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Is It Really Time For a Change?

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Recently I did a little fill-in work for a station in Alabama. This happened to be the morning after the national championship game. The host had gone to the game and wouldn’t be back for the show the next morning and the GM asked if I wanted to connect remotely and host the show.

Now, I’ve mentioned this before. I went to the University of Alabama. Aside from the Celtics, Bama is the one strong allegiance I still have in sports. That being said, I’m not one of those Alabama fans.

I had a guest on to talk about what happens in 2018 in Tuscaloosa. There will obviously be a quarterback controversy during the offseason. Most fans assume either championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa or embattled started Jalen Hurts will end up transferring. What I really wanted to know though is what we should expect for Nick Saban’s future.

The coach has won five titles at Alabama. Add in that he won as the head coach at LSU and that is six total! Apparently his dream job from his youth was being the head coach of the New York Giants, and it is a job we know he has campaigned for before. So now that the Giants are in the market, would Saban campaign for the job again and this time take it if offered?

My guest said that he thought Saban had set up a situation for himself at age 66 where he could ride success right into retirement and then into having his image carved into the side of Red Mountain in Birmingham. Why take on additional stress at this point?

And what would be the source of that stress? Saban is ultra-competitive. Certainly a rebuilding situation isn’t too hard for him.

As I thought about it throughout the rest of the show, it dawned on me that the source of stress that Nick Saban doesn’t want to deal with is giving up control. In Tuscaloosa he can build a team, a coaching staff and a media policy exactly how he likes. Going to New York would mean having to comply with NFL culture and work with the Giants’ new GM Dave Gettleman, a guy who my fellow North Carolinians can tell you will absolutely smother a roster in his own image. The Giants need to draft a QB this season, and I am confident Gettleman will use that second pick to draft a defensive lineman…and not even a good one. He’ll draft a guy from a G5 school with “good upside.” Saban doesn’t want to be a chef in a new kitchen if he can’t buy the groceries.

I have talked about this here at BSM before – the importance of being on the same page with management for the long-term growth of the show. I don’t know if things are getting stale in Tuscaloosa for Nick Saban, but anyone that has experienced great success at something can potentially get bored with their routine.

The best way to combat this in the radio world is constant goal setting. You’re the number one show in the market! Great! Keep working on and refining what got you there, but don’t expect what got you to that position to be what keeps you in it forever.

When Alabama got beat first by Auburn in 2013 (True story: I ended up crying on a barroom floor in front of strangers, and I WAS SOBER!) and then again in the Sugar Bowl that year by Oklahoma, Nick Saban realized he had to change things up. He couldn’t dominate the game anymore with an offense that pounded you into the ground by running 250 lb running backs off tackle every play. He brought in Lane Kiffin, who introduced a faster tempo and a little trickeration and look where it got them!

Your audience will change over time. Kids that used to never think twice about talk radio are now coming to you for entertainment. Is a 20-something in 2018 going to be entertained by the same show that 20-somethings were in 2008? Probably not.

You shouldn’t feel the need to completely overhaul the show from month to month, but take stock of what isn’t working. Be aware of what segments feel stale to you or your PD. Chances are they feel stale to the listeners too. Addressing individual boredom will keep the show as a whole from becoming mundane.

What made you and your show successful? What keeps it successful? You should know the answers to those questions. It will help you decide if you really need a new challenge or if there are opportunities to change and grow your show that you are missing.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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