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Networking: The Real Reason We Were All In LA

“You never know when a new contact can help you down the road, right?”

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The passing of a microphone inside Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum signaled the end of the BSM Summit last Friday. It was the final opportunity for all guests in attendance to give their biggest takeaway from the two-day event in Los Angeles. From FOX Sports Radio/AM 570 LA Sports’ Don Martin to The Sports Hub’s Mike Thomas to The Score’s Mitch Rosen, comments were made about the future of podcasting, the importance of working together as industry professionals and even the importance of surrounding your station with good content.

All those submission were great, but for me, the biggest takeaway was a simple, one-word answer: Opportunity. 

What an incredible opportunity the BSM Summit provided each show host in attendance. I already mentioned Martin, Thomas and Rosen, but that room also hosted Bruce Gilbert of Cumulus, Gow Media CEO David Gow and 97.3 the Game PD Adam Klug, to name a few more. That’s six high-profile names who have a big influence in the industry, without even scratching the surface of the other 100-plus in attendance.

The opportunity for a sports talk show host to be in front of that many program directors is priceless. Seriously, what other industry event in the country provides the opportunity to make personal contacts with so many accomplished influencers?

The answer is zero. 

Don’t take this article as one that’s meant to pump up next year’s summit and advise you to hurry up and buy tickets. That’s not my objective.

The point, is that show hosts should always be trying to connect with other high-profile program directors on a personal level. You never know when a new contact can help you down the road, right? 

Case in point: Josh Innes. Whether they’re positive or negative, I’d be willing to bet a lot of people in sports radio have a strong opinion on him. If you had asked me about the Sports Radio 790 morning man before the summit, I probably would have said he’s a super-talented show host, who isn’t shy to controversy. Maybe I was alone on that thought. Maybe I wasn’t.

Regardless, it was a brilliant move for him to show up to the BSM Summit. Sure, he had to cover the expenses of a flight, hotel and tickets to the event, but he also got to personally change the narrative around himself in front of several high executives. That’s priceless for his career. 

“I knew there would be a lot of people that I would want to meet,” said Innes. “I wanted the opportunity to meet the Don Martins and the executive people like the Bruce Gilberts and Mike Thomases of the industry. Someone like me, might have a reputation issue, and people think they know the real story, but they’ve really only heard what’s on the radio. This is an opportunity to meet them and get to know them on a personal level, so they can see you’re not the whack job that people think you are.”

My interactions with Josh were pretty brief, but I found him to be a really cool guy. My perception of him was never bad, but even I came away feeling differently about him. From what I could tell, everyone he came in contact with was impressed, too. I’d be willing to bet Josh left Los Angeles with new contacts he didn’t previously have, and a few minds changed about who he is and how he operates. I’d also be willing to bet at least one of the contacts he made helps create a new opportunity somewhere down the line. Plus, a lot of the people he met will be way more apt to tune into his show. Think that’s worth his expenses?

How about Emily Austen? Her message about the power of social media was as powerful of a moment the BSM Summit had to offer. Sure, she made a mistake she’s still paying for, but everyone who heard what she had to say came away impressed. So much so, that when the microphone was being passed around to wrap up the event, The Sports Animal’s Chris Baker, Sirius XM’s Evan Cohen and ESPNLA’s Dan Zampillo all mentioned her as the highlight of the two day conference.

She was able to impress a number of decision makers in the industry, and like Innes, create new contacts while changing her perception. Emily couldn’t have made a better decision to fly from Atlanta and put herself in that environment and in front of that crowd. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if one of the contacts she made at the BSM Summit offers her a future opportunity. After hearing and meeting Emily, I’m rooting for that to happen.

For me, personally, I was there as a member of the BSM Summit team, but you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think I also used it as an opportunity to get in front of more program directors. As a 29-year-old show host, I would have been crazy not to show up to Los Angeles and make new contacts. Luckily, I left with a wallet-full of business cards and new contacts I would never have made otherwise. Will it lead to anything in the future? Only time will tell, but I assure you it will only benefit my career. 

Think of it this way: If you’re a show host and Scott Shapiro of Fox Sports Radio is in the same building with you, you’d probably make it a point to introduce yourself or even attempt to have a conversation, right? The intimate setting of the Grammy Museum, along with the cocktail reception on Thursday night, created as favorable of an environment as one could ask for.

Again, the point of this piece isn’t to push next year’s BSM Summit. It’s to show every host how beneficial the two-day event can be. If I would have had the mic in my hand to close up the summit, my final takeaway would have been the opportunity that was given. Sure, I learned and laughed during my two days at the BSM Summit, but I did something even better: I networked.

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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