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The Producer’s Playbook: Relationship Maintenance

“Chalking something up to ‘miscommunication’ while working in the business of communications is unacceptable.”

Chrissy Paradis

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In the first volume of the Playbook, we heard from Jon Goulet, Roy Bellamy and Dustin Swedelson about the significance of building relationships in the sports media world. This is a concept that clearly extends to your contact list, and requires a tenacious commitment to the maintenance, development and management of these relationships.

Relationship Maintenance 📕 David Spates video diary # 36 - YouTube

What is your show/station’s routine for submitting guest requests or targets for the near future? How are the confirmed guests communicated to other shows on the station so they can effectively cross-promote? Are the digital and management folks being kept in the loop?

If you have not evaluated these areas in a while, a very easy solution is creating a ‘Guest Requests’ & ‘Guest Targets’ spreadsheet in the user-friendly Google Docs format. It is a wonderful tool where updates can be logged, dated, time stamped, and everyone’s intentions are clear, not to mention, you’re saving everyone the headache associated with multiple requests from the same station being sent to the same individual.

The easiest way to prevent this scenario? Communication.

Streamlined, efficient communication makes a significant difference in day-to-day and long-term lives of producers, especially as it pertains to the handling of interview inquiries. The time investment in correctly, effectively communicating with potential guests can be significant, but it’s definitely worth it compared to the time involved in doing damage control to mitigate the damage done to the station’s reputation following a barrage of requests from multiple producers under one roof. Chalking something up to ‘miscommunication’ while working in the business of communications is unacceptable. The entire concept can be prevented, avoided and rectified virtually in the implementation of a formatting system similar to the template below. 

The option of also including an email chain when updates, additions, confirmations and other changes have been made to help loop in other shows, the digital team, and management about upcoming guest spots. This is an easy way to encourage promotion across the station’s live programming and social media accounts to maximize exposure across dayparts and platforms.

Additionally, keep a rolling list of guests that you hope to have on the show within the next month, regular guests, and guests for holidays, special occasions and local events for your show. This way, you’ve covered all of your bases and kept everyone in the loop about your plans in the near future.

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In terms of how to book guests or how to improve your guest booking, I wanted to provide some input from two experts as to include their tips, advice and strategies.

Joshua Drew, talent producer with ESPN working on shows like Mike & Mike, Get Up, First Take and NFL Live, offers some amazing insight on guest booking in his philosophy on relationships with guests.

“Very rarely is it about a one time hit with a guest. It’s important for me to foster relationships overtime with guests, especially those that I feel will be useful over and over again. I always like to check in with the guest after the interview. Their comfort level through the experience has to be the top priority.”

From Ice Cream to ESPN Radio, the Journey of Joshua Drew - Front ...

I asked Drew, what role his uncanny guest booking ability and deep contact list has played in his long run with ESPN: 

For me, guest booking is like working in sales. It’s growing and maintaining the relationship long after the interview is over. It helped to have two huge names in the sports business in Greeny and Golic, but making sure guests are happy and not feeling used is huge.”

The ESPN talent producer has advice for his fellow producers in building or expanding their contacts too.

“I would say it starts with brainstorming and pitching and broadening your shows horizon on as many guests as you can get them to say yes to. From there, it’s figuring out how to get the guest on. There is always a way and the internet is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. Once you get your contact, dive into the relationship whether it be with an agent, PR person or the guest directly. There are a lot of fake people in this business and being authentic can be a breath of fresh air to a guest and help you stick out in their minds moving forward.”

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Dave Druda, the executive producer for The Tim Brando Show taught me firsthand about the importance of building relationships with guests. Druda shares his ‘golden rule’ for guest booking for the Playbook:

“Try to put yourself in their shoes. Here is someone coming out of the blue and asking for a favor. That’s what I did, a dozen times every day. I asked strangers for favors. The guests I was seeking out owed me nothing, so I had to give them a reason to want to do it. At the very least I had to make it pleasant to appear on the show and minimize the inconvenience.

“I know it’s inconvenient to stop what you’re doing for a 20-minute phone call. I tried to be very respectful of their time and appreciated the generosity that they expressed by joining our show. Also, be prepared to reciprocate if asked. They may ask for a plug, or for the host to ask about something specific, or a copy of the audio afterward. It’s the producer’s responsibility to see that the needs of the host and guest are fully met.”

Dave Druda (@DaveDruda) | Twitter

The guest booking needs can vary depending on the host you’re working with. Similarly, there will be some differences when booking on a local terrestrial program and a nationally syndicated radio/television simulcast. Through all of these dynamics, there are many constants. Druda gleaned wisdom from every area of his career in order to establish his Rolodex. I asked him whether his contact list and guest booking skills played a role in his amazing run with The Tim Brando Show.

“It was a learned skill! In local radio, I mostly leaned on ‘friends of the court’ to be guests. People my hosts already had relationships with, or that I was already connected to. It was rare to seek out a new contact unless there was a special event that needed a specific person to give comments. Once I got to Sporting News Radio, I was made aware very quickly that new big-name guests would be consistently needed. Todd Wright was very helpful in explaining the differences between the needs of a local and national show. Todd had a great policy: ‘I’ll tell you what I want, and you deliver it.’ The pressure was on, but expectations were so simple and clear.

“I took that philosophy into working with Tim Brando who required about four times the number of guests. Many of them were recurring guests that were expecting to speak with Tim at some point, but Tim also wanted more. Namely, head coaches of top 25 schools that had a big game that week.

“When I joined Tim, I had only spoken to a few Sports Information Directors. By the end of my first month on the Brando Show, I had made contact with at least 40 new SID’s. It was a crash course! Just as Todd was clear with me, I was clear with Tim. I asked Tim to tell me exactly what he wanted, and I would deliver. It worked great! Tim was happy, and I was relieved when I confirmed someone that Tim wanted.”

Druda has an acronym to accompany his advice for those looking to build and strengthen their contacts going forward in their careers and shares his experience to illustrate why using a form request is a big no-no.

“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. The 5 P’s (maybe that should be the P5.) I learned this the hard way when I asked a West Virginia SID for their basketball coach to join our show to talk about the football teams’ big win last week. It was terribly embarrassing to get an email back that said, ‘I think you mean Coach Stewart. I’m sure Coach Huggins would be happy to join you though.’

WVU hoops routs Madrid All-Stars; Huggins sees lots to be desired ...

“Thank goodness WVU’s Sports Information office had mercy on a rookie because my job as a guest booker could have been very brief. I was unprepared. I had a form email request that I was filling out, Googled ‘WVU Head Coach’ and just pasted in the first name I saw. Please, do not use form email requests! Learn from my mistakes! 

“Take the time to research your guest before asking for them to appear on the show. It’s the least you can do. It will also help you toward building a positive relationship with the SIDs and media relations people you’ll speak with over the years. There will come a time when you’ll have to ask them for a favor. Give them a reason to grant your request.”

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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