There is something about a story that’s captivating. Some stories are touching and inspire us. Other stories are amusing and make us laugh. Stories spark many different emotions, but they typically accomplish one common thing; a story grabs our attention. Maybe it’s because we simply want to know how it ends. Maybe it piques our interest due to an unpredictable or relatable element. The exact reasons differ from time to time, but one thing is for sure; we’re a sucker for a good story.
Take the story of Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi for instance. This is one for the archives. Sheehy-Guiseppi last played football in 2016 at a junior college in Phoenix, but he wouldn’t let his NFL dream die. Sheehy-Guiseppi spent every penny he had to attend an NFL tryout in Miami. There was a minor problem though; the guy wasn’t actually invited to the tryout.
He convinced the people in charge that he knew Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith. Another minor problem; Sheehy-Guiseppi didn’t actually know Highsmith. He smooth talked his way onto the field and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, which earned him an official tryout with the Browns. All is great now, right? Wrong. There were still more problems.
Because he didn’t have any more money, Sheehy-Guiseppi was homeless and slept outside of a 24 Hour Fitness gym so he could work out and take showers. He then officially earned an invite to training camp. The undrafted free agent returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown last Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. His teammates rushed to the end zone to celebrate with him because they knew how bumpy the road was leading to that moment. What a story. That type of perseverance is inspiring.
Jamie Foxx delivered a great line while playing Ray Charles in the movie Ray; “I’m gonna tell you something, man. That country music. You know why they like it? Stories, man. They got great stories.”
Our love for stories starts at an early age. I asked my mom what my favorite stories were as a kid. (I can remember constantly asking her to read me a story, which she did because she’s the best.) She told me that The Little Red Hen was a favorite. The Mr. books — Mr. Busy, Mr. Happy — were a big hit too.
Let’s do the math here. We are curious beings who enjoy stories from childhood through adulthood. The demand for stories is so high that movies, books, and TV shows focused on storytelling continue to thrive. If the thirst for stories is so great, why would it make sense for sports radio shows to lack that element of storytelling? It wouldn’t, yet that’s what many shows are missing. It’s so easy for hosts to get laser-focused on delivering strong opinions that they forget to share stories. Don’t make that mistake.
Denzel Washington made an interesting demand in the movie Training Day — “Tell me a story, Hoyt. No, not your story. A story. Since you can’t keep your mouth shut long enough for me to read my paper, tell me a story.”
Denzel’s words underscore the common theme here — stories entertain us. The other part is this; the stories that hosts share on sports radio shows shouldn’t always be about themselves. Sharing personal stories is very important, but there is also an art to telling a story about someone else in a way that keeps the audience wanting more.
Former NBA and Fresno State basketball player Chris Herren is a great example of this. His latest ESPN documentary, The First Day, is a masterpiece. (If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s amazing.) Herren is a motivational speaker who not only talks about his own battles with addiction, he also shares powerful stories of kids facing similar struggles. The stories are compelling, but Herren brings all of the stories to life — not just his own — with extraordinary feel and timing.
When I listen to sports talk hosts, I want to hear more than just strong opinions. I want to have a great sense of who the hosts are based on the stories they share about themselves. It’s also very important that they have the ability to tell a story about someone else. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t direct movies only about his own life. He paints vivid pictures of other people. Hosts need to possess the same ability.
A lot of sports radio is a topic immediately followed by an opinion. Topic, opinion. Topic, opinion. What’s the rush? Light a candle and put some music on first. Set the mood. Maybe there is a great story that helps set up a topic before the opinion is delivered. Don’t dive head first into your opinion every time. Always look for openings to tell stories. The stories don’t overshadow opinions. They typically accentuate them.
I visited home in South Bend, Indiana a month ago. My family invited me out to church. I happened to be operating on very little sleep this particular day. I hate to admit it, but I was nodding off. It wasn’t just a subtle closing of the eyes either; we’re talking violent head nodding here. I was just trying not to accidentally headbutt my nephew next to me or the other people in rows behind and in front of me as I tried to fight off my fatigue.
The preacher might’ve thought I was listening to a heavy metal band in my head because I was practically headbanging. He then told a story about losing his wallet when he was visiting a foreign country. This preacher carried a fair amount of cash on him when he traveled internationally. His sister couldn’t find his wallet. They looked everywhere. He then said to himself that if the wallet turned up he would give all of the money away to the less fortunate. The wallet was found 30 minutes later. He made good and gave the money to other people.
I was virtually crashed out in a pew, but I remember that story. If you’re looking for a great way to connect with people and grab their attention, tell a story.
There’s a reason why ESPN’s 30 for 30 is so successful, why Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is still around, and why former NBA player Steve Nash will “dive deeper into storytelling” as a member of the NBA on TNT this season — the public loves compelling stories. If storytelling sells — E:60, “My Wish,” etc. — then sell it in your show.
Joaquin Phoenix once said in the movie Gladiator, “Striking story. And now the people want to know how the story ends.” That’s one of the elements that makes storytelling so interesting.
I wanted to know what happened after Sheehy-Guiseppi slept outside of the 24 Hour Fitness. I wanted to know what happened to the preacher’s wallet, or the outcome of Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book when I was tiny. Use the audience’s curiosity to your advantage as a host. Don’t just give me your opinion. Tell me a story.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 Tips For Solving Co-Host Conflicts
If there’s a specific, repetitive behavior that is bothersome say something.
What I wrote last week in this space wasn’t wrong, per se. It wasn’t the whole story, either. And at the risk of dragging out the dead horse of intra-show conflict for another week’s worth of whacks, I’d like to resuscitate the topic because there’s something else to learn here.
First, a cliff notes version of our previous episode: I wrote about how I had learned to work with a particular co-host who from time to time drove me up a wall. While I was careful to state this co-host was funny, and unique and described him as a crucial component to whatever success the show enjoyed, I did this in about as backhanded a manner as possible, mentioned him by name, and effectively labeled him as an asshole.
Not my proudest moment. For one, it was unnecessarily hurtful. I could have made the very same points without turning my co-host into a punching bag or even mentioning his name. Second, I do like this particular co-host even if he can make me madder than anyone I’ve ever worked with. He’s an all-time great dad and at his core a kind-hearted man. And finally, even if I didn’t like him, he didn’t deserve that after we worked together successfully for 5 years. So to Jim Moore, I am truly sorry for writing last week’s column the way that I did.
But I’d like to go a little bit deeper here because while last week’s column was an accurate – albeit harsh – reflection of my experiences on the show, it didn’t reflect the full reality of what occurred. This was pointed out to me by several helpful folks in the Seattle area where we worked together, and I’m going to include two examples here, one from a Twitter comment that was deleted and another from an email I received.
The Tweet to me: “As a co-worker, you always seemed to be a management suck-up. My co-workers would make bets on how many times you would whine or berate Jim Moore during a show. You always exceeded their expectations.”
The email: “Do you know how many times I heard you disparage him on the air? … Yours weren’t of the petty variety that you chronicled about him. Yours were biting, relating to his age or supposed lack of work ethic — things that could plant in management’s mind that he — and not you — was dispensable.”
In other words: Jim certainly was not the only person on the show who could be described as an asshole from time to time, and he may not have been the biggest. I did make jokes about my co-host’s age and his work ethic among plenty of other things, including my insistence on bringing up the fact that Jim once invested $10,000 in a so-called “Gold Machine” which was supposedly capable of refining what was previously unprocessable ore. I saw all of this as playing along with the character my co-host had developed, the Beta male. That’s my perspective, though. I don’t know how he felt though, given the reaction to last week’s piece, I think I have a pretty good idea that for him it wasn’t the harmless ribbing that I felt it was.
If this were a normal sad-sack apology, I would now apologize if he was offended. But I try to avoid sad-sack apologies. I make them with my entire chest, and I’m sorry that I acted in a way that could have left my co-host feeling diminished, demeaned, and belittled. I also know that anyone who has spent any amount of time working on a live program has been guilty of these sorts of transgressions and has also been on the receiving end. It’s pretty much endemic to the format especially if you’re looking for subjects that will evoke an emotional reaction. The key to sustaining a show is not avoiding conflict but learning how to manage it.
I also think there are a couple of lessons to be learned here, too.
1) Set some ground rules
If there’s a specific, repetitive behavior that is bothersome say something. I spelled out last week how I stated that the time to declare a segment as being stupid or unworthy was before the show and not during it. Jokes about my co-host’s age and work ethic should have faced a similar prohibition. Making someone the butt of the same joke without their consent is the recipe for resentment.
2) Develop a procedure for resolving conflict
It can be a one-on-one meeting. Perhaps there’s a designated mediator like the producer or program director. One tip: Don’t do it over email. That’s a one-way medium that’s prone to venting because you’re not able to see or read the reaction of the recipient as they’re working their way through your list of grievances.
3) Remember we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions
I think this is a natural tendency we all have. We seek to minimize any harm we cause by focusing on what we meant. We seek to explain the harm we suffer by focusing on how it felt. Understanding this underlying bias can help us see that the actions of others aren’t always malicious and our reactions aren’t always virtuous.
I’m going to close with a line from NYPD Blue, a cop show where Andy Sipowicz played a quick-tempered detective who wore short-sleeved shirts with ties and exhibited a penchant for violence came off as (troublingly) admirable. He also had an aquarium with saltwater fish, which he used as a metaphor for a younger detective he was paired with.
“You have to keep a clean tank,” he said. “Not too cool, not too warm, keep it all in balance.”
It’s true for a show, too. Too tranquil, it gets boring. Too antagonistic, it becomes volatile. Everyone involved has to be willing to make adjustments when necessary because everyone – from time to time – is going to run a little too hot or feel a little cold.
In the five years I worked with Jim, Dave Wyman, and Jessamyn McIntyre, we kept our tank balanced well enough to sustain an afternoon drive show that many people in Seattle remember fondly. It was some of the most fun that I’ve had working in sports media. Anyone who knows Jim and me knows how much I love his writing. I’m able to quote directly from columns he doesn’t remember writing. I’m laughing right now thinking of the time he described Rick Neuheisel’s sister flipping Hugh Millen the “double Dick Bennett” during Neuheisel’s lawsuit against the NCAA and the University of Washington. If you know, you know.
Jim was also capable of making me madder than any other co-worker I’ve ever had. That’s not a criticism. It reflects as much on my level of sensitivity as his behavior. I am glad that I learned to accept who he was as a co-worker throughout our time working together because it made the show more enjoyable for me. I wish I had learned that lesson well enough to have written last week’s column with a smile instead of a snarl.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise Episode 86: The Big Ten Won’t Be The NHL
It’s golf, college football and history on Media Noise this week as Demetri talks about the LIV Tour’s media future, Arky Shea wonders if the Big Ten made a mistake exiting ESPN and Peter Schwartz talks about the next legend from WFAN to get the call from the Hall of Fame.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Are You Sales Material? Take the Sales Quiz
Sports radio needs consistent, motivated, driven people to make the engine run. That’s on the air and that’s making the sales.
Sports radio needs consistent, motivated, driven people to make the engine run. That’s on the air and that’s making the sales. However, not everyone in the industry doing sales is cut out for it. Are you? Take this quiz to see if you are qualified to hold your current sales job:
Are you passionate, motivated, and high performing, at goal and above consistently?
Do you develop and maintain deals with clients using all your platforms and, in every market, possible?
Do you sell your station’s social media to a high percentage of your clients?
When was the last time you included OTT or geo fencing in your digital presentation?
Have you sold one of your music stations in the last quarter?
Did you have a sponsor in a station community or sports event in the last quarter?
Are the top three ways your peers describe you as driven, resourceful, and a problem solver?
Are you considered a champion of diverse cultures, or do you stick with like-minded people?
Do you always understand your client’s goals, objectives, performance benchmarks, and systems of doing business?
Do you understand all your client’s customer and market trends?
Do you customize your proposals to meet what the advertiser needs or take proposals off the shelf?
Are most of your presentations featuring digital, social, and over-the-air elements?
Do you have a recognizable negotiation and closing skill set?
Are you known as the person in the office who develops clients from cold calls to annuals and records it all in the CRM?
Is your knowledge of every station in the cluster above a “B”? Can you explain streaming, website, social advertising, and digital audience extension products to clients without help?
Do you do the following weekly: attend networking events, cold call, go door to door, and get client referrals?
Are you on time, submitting accurate orders, sales projections, and new clients list, and analyzing your competitors?
Do you handle all your client’s billing issues on the same day?
Do you read company research reports as they come out?
Are you committed to your manager’s standard for the staff, or do you have your own?
If you didn’t say yes to all these questions, your company likely doesn’t want you working there. Because when your company goes looking to hire new salespeople, they expect them to have all of these qualities. And, when the ad is written to attract those candidates, it is very standard and generalized if they mention compensation.
It is no wonder the industry has such difficulty hiring new people. This type of job description scares most people away. Not often enough or in detail do companies say what THEY offer in support to get you where you need to be. Management support, sales support, presentation support, sales development assistance, digital education, CRM software, or paperwork assistance.
Interviewees should turn the table on the interviewer and start asking THEM questions. And I believe the industry offers support and tools but could do a better job selling it. I hope we start looking at how we recruit new sellers into the industry. There must be a better way.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.