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The Voices of Major League Baseball – Part 2

Jason Barrett

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This is the second installment of our three part series highlighting the radio voices of Major League Baseball. 30 media members from across the nation have shared their perspectives on what makes their local announcers great and unique, and I encourage you to do a little bit of reading to become more familiar with radio’s best storytellers and in-game presenters. If you haven’t already read part 1 you can do so by clicking here.

In the sports radio industry many take for granted how important play by play is to a radio station. They also forget just how skilled many of these broadcasters are who capture each game experience and make it a vital part of a listeners life. Selling the game of baseball and all that is associated with it requires a mixture of passion, insight, preparation and focus, and as radio dedicates thousands of hours of air time over the next six months to feature America’s favorite pastime, it felt like the right time to pay tribute to those who help our stations enjoy ratings and revenue success, while enhancing relationships with audiences all across the country.

On that note, let me introduce you to the voices of Major League Baseball.

Houston Astros – Robert Ford and Steve Sparks – as told by Chris Gordy.

At SportsTalk790, we are fortunate to have two of the very best in the business, play-by-play man Robert Ford and color analyst and former knuckleballer Steve Sparks. Baseball is the best of the radio sports, and the reason Robert and Steve are outstanding is because they have an innate ability to paint the picture of what’s happening, while mixing in a great balance of analytical breakdowns and entertainment. Entering their fifth season together, they do an exceptional job of making the audience feel closer to the action.

A decade ago when the Astros last advanced to the World Series, Houston truly was a baseball-dominant town. We think it’s becoming that way again. With a young core of players, and some big off-season additions, the Astros are a team set up for a World Series run. Should that happen, we’ll be in great hands thanks to Robert and Steve’s abilities to bring the sounds of the game to our listeners on SportsTalk790 and the Astros radio network.

Kansas City RoyalsDenny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre – as told by Bob Fescoe.

Denny Matthews has seen every single pitch the Royals have ever thrown. Seriously. Denny was hired when the Royals became a team back in 1969 and has been behind the mic ever since. From the great years to the bad years and now back to the great years, the one constant has been Denny. Summer evenings in Kansas City aren’t complete until you have Denny on the radio. Everyone, no matter the age, identifies with him. His voice screams baseball, it screams Royals, and it screams Kansas City. Denny is an icon, and the true voice of the Royals, and everyone has a favorite Denny call.

Ryan Lefebvre has been behind the mic since 1999, and has quickly become the voice of record for the Royals. During their runs in 2014 and 2015, it seemed like all of the big moments happened during the innings in which Ryan was behind the mic. From the Wild Card win to the last out of the 2015 World Series, there was Ryan with the big call. What makes him special is his brain. There may not be a smarter and funnier broadcaster (in a very dry way) than Ryan. He is as prepared as anyone when it comes to baseball, and is beloved by local baseball fans.

When Ryan and Denny speak, fans listen. Whether they’re appearing on the radio station as a guest or calling the action during the 3rd inning of a Tuesday night game, fans hang on their every word. Both guys are so very well respected, appreciated and loved here in Kansas City, and when the Royals are winning there is nothing better than flipping on the radio and hearing Ryan and Denny behind the mic.

Los Angeles AngelsTerry Smith and Mark Langston – as told by Trent Rush.

Angels baseball on AM830 captures the summertime vibe of Orange County that is cool, relaxed, and fun. Terry Smith gives great validity to our station as a trusted voice. He puts great emphasis on accuracy and rises to the moment for big calls. Terry’s highlight reel is flooded with excitement and poise concurrently.

Former pitcher Mark Langston compliments Terry on the broadcast and is an insightful analyst who weaves his playing experience and relationships with players into a perspective that allows fans to connect. Listeners feel like they know Mark and the team because of him. He understands the game very well and demonstrates knowledge of game situations that are too often forgotten by other analysts. Mark brings extra charm and personality that makes listening to Angels baseball fun.

AM830 is more than focused on Angels baseball. Angels games are our centerpiece and foundation. Terry and Mark wear that responsibility well and create an environment at our station and on our airwaves that makes us proud to work here and have them to look up to, as experienced broadcasters.

Los Angeles DodgersCharley Steiner and Rick Monday – as told by Dave Weiss.

On AM 570 LA Sports we’re fortunate to have four time Emmy Award Winner Charley Steiner and Dodger great Rick Monday announcing every play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both veterans had the good fortune of calling games alongside broadcasting legend Vin Scully, and as a pair they provide a unique fan experience and view of the game which blends Steiner’s casual play-by-play style and Monday’s insight into the mechanics of the game and the emotions involved with playing it.

Steiner’s credentials include 30 years of broadcasting and a recent induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame, one of only 17 other sportscaster to ever be honored. His secret to success has been his ability to bring listeners into the game with descriptions that combine stories, stats and references that bring past and current (Dodgers) history together. Charley grew up a Dodger fan, and has been a member of the broadcast team since 2005. Prior to moving to Los Angeles to call games, he spent three seasons working alongside John Sterling on New York Yankees games.

Monday on the other hand is the former Dodger centerfielder who’s most famously known for saving an American flag during a protest in 1976. He’s popular among Dodger fans because of his insight, credibility and unique blend of storytelling. Rick has a knack for bringing listeners into the game with exclusive pre-game interviews with coaches, legends and players, while inviting the audience to learn, understand, and talk about what players go thru, what transpired during the previous game, and what may happen during the next one.

The Dodgers have won four consecutive National League West division titles, making them an important focus of AM 570 LA Sports. With Charley and Rick providing the call, Dodger fans are in very good hands. I invite you to take a listen and hear for yourself what makes them special.

Miami MarlinsDave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner – as told by Joe Raineri.

The Miami Marlins have gone through some changes over the years in South Florida. They recently had a new state of the art indoor ballpark built in Miami. Multiple managers, coaches and player personnel have come and gone. Even the television broadcast team that covers the Marlins at Fox Sports Florida has seen multiple changes over the years. Last year it was broadcast by committee. We were never really sure who was going to join Rich Waltz, who is in his 12th season calling the play-by-play action for the team, in the booth.

Yet with all of these changes, fans of the Marlins can take comfort in knowing that one thing has remained the same. The voice that comes out of the speakers inside the cars, offices, phones and homes of Marlins fans – Dave Van Horne. The legendary announcer has been the lead play by play voice of the Marlins since 2001. He and Glenn Geffner, a Miami native, are the radio play-by-play team on the Miami Marlins Radio Network. Geffner joined the Marlins in 2008, and together they provide a certain comfort level to the South Florida baseball listener. In a time when almost nothing seems for certain, especially on Radio and TV,  having Dave and Glenn for 162 games a year in your ear is about as comforting as it gets being a Marlins fan.

So if you find yourself in South Florida, and want to hear a baseball game called on the medium it was made for, check out 940 WINZ and listen to Dave and Glenn paint a picture so vivid that you’ll almost feel as if you’re up at the plate.

Milwaukee BrewersBob Uecker and Jeff Levering – as told by Doug Russell.

Bob Uecker simply defines summers in Wisconsin. When Bob is on the air, everything seems okay. He is more than a baseball announcer, more than a showman; he is in the rarefied air of actually being more than even the game itself throughout the state. And while he has scaled back his workload in the past few years, Bob will be the identity of the Brewers for generations to come. Unlike the Dodgers and the incomparable Vin Scully, the Brewers don’t have the same team history to draw upon. But we have Uke.

Joining Bob for his second season is talented newcomer Jeff Levering. Jeff is simply one of the most talented young play-by-play announcers in the game. Whether it’s been Pat Hughes, Jim Powell, Cory Provus, Joe Block, or now Jeff, the Brewers have a knack for finding that next great straight man to Bob’s shining star.

The Brewers and WTMJ are so intertwined with each other that it’s hard to imagine them playing on another station. Just as WTMJ is the station of record and a public trust, so too are the Brewers to their incredibly loyal fans. Even during challenging seasons, fans flock to Miller Park, and AM 620 at 7:00 most summer nights. It is a relationship that both parties certainly respect and even treasure.

Minnesota TwinsCorey Provus and Dan Gladden – as told by Phil Mackey.

Minnesota tends to be a very provincial territory. It often takes a minute before we fully embrace outsiders with open arms. Couple this with the fact that Cory Provus took over radio play-by-play duties in 2012 for John Gordon, who, along with the legendary Herb Carneal, called the 1987 and 1991 World Series wins, and gained national visibility for his role in Little Big League, and you can see why Provus had big shoes to fill.

Five years into their pairing, here’s why I love Provus and Dan Gladden. The Twins have had a historically bad run lately, which makes for a lot of irrelevant baseball games during the dog days of summer. Provus and Gladden, through humor, honesty, storytelling and intelligent baseball banter, still manage to create compelling audio. It’s a lot easier to offer an interesting broadcast when your team is winning 95 games and going deep into the playoffs. Try captivating an audience though when your team is enduring multiple 90-loss seasons.

Another reason why this pairing works is because Gladden offers an old-school, gritty perspective as a guy who played 10+ years in the league. Provus, on the other hand, has a healthy knowledge and respect for sabermetrics and other newer ways to observe the game, and he translates those things in a way that busy mass audiences can understand.

It’s a great contrast and excellent partnership that helps make Twins baseball on the radio an entertaining listen. 

New York MetsHowie Rose, Josh Lewin and Wayne Randazzo – as told by Wayne Randazzo.

It may seem like it’s coming from a place of bias, but I do believe the Mets radio broadcasts are among the best in baseball. Howie Rose and Josh Lewin call the vast majority of the games together while I fill in for each of them on the roughly 30 games that either may miss. WOR is largely a news and conservative talk station with a mix of local and syndicated shows so I think the Mets broadcasts give the station an enhanced New York flavor during baseball season.

There is a great deal of professionalism brought to the broadcast. It’s easy to not be as informed on the opposing team as you are for the one you cover on a daily basis, but I believe that all 3 of us do extensive research to sound as educated as possible on the opponent.

What makes Howie and Josh great is that they’re both hysterical, and have allowed me to feel at ease bringing humor and light to the broadcast. Regardless of which combination is calling a game, we all have tremendous chemistry with one another. Additionally, Howie is a walking Mets encyclopedia. He’s been a fan or broadcaster of the team during its entire existence. At any moment, a fan of any age can either get a memory fired up or a lesson in Mets history from Howie.

When you listen to baseball on the radio, you want every pitch and storyline of the game presented, and you want to be entertained and hear passion for the game from the announcers. I think listeners would agree that the Mets radio broadcasts pass all 3 of those tests with flying colors. We have fun doing our jobs, and I think that’s noticeable to the audience.

New York Yankees – John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman – as told by Mark Chernoff.

John Sterling has been the “voice of the Yankees” since 1989 and has not missed a single game. Suzyn Waldman, a WFAN original employee in 1987, has partnered with John on the broadcasts since 2005.

What makes John and Suzyn an excellent team is that they each possess encyclopedic minds about the Yankees and baseball. They’ve been around long enough to talk Yankees history but are also able to capture the excitement of today. They’re honest with the audience during both positive and negative situations, and their chemistry is one-of-a-kind. In particular, Suzyn is often able to finish many of John’s thoughts. They’re also

As it relates to John, he’s both informative and entertaining. He has one of the most distinctive voices in radio and to hear him every night makes you feel like the Yankees will be winners. What sets him apart is that he mixes creativity with play-by-play. His home run calls and “nick names” for players such as “it’s an A-bomb from A-Rod” are popular and help show off his style. John also has a flair for the dramatic, and his “The Yankees win…the Yankees WIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN” has become a trademark of Yankees broadcasts.

As for Suzyn, there isn’t anyone out there who knows more about the Yankees players, coaches and Manager. Her insight into the players is second to none. She has the ability to engage in conversation about stats but also brings an “inside the locker room” update on the team that sets her apart from many analysts.

The Yankees are an iconic product and our broadcast enhances that image. I expect and receive an honest broadcast every night, which is what our listeners also expect and receive when John and Suzyn are on the air.

Oakland AthleticsKen Korach and Vince Cotroneo – as told by Roxy Bernstein.

In my opinion, Ken Korach is among the best play-by-play broadcasters in the game. I’m certainly biased because I consider Ken a mentor, friend and colleague. What stands out is his attention to detail, voice, pacing and description. It’s as good as there is. I’ve been lucky enough to share the radio booth with Ford C. Fricke Award Winners Dave Van Horne and Jon Miller, and Ken is right there alongside them among the elites in broadcasting.

Another important part of Ken’s excellence stems from his connection with the audience. His conversational style combined with his humor and wit keeps everyone entertained, even if the game is not, and that’s a big reason why he is beloved among A’s fans.

Adding to the quality of the broadcast is Ken’s pairing with Vince Cotroneo. Vince possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience which is on display during each broadcast. No duo works harder and provides better information around the game than Ken and Vince which is why they complement each other so well and have a special relationship with Oakland A’s fans.

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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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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