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How Does Your Station Get Sports News?

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With the all-day Ohio State Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, it made me wonder and think about news gathering as it relates to sports radio. 

I was listening the other day to Mark Packer on ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM. Mark was talking about the Board of Trustees meeting at Ohio State and the situation at Maryland with the death of lineman Jordan McNair. Pack-man clearly was prepared by news stories for the show, quoting from Sally Jenkins’ piece in the Washington Post while talking to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN. 

As a PD, you know that your station has to cover the big local and national sports stories but how does that figure into your programming? Does your station have a beat reporter that covers a team or a sport? ESPN 1000 in Chicago has done a great job using Jesse Rogers to cover the Cubs. He’s a must follow on Twitter (@ESPNChiCubs) and is very close to the players and manager Joe Maddon. 

Other stations have newspaper or TV reporters as hosts who can lend their reporting prowess to their talk shows and assist the rest of the stations. This includes such notable reporters turned radio hosts as Tony Massarotti at the Sports Hub in Boston, Gerry Callahan across town at WEEI, Mike Mulligan at The Score in Chicago, Chip Brown at 1300 The Zone in Austin, Dan Barreiro at KFAN in Minneapolis, Dan Bickley at Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix, Tim Cowlishaw at ESPN Radio in Dallas, Paul Finebaum and Stephen A. Smith at ESPN just to name a few. 

Another way to garner reporting integrity for your station is to partner with a newspaper, website or TV station that is already reporting on your local sports teams. 610 Sports in Kansas City had a great partnership with the Kansas City Star in the mid-2000s. This provided regular insight from the Star beat reporters Adam Teicher on the Chiefs, Bob Dutton on the Royals, and Blair Kerkhoff on College Sports. Good assets to have for regular appearances, but even better when news breaks.

I still strongly recommend having your own beat reporters. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great radio reporters like Mike Greenberg and Dan Bernstein at the Score in Chicago, Rhonda Moss at 610 Sports in Kansas City, and Joe Castellano at XM Satellite Radio. What did they all have in common? What made them better than the rest of the radio reporters? They always asked good questions, they got stories other reporters didn’t, they were tenacious and they were excellent on the air. 

Greenberg and then Bernstein made their hay covering the Chicago Bears for the Score. Their 2x daily sponsored Bears Reports (known as Bears hits on air) were must listens in Morning and Afternoon Drive. The reports were lively, included sound, and typically found an angle that other reporters just flat out missed. It’s no surprise that they went on to big careers as hosts in sports radio. My favorite all-time Bernstein report included that then-Coach Dave Wannstedt had worn mismatched sneakers two days in a row. Bernstein asked him why he had worn them and Wannstedt said “Those were the shoes I wore yesterday.” 

Sometimes good reporters piss off their local team. Rhonda Moss ticked off the Royals so much that they took away her press credentials midway through the 2006 season (along with then WHB’s Bob Fescoe) for their tough questioning of Royals Owner David Glass over the way he had dismissed Royals GM Allard Baird. The team literally took away their credentials for the rest of the season. Crazy!

So take a look today at how your station gets news and consider these suggestions. 

 

BSM Writers

Mike Greenberg Asked a Fine Question, But He Can Do Better

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

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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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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