Everyone that works for Intrepid Marketing Group is busy right now. The full-service marketing and PR firm based in Raleigh, NC works with a diverse group of clients. They are trying to shepherd organizations of all sorts, from ACC athletic programs to quick service restaurant chains, through the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ann-Marie Sales and her partner Mike Dixon run Intrepid. I spent the better part of last week exchanging emails and text messages with the two of them and their Vice President Torrey Winchester. All three will acknowledge that this is a challenging time for their clients, and by proxy for them. But they will all also tell you that working with an agency has helped to ease their clients’ fears.
“Luckily, as a full-service agency, we’re able to consult with them on messaging of both advertising as well as direct customer outreach via email or social and PR,” Sales says. “This is such an unprecedented occasion, but our clients lean on our experience and expertise to finetune those messages. They also rely on us to be proactive in updating messaging as new information comes to light.”
Advertisers are leaning on their agencies and those agencies are leaning on radio for reassurance right now. No one is operating in a “business as usual” environment, and Winchester says that agencies are going to be loyal to radio clusters that understand that and make adjustments.
“Flexibility right now is key,” she says. “There’s so much uncertainty that we want to be able to steward our clients’ dollars in the most effective way while maintaining commitments to our media partners.”
Winchester adds that without many exceptions, the radio stations Intrepid works with have been keen to do their part.
“We’ve seen a great deal of flexibility and a lot of stations stepping up to find ways to support our clients and other local businesses. There’s a real feeling that we’re all in this together and that has come through from our partners as they provide extra added value through new initiatives like on-air announcements of businesses that are still open or by waiving creative change fees or the like.”
For the businesses that utilize the services of Intrepid Marketing Group or any other agency, the learning curve can be a little softer right now. After all, why does a business hire a firm with PR experience if not for guidance through the most uncertain of times? Right now, that guidance includes shaping a business’s messaging.
You’ve seen a lot of media companies featured on BSM lately discussing how important the relationships they have spent years building are proving to be right now. Well, the same is true for marketing and PR agencies. Sales says the relationships she has built with her radio partners are imperative to being able to deliver for her clients.
“We have a really diverse set of industries that we represent so we’re able to manage our relationships with the media with a little more fluidly with some clients’ budgets being restricted while others expand so it provides our clients with a really solid negotiating position.”
So what about the creative side of the relationship? Clients are trusting Intrepid to manage their messaging, but who is Intrepid trusting to make sure they get it right? Mike Dixon says that it’s been all about teamwork.
“This is often a collaboration between us, our clients and the stations, but we do pride ourselves on our ability to be proactive in providing guidance on messaging to be sensitive to current events. We’ve worked through some unique challenges, like recording new spots while maintaining social distancing measures, so stations have offered some good new options for that as well.”
The balance of power has always been tilted towards the agency in relationships with radio stations. A sports station that delivers a successful campaign for a local minor league baseball team can find itself on a department store’s buy when back to school season comes around if the two businesses are working with the same agency.
Keeping clients is the priority of everyone at every station across the country right now. Dixon is appreciative of those efforts. He hasn’t told any stations that Intrepid is paying attention to how its clients are treated right now, because he hasn’t had to.
“In our experiences so far, it’s clear that everyone knows we’re in this together. We always work hard to maintain really great relationships with our media partners and we’ve already seen the fruits of that in their willingness to find creative ways to promote our clients’ and in some cases their changing business models.”
Advertising partnerships are true partnerships now more than ever before. Businesses need guidance from their agencies, agencies need flexibility from stations, and stations need loyalty from agencies and advertisers. Ann-Marie, Mike, and Torrey can only speak for their clients and their agency, but they are counting on the relationships they have built over the years. They are looking at the stations they have placed ad buys with for help, both in terms of creativity and flexibility.
Everyone at Intrepid is fond of saying that clients and stations “realize we are all in this together” when it comes to doing business during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, is the time for stations to make a good impression. It may mean you and your agency partners are “in this together” for the foreseeable future.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.