The Barrett Sports Media Summit can never get here fast enough. Then when it arrives, it is over way too soon. Does anyone else experience the event that way? Maybe it’s just me, JB, and our team.
Whatever the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. We are currently as far away from the next BSM Summit as we can possibly be. This seems like an ideal time to take a look back.
Rather than recap everything you missed, I am going to hit you with three quotes I wrote down. Keep in mind that during the Summit, while everyone in the crowd is taking notes, I am upstairs making sure things run without a technical hitch. It’s not that I’m not paying attention to what I hear. It’s that it can be hard to take even a second to write something down. These three quotes, for whatever reason, hit me in a way that made a real impression.
1. “NOBODY IS EVER GOING TO TURN DOWN THE FREE SHIT.” – Pat McAfee
Let’s start by giving this quote its proper attribution. This was Pat McAfee quoting Bob Kevoian of The Bob & Tom Show. It’s a quote that stuck with me and hit me in a different way twice during the last week.
First, it is a great reminder of the role broadcast radio plays in the average man or woman’s daily life. It might be the single most accessible form of media. It takes zero effort for the audience to discover and keep coming back to it.
Next, it is powerful. Admittedly, it is powerful for all the reasons laid out in the previous paragraph, but being aware of broadcast radio’s power should give hosts and PDs all the motivation they need put their best foot forward every segment of every show everyday.
How often do we hear that the medium and the industry is dying? We’re going to fall victim to podcasts, Spotify, and any of dozens of other digital products? No one could be faulted for being discouraged, but the fact of the matter is broadcast radio is easily accessible and ever-present in American life should tell you that the audience is there and worth the effort.
2. “THE YOUNGER AUDIENCE IS CLAMORING FOR STATS AND INFORMATION BECAUSE THEY WANT TO BET.” – Dan Mason
Dan Mason received the Jeff Smulyan Award. It was to honor all of his contributions to sports talk radio, but his speech focused largely on his investment in the Vegas Stats and Information Network and why he was intrigued enough by the network to make it the focus of his future in the industry.
Gambling has been in the spotlight at each of the last two BSM Summits and it’s for good reason. At this point, betting is no longer the “next frontier,” it’s what’s happening right now and plenty of smart people have told us over and over again that it is the kind of information younger sports radio listeners are looking for.
We have all had the conversation about how to attract an audience that grew up in an on-demand world. How do we get that audience to respond to teases and stay through the break?
Mason’s revelation isn’t just about spreads, totals, and trends. It’s also about entertainment. We compete with the on-demand world by giving the audience that has lived there their entire lives the information they are looking for in a more creative and interesting way than the Action Network app can.
3. “IF YOU HAVE AN ORCHESTRA, YOU NEED A MAESTRO.” – Chris Olivero
Chris was part of JB’s “Power Panel.” This sentence was said in response to a question about how necessary the role of Program Director will be in the future. It may seem insane at first brush, but how crazy is it to wonder if the traditional power structure will change as digital strategies become more and more of a priority in the industry.
Olivero’s metaphor made it clear why leadership matters. Visualize an orchestra ready to play without someone shaping their sound. You could have masters like Yo Yo Ma on cello and a brass section that includes Herb Alpert, Trombone Shorty, and Kenny G. It is going to be chaos without someone standing in front saying “this is what we’re working towards.”
The particulars of the job are constantly changing. That’s why it is important for PDs to never stop learning and thinking about what their staff needs to go where he or she wants them to. My plan wasn’t necessarily to end on the quote that happens to be a perfect advertisement for the BSM Summit, but here we are.
If you came to the BSM Summit, thank you! All of the work we do year round leads up to that event. Not only is it a chance for JB to get on stage and show off the power of his rolodex and experience, it is also a chance to network with new and old friends. That’s a nice reward. The fact that it means so much to so many of you in the industry is the peanut inside the M&M.
Rewards are great for everyone. The chance to get out of your own building and learn from other leaders and other companies is so valuable and usually a lot of fun. Without the lessons though, that fun would be hollow.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.