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What Can PDs Learn From the Cards Firing Matheny?

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Very late Saturday night, a surprising thing happened. The St. Louis Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny. Now an MLB manager getting fired is not surprising, but for the Cardinals to fire Matheny mid-season is a big deal. The last time St. Louis fired a manager in season was 1995, so even the most seasoned St. Louis sports writers were surprised by this move. (By the way that manager was Joe Torre. It seemed to work out for him in the long run!)

So what does the Matheny firing have to do with managing a Sports radio station or any radio station for that matter? Veteran baseball writer Michael Baumann wrote this for The Ringer:

A clubhouse is a workplace, and like most employees, ballplayers usually perform better when they enjoy their work, or at least feel invested in it. The manager’s primary job responsibility — and the way he can contribute the most to winning — is to ensure that his players feel that investment. There are as many ways to foster a unified, motivated ballclub as there are varieties of carrot and stick. Even in the recent past, old-school managers such as Ned Yost, Dusty Baker, and Charlie Manuel have won not because they’re John McGraw, but because they can get 25 guys to pull together. For that reason, if you can’t get the tactics right, you damn well better bring the best out of your players.

Do you hear that? How does that relate to your radio station and how you are running it? Do your employees at every level (board-op, producer, anchor, reporter, and host) enjoy their work? Do they feel invested in what you’re doing there? How can you tell? 

The best way to find out (though not the easiest) is to build an open door policy where employees feel able to speak freely to you. Remember, it’s much easier for a producer to complain to a co-worker than for him or her to go to the PD’s office with a complaint. So building this relationship at all levels of your team is extremely important. 

Next—does your entire staff understand the mission of your station? This can be delivered to the entire staff in a meeting. Lay out the short term and long term goals of the station and stress the importance of contributions from each of your employees. The follow up is equally important. Either meet individually or in smaller groups with producers, board ops, talent, anchors, etc.

The essential message to each group or individual is two-fold:

1. This is what the radio station needs from you for it to be successful.

2. If you do a great job as a producer, board-op, host or anchor, here’s what your reward will look like. 

The reward could be more opportunities, bonuses, raises or other forms of recognition. This part may look different for each employee and is why it is imperative to really get to know the staff and what motivates each of them. A producer may want a shot at hosting, anchoring or covering a game for your station. Know what motivates your staff and they’ll know when you are rewarding your top performers. 

Also as a PD, look at this line from Baumann, “…if you can’t get the tactics right, you damn well better bring the best out of your players.” So the station imaging may not be perfect or you may not have the right combinations of hosts and producers for every show. But, if you are supporting and helping your staff members to reach their potential, you will create a great working environment which will help your staff thrive at all levels.

One piece of this to really focus on is the Communication aspect. By the end of his run in St. Louis, Matheny was not communicating well with his players. He sent a daily text with the lineup and a motivational quote of some sort. Additionally, he was ripping his players as “soft” in the media and was using closer Bud Norris to essentially haze or bully rookie Jordan Hicks in the Cards bullpen. Matheny said on the record to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, “I think the game has progressively gotten a little softer. Man, it had some teeth not that long ago.”

Secondly, Matheny was embarrassing the organization in public. He tried to diffuse the situation by claiming that Saxon had misquoted him. Bad move, especially because his comments were on the record and had been recorded! 

The lesson here, whether you are a PD, GSM, Executive Producer, or an MLB manager—you are just that a manager. If you can get the best out of your people, make them feel important and invested in what you are doing, you will be successful. A lesson that Mike Matheny will hopefully learn before his next stint as a Big-league Manager. A lesson that you hopefully learn through his mistakes to help your radio station. 

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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