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How You Handle Winning and Losing Says Everything About Your Leadership

“When it comes to winning and losing, how you handle the results says a lot about your leadership.”

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Last week I published the quarterly ratings piece for the 2019 winter book for the sports radio format. There were over 25 markets featured, and a number of great stories for internal and external use. I write these pieces to help educate the industry on the success taking place inside this format. It not only raises the awareness of others in the industry, but it also becomes information brands can use to strengthen their bonds with audiences and advertisers.

Many in the sports radio business like to measure themselves by how they measure up against the other in-market sports competitors. If you look though at where the majority of advertising dollars and time spent listening is done, it’s not on sports stations. This is why I’ve stressed for the past few years that this format needs to think bigger and stop labeling itself as this nice little niche space. We’re better than that.

I understand there’s always going to be some ego involved and folks are going to look at who was ranked higher between two or three competing sports stations. That’s unavoidable. But regardless of the city, if there are two or three options to listen to, someone is going to finish ahead, and someone is going to finish behind. If two or three of those brands are ranked in the Top 5 or Top 10 though, that’s success, and you can make a lot of money with that type of consistent performance.

I’m a big believer that how you handle winning and losing speaks volumes about your leadership. Does the staff know where they stand and what did or didn’t work? Are people given reason to feel efforts are appreciated when results are favorable? Does the boss do anything special to show they value their employees when they achieve success? Or is the person in charge withholding information and just focusing on the next challenge without taking a minute to enjoy what the group just accomplished?

In sports, you see so many coaches who are so focused on the competition and next task that they don’t seem to be happy even when they win a title. It makes the joy of winning less fun. I’ve never understood that. If the only thing you’re focused on is playing the game or in this case, creating the content and generating ratings, how fulfilling can it be if when it works and you don’t even take a second to appreciate it?

When I programmed stations in San Francisco and St. Louis, I was notorious for holding monthly meetings with the entire staff. Weekday hosts, producers, board ops, digital folks, and at times, sales people or engineers would all be in the room. I felt it was vital for everyone to understand where the station stood from a competitive standpoint, what was positive and not up to par, what the goal was for the brand, and what was on the horizon that we needed to pay attention to.

These meetings usually ran an hour and I always tried to include some type of teachable exercise in them. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they missed, but I believed that as the leader of the brand it was important for me to keep everyone aware of our progress and help them get better. I ended each meeting by naming someone our Employee of the Month, and with that came acknowledgement from the staff and cash from my personal bank account with one caveat; the chosen individual had to put on a silly costume that tied into the way I defined their prior month of success. Most of the crew laughed and had fun with it and it brought the team together.

I find that when you lose, it’s easier to challenge a team to push harder in order to reverse your luck. You may give them a pat on the back and encourage them not to get down. Other times you may kick them in the ass and let them know you expect better. Competitive people like to win, and they don’t mind digging in deeper to try and get ahead.

But when you’re on the winning team, that too requires a certain tone and message from the program director. I personally think it’s wisest to conduct yourself in a classy manner. Thank your team for their hard work, acknowledge the audience for making a difference, pay respect to your company for giving you the tools to do your job effectively, and show respect to your competitor. If you take the high road and focus on keeping your team hungry, it shows you’re thankful for the win, not above anyone else, and committed to continue building on the momentum.

If you choose to make excuses or point fingers when you lose, it’ll make people question if you’re accountable and someone they want to go thru a wall for. Even worse, if you win and get cocky, and rub other people’s noses in it, it will come back to bite you in the ass at some point. There’s nothing people like more than to see an arrogant person get put in their place.

As a leader of a brand, you can lose sight of the fact that not everyone on your staff likes your approach or vision. You can talk about keeping things inside the locker room and acting like a team until you’re blue in the face, but some people may not like your personality, the way you address issues or manage other staff members or they just may be unhappy with their work schedule or salary. Those can all be motivators to expose you in a negative manner.

People in this industry have long memories. What you say and do gets magnified especially when you’re in charge. If you aren’t careful and self aware of how things can be used against you, it’ll do damage. It may also prevent someone from wanting to work for you in the future who could help your brand.

I saw an example of this recently, and I’m not going to identify the market or station out of respect for them, but how they conducted themselves after earning a victory was disappointing. This is a station I respect with a number of good talented people working at it, and it’s done well in the ratings for quite some time. In my opinion, they should’ve been looking forward instead of spitting downhill at others.

After seeing the example of what occurred I told an industry friend “when you live in a mansion with iron gates, have the best home in the city, and have homeless people standing on the outside, you don’t antagonize them and offer to give up your home if they can climb over or thru the fence.”

There was little to gain and everything to lose for the brand in this situation. One cocky response which took jabs at the fans of a local market pro team, and disrespected competitors, was put in writing and wound up on social media. That led to unnecessary negative attention for the station and program director.

If even one meter left the radio station or one news outlet wrote a column giving the station bad PR, is it worth it? The PPM system we deal with is far from perfect. Most PD’s don’t know their metered users on a personal level and why listeners use their stations a certain way. We rely on data, listening patterns, and gut instincts when making decisions. To assume you know everything that works when all it takes is one person going on vacation or one meter dropping out of a panel is silly.

If you’re having a good run, appreciate and celebrate it. If you have a programming philosophy that involves highlighting one team more than another that’s fine. Every market has certain content that tests higher. But don’t make the mistake of leaving a trail of evidence that shows you don’t value certain teams, fan bases and local competitors in your market. That will cost you in more ways than one.

You don’t need to hold staff meetings, share information, give out cash, and put colleagues in goofy costumes to create a good culture. That worked for my brands, but it’s not for everyone. What is important is that you show respect and conduct yourself with class especially in victory. If you don’t, the people helping you win today may be the ones costing you tomorrow.

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John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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