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To Oppose Without Hatred

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College Football Playoff debates can get heated in a hurry. Oklahoma and Georgia have very energetic fan bases. Ohio State fans have shared a spirited opinion or two recently. Sprinkle in some obnoxious UCF logic on top, and poof! You’ve got a radioactive mixture.

Fans can get very passionate/crazy about their team’s postseason standing. It’s important for on-air hosts to remain passionate without becoming crazy themselves.

The playoff committee revealed on Sunday that Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma have each earned a playoff berth. Georgia and Ohio State are the first teams on the outside of the playoff looking in. There are strong arguments to be made for which four playoff teams should be in the mix. Good arguments should be made without getting personal. I didn’t exactly exceed in this area myself a couple of days ago.

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Andy Furman and I do a show each Sunday morning on FOX Sports Radio. He was making a point that Georgia should be included in the CFP along with ‘Bama, Clemson, and the Irish. I had a much different opinion. “It’s funny because in the studio, SportsCenter is on right now,” I said. “Kirk Herbstreit has the same four [playoff teams] as you. And you both are idiots with that line of thinking.” I really emphasized idiots too.

As soon as I said it, I thought, “Too much.” I immediately wanted to take it back. It’s almost as if I could see the word “idiots” flowing out of my mouth. I wanted to grab it and put it back before it could be heard. Andy has thick skin and didn’t indicate if it even bothered him in the first place, but it was unnecessary. All it really did was invite anybody who views Georgia as a playoff team to dismiss my opinions.

We live in a country that tends to disregard the other side now more than ever. Back in my online dating days, I was amazed at how many profiles said, “Trump supporters, swipe left.” Not only did those people disregard a different point of view, they wanted no association whatsoever with anyone that thought differently. It wasn’t, “That’s fine you have those views, but I go the other way.” It was, “Get away from me. You have cooties.”

I don’t believe that listeners will disregard a host forever if they view a random Week 14 NFL game differently. However, I do think that being disrespectful to the audience can get you blacklisted. It’s too much to say something like, “You’re a moron and have zero football intelligence whatsoever if you think the Eagles are going to beat the Cowboys.” Insults are over the top. People are more geared these days to move on if they think differently. Why give them added motivation by being nasty?

I’m going to switch banks soon. I’ve been with Wells Fargo since 1996, but Flagstar has bought some of their branches out. My account automatically switched over. I spoke with Wells Fargo and they said I’d have to open a brand new checking account with them here in Portland. I asked about getting the same perk that others receive for opening a new account. If I’m inconvenienced and have to open a brand new account, shouldn’t I receive $200 bucks or whatever it is also?

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The girl I spoke with said she didn’t think it applied to me because I’m an existing member. Why would you invite me to leave your bank by not giving me the same perk that someone off the street would get? You’re basically saying, “Maybe check out Chase. They’ll give you cash money over there.”

Inviting and motivating your customers to go somewhere else is a horrible formula. It works the same way in sports radio with how we deliver our views. Why would we motivate our audience to go somewhere else by being disrespectful? There’s a saying that reasonable minds can disagree. Well, the reasonable part is pretty important. We can’t expect our views to be heard and accepted if they are delivered in an unreasonable manner.

Actor Mark Rylance said something once that has always stuck with me. He made a great statement while handing out the award for best supporting actress during the 2017 Oscars. “The thing these films made me remember and think about was the difficulty — something that women seem to be better at than men — of opposing without hatred.” I love the thought of opposing without hatred. Opposing is easy. Leaving out hatred sometimes isn’t, but it’s necessary to be heard.

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There is a commercial airing right now that features the Dean Martin song, “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You.” I disagree with the message — I don’t think someone else’s love is required for you to be somebody — but it’s much easier to accept the message because of the way it’s delivered. Dean never said you’re an idiot if you don’t believe this to be true. It isn’t necessary to sing, “You’re nobody ‘til the playoff committee loves you,” while delivering your opinion, but the delivery matters.

Look, I understand this is sports radio, not church. The conversations will rarely be buttoned up as if communion is about to take place. It’s a colorful medium that involves pressing buttons and firing listeners up. It’s fine to playfully say things like, “Did you take your crazy pills again this morning?” We’ve lost when the conversation escalates to, “You’re a bozo. Do you even have a brain?” An opinion isn’t the only thing that matters. The delivery, tone, and wording are all important as well.

We need to push the envelope without going too far. Sometimes we forget about stepping over the line and resemble Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick yelling at each other. The thing is that staying in Belichick’s good graces isn’t essential to Thielen’s paycheck, but staying in our audience’s good graces is essential to our job status. Would you yell at your sports radio boss? No, because you’d be out of a gig. If you yell at your audience, you’ll end up in the same place.

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The slogan for Discover is, “We treat you like you’d treat you.” That’s an interesting thought. How many of us would be disrespectful and condescending toward ourselves? Not many. It isn’t fun to be treated that way. It’s senseless to think that treating the audience in the same manner will actually be beneficial.

When somebody shares an opinion that makes zero sense to you, it’s easy to take a cheap shot. Believe it or not, we actually share opinions that make zero sense to others as well. We don’t want to be belittled when that happens. We still want to be respected. Always show others the same respect that you desire. Oppose without hatred.

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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