air (moron) to describe Divac, is a word that afternoon host Grant Napear has used many times in a colorful way to describe callers who make points he doesn’t agree with. It seems bizarre that the word would be allowed to describe a member of the audience during the course of an entertaining afternoon show, yet be considered inflammatory and worthy of suspension when utilized against the Kings GM after a controversial trade which has the majority of the market confused or angry.

If the only thing in question from this incident was one specific sentence during a passionate commentary, that could have been easily fixed by having a face to face conversation or by demanding an immediate on-air apology to Divac. The station could have even written up Barling rather than having the story call into question their integrity when it pertains to Kings coverage. Most people I’ve heard from feel the station overreacted, and it’s hard to argue with that given the facts we’ve been aware of, but remember that when situations like this take place, there are often other factors we’re not privy to that could have also played a role in the final outcome. Only the people inside of KHTK’s offices know the true story.

As uncomfortable as these incidents are, they’re not foreign to sports radio executives. As a matter of fact, I addressed a similar situation last year when the Detroit Lions foolishly looked to use the power of their play by play rights to force 97.1 The Ticket to drop Mike Valenti. CBS Detroit wisely retained Valenti and let the Lions walk.

Teams are always seeking more control over the way their franchise is discussed and presented to sports radio audiences. It’s up to the programmer and radio station’s market manager to run interference to allow their people to do what they do best. A host’s job is to deliver honest hard hitting opinions in a responsible way, and without influence from any outside forces. If they’re worried about their job security every time they express a strong critical point of view, you’ll never get the full maximum value out of them, and you’ll compromise your brand’s integrity in the eyes of the audience.

It’s fair to question why upper management even allows it to become a conversation in the first place. Sometimes it’s because the revenue and ratings are so large and the brand association is so valuable that a station executive can’t afford a damaged relationship with one of the station’s most important clients. Other times it’s because they fear confrontation and buckle under pressure.

One thing we lose sight of when doing business with teams is that the only thing we truly own and control is the brand itself. A station can still exist and thrive without a play by play partner, even if the brand’s financial ceiling isn’t as high. Once permission is granted to a team to influence a part of your business, they will look to take advantage of it again. Teams don’t ask a programmer or market manager for their input on free agent decisions, the upcoming draft or the starting lineup, and station executives should be willing to protect their product and people, even if it requires a little bit of friction along the way.

Even more bizarre is why these organizations are so sensitive when it comes to the media sharing a negative opinion about them. Do they think the audience isn’t aware when they’re playing poorly or making bad decisions? If they want it to go away there’s a simple solution, win and make smart business decisions. The majority of media members and fans are hoping for the team to do well, but when they don’t, it’d be irresponsible to not be objective and honest about what’s taking place.

It makes me wonder if the next area to be targeted by teams is the social media space. How long until owners and front office executives are pressuring their new partners, Facebook and Twitter, to prevent negative posts about their teams appearing on other people’s timelines? Don’t think for a second that it can’t or won’t be requested.

I’ve flooded your brain by now with enough of my own points of view on the situation, but I wanted to include a few programmers from different parts of the country who also understand the complexities of this situation. Each of these guys work with stations which have strong play by play partnerships, and I hope you find some of their feedback to be helpful. Who knows, you may be using it to guide you through a future challenge inside your place of employment in the future.

  • Joe Zarbano – WEEI
  • John Mamola – WDAE
  • John Hanson – 610 Sports
  • Ryan Hatch – Arizona Sports 98.7FM

If an employee has no prior history of being in trouble with your radio station and they make an error in their on-air commentary, what is the best way to handle it? (Fire them, suspend them, written warning, on-air apology, ignore it, etc.)

Hatch: We’re in a unique position in Phoenix where we are the flagship home of the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Coyotes and Arizona State University football and men’s basketball, so these types of situations really hit home as we work closely with more teams than any other station in the country.

How you handle each situation will be unique and dynamic with so many factors. There’s no rule book, except for one thing – never, ever ignore it. That’s the absolute worst thing you can do.

The biggest thing you must have is clear rules of engagement for the hosts and the teams, communicate them effectively to all parties, and demonstrate it regularly. Every one of our personalities wants our team partners to have great success on the field or court. When teams or players are underperforming and deserve criticism, our motto is “be tough but fair, and never personal”.

Our industry is driven by hosts with strong opinions and it’s imperative that we continue to support them, but I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver those opinions. Name calling, cheap shots and personal attacks just won’t fly. Our hosts know it and our team partners know it. And if we cross that line, which does happen, we own it and correct it. But that approach doesn’t just apply to our team partners, it’s in play in everything we do – listeners, advertisers, etc.

Zarbano: I would say it’s very situational. It depends what was said or done. There are circumstances where a host can have no prior record of misconduct but go on the air one day and say something that is unquestionably worthy of suspension or termination. I think logic serves best and PD’s have to consider all the factors.

Mamola: It depends on the severity of the error. Taking the example in Sacramento, assuming the host had no prior history of being in trouble, an on-air apology for calling the GM a “moron” would have been the first thing on my list, in the very next segment. Having an opinion about what goes on the court is 100% legit, but name calling is weak and uncalled for. However, having the host follow up his apology by explaining the passion he has for the team to do well and be a shining beacon for the city of Sacramento, that rings home with the audience and can be a rallying cry for the listeners as well.

Hanson: Every play by play partner is different. Some comments cut deeper than others, and some may have no issue with unfiltered commentaries. If the intention is to smooth things over with your partner, or an individual within that partnership, then you need to apply what will appease them and be reasonable for you. If the comment is strong enough, and the partner is upset enough, suspension wouldn’t be off the table. But I think most reasonable people in a partnership should be able to move on with a personal apology and an adherence to a higher standard in the going forward.

How much influence does a play by play partner deserve when it applies to the radio station’s on-air commentary and presentation?

Hatch: Obviously we’re business partners and we share in each other’s successes – with audience, fans/listeners and revenue. They deserve to be treated professionally and with respect, just like our listeners and advertising partners. Our content management team has regular conversations with our team partners, so we clearly know where they stand on key issues. It’s about access to their perspective more than any formal influence.

Zarbano: In an ideal world, the play-by-play partner deserves no influence when it applies to the station’s on air commentary. It’s hard to put on entertaining and opinionated radio shows when the hosts are being censored. Your station’s credibility is immediately in jeopardy if an on-air host’s creativity, talent and candor are being restrained. In our new digital world, we know how easy it is for listeners to change the station and consume something else.

It’s also a bad look for the team to require or ask their play-by-play partner to limit the on-air host’s criticism, especially when it’s warranted. All franchises make mistakes (even the Patriots at times) and the best way to handle it in the minds of the fans is to own it and move on. Sensitivity and being defensive is a killer.

Mamola: The program director must establish the playing field with the partners as to the boundaries of what the philosophy behind the commentary is at the beginning. If it’s all about what goes on with the team on the field, fair game. If there is anything outside the actual playing field, that’s where the station (in some cases) should reach out to the partner first to see if they have a comment first before taking things to the air. The more work done in the background when it comes to off the field issues, the stronger the partnership and more comfort you’ll have when you hit the air. You just can’t make it personal.

Hanson: They get no influence. You have the power to decide how important your relationship with the play by play partner is to your brand. Is it worth it to risk the relationship over a two second comment? Or for the need to be completely unfiltered for your audience? Maybe an unfiltered approach is what you think gives you the best chance to win. Or maybe your station has such a strong position in the market that you can afford to do that, knowing the team needs you. But I also understand those that find a healthy relationship with their partner to be vital to the overall long term success of the station, and the need to make sure that relationship stays healthy.

What do you do if the team (one of your most important assets) wants things handled differently than the way you think they should be done? 

Hatch: Discuss it openly and honestly. It’s absolutely critical to have strong relationships with high level executives with your team partners. There are going to be times when things are said on the air that ruffle feathers, and when the interests of the station and the team don’t align. If you’re out in front of it and have good relationships, it makes it a lot easier to navigate the rough waters.

Zarbano: You have a conversation and reason with them so they can also see your side of things. Hopefully at the end of the day, the two parties can come to some sort of understanding. There’s always a deal to be made.

Mamola: You allow the partner the forum for a discussion so their voice be heard. That allows you to hear their feedback, explain your position, and have a productive conversation. However, the PD is the one who directs the programming of the radio station, and more often than not, the PD or the market manager may have to remind the partner of that. The more leg work you do in the beginning with the partner, the easier the relationship is to manage. Always invite the partner to converse with you, and only you, when it comes to programming issues they’d like to discuss.

Hanson: Those issues can be resolved before problems pop up. Have a discussion with your partner to establish where you each see what constitutes “out of bounds”, and come to a consensus. In many cases the differences will be clear between when things are said that are personal and when they’re not. And again, scratch all of that if you choose the unfiltered route. Then I’d just explain to my partner, that unfiltered opinion is what you need to do to win. They can then decide if they want to keep you as a partner at renewal time, and how they’ll treat you in the interim.

What advice can you pass along to other programmers and/or market managers who find themselves in this situation in the future?

Hatch: My advice for all content managers would be to spend time nurturing team relationships and when your hosts do cross whatever boundaries you set, be quick to engage in direct conversation to quickly resolve. And don’t pay more attention and love them up only when they are winning, but be just as present and engaged when the team is struggling.

Zarbano: Any type of censorship of hosts when it comes to professional sports franchises is a killer for the sports talk format. Your hosts can’t effectively do what they do best when they are being restricted because an organization can’t take the heat after making a bad trade. Do whatever you can to avoid this. Your audience is smart and will see right through it.

Mamola: Don’t be afraid to walk in during the break and address any comments immediately. That way you can question/converse about what was said in the moment and get a better more productive outcome following the break for the rest of the show. That also sets the tone for where the program can/cannot go for the remainder of the broadcast. Then whatever follows can be handled with the notion that the comments were addressed immediately.

Hanson: Establish a clear expectation for fair game with all staff before each season. It may change from year to year or it may stay the same. You may have no expectations other than to be completely unfiltered. It takes the guessing out of questioning whether a comment violated the understanding or not.

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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