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Beyond The Obvious

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It generally feels good to be surrounded with positivity. A positive boss makes a big difference. Positive family members and friends make life much more enjoyable. A positive partner can fill your life with joy and make problems go away. Does the same hold true in sports radio? Do topics that are positive in nature lead to interesting discussions?

The short answer is yes, but the conversation has to include thoughts that are unique. Consider the story about UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin getting drafted in the fifth round last Saturday. His left hand was amputated when he was four years old following a disorder called amniotic band syndrome while he was still in the womb. Shaquem is the first player with one hand to be drafted in the NFL’s modern era. He will also join his twin brother Shaquill on the same team after being selected by the Seattle Seahawks.

This is all-time storybook stuff. Disney couldn’t have dreamed up this plot.

It isn’t good enough to crack the mic and say, “What a wonderful story.” Yeah, it’s incredible, but that view is not. It’s too simplistic. The facts of the story are interesting — Shaquill turned down multiple offers from major college football schools that were unwilling to offer his one-handed brother a scholarship, which is how they ended up at Central Florida — but what are the interesting angles?

A few ideas come to mind. The late Jim Valvano mentioned something compelling in a speech after his 1983 NC State team won a National Championship in college hoops. “The gift my father gave me — and I think it’s the strongest and the most powerful gift I’ve ever received, and it’s the gift I find we don’t like to give to each other both in our business and our personal life — the gift my father gave me every day of my life was he believed in me. My father believed in me. He believed in me when I failed. He believed in me when I wasn’t as fine a son, friend, husband, father as I could be — and I’ve done all that. But he’s the one person who when I didn’t measure up to my standard or someone else’s standard, he’d look me in the eye and he’d say, ‘You’re going to make it. I know you are.’”

Shaquem Griffin has been counted out by many people in his life. His twin brother Shaquill is not one of them. He believed in his brother. We need people in our lives who make it known that they believe in us. Self-confidence often develops as a result of someone else showing confidence in us first. Jim Valvano was right. The gift of belief and reassurance is incredibly powerful.

This leads to another thought. Remember how intense former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith was? He was a fiery 5’9” playmaker for the Panthers and Ravens known for having a giant chip on his shoulder. He said that safety Mike Mitchell was on his lifetime hit list and famously told cornerback Aqib Talib to, “Ice up, son.” However, for his final game, Smith wrote the names of family members, friends, former teammates, and Panthers GM Marty Hurney on his cleats — all people who believed in him.

I find it fascinating that we often focus on proving people wrong instead of proving people right. I’m the exact same way. It’s common to be hyperfocused on silencing the doubters instead of trying to validate the beliefs of those who actually support us. It’s strange how that works. The belief of others is what we need most, but it’s often what we focus on least.

Another angle would be to compare Shaquem and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen. Shaquem didn’t seem to use the criticism of having a disability for fuel as much as he opted to simply brush it off. Conversely, Rosen said there were nine mistakes made in front of him when he was drafted tenth overall. Rosen is absolutely using his draft day slide as motivation. There isn’t a right or wrong approach by either. The psychology and the reaction of each player is very interesting though.

If having a serious discussion isn’t your cup of tea, you could do something fun and creative. An adorable video on Twitter features a little girl named Julianna Linton. She’s wearing a UCF cheerleading outfit and says, “Hi, Shaquem! It’s Julianna. I loved watching you play football in college, and I can’t wait to cheer you on in the NFL. Good luck!” She then executed a one-armed cartwheel.

If done correctly, this could be a great backdrop for a social media video of your own. It could start by saying, “The beautiful Julianna made it look easy doing a one-armed cartwheel. Today we’re going to find out if the members of our show are even halfway as graceful.” I do a show each Saturday with former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam. The vision of the 6’7” big man attempting to do a one-armed cartwheel is hilarious to me. It would be vital to stress that you aren’t making fun of Julianna, and that you just want to prove how easy she made it look. It could be a lot of fun if done right.

It’s all about finding a unique angle. What’s a different point of view that hasn’t been covered already? “Man, you gotta feel good for Shaquem” doesn’t cut it. “What a cool story” is lame. It’s impossible to stand out if your comments are the same as everybody else. Step far away from Obvious-ville and No Kidding Township.

Pay attention to the tone of your takes as well. A host that is constantly pointing out the negative is a buzzkill. If you think the 76ers had an overrated 16-game winning streak against mostly losing teams (which they did), or that the Browns drafting Baker Mayfield is a horrible idea (which it is), be prepared to point out a draft pick that you think will work out great and have an interesting angle to support it. Talk about the Shaquem Griffin story, just be original while doing so. In our business, a positive story isn’t good enough by itself — the host also has to provide something compelling and outside the obvious.

I realize that sports radio won’t be Kumbaya the whole time, nor should it be. Sometimes a player stinks it up or says something silly that can’t be sugarcoated. Just be aware that your words cause listeners to feel a certain way. Too much negativity wears them out. Too much stating the obvious and they’ll tune you out. Strive to be unique while causing a few smiles along the way. Positivity can be interesting. It just depends on how interesting the host makes it.

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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