What will sports media look and sound like this fall and beyond? I remain optimistic that the presence of racial minorities will continue to become more prevalent over national and local airwaves, given the state of consciousness towards equity, diversity and inclusion in America today.
That said, I do draw distinction, “between change and progress,” as Dr. Harry Edwards, world-renowned sports psychologist, often suggests. Where will this diverse pool of sports media talent, potentially representing said progress, emerge from? This very dynamic was the central theme and purpose of last week’s first-ever virtual National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) joint convention and career fair.
NABJ was founded in 1975 in Washington, D.C. by forty-four men and women of color and remains headquartered there today. It is an organization of journalists, media-related professionals, and students that provides quality programs and services while advocating on behalf of black media talent worldwide. NABJ is also the largest such organization in the nation, and has conducted an annual convention since 1976. Certainly, I had long heard how invaluable the networking and breakout sessions are. However, I had yet to come to personally know just how much of these resources addressed my primary area of interest, sports media, given this was my first time attending an NABJ convention.
Over the course of the week I was delighted to see and hear from highly credible and recognizable African-American sports media talent such as James Brown, Clark Kellogg, Elle Duncan, Rob Parker, Stephanie Ready, and Nate Burleson, to name a few. These individuals dropped a multitude of gems as they shared their individual journey to stardom, advice to up-and-coming broadcasters as well as their hopes and concerns regarding the present and future hiring practices in our business. It dawned on me during these testimonials just how fortunate we were to be receiving first-hand insight from these famed heavyweights.
I next considered how much more prepared the minority talent pool is today, after years of this level of intimate dialogue and interaction along with the advancements in technology. What would be the next step for NABJ participants and students to demonstrate that we are indeed ready for a legitimate opportunity to further our sports media pursuits?
I am hopeful even more sports media companies and networks will make it a priority to connect with NABJ leadership moving forward, and capitalize on a sincere desire to engage and vet these minority candidates. Many of the leaders in our medium are doing just that! I personally visited with talent reps from the likes of ESPN, NFL Network, CBS Sports, Turner Sports, and Sinclair Broadcasting. I’m confident NABJ leadership is simultaneously considering all reasonable methods to establish contact and further communications with other media entities.
During a diversity in sports media discussion at the 2020 Barrett Sports Media Summit I attended in New York City, it was clear to me that several of the nation’s top Program Directors and Media Executives acknowledged the room for improvement pertaining to the recruitment and hiring of African-American representation in talent and management on a national and local scale. I also sensed a very genuine desire to address the issue, which has since been confirmed by several high-profile hires and promotions. One sports media company has even implemented a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Task Force this summer as an additional resource.
The National Association of Black Journalists is by no means the only vehicle by which to enhance opportunities for people of color in sports media. However, it is a fantastic space to spend some time. I choose to believe the 2021 Barrett Sports Media Summit and the NABJ career fair will host some of the same faces.
You Were On Vacation, Your Audience Was Not
“Rewinding the clock just so you can have your say about a loss or a story the rest of us have moved on from is so self-indulgent.”
Americans work hard and we work a lot. We have one of the lowest standards for paid time off in the world. We take laptops along with us and answer emails while on vacation. We are wired to feel like we always have to be plugged in.
It’s summer. People are either vaccinated or “doing their own research.” This country is ready to travel again and that means you are likely thinking about taking a vacation too.
Do me a favor when you get back. Just accept that you were on vacation.
Part of my job with JB involves listening not just to clients, but to stations all over the country. Then there are radio shows and podcasts that I like myself that I will listen to. A common bad habit that I hear a lot is hosts that feel like they have to comment on any event that occurred while they were on vacation. Please guys! Knock it off!
The sports world didn’t stop while you were riding Space Mountain or visiting family or lying on a beach. Games were played. Other things happened. You know about it because even though you were taking a break, there were plenty of other voices available to cover them. Someone was filling in on your show. I bet they covered those stories too.
Rewinding the clock just so you can have your say about a loss or a story the rest of us have moved on from is so self-indulgent. Who did it serve? Probably no one but yourself. Aside from making you feel good and showing off just how smart you are, what purpose did it serve? Probably none.
Let’s call this bad habit what it is. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.
Are there exceptions? Sure. Think about major recent stories like the NFL’s Covid protocols or baseball’s new foreign substance rules. Those are stories that are still unfolding and will continue to have new wrinkles that may be worth talking about. If you were on vacation last week though and think that Monday is the time to share your thoughts on a 12 team college football playoff though, I’m sorry, but that ship has sailed for most of your listeners.
We talk about the ADD news cycle all the time. Is it 24 hours? Is it 24 minutes? You know, it could be 24 seconds. What makes you think something that happened a week ago is fresh enough in your listeners’ minds to care about your hot take on Monday?
This is an ego driven business. I understand all of the different ways the mind could work that get a host to a place where they feel like listeners will wait for their take. It just isn’t reality though. It is the kind of insular thinking that you have heard so many PDs, GMs, and consultants tell you to try and avoid.
Your listeners have work. They have kids. Maybe they are planning their own vacations or have other stressors. For them, the sports world is whatever is right in front of them right now. They turn on your show to be entertained and to hear about that.
You aren’t completely cut off from your audience when you are away. Social media gives you a platform to do whatever it is you want to connect with your audience. Film yourself ranting on whatever just happened and post it to Instagram or TikTok. Write a Twitter thread. Just because it wasn’t said over the airwaves of your particular frequency doesn’t mean you didn’t have a chance to weigh in.
Think about your content as part of a multi-platform brand. You always have the chance to provide timely thoughts and analysis. It just may not always be on the radio, and that is okay.
5 Goals: Rob ‘World Wide Wob’ Perez
“I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA.”
This month’s subject of five goals is Rob Perez, better known to NBA Twitter as World Wide Wob. The content creator and producer for FanDuel shared with me five things he wants to accomplish or see happen.
1. I want to make FanDuel, my licensing partner in content creation, as happy as possible.
My goal is to drive people to their web site or app, and spread the reach of the brand. I’m sure there’s a more formal word for that, but I want to organically integrate FanDuel into everything I do.
I don’t want to just be a commercial — hey 20% off, or here’s a free bet — because people are drowning in those across various forms of communication. All the content I do is naturally involved, and if someone’s asking about who’s favored it’s a very seamless type of content integration in which I can include them and drive them to FanDuel if they’d like to put their money where their mouth is.
I would certainly love the opportunity to continue working with them — not just because they pay me to do so, but I do find value in working with a sportsbook of that size that is turning into a content company. Of course, they’re always gonna be a sportsbook. It makes them the most money. But, giving you additional reasons to engage with that brand, if you have an itch to bet on something, is what my job is.
I want to continue to be the face of the NBA for them, having a very casual conversation about the game itself — whether that’s off the court stuff, or all the coaching departures earlier this week. Integrating the FanDuel logo into all this feels much more real than a 30-second commercial between timeouts. I want you to enjoy the experience of the show, and gamble if you so choose.
2. NBA Red Zone.
I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA. It would work best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday, when there are 8-9 concurrent games.
That’s why I’m where I am today. I’m watching every single dribble of every single game. But, I would never expect any other normal human with responsibilities outside of NBA content creation to ever keep up with what’s going on between the Kings and Pistons while there’s seven other games on, one of which is nationally televised.
So, if the NBA ever decides to have a true commitment to their version of the Red Zone — they’ve tried versions of it on NBATV, but I’ve never seen one hopping between games every 15-20 seconds, hot switching any time there’s a play stoppage — I’d love to do it.
You’d have a Scott Hanson type host who is as integrated with the league as it gets. I hope maybe one day I have the opportunity where what I do on my own personal timeline merges with true rights partnership from the NBA. Just based on the feedback I get on my Twitter page, there would be demand for it.
3. Do another NBA variety show.
In the past, I had a show called Buckets that I did with Cycle and ESPN. It had sketches, pre-produced talk segments, and interviews. Think of it like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon’s shows, but applied to the NBA.
Inside the NBA is obviously the gold standard for an NBA talk show. But, those guys are going to retire at some point. What I do on Twitter Spaces, Twitch, and Periscope — I want the ability to blow that out with some more production resources.
Right now, I’m doing everything myself, from playing DJ to directing to taking calls to actually running the show and talking basketball and researching stats — I’m doing it all on the fly. While I’m certainly happy to do that, I know what we could create with a team around me because we’ve done it in the past. I would love to do a weekly variety show based around the NBA.
4. Some more work life balance.
My entire day for 11 months out of the year revolves around the NBA. It’s my job and I’m happy to. I love following it. At some point, I feel like I’m gonna get burned out, and I don’t want to ever get to the point where doing this feels like work.
It felt a little bit like work this year, and that might be because I’m on Year 8 doing this. [RG note: at this point, I mentioned how last offseason was so condensed after the bubble, and how the energy felt partially zapped out of sports with a lack of fans]. I’m gonna watch regardless because I’m a crazy person, but I think a lot of people would agree with you that the return to normalcy is helping with the engagement on a mainstream scale.
This offseason will be condensed again. We have the Olympics, which of course I’m going to watch because stars will be playing. Summer League is in August. There’s free agency and the draft. There’s barely going to be one month — September — where there probably won’t be a whole lot of NBA news or events.
But then we’re going back to the normal schedule from before the pandemic, which means Media Week will be the first week of October. There’s one month off before it all starts again, and I’m hoping I don’t get burned out by it.
Being on the East Coast, it’s impossible to follow the NBA 24/7. I don’t know how people with kids and families do it. Getting back to the West Coast is a personal goal of mine, which will happen this summer when I move back to Los Angeles. These hours will allow me to get back to a more normal life.
5. I want the Knicks to win a championship in my lifetime.
Just being a die hard Knicks fan and not seeing a title in my lifetime, that’s a personal goal. I’ve put so much work into watching every effing game since I was eight years old with Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the NBA playoffs.
I was young, but I was old enough to know that I wanted to stay up for those games. I was emotionally invested. I would even get to the point where I was putting towels underneath the door so my parents couldn’t see that the TV was on. They thought I was sleeping.
Of course I want my team to win a championship, and I don’t want to die without seeing that mountaintop. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Red Sox or Cubs fan and going all those years without seeing them win, then having it happen. I want to experience it once.
Whatever it takes to get there. I have too many gray hairs on my head, and every single one of them I can attribute to a single Knicks game from the past decade. Being a fan while trying to create objective NBA content will always be a challenge, but being a Knicks fan will always take precedent over a career because it means that much to me.
Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial
“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”
Back in August of last year, the pandemic was still front and center, acting as a roadblock for business. Retailers were in business and at the stores, but what about the advertising buyers? Where were they?
Well, the ad-buying community, corporate employees, and most white-collar workers were still at home. So were most of us in radio sales. So, when it came to prospecting for new accounts, some of us gave up, most sent emails, and a few brave souls hit the phone. Earlier this year, I wrote about the sales trainer John Barrows and how he got to the top by cold calling 400 prospects a week! That’s not cold emailing. That’s cold CALLING. And to be exact, if Barrows was working a 10 hour day on the phones Monday through Friday, he would dial at least eight prospects an hour.
Does that send a chill down your spine? Or does it make you want to run to your keyboard to avoid rejection and send some more cold emails? Back in August, when most of our ad buyers were at home, not near a business phone, Jeb Blount and Anthony Iannarino were recording a podcast about why you should hit the phone, not the email. Both sales consultants and authors thought we could improve our connect rate immensely by working the phones over email.
Both authors agreed that we need to have conversations with people about our stations, personalities, shows, and the sports world! We can hire an automated CRM service to send emails!
Now I am all for some well-crafted custom emails sent to targets that do not answer phones or listen to voice mails but not as the first activity in a sales sequence. Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam. Our job isn’t to create awareness for buying sports radio packages; it is to make the sale!
We are consultants offering custom solutions to the unique challenges your clients have. And consider that if you pick up the phone and connect with the advertising buyer and get the appointment, you won’t need an email!
Both consultants agree that you don’t need email to warm up a client when using the phone to get the appointment! I recently tested this theory myself and decided that with the pandemic subsiding in most metropolitan areas and more buyers going back to the office, I could start hitting the phones more.
It worked. I got more appointments faster and wasted less time. I even got help. I had a business owner who I reached out to via email with a custom approach. I offered a few excellent ideas on how I could help him. Crickets. I let 2.5 weeks go by before I picked up the phone to dial the business and ask for him. They told me he was out on vacation and asked me if I had personal interaction with him. I explained no I was looking to connect with him on an advertising idea. The receptionist said you need to talk to Jane, the ad buyer. I was connected immediately.
I left a voice mail. The next day I received a return call indicating interest in my idea, and we set the appointment. Now, why didn’t I try that in the first place!
If you want a custom phone pitch that I wrote out for myself, send me an email at email@example.com. Now it’s time to smile and dial!