Last week we posted a story about a station in a large market that is putting on a new morning show. The show has a history in its market and the hosts have some name recognition.
Is it a former jock paired with a host that is returning home? No.
Is it a duo that broke up at the height of their popularity that has finally found a station willing to pay the right price to bring them together again? No.
The station hired a syndicated conservative talk duo. It wouldn’t be insane, I guess, if the show was turning in an all-sports direction. All indications though, are that is not the case. The syndicated show just needs a new origination point and the station needs something in morning drive that will create…a stir I guess?
I know it isn’t unheard of necessarily for sports stations to have shows that deviate from the primary format in their weekday lineup. I mean, the single most iconic sports station in America used to have Don Imus in morning drive. Imus had a sports guy and occasionally talked about sports stories, but that wasn’t really a sports show.
And Imus isn’t the only example. 102.5 the Game in Nashville had financial guru Dave Ramsey in middays for a year in 2013 after Ramsey and his original flagship station, Super Talk 99.7 failed to reach an agreement for a contract extension.
Whether it is well-established or still in the building stages, the foundation of your brand is that your station is where listeners turn for sports. It can be analysis, interviews, or live play-by-play. The name of your station promises sports, so you better give them sports.
There might be a financial incentive for taking on a show that deviates from the format for a significant period of time. Maybe management decides the influx of revenue is too good to pass up. It’s their right, but it is the wrong play for the long term.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how we talk about Donald Trump and when and how much is appropriate on a sports station. I’m not backing off of anything I wrote there. I still think when the conversation is germane to the sports news of the day, it isn’t off-limits to talk about the president or the political climate. I am also not backing off of anything I wrote back in April about sports talk hosts knowing what the right pop culture topics are for their audience.
I will firmly plant the #StickToSports flag in the idea that stations can deviate completely from the game plan without it harming the station. It would be like if Waffle House decided that it would continue to stay open 24 hours a day, but for three of those hours every Monday through Friday, it was going to stop cooking and serving food and instead only sell children’s shoes.
Even if every pair of Hush Puppies the obese septuagenarian waitstaff brought out was scattered, smothered, and covered, the folks walking into that Waffle House for the first time would immediately think they were in the wrong place. The next time they wanted breakfast, Waffle House wouldn’t even be an option for them, because as far as they are concerned, that is a shoe store.
And what about the people that know Waffle House serves breakfast and love their ham and cheese omelettes? They may be loyal customers when food is being served, but for those three hours when kids’ footwear takes centerstage, Waffle House is telling them not to even bother coming in. If those customers get hungry during that window of time, Waffle House is basically begging them to go to Denny’s instead.
I don’t own a sports radio station. I don’t even program a sports radio station, so I guess you can take all of this with a grain of salt if you prefer, but think about the Waffle House example. People that have never sampled your station before and pop in when you’re airing a financial advice or political talk show may never come back, because as far as they know, there is no sense in turning to your station when they are looking for sports talk. You are handing the loyal listeners that know that sports talk will resume eventually on your station a permission slip to check out the competition for three hours a day.
Every decision has both immediate and long term effects. If none of those listeners ever come back, was the revenue generated by a non-sports show in the short term worth it?
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 74
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.