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The Slippery Slope of Sexual Harassment

Jason Barrett

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There are certain media stories you never want to be included in. One of them, which has become a national discussion and left numerous companies with stained reputations, and high profile personalities facing public humiliation and without employment, is sexual harassment.

During the past eighteen months, allegations have spread like wildfire, rocking sports and news media groups, the movie industry, the comedy world, and even the oval office. The subject itself may not be new, but the attention this time feels very different.

Let me be clear about a few key things before I dive deeper into this story. If anyone inside a workplace is using their power, wealth or influence to harm another person, either physically, mentally or emotionally, they deserve to be dealt with immediately and face severe consequences, including potentially losing their careers. I don’t care who you are, how much you make, or how important you are to the bottom line, if you’re incapable of being a professional and degrading, devaluing or physically taking advantage of another human being, those acts make you a scumbag and the type of person who a brand will be harmed by more than helped over the long haul.

But as someone who has managed five different radio brands, and worked at the largest sports media company in the world, I understand how certain pranks, comments and actions can be received differently by various members of an organization. I’ll try my best to explore a few angles and give you a couple of things to think about.

When I read the allegations made by Jami Cantor involving NFL Analysts Marshall Faulk, Warren Sapp, Ike Taylor, Donovan McNabb, Heath Evans and Eric Davis, I was sick to my stomach. If you haven’t read the Deadspin piece, take a few minutes to do so. It’ll allow you to get a better understanding of what Cantor says she was subjected to.

As I read each accusation I wondered how on earth those type of situations could be permitted inside of a professional media operation like the NFL Network. This wasn’t a case of one person accusing another of acting inappropriate, seven people were named in the story. Some may question why Cantor put up with the abuse for a lengthy period of time or if word about her tolerance for bullshit began to spread among the analysts but whether she was willing to turn the other cheek or tune out offensive remarks and actions, doesn’t mean she should’ve been subjected to them in the first place.

The second reaction I felt was disappointment. Being fully transparent, Eric Davis worked for me in San Francisco from 2011-2012. He conducted himself properly, cared about his show, developed a good professional relationship with me, and valued his family. His wife attended a few of our station events and was awesome. As I read the lawsuit and the parts which involved his name, I thought of my prior experiences with him and hoped the allegations weren’t true.

As I continued processing the details, I kept asking myself, why do television companies have so many problems creating a decent workplace environment? The medium itself hires people they consider ‘visual eye candy’, but that doesn’t mean individuals who choose careers in television have to accept an invitation to being personally violated or verbally degraded.

No matter what area of the entertainment industry you’re involved in, these types of problems gain steam when individuals and management blur the lines between personal and professional. Many forget that you’re inside of a workplace for one reason, to do a job. The second you begin to explore conversations with people that may or may not be comfortable to them, you’re rolling the dice on your future. You may find an audience internally that’s open to your dialogue, but if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, you’re automatically in the wrong, whether you see it that way or not.

One area of Cantor’s story that especially pissed me off was what she allegedly told Marc Watts, the NFL’s talent coordinator. After complaining about being subjected to inappropriate behavior, Watts reportedly told Cantor “it’s part of the job when you look the way you do.” If it turns out that Cantor’s claims are true, and that response from Watts is accurate, he should be terminated on the spot. That’s not managing people. That’s enabling misconduct.

If you look around the sports media industry, most television networks feature a mix of men and women working together. Sports radio stations on the other hand have less people involved, hence less females and males crossing paths and being in situations where issues like this develop. That doesn’t mean these things can’t rock the sports radio format too, it just means there are less chances due to smaller staffs and most positions being occupied by men.

The more I examine this issue, the more questions I have. Why is it that former players seem to be in the middle of many of these stories? The NFL Network lawsuit names six former players and one executive. We’ve also seen other recent stories mention ex-athletes such as Gregg Zaun, Warren Moon, and Pete Rose, and prior issues at major sports networks have involved former players and executives as well.

We’ve all heard stories of how teams placate star players because of their importance on the field or court. As long as a player can produce, the world is their oyster. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is the first example that comes to my mind.

The average fan on a couch watching a game and rooting for his/her team to win may not care if a star athlete receives preferential treatment and is allowed to operate in a fashion that’s professionally reprehensible, but that doesn’t mean it should be tolerated by team officials. Furthermore, when that type of behavior is enabled, it’s foolish to think a player will just turn it off once their career is over, especially when they move on to another high profile industry.

I’m not suggesting that every player turned analyst has a problem conducting themselves properly. That’s not the case at all. However, it’d be fair to say that many executives place a higher value on the guy who’s walked off the field and into their studio because they recognize how it can help increase ratings, revenue and a brand’s reputation with the audience. Many ex-athletes use that power wisely. Some unfortunately do not.

Next, when a person is elevated to an executive role, especially for the first time in their careers, they don’t come with built in instructions on how to manage. They often learn on the fly. Some are natural leaders who conduct themselves in a classy manner and exercise great style and judgement in hiring people, developing systems, and addressing problems. Others, take advantage of their power, think they’re untouchable, ignore red flags and lead with an iron fist.

Until you’re in charge of a brand and its staff, trusted with power, and standing in the crossfire of a chaotic situation involving someone you care about or have professional history with, it’s not something you can prepare for. A company can put you in a conference room and force you to watch a 30-60 minute video on sexual harassment, which has zero personal connection to you or your brand, and check off a box that says ‘the employee has received sexual harassment training’ but that just satisfies corporate expectations. It doesn’t solve the problem when it lands at your door.

I’ll share a brief personal story which I haven’t publicly discussed before. Earlier in my career I landed an opportunity at a radio station and was brought to an office to read some documents and watch a video on sexual harassment. I processed the information and then signed a document confirming that I received the materials.

Following that two hour training session, I was led to another building where I’d be working. I walked into it and on the walls were a number of posters of scantily clad and nude women. Considering I had just gone thru sexual harassment training, I thought to myself, ‘is this one of those moments where they’re trying to see how I’ll react and then tell me afterwards, Jason Barrett you’ve been Punk’d?”

As it turned out, it wasn’t a test. I didn’t pay much attention to it because radio back then ventured much more into dangerous content areas and produced its fair share of crazy characters. In fact, one individual at the station told me, “I have a tendency to break late, so if I get behind, take this purple rubber sex toy (which was located on the left side of the studio board inside a stack of equipment) and hit me in the head with it and I’ll take a break.” I responded by telling him “I won’t have to do that to get my point across and get us out on time.”

You’re probably reading that and thinking “WTF” but 15-20 years ago, things that would never be acceptable by today’s standards went largely ignored. I chalked it up to ‘boys being boys’ and focused on the work in front of me, and less on my visual surroundings or the odd behavior of one person. If that same situation occurred now and someone else was in my position, they’d probably file a lawsuit and that individual would either be suspended or terminated.

Another issue I want to address involves the reporting of an incident. First of all, it’s not my place or any executive’s place to put a deadline on when a victim must report an incident. Some come forward quickly. Some do not. If you’re the one living with a permanent scar, it should be up to you to decide if and when you’re comfortable discussing what happened to you. Just think of the boys who were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. Some wanted no part of reliving that nightmare, others wanted Sandusky to pay for his actions. Each situation impacts people differently.

That said, a few industry people I spoke to had mixed feelings about the Pete Rose situation. Each person I talked to agreed that what Rose did was inappropriate, but he also completed a professional baseball career, a public battle with MLB over gambling issues, and was hired and worked for FOX Sports on television, after dating an underage girl in the 1970’s. Had Rose conducted himself properly this never would’ve been a story. However, he didn’t. When news circulates four decades after the fact though, it does lead some to question, why now?

Ironically, that was the subject which Geraldo Rivera of FOX News came under fire for after tweeting about Matt Lauer losing his job at NBC. Rivera said sexual harassment allegations should be made in a timely fashion (within 5 years) and include proof such as witnesses or electronic/written communications. He added that due to large sums of money being offered in settlements, some victims were more motivated by financial gain than receiving justice.

Upon learning of Rivera’s comments, FOX News rejected them, adding, “Geraldo’s tweets don’t mirror the perspectives of FOX News or its administration. We were pained by his remarks and are tending to them with him.”

I couldn’t disagree more with Rivera over his policies for how sexual harassment should be handled, but his last point is valid. We can pretend that each person’s motivation is to right a wrong, but in this day and age where information spreads like a virus and quickly cripples those involved, not every accusation is delivered with honest intentions. Just think back to how your emotions changed as you learned more about the Duke lacrosse case.

For the victims who have been legitimately harmed and built up the confidence to come forward and attempt to hold others accountable for prior transgressions that sucks. But when you take into account how many popular personalities have lost jobs and how many millions of dollars have been spent by corporations to make stories go away, that can serve as an incentive for some people to create chaos.

That’s why it’s critical that we allow due process to take place when investigating these situations. As Robert Evans said, “There are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth, and no one is lying.” However, the rise of social media has made it harder, if not impossible, to manage disturbing allegations.

Let me ask you this, how are we able to get to the truth when people jump to conclusions based on the first thing they read on Deadspin, Bloomberg, the New York Times or the Boston Globe? What happened to hearing both sides of a case?

There are many positives about social media, but it can also serve as a cesspool where businesses and reputations get destroyed and public perceptions are formed and become difficult to erase. Many of us, become arm chair quarterbacks when negative stories become public news. We think we know all the answers based on the things we’ve read, but unless you’ve been in the middle of the situation, and are privy to all of the facts, you’re not as informed as you think you are.

This is why we have a justice system. It’s perfectly legal for anyone to sue and accuse a person or company of wrongdoing, but providing evidence, and convincing a jury is part of the process. I realize the term ‘due process’ may not be popular, especially to the social media masses who sit with their fangs out waiting to feast on dead skin, but everyone deserves to be heard. If someone is innocent, those facts will come out. If they’re guilty, they’ll pay a heavy price. In both cases, the public will know what transpired. That should be the goal not sensationalism or a rush to judgement.

Case in point, two weeks ago, a gunshot was fired inside of a store at the Crystal Run Galleria Mall in Middletown, NY near where I live. I received a text from my fiance about the story and began to scan the television and surf social media to try and learn more. KPIX 11 reported that three were dead, and the story was soon being advanced on social media by on site witnesses, stating that it was a mall shooting and many had been hurt.

A few hours later after police got involved and had a chance to investigate, they discovered that an individual who was in American Eagle with his pregnant wife and two children, fired his gun one time into the ground, causing a situation where the bullet fragments injured two people. Although the situation was scary, nobody died, there was no mass shooting, and no large amount of people were hurt. That’s not exactly what KPIX or the so-called eye witness’ reported.

So how could KPIX report that news? What about the sea of people who flocked to social media causing panic to families and additional problems for law enforcement who were trying to assess what went wrong? Shouldn’t they be held accountable?

A similar breakdown occurred earlier this month when ABC news correspondent Brian Ross reported that Michael Flynn would testify that President Trump directed him to make contact with Russian officials. The report turned out to be false, and ABC had to suspend Ross for four weeks.

When media outlets or the public rush to judgment minus all of the facts, mistakes are made, especially on social media. It’s why I believe executives at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram need to install stricter guidelines to make sure their platforms are used properly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having the freedom to post about my life, my business, and my personal and professional tastes, but if I were using a public platform to negatively damage a person or brand, and it was proven that I acted that way, there should be consequences. Right now, it’s a free for all and too many errors are occurring and creating larger problems.

To direct this back to the issue at hand, sexual harassment, it’s easy to preach from the sidelines about due process and tell media executives to stand by their people and investigate claims before making important decisions that permanently damage their reputations and end their careers. But when advertisers take money off the books, listeners and/or viewers stop consuming content, and social anarchy unfolds leading to the destruction of a brand’s image, how can I or anyone expect a CEO, Corporate Executive or Market Manager to stay calm and remain supportive as fires spread around them and their business gets harmed?

This is an uncomfortable subject to write about but it’s not one that we can sweep under the carpet. It’s important to remember that the only way to weed out the bad and support the good is by setting expectations, reinforcing them, managing each situation, and reserving judgment until all of the facts come out.

If even half of what Jami Cantor was subjected to is true, I feel terrible for her. Nobody deserves that type of treatment. These allegations will make some women think twice before pursuing employment at the NFL Network. If they’re proven to be true, it’ll likely lead to seven media people struggling to find future work, and it’ll reduce the NFL Network’s bank account and force the company to reexamine every aspect of its organizational structure, standards, and executive staff.

However, if we learn that there are other factors to this story, and the situation is different than what Cantor presented, then there’s going to need to be further explanations. Right now, seven people’s professional lives are on life support. For their sake they better have a damn good explanation and strong evidence to counter what’s been reported because at this point in time, it looks really bad for all involved.

If you’re in a position of power and given a license to shape a brand’s vision and hire a staff, it’s imperative that you conduct yourself as a leader in a proper way and outline your expectations and hold people accountable. I used to place a sheet on the studio glass door in a few of my buildings outlining the station’s on-air commandments. These were things I considered in bounds and off limits. Some hosts probably thought it was silly, a few may have even ignored it, but if the rules were broken, there were consequences. They didn’t have to look far to know what would and wouldn’t be tolerated.

It’s the same when navigating issues behind the scenes that are much more complex and personal. You set expectations, hold people accountable, and if issues arise, you investigate immediately. I had one situation arrive at my door over a ten year period, and as soon as I learned about it, I called the person in, questioned them, involved HR to investigate further, and made sure it was clear that there was no three strikes and you’re out policy for sexual harassment in the workplace. If anything turned up during the investigation that was deemed inappropriate, it could cost the individual their employment. The person in question understood the seriousness of the matter, and thankfully it wasn’t a larger issue.

These situations are a company’s worst nightmare, because no CEO, GM or PD wants to see their employees get hurt or their business get damaged. They provide a workplace for staff members to feel safe and productive in, not to be placed in harm’s way. There are a few slippery slopes to deal with such as social media noise, false accusations from people out for financial gain, and rehabbing a brand’s image after the fact, but if you treat co-workers with respect, conduct yourself in a professional manner, and act swiftly and fairly when situations occur, you’ll be in a much better position than the NFL Network is today.

As I stated at the beginning of the column, there are certain topics you never want to be mentioned in. Sexual harassment is one of them. When you cross the line and put yourself and your employer in an unenviable position, don’t be surprised if future opportunities aren’t available, regardless of how talented you might be. At that point you’re left asking yourself one question, “was it really worth it?”

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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