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4 Leadership Lessons From The Los Angeles Lakers Mess

“Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on this topic, a lot of the issues Magic brought up exist inside radio buildings today.”

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I want to start this column by giving credit to Stephen A. Smith. Normally on a Monday at 10am ET my ear is glued to one of my clients’ radio stations. This time though, Smith’s Twitter promotion of Magic Johnson’s upcoming appearance on First Take was enough to entice me to take a short break from the radio to watch the interview on television.

And I’m glad I did.

Magic Johnson spent nearly an hour on Monday’s show with Stephen A., Max Kellerman, and Molly Qerim, offering candid answers that had to excite Lakers critics, and infuriate Lakers supporters. Hours before the Lakers would introduce their new head coach Frank Vogel, Johnson went on ESPN’s hit television show and pulled no punches, making it clear he wasn’t a fan of Rob Pelinka (Lakers GM) or the franchise’s executive structure.

As I watched the interview and listened to Magic’s words I came away with a few thoughts for managers in the media industry. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on for this particular topic, a lot of the issues Magic brought up exist inside radio buildings today. Here are 4 key takeaways.

Know What You’ve Signed Up For – People accept jobs every day from people they like, trust, and get a good vibe on, but they forget that they haven’t committed to work for that person, they’ve actually entered into an agreement with the company they represent. This is where LeBron James messed up. He signed a deal with the Lakers, not Magic Johnson. Maybe Magic could’ve given him a heads up that he was leaving but he didn’t owe him one.

Magic agreed to become President of the Lakers because he loved Jeanie Buss and her family and wanted to help the franchise return to glory. He thought the job came with unyielding power and the ability to work on his own schedule. Two years later though he’s gone scorched earth on the franchise because the structure and needs of the organization changed. Magic has a right to be upset that promises were broken, but as a successful businessman himself, he knows better than most that different situations require adjustments, and jobs of this magnitude become more demanding not less.

We see this a lot in radio. Stations get bought or sold making prior promises to employees invalid. Bosses retire, get fired, or leave for new opportunities, leaving people behind who agreed to come work for them. A great example exists in college sports where coaches flock to bigger money jobs while kids who gave their commitment to the school get blindsided. In some instances, PD’s or GM’s may be asked to manage additional stations/people, take on extra corporate responsibilities with no monetary gain, or achieve the same results with smaller budgets. It isn’t ideal, but that’s the world of business in 2019.

The bottom line, the contract you sign is with the company. Not the person who you’ve accepted it from. Your responsibilities will change, so too will the finances you’re able to work with. That will frustrate you at times. But those who roll with the punches and make the most of it will stick around longer than those who bitch and moan about the ‘new way of doing things’.

Address Issues Immediately – Magic mentioned that he began to hear from people inside the building that Pelinka was questioning his work ethic. Soon that led to hearing from people outside the building saying the same thing. Magic had every right to be bothered by these remarks, but messed up when he failed to address them in person.

Did Pelinka know the full extent of what Jeanie Buss allowed Magic to do? Maybe he did and was jealous of that arrangement because he was grinding away and the franchise needed full time focus. Did he ever express to Magic that he needed his help more? Regardless, if Magic met with Rob, told him what he’s heard and how he felt about it, the two men could’ve probably squashed it or at least moved forward. Now that bridge has collapsed even if Pelinka tries to play nice in front of the media.

This too is a frequent media issue. Hosts bitch behind the backs of their producers because they don’t like something they’re doing. Sellers complain about other account executives getting better lists. PD’s express frustration over the way their GM’s handle specific situations. Whichever issue it is, you get a lot more done by tackling things head on. It also gives you clarity on what you can expect going forward.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen – Magic mentioned that everyone had a voice on key issues from the Buss brothers to Jeanie to Rob, and Tim Harris (Lakers business manager). That came into play when he wanted to fire Luke Walton. Kurt and Linda Rambis are reportedly involved too, and Magic said Jeanie may also seek input from Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.

Do you need that many people weighing in on each key issue? No. If you do then it speaks volumes about your confidence and trust in your lead decision maker. In this case, it showed that Jeanie wasn’t sure of Magic’s final recommendations.

Once again, another regular occurrence inside media circles. One key programming move shouldn’t require 8-9 people’s sign off. That frustrates managers and leads them to become timid, disgruntled or seek new opportunities. It also creates a perception internally that the brand leader doesn’t have the muscle to make things happen.

If you’re going to hire a person to manage your property, you’ve got to empower them and let them do their job. If people feel they can run to the corner office to get out of things their boss deems important, then that manager in the corner office will face bigger problems in the future. You also can’t run an organization worrying about being liked, hurting people’s feelings, and including everyone in each process. Tough decisions are part of running a business, and someone has to make hard choices.

If you outline expectations, hold people accountable, develop a small circle of trust, and let those on the inside know how the process for how critical decisions will be carried out, you’ll save a lot of time, and keep your blood pressure in check.

Management Is a FT Responsibility – Magic Johnson was upfront with Jeanie Buss about what he was willing and unwilling to give up in order to become the President of the Lakers. Jeanie’s mistake was accepting it. A position that important demands a FT commitment. Buss should’ve looked closer at the needs of the job and past her admiration for Magic.

I’ve been involved in radio for over two decades so I’ve seen a lot of these type of situations occur. Some managers become consumed by power, popularity and paychecks, but aren’t interested in leading entire buildings. Others exit at 11am and spend no time meeting with their staff or creating ideas to drive ratings and revenue yet want to pick the lineup. I’ve even seen a boss arrive at work drunk, and others make excuses and do their work for them. It sounds simple, but when you empower poor behavior you end up with poor leadership and results.

Ironically, when I programmed I had a situation that could’ve been a deterrent for employers, but fortunately it wasn’t. Being a divorced Dad I spent 9 years flying to NY every other Friday to spend weekends with my son. That meant up to 26 Friday’s away from the office, not including my vacation time or holidays. I actually had someone once tell me during a negotiation ‘that’s a little excessive and may prevent us from getting a deal done.’ My response ‘good luck with your search then because my son is not a bargaining chip’.

I could understand it if people on the outside looked at my schedule the way Pelinka looked at Magic’s. But as most folks who worked with me would tell you, I lived and breathed the job 24/7. It’s one thing to be physically away and another to be mentally absent. The key is making sure those inside your walls aren’t given reasons to question your commitment.

Conclusion:

If Magic Johnson wasn’t mentally invested in running the Lakers the way the franchise needed him to then that’s on the organization for agreeing to a structure that was doomed from the start. But just because they created the mess, doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to clean it up. Magic had his reasons for not wanting to become a slave to the grind. The Lakers felt they needed more. Which is why being apart is best for all involved.

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”

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There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.

Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.

Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.

I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.

With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.

BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.

If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!

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Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”

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When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.

Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.

Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.

Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.

Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.

Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.

We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.

To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.

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Barrett Blogs

BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas

“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”

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The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.

Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.

Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.

Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.

Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.

A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.

Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.

Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.

That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.

One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.

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