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Will You Be Ready When The Opportunities Come Back?

“You’ve heard of March Madness? This situation could cause a January Jam or a February Frenzy unless these folks can think of a way to be in two places at one time.”

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It’s not just quarterbacks scrambling right now in College Football circles. Athletic Directors across the country are trying to figure out just when the season will start. There have been many ideas thrown around and whichever one becomes the “way to go” there’s likely to be some dissention in the ranks. 

One of those possibilities is to have the FBS season start in January or February with the potential of a championship game being played sometime in May. It may be the best way to go for the schools. They have to focus on when their athletes can get back to campus and then think about when they could possibly play games with fans in the stands. 

A season after the first of the year can create some issues in the broadcasting department. For the play-by-play announcers, many of which do both basketball and football this can create a pretty busy time. You’ve heard of March Madness? This situation could cause a January Jam or a February Frenzy unless these folks can think of a way to be in two places at one time. 

I reached out to one of the busiest guys I know, Dave Eanet. He is not only the Sports Director of WGN Radio, he is also the play-by-play voice of both Northwestern football and basketball. His January and February could be more crazy than normal, but he welcomes that.

Q&A: "Mr. Cat" Dave Eanet, WGN - Inside NU

“I actually wouldn’t mind an overlap. At least it means both sports are playing and that’s a good thing.”   

Eanet is really concerned about the two seasons overlapping. “They already do. Football goes later and basketball starts earlier than when I started,” he says. “Now it seems like the month of November is a blur with basketball squeezing in non-conference games, including those season-opening tournaments.”  

While Eanet hasn’t perfected the being in two places at the same time thing, he came close a few years ago.

“In 2018, I went back and forth Chicago to LA twice the same week, coming home Friday to do football and flying back out Saturday night for a Sunday tournament game.”, said Eanet. “I would imagine the games would be slightly more spread out to accommodate the broadcast partners and the athletic department staffs. The key, I’ve found, is just working ahead, getting as much prep done ahead of time, as possible.”

The truth is that if the NCAA starts both football and basketball seasons in January, it’s going to create some opportunity for broadcasters. There is little chance that a school’s play-by-play announcer can be with the football team on the road and get back in time to do a home basketball game the same day. Think also about the people that do college football, the NBA, and the NFL. They could have “worlds colliding” in this scenario too.

Universities are going to have to come up with contingency plans on how to cover those situations. It’s low on their list right now but eventually they will have to make those decisions. It could be a great chance for a broadcaster to help out. 

So what do you need to do if you want to be that broadcaster?

Let’s focus on the key words here. “Help out” means you would be looking to simply fill in. Chances are pretty good that the main play-by-play person has been in the position for a number of years. That person has great rapport with the fans and likely the staffs of the two sports and the Athletic Director.

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You can’t go into this seeking to take a job away from someone. Your goal should be coming through in the clutch for the school willing to give you an opportunity and making a great impression by doing the best job possible and being professional.

That impression can go a long way. The sports community is tightly knit and if there was to be a full-time opportunity down the road, a recommendation from an AD is not a bad thing to have.

Update your resume and your demos. Make that resume sleek and simple highlighting the things you’ve done in your career to this point. Keep it fairly recent as far as your experience goes. Same thing with the demo. Schools aren’t going to want to hear what you sounded like 5 years ago, they want the “now” version of you and your abilities. 

If you don’t have current materials for basketball or football, there is a simple fix. Even with no live sporting events taking place, there are plenty of rebroadcasts of classic games on television. Call one of those into your recorder. Advantage being, you probably already know the players, the situations and of course the outcome. With your DVR you can always record it and call it again if you didn’t like it the first time around. Use the down time to your advantage in that respect. 

ESPN Adds Throwback Thursday: College Football Classics to ...

If you house your demo materials on your own personal website, make sure that is updated as well. Simple usually works best when you design a website. Clearly mark where someone can listen to your work and find your resume. It’s imperative that there be a place for someone to email you directly. Don’t make them fill out a contact form. Let them get to you with a simple click. 

Hopefully you’ve been networking with people in the athletic departments of your local colleges and universities. They are likely to look for the help they need in a local talent pool. A quick email to the school’s Sports Information Director or Marketing Director isn’t a bad idea. Just “check in” to let them know you’re available if needed as a back-up. Get your name in front of them so when the time comes to make a decision, they already know who you are.

When you send out a resume and demo to a school, it’s probably not a bad idea to get as familiar with the team as you possibly can. The internet is your friend in these situations. Head to the school’s website or figure out who the beat reporter is for that school. They’ll be helpful tools in case you’re called upon in a pinch. The more ready you are, the more comfortable a school will feel about you when they need someone. 

2021 might be an ideal time for you to think about your next move. Networking among your fellow broadcasters to find out about openings is a great way to start. The suspension of sports is leaving a lot of people with nothing to do, so reach out. It’s the best way to find out information about vacancies.

It’s such a crazy time, schools and teams may look to move in another direction once the season starts back up or starts anew. Resources like the job postings and the new member directory here at Barrett Sports Media are invaluable to those looking for a new job or a first job. Pay attention to the things you read here as well. The information from our columnists take you inside the situation and can make it clear whether or not you may be qualified to take the step you have in mind or what next step might be right for you. 

These are uncharted times we’re living in right now. The situation with sports in general is evolving weekly, daily and even in some cases by the minute. We don’t know when things will get back to normal. That’s something for someone a lot smarter than me to figure out.

Do yourself a favor. Be ready. Be prepared. Be confident. The last thing you want is to not be ready to go when someone calls with an opportunity. 

BSM Writers

What Can Programmers Learn From A Social Media Following?

“A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure.”

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I first began using Twitter in 2009 when I was a reporter at The Seattle Times. Jim Mora was the Seattle Seahawks coach and I had a smart phone made by Palm. The Twitter app was so wonky I posted live updates from Seahawks press conferences via TwitPic, sending a picture of the person speaking with the news item included as a caption. We’ve all come a long way since then.

I like Twitter. Over the past 12-plus years, I’ve found that my sarcasm and sense of humor (if you can call it that) translated better on Twitter than it ever did in print or later as a radio host at 710 ESPN Seattle. I’ve made friends on Twitter, picked fights with other reporters and generally found it a good place to test out ideas and arguments and an increasingly terrible place to discuss anything important. I have more than 40,000 followers, which is not insignificant nor is it at all exceptional given the market I worked in. None of this gives you any idea about how well I’ve done my job in sports media, though.

Yet an individual’s Twitter following has become part of our industry scoreboard. It’s certainly not the final score and it definitely doesn’t decide the outcome, but it is the best way I know to gain a quick assessment of someone’s reach and/or significance. It’s a data point that is readily accessible. It’s the thing I check first when I encounter someone who’s part of the sports-media industry.

But what does it really tell us? More specifically, how much does it tell us about that person’s ability to do their actual job whether it is reporting news, writing stories or being part of a show? Because as important as Twitter has become in sports-media, no one is making money from Twitter and social media specialists are the only people who are really being paid to Tweet.

For most of us, Twitter is not a job, it is a tool. For a radio host, it’s a way to interact with listeners outside the footprint and time slot of the show. It also is a powerful opportunity to deepen audience engagement through two-way, real-time communication. These things may help a host’s job performance, but they should not be mistaken for the actual job itself. A radio host is not valuable because he or she was right on Twitter or because they were first on Twitter or because they had a viral Tweet. A radio host is valuable because of the ability to attract, entertain and retain an audience during a specific slot of time. Twitter may help you prepare to do that, but it does not actually accomplish the task.

Programmers need to understand this, too. A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure. Just look at what book publishers have found.

An article last month in the New York Times showed how publishers have used social media followings as a weathervane of sorts for books sales. The number of followers an author has is influencing everything from what authors are paid to which books get published. This is especially true when it comes to non-fiction books. The rationale is pretty straightforward when you look under hood of that particular industry.

A publisher is the business that buys a certain book from the author, essentially making a bet that the sales of this book the author is writing or has written will more than cover the money paid to the author as well as the cost of publication and promotion of the book. A publisher wants as much assurance as possible that this book will sell sufficient copies to not just make its money back, but insure a profit. This is where the author’s social media audience comes in. The follower count is being looked to as an indicator of just how many people can be expected to buy this book. After all, someone following the author is certainly a sign they’re interested in what that author has to say. Some percentage of those followers can reasonably be expected to buy a book by this person. Except social media followings turn out to be a fairly terrible tool of forecasting book sales.

Billie Eilish has 99 million Instagram followers. Her book — released last year — sold 64,000 copies. If I was being catty, I would point out that is one book sold for every 1,546 Instagram followers.

billie eilish on Twitter: "“Billie Eilish” - The photo book by Billie The  book and the audiobook companion (narrated by Billie) are available now.  https://t.co/PAYxvTW64A https://t.co/vWFmq3502D" / Twitter

“Even having one of the biggest social media followings in the world is not a guarantee,” wrote Elizabeth A. Harris.

So we should all just stop paying attention to Twitter followings, right? Hardly. First of all, it is a data point, and anyone waiting for social media followings to become LESS important probably thinks the Internet is just a fad. More importantly, having a following is certainly better than not having one as it does indicate the ability to attract an audience.

The issue isn’t whether it’s good to have a large following. Of course it is. The issue is how reliable that is in predicting an individual’s interest or appeal outside of that specific social platform.

What programmers need to do is get smarter about how they evaluate social media followings by answering two questions:

  1. Why are people following this particular talent? Content is the catch-all answer here. Go beyond that. What sort of content is this person providing that none of his or her peers are? Will that type of content be valuable as part of my lineup whether it’s terrestrial radio, a podcast or other format? Someone who’s funny on Twitter may be funny in other formats. They may also just be funny on Twitter. Are there examples of how this kind of content has worked in the past or reasons to think it will work in the future?
  2. How likely is this talent’s social media following to migrate to my medium? This is one of the trickier ones. One of the reasons for acquiring a talent with a large social media following is the hope that some of their followers will become your customers. While this is always possible, the more important question is whether it’s likely.

Remember, that example of Eilish, who had 99 million Instagram followers and sold 64,000 books? Well, that number of books is actually not a bad result. In fact, it’s absolutely solid for book sales. The problem was the publishing house didn’t expect a solid sales performance. It expected incredibly strong sales because it paid a significant amount of money to Eilish in the form of an advance.

It’s clear the publishing house made a bad bet, but the principal mistake was not about Eilish’s ability — or lack thereof — to produce a book. She did produce one that was 336 pages long, loaded with family photos never seen before and while there wasn’t as much text as you might expect, the sales were solid. The mistake the publishing house made was overestimating how many of Eilish’s fans would become customers in an entirely different medium, and I think that’s a lesson worth noting in this industry.

Unless you’re hiring someone to do social media for your company, Twitter is not going to be their job. It’s just a tool. An important tool, a useful one, but just a tool.

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BSM Writers

How Good Can iHeart’s AdBuilder Solution Be?

“It was slick, I admit.”

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Do it yourself radio has come to a new client you will never meet. These clients are ready to do it themselves. All they want is to buy a radio campaign. And iHeart AdBuilder is all they need. 

Let’s figure this out. 

In 2019, iHeart started beta testing a do-it-yourself online platform for small businesses to battle Facebook and Google.  

I went to the website to see how it worked. It was slick, I admit. It would be a great topic to add to the BSM Summit.

The first piece of info. the site wants to establish is your campaign goal. The four choices were “Get website traffic”, “Have listeners know my address”, “Get phone calls”, and “Announce an event”. 

That’s it.

When was the last time you wrote a new business order with any of those four goals as the single reason for the campaign? Wouldn’t that be easier for the copywriter and the client to track results? TRY IT! 

I inputted that I wanted to announce an event and proceeded to the following prompt. My business name, address, website, and industry were the following choices. So far, so good. The only tricky part were the industry choices.

How to Run Ads With iHeartRadio AdBuilder

I can see how specific business categories are not precisely represented, like counter service restaurants. They are not fast food because there is no drive-through, but they aren’t a full-service restaurant either due to no waiters being used and many other factors. It isn’t confusing for me, but you know how clients can be!

Selecting the market I wanted my customers to come from was easy, and it allowed iHeart to choose the closest radio stations. Identifying the ONE type of customer I wanted was fantastic. I can see how it focuses the client on a primary target. Parents with young kids or teens, foodies, married couples, single adults, or an option to select my demo all seemed easy enough.

The demos offered weren’t Men 18-34, but men, women or adults, young adults, seniors, adults, or the dreaded all ages. Next was selecting when I wanted to run and how much I wanted to spend. It wasn’t a challenge because you choose your dates, and then you’re given three choices for a weekly budget. In my case, it was $500, $750, or $1,000 per week. iHeart AdBuilder bills you less if the whole week isn’t used.

Impressions, frequency, and reach were highlighted, and they showed the logos of the two stations my $500 was going to be spent on. I noticed there was no information on when the ads would air, how many times per day, or any of that! “You give us $500, and we will spend it over the week on these two stations when and where we want! And it will work!” 

The pages dedicated to creating copy are straight forward and, as salespeople, we have filled those types of forms out plenty of times. iHeart is highlighting that they are waiving the $100 production fee. Maybe, that will change in the future. After going to the checkout, your credit card is given a temporary authorization (which will be reversed), and you are told your ad will be emailed to you in a few days. You won’t be billed until your ads air.

What are the odds this $500 campaign over two stations in a few days will work? Who knows, but I bet the automated emails and follow-up calls will be relentless. I think it’s a great platform and can see a decent percentage of smaller new business deals go this direction. Some clients may even prefer to never “deal” with a salesperson again, kind of like most of our agency buyers. That leaves us with a whole lotta middle ground. For now. 

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 58

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Demetri welcomes Brandon Kravitz and Derek Futterman to the show this week. They talk about Hub Arkush, Aaron Rodgers, Michelle Tafoya, and Pete Thamel.

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