For Part 3 of my Q&A with Mark Packer, the Packman talks about leaving WFNZ, deciding to work at SiriusXM and what his future holds.
Matt: What was in your mindset when in 2010 when you left WFNZ in Charlotte?
Pack: I didn’t want to leave ‘FNZ. I had no interest in leaving. I had been asked many times if I wanted to leave Charlotte and I didn’t because my family loved it here and our show had been syndicated and we had unprecedented success with “The Primetime with the Packman” show from a ratings perspective and a marketing perspective and a brand. Again, I was very comfortable living in Charlotte and I didn’t have any interest in leaving at all.
The only reason I left is because CBS was making such ridiculous cutbacks I thought, “I’ve had enough!” and I walked. I didn’t think there was an appreciation (at CBS) of what we had acquired and accomplished. They were just looking at it strictly from a budgetary standpoint. That turned me off. I said “I’m gone!”
I’m sure they didn’t think I’d ever walk but when they decided to make the second (budget) cut, I said “I’m outta here!” So I didn’t have any plans to leave, but I wasn’t going to put up with getting treated in that respect because I thought it was wrong—and it was wrong!
Then all of a sudden some guy by the name of Fishman said, “Hey, why don’t you do some stuff for SiriusXM?” I really didn’t even want to get back into radio because when all that went down I was so turned off by how that ended in the negotiations that I felt I needed to get away from radio for a while just to see if I wanted to keep doing it.
After three or four months of sitting around, thinking about, “What am I going to do next?” I still felt like there was some unfinished business to attend to. Maybe doing a national show would be something totally different –and it was! When SiriusXM presented the opportunity I was like, “Let me give this a try just to see where it goes.” And it was totally different. Terrestrial radio vs. Satellite radio are really two different beasts.
I looked upon it as another challenge—something I hadn’t done. There was nothing else really to do in Charlotte—in terms of being #1 or creating a show that was so unique. There really wasn’t anything else to accomplish on that end, but dabbling in the National part of it was something I had never done. So I figured this was the next challenge, let’s go see where it goes and the rest is history.
Matt: The great part of that was the technology. You didn’t have to move your family to New York or Bristol, or LA to host a national radio show. For SiriusXM you can do the show from wherever you are
Pack: Agree 1000%. I’m so blessed in this profession because you usually do bounce around from market to market like a gypsy. That was not the case for me. It started in 1997 and for 13 years I was at the same radio station in the same town and still able to have a life with my wife and our two girls. I wasn’t looking to bounce to Atlanta or the next big market that you want to go to. That’s why I was completely comfortable. So when this (SiriusXM) came up and I could stay here and my wife and my girls were happy about it, it just seemed like a no brainer. Not to mention a new challenge for me.
It all works out. Sometimes you wonder “How did that thing go so South, so haywire?” but in the end it all seemingly works itself out and certainly did in my case.
Matt: Is there anything that you have not done in your career yet that you are interested in doing?
Pack: I’m gonna keep doing this until I don’t have fun doing it. The cool thing about life for me right now is when I get outta bed, I’m excited to get to work. I don’t know how I could say, “By the year 2023 I don’t want to do this anymore.” I don’t know, maybe by 2023 I’m doing three shows a day!
I don’t have a finish line. When I reach a point when I get out of bed and say “I’ve done this a thousand times before and I don’t want to do this again,” That’s when I’ll know that it’s time to stop but I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. There’s so much stuff I want to attack each day. Again, the creativity part to me is the most fun. You have a blank canvas every day to create, to entertain and to learn. People that you want to meet. Things you want to go and do.
For example, we started the interview talking about going to the Red River Showdown. As many great things as I’ve done in sports I had never been to that game. After spending the weekend and going to the state fair and meeting people and going to the OU-Texas game. How is it possible that I’ve been doing this for 21 years and never been to this?
There’s all kinds of things I still want to do. I don’t think I’m at the finish line but I’m gonna know it before anyone else does. I’ll know when all of a sudden I don’t have the energy to get fired up about this every day. When that happens I assure you I’ll walk away.
You can hear Mark Packer weekday mornings alongside Wes Durham from 7-10am Eastern on “ACC This Morning” on SiriusXM’s ACC Channel-371 and every afternoon from 4-7pm Eastern on “Off Campus” on ESPNU Radio, SiriusXM channel 84. You can find Mark on Twitter @MarkPacker.
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.