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What Listeners Value Least on Sports Radio

“BSM’s Twitter poll produced nearly 22,000 votes. Most list Callers as the least valuable part of a show.”

Jason Barrett

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Knowing what your audience wants is so important for a radio station. But not every brand puts the time or resources into doing research. It’s common in radio to assume we know what listeners want, but people’s tastes change, their work schedules switch, and their entertainment options increase. One day radio’s vital, the next it’s less necessary.

One of my biggest pet peeves with our ratings system, is that it influences how many of us think about what does and doesn’t work. I’ve seen bad shows earn numbers, and good ones come up short, but because this is the way we decide whether or not something is good, we ignore a lot of other evidence that tells us if something truly is good or not.

Just the other day I heard a 3 person show execute a 26-minute interview in the 2nd segment of their show. The guest’s call dropped, they killed time to get him back on, and the result was a less than stellar listening experience. This was done by a good show too, one with strong ratings. Good numbers or not, turning the show over to a guest for 2 segments who isn’t breaking news and isn’t a major name isn’t wise, especially when 3 hosts haven’t had a chance yet to offer their opinions and establish the content. But hey the ratings are good right?

Unless you know every single person carrying a meter in your market, and you study their daily habits, you really don’t know why they put your radio station on or turn it off. You ‘assume’ you know what works based on the trends you see in your reports from Nielsen, but the way 4-5 people with a meter use a station isn’t always a true reflection of what an entire market wants. Often times your digital story is much more interesting.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m active on Twitter. I like the platform a lot. It’s a great place to learn about sports news, engage in conversation during games, or just flat out laugh at silly things people post. Like many things in this world, it isn’t perfect. You have to put up with out of bounds comments from faceless profiles and people using names like StretchNuts09, but otherwise it has a lot of positives.

Given the nature of the content we produce at BSM and who our most avid readers are, Twitter has been a great resource for connecting with people who share similar interests. Many turn to my profile for information and opinions on the sports media business, and it’s helped some improve at their craft, others land jobs, and forced a few who disagree to consider a different point of view.

But aside from that, Twitter can also come in handy for researching the audience. In years past some would discredit the results from social media because there was this perception that people on social media were from another universe, and drastically different than the everyday listener. As the years have gone by though, that viewpoint has started to change.

Every research project, whether thru phone calls, emails, online surveys, in person focus groups, or social media platforms, isn’t 100% accurate. If you want proof, go look at the data prior to the last election. So much depends on who’s involved in the study, how the questions are written, and when the project takes place. For example, if you asked baseball fans about their excitement for the sport in November, you’d get a much different reaction than if you asked them in April.

If you follow me on Twitter (@SportsRadioPD) you’ve likely noticed we’ve been running more poll questions over the past month. My social media director Clarissa Magliochetti has been leading the charge, and we’ve made it a daily focus to engage with people because A) it’s called ‘social’ media and B) knowing what people like and dislike and the reasons behind their feelings is helpful to making brands better.

Yesterday, we ran a poll that I thought might generate a few more responses than usual, but I had no idea it would snowball the way that it did. We asked ‘What do you value least when listening to a sports radio morning show?’ The four choices were Callers, Guests, Sports Updates, and News-Traffic-Weather. Nearly 22,000 voted on the question, and the biggest tune out according to the results was Callers.

First, I want to thank everyone in the format who took a second to hit the RT button to help us. I chose these 4 selections because they’re additions to a show based on the preferences of a host or program director. They’re not a mandatory part of delivering a sports radio show. Some folks listed commercials and hosts as their main reasons for tuning out, and I expected to hear those opinions, but the difference with those choices is that they’re non-negotiable. Without commercials, the station doesn’t exist. Without a host, you have no show.

Some also said they didn’t like non-sports conversations without a purpose, especially ones that enter the political arena. There were also remarks about being turned off by arguing and yelling, fake hot takes, gambling talk and a few others. I understand that some will exit a show when those things come up, but much of it depends on the host and their interests. Someone with a passion for betting is going to bring it up on their show, and portions of the audience will like it, others won’t. Same goes for non-sports stuff, hot takes, parody songs, and political commentaries.

There are a number of different things to takeaway from these results, but to be clear, just because the feedback says one issue is a bigger tune out than others, doesn’t mean it works this way in every market. What resonates in the Northeast is different than what works in the Midwest, and what works there isn’t the same as it is in the North, South or West Coast.

CALLERS:

What this poll should make obvious is that people aren’t in love as much these days with shows being driven by the audience. The sports format’s first 20 years were built on turning the airwaves over to listeners to voice their thoughts, but often shows lacked direction and focus. With social media, texting, and podcasting a bigger part of our lives now, interaction is still important, but it’s done differently.

Another key factor is that younger people have less desire to talk on the phone. The majority of voices you hear call into sports talk shows tend to be older, and often times they call back a few times per week. Each time that same individual hits the air, it creates the impression that there isn’t a lot of interest in calling the show because the same person can get thru multiple times. Listeners under 35 are less tolerant and loyal than those of us who are older and have grown up with the format, and younger hosts tend to be less adamant about needing calls than older hosts who’ve made it part of their routine for years.

In defense of caller participation, I do believe there is more entertainment value in hearing someone express a passionate opinion or outlandish thought than listening to a host read it thru a text or tweet. It can also lead to a great reaction from a personality which can make the show more entertaining. But if the audience has to sit thru 3-4 meaningless calls that bring the show to a screeching halt just to potentially get that one great payoff, they’ll lose interest and tune out.

That said, this format is called Sports TALK right? We should want our fans to feel part of the content experience. The good news is that there are many ways to do this besides slowing down the pace of your shows, and making your hosts sound like telephone operators inside a call center. For starters, you can set up a Google Voice number and use social media and the airwaves to encourage leaving messages. You can turn to your social platforms to encourage people to leave video or audio responses via YouTube. There are also cool ways to utilize your app such as what 101 ESPN in St. Louis does with their Mic Drop feature.

The advantage to doing it this way is it gives you a chance to edit out the bad stuff and direct your show. Maybe you use the audience reactions in a produced return or station promo. Perhaps you strategically incorporate them into an open segment as a counter or supporting piece to the points being made by the host. Making people feel part of the show is wise, but there’s a difference between ‘interaction’ and ‘calls’.

We live now in a world where people communicate differently. As a host, you may get an adrenaline rush when you see six lines blinking, but that doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Depending on the market, most will tell you 1-5% of your audience call, the rest just listen. You may be excited to hear from someone because you feel it validates your content choice, and gives you a sense that people are listening, but if adding them to the discussion tunes out the other 95% is that a smart choice?

I remember a host coming into my office a while ago and being fired up after receiving 60 calls during his show. It made him feel like the audience was into his content. I then reminded him that the market had 7 million people in it and based on my math that meant that we didn’t get a call from 6,999,940 people. My comments were no doubt a buzzkill for someone who was excited about what they had just experienced, but I wanted them to understand that a show’s success wasn’t based on how many times we made the phone ring.

GUESTS:

When it comes to guests, I think they add value BUT what should be taken into consideration is how long they’re on. Who says you have to do a 10-minute interview? Why not 3-minutes, 4-minutes or 5-minutes? Before you tell me ‘JB you can’t do an interview in that length of time‘, save it. That’s BS. Put your TV on and you’ll see hosts do it every day. It comes down to having a game plan and asking the 2-3 questions that matter right now. Nobody needs a history lesson with a guest every time someone of significance appears on your show.

Booking a guest also doesn’t mean they have to be on 10 seconds after the music hits and stay until the end of the segment. You can start with talking about the topic before bringing them on, and leave a minute or two to share what stood out to you from the conversation. If you’re up against a break at the end of the segment, you can also hold over your reaction to it, and spend 2-3 minutes on what stood out before moving into your next topic.

Often I’ll hear a show start a segment with a guest, keep them 10-12 minutes, say goodbye and then tease the next segment which has no connection to the one they just did. It leaves the audience with no insight on what the host thinks of the subject or any of the responses given by the guest. Isn’t the goal to gain insight and then explain what we think about it?

Another issue that more hosts should think about, is when the interview takes place. In mornings, people are less ready for a lengthy discussion than they are later in the day. We also should be able to separate what we want from what the audience wants. I’ll hear hosts mention how much they hate interviews yet when they promote their next day’s show on social media, they use the guest as the hook. Why? Because it’ll produce interest. They just don’t have confidence that they’ll be able to consistently deliver big names or timely people. The issue there isn’t whether a guest adds value, it’s needing to do a better job of adding people of substance.

Here’s another way to think about it. Let’s say you were in NY this week and you had Phil Simms on to discuss the Daniel Jones-Eli Manning saga. Let’s say Phil’s energy wasn’t great, 7 of the minutes he was on he didn’t say anything significant, but during 3 of those minutes he delivered a strong opinion on the issue. Most shows would go to break bitching that Phil had low energy, didn’t say a lot, and reinforce why they don’t do interviews, but what they don’t ask themselves is ‘how can we use that good portion of the discussion to advance this story throughout this show and the others?’

If I told you that the interview segment you did would produce a zero but it’d lead to 8-9 higher rated segments on your station the rest of the day, a surge in podcast downloads, promos and social graphics built to highlight the content you created, and local/national media outlets using portions of the discussion to make their own content more interesting, would you still say Phil had no value?

I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t put guests on. That depends on the host, station, market, and importance of the guest. My point is, if you’re going to book a guest on your show, you should be thinking about whether or not they’re important enough to be discussed multiple times throughout the day on your station. If you’re booking someone who the majority of your audience don’t know, and they can’t add anything new to the day’s top stories, then you’re filling air time instead of maximizing it.

SPORTS UPDATES:

Next is the subject of Sports Updates, and I’ve said before on this site that I don’t think they provide a ton of value to a sports station. The content is very repetitive, and if you took away the :10 second sponsor tag or Update Desk title sponsorship, nobody in sales would be bitching about not having them on the radio station. It’s strictly a marketing tool to push your content and sponsor mentions.

I do love that you get the benefit of additional voices in the room as a result of having an anchor on a show, and there are some who do the job well. A great example is Jerry Recco at WFAN who executes them in a more conversational and entertaining fashion with Boomer and Gio’s morning show. However, many don’t provide more than the obvious stuff. Anyone with a cell phone can find out what time MNF starts, who’s pitching for the Red Sox, and whether or not Jalen Ramsey has been traded. Anything significant is likely going to be mentioned by the host too during the show.

SERVICE ELEMENTS:

The final one we need to discuss is what many refer to as ‘service elements’. From where I sit, I don’t believe in running News, Traffic or Weather reports on a sports station. In fact, I used to run liners on 101 ESPN in St. Louis and 95.7 The Game in San Francisco that said ‘No Traffic and Weather Together, We Do Sports.’

The exception is if you’re a brand such as WFAN, KNBR, WEEI and they’ve been part of your identity for decades. Unless you’ve created an expectation with the audience that they’re going to hear those things on your air, I don’t see any reason why they’re necessary for a sports station. The News/Talk brands are going to own this position more than a sports station will, and when you put on sports television shows, they do just fine without a bunch of filler content that denies the audience what they want. Radio should be able to do the same, and I know it works because I’ve done it.

The reason these service elements are on is for sales purposes. If we can’t make money though with 12-20 minutes per hour of spots, studio and hotline naming rights, time checks, text lines, play by play assets, podcasts, merchandise, and big name weekly guests who drive appointments, then we have much bigger issues. Sellers won’t like the idea of not having something to sell that’s always been in their toolkit, but if you value the audience’s time, and take into consideration why they use your brand, you’ll find more people happy to have the roadblocks removed than those who are frustrated because something on the station changed.

CONCLUSION:

What we’ve learned from this exercise is that there are a lot of mixed opinions, and pleasing each person is impossible. The results shouldn’t influence you to go the rest of your career never taking a call, but you also shouldn’t dismiss the feedback. When more than 10,000 people tell you in overwhelming fashion that they don’t value something, a smart host and PD pays attention. If your morning show is relying on the audience to call in and do the heavy lifting, you may want to reconsider your approach.

When you look at why people are gravitating more to podcasts, it’s because there’s a premium placed on people’s time. Podcasts don’t overload the audience with less important bullshit. If they can hear 20 great minutes without obstacles or 20-minutes on the radio with constant disruptions, why would they choose your radio station? Nobody is rushing to add updates, calls, and service elements to podcasts. That should tell you something.

People have tremendous passion for sports talk but their expectations are different than they once were. It’s our job to learn what they value, and eliminate the things that stand in the way of a good listening experience. Given the instability of ratings measurement, there are no guarantees that changes will lead to immediate results, but I’d rather listen to my customers and give them what they asked for than ignore it and wish I had listened sooner.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network

“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”

Jason Barrett

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To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.

As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.

If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Which brings me to today’s announcement.

If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.

After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.

The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.

I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.

One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.

Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.

Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.

What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.

Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.

Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.

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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs

“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”

Jason Barrett

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I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.

Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.

But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.

Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.

If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.

Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.

For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.

At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.

I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.

Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.

Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.

Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.

Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.

Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.

Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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