Marc Ryan’s sports media career has taken him all over the country and introduced him to some very interesting people. He was Booger McFarland’s on-air partner at 98.7 the Fan in Tampa. He has also hosted shows on CBS Sports Radio.
Now Marc calls Houston home. He is a weekend host working part-time for Entercom’s Sports Radio 610. The decision to go part-time was fueled by a desire to bring a new challenge into his life. He found a new sense of purpose when a friend told him about an opening for a media teaching position at a Houston area public high school. Since landing the job, Marc has found a renewed sense of purpose and a level of satisfaction he didn’t know he was missing until he discovered it.
A lot of us in this industry hear that we “don’t have a real job” or that we “get to play for a living.” That might be true, but Marc Ryan found a way to use playing for a living to make a difference in the lives of teenagers looking for their place in the world. Is he training the next great sports broadcaster? We’ll let him answer that question in this guest column he wrote for BSM.
You’ve had a great week at your station. Your shows have been well received by your Program Director and your listening audience. Your sponsors are happy, new clients are coming on board, and your ratings are rocking. Yet for some reason, there’s an emptiness within you that’s hard to pinpoint.
Perhaps you’re wondering if you’re truly maximizing your ability to make a positive difference. Does the work you’re doing truly matter for the greater good, for the good of your community? For me, fulfillment has always been one of the prerequisites to happiness.
By nature, I’ve always been a guy with a healthy discontent for the status quo. I want to grow, I want to improve, I want to spread my wings. “When we cease getting better, we cease being good” hangs on my bedroom mirror. Nauseating, right? I’m a cheeseball, but those clichés work on me so I repeat them over and over and over and…you get it.
About a year ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing for me, only it was difficult to identify exactly what that something was. A fellow cohost at Sports Radio 610 and a full time teacher informed me of a High School media teaching opening. I was assured I would still be able to work at Sports Radio 610 if I took the interview, albeit in a part time hosting capacity down from a full time, jack of all trades role. Within two days, I interviewed for the job with no degree in education and no teaching experience. The principal asked me questions such as “What’s your vision for our media program?” Fortunately, sports radio prepped me well for extemporaneous speech and thinking on the fly. I was told a hiring decision would be made the following week, and I assumed I’d never hear from the principal again.
Two days later, he called to offer me the position. This was my response, said in complete shock: “Those other interviews must have gone REALLY badly.” The principal laughed, extended me a contract, and so began the most challenging and rewarding year of my life.
I learned in the 2017-2018 school year precisely what had been missing for me; the need to know what I was doing was making a difference and truly mattered. To simply crack the mic and entertain (or torture, depending on your experience with my show) my radio audience was no longer enough for me. I needed more.
In this position last school year, as the media head for a 6A Houston area high school, I experienced a level of pride, a feeling of involvement, teamwork, and leadership that I will take with me wherever my ongoing sports media career takes me. I was able to uplift students of a lower socioeconomic background and work with them to truly make them part of a team.
My task was challenging, yet straight forward: revamp a student tv show that the 2,800 students at my school were no longer watching. I was told by students that our efforts didn’t matter because no one would watch. I urged them to be patient.
Come March of this year, those same students approached me and said they were having a hard time pulling off our segments because “Everyone knows who we are now.” What a moment of accomplishment for all of us!
At the beginning of the year, I was specifically warned about two students and behavioral issues that came with them. By the end of the school year, those two students had become two of my best and had truly blossomed and come out of their respective shells. Additionally, by year’s end, we set records for most views of our program (an average of over 100 classrooms per episode in a school that only has 120 classrooms), the most involvement, and most student participation. The administration was proud of our work, and I was extended a new contract.
An additional challenge involves a recent study showing minorities and young women don’t pursue jobs in sports media at the level of other groups. My high school is 95% Latino and Mexican American, and I have found that to be the case. For starters, 90% of my students are male. Our tv show is viewed as a performance, and there is a reticence to draw attention to oneself among students. This is especially true among female students.
I don’t remember this being the case at the high school I attended. To combat the issue, I go above and beyond to encourage and support anyone willing to step out of their shell. I’m over the top in acting out how energetic I want them to be. Think borderline cartoonish. This works well because if they’re willing to laugh at me, perhaps in time I can create an environment where they can also laugh at themselves. The process of seeing students grow into an increased comfort level in their own skin, unafraid of embarrassing themselves or ridicule is so very rewarding.
I’ve come to realize I can experience this same fulfillment while working full time in sports media. I just need to seek out more opportunities to give back. I’m fortunate to work for a station at Sports Radio 610, where under the leadership of Sarah Frazier, we are involved in so many philanthropic efforts. From spending a day at the Houston Food Bank, to book drives, to rebuilding homes of those who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, my station is very involved with deep ties and an emotional bond with the Houston community.
I now know that for me personally, hosting a good show is merely half the battle. The other 50% and true fulfillment can be yours if you brainstorm how to use your platform for the greater good. What are you specifically doing to give back, both inside your building and in your community? Is there a new part-time colleague at your station you can take under your wing? Is there a listener facing life challenges you can help or encourage? Is there a cause you’re passionate about that you can spearhead station involvement in?
When all is said and done, no one benefits more from this additional effort than you.
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.