It was one year ago when I wrote a lengthy piece on the challenges associated with broadcasting live on radio row during the week of the Super Bowl. I tapped into a few program directors and top salespeople to gain their perspectives on why the week on the road for their brands does/doesn’t matter.
As insightful as last year’s column was, I realized that one key part was missing from the conversation. The viewpoint of the people who it matters most to – the on-air talent.
It’s easy to sit in a conference room and debate the merits of sending your shows on the road or crunch numbers in an office during budgeting sessions and eliminate travel and remote broadcast expenses because it’ll make your bottom line look better but there are certain things in business that you do because it’s important to your people, your brand image and your audience.
For example, how would your perception of a NewsTalk brand change if their key programs weren’t live at the Republican and Democrat national conventions? To make those events work, extra dollars must be spent and sometimes sponsors don’t want to get involved because they don’t want to be branded as supporting one side over the other. If the NewsTalk outlet you receive your information and opinion from though wasn’t there, your perception of the brand and its shows would be altered.
Imagine if a massive rock concert like Lollapalooza was recreated and your favorite rock station wasn’t involved in it. Or if a rap festival was produced and your hometown hip hop station didn’t have a connection to it. You’d wonder why those brands were detached from something significant to the audience and their image would take a hit as a result of it.
Well, the same applies in sports talk radio.
There is no greater event from an audience attention standpoint than the Super Bowl. The NFL is king and responsible for stealing the majority of our free time during the fall. The final game represents the last chapter of the season, and the week leading up to it is when fans become consumed by the storylines surrounding the NFL’s season finale.
From a talk show host’s perspective, this is the nail in the coffin on a year’s worth of conversations. Hours upon hours are dedicated to analyzing, debating and reporting on the NFL each season, and the most hosts view the week of the Super Bowl as one of the most important to their annual schedule. It’s an opportunity to get access to high profile people, uncover interesting stories, receive exclusive access to events they’d otherwise not experience, and it affords them the chance to spend time on the road with their peers and colleagues. That alone leads to strengthening bonds, increasing contacts, gathering information, and enjoying time away from the normal grind. The audience is invited to live vicariously thru the eyes and ears of the talent during the NFL’s biggest week, and in doing so, a deeper bond is developed between the brand and each listener.
What makes topics like this fun to discuss is that there really is no right answer. If your business is hemorrhaging money and lacks interest from sponsors, it’s understandable why you’d pass on sending your hosts and shows on the road. But if every decision you make is tied to whether or not you generate an immediate return on investment, be prepared to be disappointed.
It’s ironic that the radio industry depends on selling advertising to clients, stressing to them the importance of branding. We encourage sponsors to implement a long term strategy and remind them of the need to spend money to make money. We preach how vital it is to stand out from a crowded field and why presenting a powerful image and influencing perception are key in reaching people when it’s time to make a purchase.
What we don’t do is walk in the door with pixie dust promising to sprinkle it on their ads and double their business. That’d be ridiculous. Effective marketing requires consistency and building a strong brand image. If done properly, brands will absolutely benefit from it.
Yet when the shoe is on the other foot, do we follow our own advice? To borrow Hertz’s slogan, not exactly!
There are a myriad of factors that need to be considered when deciding whether or not to send your radio station and staff on the road to the Super Bowl. From the ratings impact, to the perception of the brand, to the economic affect on your company’s balance sheet, everything must be examined. However, just don’t lose sight during that process of how those decisions register with two of the most important components of your business – your staff – and your audience.
To provide a little more perspective I called upon six talented hosts from different parts of the country who have experienced the good and bad of radio row. Making the conversation even more interesting is the fact that they collectively represent five different companies.
For those of you who are scheduled to broadcast next week on radio row in Minneapolis, I recommend checking out this list of restaurant/bar suggestions from 1500 ESPN Twin Cities midday host Phil Mackey. You can thank him in person next week for steering you to the right locations.
Why is broadcasting live from radio row during the week of the Super Bowl important to you?
McKee: I have been to 14 Super Bowls. So, I’ve had plenty of radio row experience. In the mid 90’s it seemed like a pretty exciting deal. We would get a cool collection of guests that we wouldn’t get any other way. However, as the years move along, the quality of guests seems to have leveled off. Also, getting interesting guests is complicated because there is such a strict schedule. Then of course there is the question of whether listeners even care about hearing from any of these people. In addition, we haven’t seen a specific spike in ratings during that week. BUT – if you are a sports station in America and you aren’t there how serious are you? The trick is to use radio row as a home base and actually go out and do the work which means getting off your ass and going to the pressers and the other available sessions. The access to players, coaches and other folks in the sports world is off the charts. If you stay anchored on radio row, you better hope you have a world class producer who can do some pretty extraordinary things or you’re going to be talking to Bill Romanowski about his neuro lean 1 pills. So broadcasting from radio row means almost nothing to me, but being at the Super Bowl feels like it’s very important!
Kaplan: This is my 22nd radio row which is crazy! I look forward to the week of the Super Bowl because I like to be in the middle of the action. If I didn’t go, I would be watching on TV wishing I was there. It’s the sports radio convention, like the Senior Bowl of sports radio. It’s something I feel is important to be in the middle of.
Dawson: It’s important primarily because we are the home of the Cowboys. The NFL is the most significant sports entity in our market and not being there would feel off brand in a big way. Our competition will be there and to my knowledge, I’m not aware of a regular weekday 6a-7p show in my market that hasn’t gone.
Innes: It’s not. I thought it was important to broadcast from radio row when it was in Houston. I host a morning show, so I won’t be getting a ton of guests, and the building will be largely empty. I don’t believe it adds a ton to my actual show. Hosts love to say that they can get more out of guests and that it’s all about the questions. Trust me, when Adam Sandler is on station #20 and has been up for 25 hours, he’s not gonna be excited.
Dougherty: Broadcasting live from radio row is important to me because we want to provide Zone listeners with the best content possible, every day. Radio row at the Super Bowl allows us to do that by gaining access to compelling guests who we normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to connect with. Being there helps us deliver a stream of interesting content all week.
Tierney: Very early in my career, it was probably good for the ego, a self-validation of my place in the business. However, as my platforms have grown, it’s become much more of a bridge…a tool…a continuation of the coverage and insight we’ve provided throughout the season. Although I don’t believe in being guest-heavy day to day, we take great pride in being able to secure “A” list guests throughout the season. This is not only a continuation of that, but in essence, a culmination of a season/sport that we dedicate a lot of time, energy and resources to. I want to be there, I expect to be there.
If you didn’t do shows on radio row during SB week, how would it impact your show?
McKee: If I wasn’t there we would still have a table and a set up to put a guest on headphones but that’s pretty weak. I suppose I’d feel left out. It’s an interesting question though and I’m not sure I have the answer because this will be my 9th straight radio row. I have 6 others sprinkled in over the years. What makes this year particularly interesting is that I pushed hard for our station to go to the Senior Bowl. We have great ownership and management and they made an extremely quick pivot so we could be in Mobile, Alabama this week! The reasoning was simple. The Broncos need a QB, and Mayfield, Allen, Falk and Rudolph will all be there along with the Broncos coaching staff which includes a bunch of new guys who are coaching the north team. The STORY for us is clearly in Mobile not Minneapolis. That always should come first. So I’m proud of my station that we’re doing what’s best for our listeners. We were ready to give up going to the Super Bowl but because Minnesota is such an awful place to go to in February, the hotel costs have plummeted! At the end of the day, we can do both and stay under budget. So, I’m going to both! Guys often bitch about having to spend the time and effort away from home but that couldn’t possibly match how much they’d complain about NOT going! We are a messed up crew of individuals.
Kaplan: I’m not sure broadcasting from the Super Bowl is a ratings winner per se, but from a perception standpoint, listeners believe their favorite show is big time by being on radio row. They enjoy hearing the show talk to people that they wouldn’t normally have face to face access to. It leads to good content and it’s where new relationships are formed!
Dawson: I’m not sure what the impact would be since we do make the trip each year. Listeners would question though why we weren’t there.
Innes: We may miss out on the opportunity to do a few memorable bits, but all in all I don’t think the show would suffer greatly. The idea of going to radio row is so much greater than actually going to radio row. I mean, how many times can I interview a member of the 70’s Steelers?
Dougherty: If we didn’t do live shows from radio row, we would do our normal daily show. The difference would be that we’d have less coverage dedicated to the Super Bowl.
Tierney: No interesting/successful show should lean solely on the backdrop of the SB to create a compelling show. That’s lazy, especially when each interview is going to contain a minute or so of the guest pushing product that quite frankly, our audience doesn’t care much about. It’s still about strong content, diverse and interesting topics and having fun and I have confidence that we would deliver that from our studio. However, there’s an energy that is tough to replicate that comes with being in the middle of the mayhem for a week. The ambiance creates a different urgency and makes it feel bigger, because it is. Also, personally, the week is a great avenue to collect off-the-record information from friends and colleagues around the league. I always look forward to that aspect.
How important do you think the week of shows on radio row are to your audience?
McKee: We’ve been lucky because the Broncos have actually played in a couple of recent Super Bowls and won one of them. Our ratings during that time period went through the roof. However, when the Broncos lost in dramatic fashion to the Ravens a few years ago and we still went to New Orleans AND then the Ravens WON the Super Bowl, we had our lowest ratings dip in years! Our listeners just didn’t want to hear anything because the loss stung so much. We probably would’ve been better off not going that year! I think the audience wants to live vicariously through you but they don’t want you to rub it in their face. It’s a weird balance. At this point, our audience just expects us to be there so being there isn’t really a big deal but not being there would raise questions. It’s a bit of a no win situation. That being said, your team going to and winning the super bowl is ratings gold for a long long time! You better be there because those stories and that experience lasts forever.
Kaplan: When I listen, I love the background noise, the buzz, it sounds so alive! As a listener, I want to be there! If you track engagement on social platforms, we provide so much more content and create so much more activity by being live on radio row. That’s how I measure it.
Dawson: I don’t think it’s important to them in a conscious way. I think we benefit from a credibility standpoint of the audience knowing that we’re on top of things and committing resources to make sure they’re informed and entertained. I think what they value most are the words being said by particular people when they tune in. Our being there doesn’t provide much of an advantage in creating compelling content. Factor in the disruption to the clock, unpredictably mediocre guests, and general chaos, and there are pros and cons to the conversation.
Innes: My audience only cares about being entertained. I can do a good show whether I’m on radio row or Mars.
Dougherty: We get tremendous feedback from our listeners through social media channels when we broadcast from special event settings like radio row at the Super Bowl. We see the same engagement when USAA brings us on the road to broadcast prior to the Army-Navy game.
Tierney: I’m sure on some level we tend to overrate that aspect of it, but it is a core belief of mine that if you have a successful show, the expectation from listeners is that during the biggest week of the year, you will be right in the middle of it.
What do you do to make sure your program stays consistent and doesn’t get overtaken by guests/advertiser pitches?
McKee: There is almost no escape from that! You do your best but it’s almost unavoidable. One thing you can do is record segments ahead of time. Other than that, you are a bit screwed. It’s a good rule of thumb to do every show on the road the same way you would do it in the studio but that’s easier said than done. Try and treat the day on the road schedule wise same as at home.
Kaplan: We don’t obsess over the guests any longer. I used to consider the best guests the metric for success. Now I think more about all forms of media at my disposal. So it’s not just what A-list guests I can get on the air but rather how can I engage my audience on and off the air?
Dawson: We do our best to keep a similar show going but here’s the funny thing. In order to get an A-list guest you have to take others from their stable quite often. We have 3 segments an hour and scheduling into that without disruption is not possible.
Innes: It’s difficult because you are at the mercy of the celebrities. They may show up a minute before break time. What do you do? In that case, you blow up the clock. Then you end up with 5 minutes of Franco Harris peddling an insurance company with his handler starting a countdown 2 minutes in.
Dougherty: We make it a point to re-set our show at the top of the hour with the day’s top headlines and keep a watchful eye on what is happening in our local market. As much fun as the week on radio row is, local comes first.
Tierney: We don’t allow that to happen. It’s our show and Tiki and I both recognize that while good guests can enhance our show, we will not change the DNA of what we do. You still need time to let things breathe, to react to stories outside of the NFL, to react to interviews we just conducted, and to deliver built-in sponsored segments just as we would if we were back in studio. We also have great synergy with our producer, so we’re all on the same page. As far as advertiser pitches are concerned, you have to maintain control of the car. I’m driving the show, not the guest. If you’re not alert, it’s very easy for a 7-8 minute spot to be overtaken by product push, which equates to a painfully boring interview. Trust your internal clock, like a QB. If you’re getting bored, the audience has either left or is on the brink of leaving. If you allow that to happen, as a host, that’s on you. Be better at your job.
What’s one thing that you do during the week that’s unique from the other 50-100 stations on radio row?
McKee: I participate in the actual press opportunities! I always try and get a question in to the commissioner. I ask questions of the coaches. I go to stuff and ask questions. Mostly that’s the realm of the print media. I have been amazed over the years of the laziness of most talk show hosts. Get out there. Participate. It’s great to say on the air, “ I asked Goodell this question”. “ I asked Bill Belichick this” stuff like that. I promise you I’ve done more stuff like that than ANY talk show host in America over the years. It has been a huge separator and gives us unique content.
Kaplan: My approach is to deliver a show which matters to my market. I look for local ties. For example, we have enlisted a player from the Patriots and the Eagles, both from San Diego, to be our weekly reporters. The goal is to talk to our home market, from an international event. That helps us form a stronger local connection.
Dawson: One fun thing that we do is create a compliment contest throughout the week that our guests are not aware of. It’s awesome because it butters them up and gets the positive energy flowing. It may even deliver a few horizontal tune ins. We produce an audio compli-montage at the end of the week along with a King of Compliments for the year and this adds to the fun.
Innes: We have a wireless mic and roam around. We had my producer dressed as Mike Ditka and he would sit down with random radio shows, while they were on air. He would then talk back to me via wireless. One guy wanted to fight him. My producer wore an “Assweiler” garbage can around the Houston radio row. That made national news. I think the wireless mic adds a lot. It allows for constant content during slow times.
Dougherty: Our focus is on doing the best job we can to put our audience in the room. We do that on air and through the use of our social media platforms. It isn’t about being unique as much as it is delivering quality content that satisfies our listeners.
Tierney: The most obvious difference is that we deliver a TV presence with a national simulcast. We bring you a visual. You get to see what we see. There’s great value in that.
If you owned your radio station or a local business and a team from your city was not playing in the game, would you spend the $ to be part of this week of shows?
McKee: My advice would be to send as many people as makes sense for your budget. Don’t stretch but don’t be cheap. Keep in mind that the more people you send from the station the more crazy stories that can come from it. Hopefully you have a good crew that likes hanging out. Bonding wise it’s fantastic. Great memories for years and years. Monday night is now media night. Tuesday is the media party. We have established Wednesday as our staff dinner. It’s been my favorite tradition year after year. Whatever you do if you send a group don’t skimp on the staff dinner. It’s what connects you with one another. Thursday night, all of our ex NFL guys have Super Bowl rings. Mark Schlereth, Brandon Stokely and Alfred Williams, which means they wear their suits and rings and go to parties that the rest of us nerds can’t get into! Friday night we basically leave open. If you do Super Bowl week the right way it will translate to the audience. But know this, if you don’t make an effort at all, you aren’t a real sports talk station.
Kaplan: Well, we are no longer an NFL market in San Diego, but our signal reaches LA and many LA sports fans have found us over the course of the three year relocation drama. I think radio row can be a very sell-able product to sponsors if packaged creatively.
Dawson: Absolutely. I believe there’s great value in it.
Innes: Well, there are some factors at play. Is my competition going? What market am I in? Does my audience back home really care? I’ve seen plenty of data to show that my competition doesn’t see any tangible bump from being there. Basically, it’s a way to get a sponsor to pump a few bucks into the station. If a sponsor wants to add to the bottom line, that’s hard to say no to. I’d refrain from sending morning shows. Middays and afternoons have the best chance of excelling. I do think there is an opportunity to create web content that can be sold. Gavin Spittle did and has done a great job of monetizing the digital aspect of the week.
Dougherty: We’re fortunate to have a great sales staff which sells sponsorship’s to off-set the costs of taking two shows on the road to the Super Bowl city. That provides us with a great opportunity to deliver good content for our audience and attach our clients to the station’s Super Bowl coverage. There’s a lot of value in being associated with the week.
Tierney: In all likelihood, yes, but it would hinge somewhat on the financial climate of the industry and our own ability to monetize the week. If we were able to offset some of the costs, perceptually, I believe it is worth it. It also tends to galvanize talent and is a nice way to put the finishing touch on a 5 month grind. I find that it boosts morale, and it’s fun! Who the hell doesn’t like to have fun? If it’s done right, it can be GREAT.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
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.