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Sometimes It Pays Not To Have a 5-Year Plan

“When you consider that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small businesses fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years, it’s rewarding to know that we’ve beaten the odds so far.”

Jason Barrett

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Five years is a long time to run a media consulting business. To put it in perspective, that amounts to sixty months, two hundred and sixty weeks, one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days, forty three thousand eight hundred hours, and two million six hundred twenty eight thousand minutes spent operating a business, knowing it could end tomorrow if I don’t stay on top of my game.

When you consider that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small businesses fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years, it’s rewarding to know that we’ve beaten the odds so far. However, 70% of small business owners fail by their 10th year in business, so the next 5 will be our toughest challenge yet.

When I started this venture I had no expectations or five-year plan. All I wanted was to move home to NY, be with my son, continue making a difference in the radio business, help people, and make enough money to pay bills. I didn’t have a writing team, member directory, a podcast, website advertisers, or an annual conference, just a home office, website, a few social media accounts, and a whole lot of time to turn my passion and ideas into online content. I’d love to tell you I saw this role lasting longer than my previous programming gig (4 years) at 95.7 The Game, but that’d be a lie.

Yet here we are.

When I reflect on the past five years, there are so many parts of this ride worth recognizing. For starters, I’m glad I trusted my gut and pursued being a front facing consultant rather than one who operates in the shadows. The demand to know who you are, what you’re about, and where you stand on industry issues is high in 2020, and having this platform to share strategic advice, opinion, insight, news, and details about brands and individuals, has helped me create and strengthen relationships, expand my knowledge, and ultimately grow my business. If I had stayed in the background I don’t think any of this would’ve happened.

Secondly, none of this happens without the support of tremendous clients and friends. I’ve had the pleasure of helping and learning from so many great people, but I’m especially proud to have worked with Matt Hanlon, John Kijowski, Dan Seeman, Phil Zachary, Matt Hutchings, Brenda Egger, Dan Mason, Greg Strassell, Dave Alpert, Elizabeth Hamma, Carl Gardner, Dave Pridemore, Keith Barton, Mike Kelly, Joe O’Neill, Lisa Decker, Dave Fleck, Ken Barlow, Steven Griffin, Todd Mallinson, Scott Mahalick, Mark Hannon, Pat Paxton, Dave Tepper, Tommy Mattern, Chris ‘Hoss’ Neupert, Phil Mackey, Darrin Ariens, Terry Foxx, Tony DiGiacomo, Mike Salk, Joe Zarbano, John Hanson, Steven Spector, Tom Parker, Justin Dove, Mark Rider, Brady Farkas, Nick Cattles, Tim Donnelly, Jeremy Menard, Bruce Collins, Paul Mason, Ken Brady, Chadd Scott, Jim Villanucci, Sam Hauser, Aaron Custodio, Matt Apana, Josh Pacheco, and every talent, producer, sales manager, and industry professional I’ve crossed paths with on the road.

Though I spend a lot of time listening to brands, talking to clients, and researching opportunities to help my clients improve their business, the rest of my professional time is spent in some capacity with the BSM website. To know that people care enough to read our content, share it on social media, spread the word to others, and pass along tips and ideas thru text, email and DM’s is a cool feeling. It’s even more rewarding knowing the material helps people improve and gain a stronger understanding and appreciation of the business they’re in.

To date, our industry focused site has published 8,195 pieces of content since launching in 2015, and we’ve had over 4 million visitors consume more than 5.5 million pages of our work. I’ve always told our crew that traffic mattered less here because our content is targeted to an industry audience, and I’d rather reach 100 PD’s, GM’s and Corporate Execs than 10,000 fans because it opens more doors to potential business. But now we’re starting to appeal to more than just the industry professional.

Between June and early September, we generated a million page views. It would’ve taken us a full year to do that during our first 2 years. That’s a credit to the tremendous work done by Jay, Demetri, Brandon, Brian, Stan, Tyler, John, Chrissy, Ricky, Jacob, Andy, and Rob. Jay, Brandon, and Demetri have especially been on fire lately cranking out thought provoking columns and timely news stories on a daily basis.

Having spent five years operating this brand, there’s one old saying that continues to ring true: ‘you have to spend money to make money‘. That approach was necessary in launching the BSM Summit in Chicago in 2018, and expanding it into Los Angeles and New York the past two years. Though we won’t have a show in early 2021 due to the pandemic, I know that when it’s safe to gather again, a successful show won’t be possible without making investments to assure a positive experience for attendees.

Ironically I learned an important lesson with our last show in NYC. We managed to survive the early stages of a pandemic, but almost had our schedule altered at the last minute by an executive who shall remain nameless. Despite this person’s attempt to hurt the event, I took the high road and emailed them afterwards to explain why the event mattered to people, and offered a free ticket to join us for our next one. They didn’t reply. It reminded me that no matter how much good you do for people and companies, there will still be external forces trying to stall your momentum.

But overcoming obstacles is all I’ve done since entering this business in November 1995. It’s something I dealt with in making this website work. During the first two years, I wrote daily, but if a business trip or conference came up, the site would go dark while I was away. I knew that wasn’t a great plan, but the only way to change it meant spending money for help. When you’re only earning enough to get by, and unsure if the business will be viable, that’s a scary thing to consider.

I got lucky and met good people like Demetri Ravanos, Brandon Contes, Brian Noe, Dave Greene, and Matt Fishman who shared a similar love for the business and wanted to write about it, even if it was for free or just enough to fuel their car or cover a trip to the movies. With their help, the site improved, more eyeballs read the content, and it helped a few of those guys land industry opportunities. We now have 12 members contributing content to the BSM brand, earning a monthly check, and I’m proud to share we’ll be expanding to 14 this week with the additions of Jeff Caves, and Vik Chokshi.

Jeff is no stranger to sports radio folks. He spent three decades in Idaho where he contributed as a host, program director, general manager, and salesperson. He’s also worked on television. His background in sales though especially interested me, and I’m excited to have him add a weekly sales column to the site. His first column will be published this Thursday.

Vik on the other hand has a strong passion for sports betting, and has written for The Action Network, The Big Lead, and Front Office Sports. With the gambling space continuing to grow, we’re going to increase our focus on brands and individuals in the sports betting space. Vik’s first piece is on the site today, a feature on ESPN’s Joe Fortenbaugh.

But that’s not the only area we’re expanding in.

If you listened to the last episode of the BSM Podcast which featured Entercom New York’s Chris Oliviero, you heard me tease that BSM would be expanding into News/Talk. This has been a move I’ve considered for the past 2 years, but I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew as BSM was growing. I also knew that if I started consulting News/Talk stations, that I’d need help because there are over 1,900 stations in the format, and as much as I enjoy being busy, I don’t want to compromise my effectiveness by spreading myself too thin.

I’ve felt for a while that similar to sports radio, News/Talk talent and brands don’t receive enough online attention. You’ll see stories on high profile hosts, the TV ratings battle between FOX News-CNN-MSNBC, and details about people signing new deals or getting taken off the air for making controversial remarks, but there are so many more stories out there waiting to be told. The format is triple the size of sports talk, and I’m curious to see if we can do for BNM what we’ve done with BSM.

The BNM of course stands for Barrett News Media, a separate entity of our company, which will debut online as https://barrettnewsmedia.com on Monday September 14th. By the way, save the URL, but don’t click on it, because the website isn’t live yet. Also be sure to add @BNMStaff on Twitter as we will use that account to promote daily content.

Unlike BSM which started with only me, the BNM brand will launch with 5 columnists, 3 features reporters, 2 daily news contributors, and 1 TV ratings writer. I expect to add a few more writers too during the first 30 days to complete out our coverage. A huge thanks to Steve Stone Voiceovers for signing on as our first advertising client to allow us to get the BNM brand off the ground. If interested in learning more about our advertising opportunities email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

Joining us for BNM’s maiden voyage are columnists Pete Mundo, Angel James, Rick Schultz, Evan Donovan, and Ryan Maguire, reporters Kyle Thomas, Kim Redmond, and Catherine Maddux, ratings writer Douglas Pucci, and news contributors Ryan Hedrick and Eduardo Razo. Our collective goal will be to offer insight, opinion, education, and storytelling on News radio, television, print, and digital brands and individuals. We are fortunate to have a strong diverse group contributing to this product, and I am looking forward to our readers getting to know more about them and their abilities in the weeks and months to come.

Since I know there will be questions let me address a few up front. BSM and BNM will function as two different websites. We may share content on social platforms from time to time if we feel it’s of value to our followers, but the goal is to run the two brands separately. We will also not be doing stories on presidential candidates, protests, policies, vaccine updates, or other world news. We’ll leave that to bigger brands. The only way those items will come into play is if they’re connected to a media personality or brand (EX: TV host leads a protest, Reporter breaks news on Biden or Trump, Host trades jabs with Fauci over vaccine, Radio exec runs for office, etc.).

In terms of goals for the site, all I care about right now is highlighting the news media industry, and giving those who make a living in it an online platform to learn more about the business and ways to excel at it. Will we do a BNM Summit, BNM Top 20 or launch a BNM Members Directory in the future? Maybe. I don’t want to think about traffic numbers or other ways to grow the brand yet. We need to start with delivering compelling content on a consistent basis, and grow our relationships. If we do that, then we can discuss ways to make additional improvements down the line.

As it pertains to consulting, I will offer my services to news/talk stations who are looking for fresh ideas, strategic insight, and an ability to maximize talent, content, and ratings. The news format has seen a surge of sports programmers join it in recent years, and I’m excited to take the plunge as well because it’s one I have great interest in. I’ve worked on a few smaller projects with news/talk stations as part of my sports consulting work, and after starting my career at a news/music station, I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons and relationships, and helping more people and brands get better.

But I won’t be alone on this adventure.

BNM is pleased to add Ryan Maguire, a seasoned program director who’s managed 610 Sports in Kansas City, WQAM in Miami, 105.7 The Fan in Milwaukee, 97.3 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and KIRO-FM in Seattle, where he was part of the team that delivered the Marconi award for Best News/Talk Station of the Year in 2019. Ryan and I have known each other for over a decade, we’re both in our mid-40’s, and his ability to coach talent, dissect content, and help brand’s elevate their performance is reflected by his track record. Ryan currently works as a producer for SpokenLayer, the leading provider of voice media for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and he will remain in that role while lending consulting support to BNM clients. I’m looking forward to working with him and having him help our partners.

“When Jason approached me with the idea of working with him on helping build Barrett News Media, saying ‘yes’ was a very easy decision,” said Maguire. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for JB not only as a programmer, but how he’s been able to grow BSM so quickly over the last five years. Most importantly, we share a lot of the same philosophies on what it takes to build, grow and monetize spoken word brands and talent.  Radio is going through a metamorphosis right now, but my passion for the business and for creating great audio content has never waned. It’s a big part of what fuels me every day. I can’t wait to get started.”

When you look at the News/Talk format today, it’s had the benefit of consistently featuring a lot of elite personalities. But soon some of those familiar faces and voices will depart, forcing brands to add new talent, ideas, and strategies. When those big changes happen, will your brand be ready? Do you know where to turn next? Are you positioning your product to meet the needs of the past or the future? How does social media and podcasting factor into your overall strategy? These are just some of the things we’re excited to explore. When you’re ready to talk, let us know.

If I’ve learned anything over the past 5 years it’s that you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas, and be ready to pivot at a moments notice. No year has taught us more about that than 2020. If we can continue to be of value to our clients and readers, and tackle new challenges successfully, I’ll be more than happy to do this til I’m old and grey. To make it that far though we’ll need to keep evolving and improving so if I can bug you to click this link and answer a short survey I’d greatly appreciate it.

Two things that remain difficult are convincing larger companies to invest in outside support, and getting market managers, program directors and corporate executives to adjust their perceptions. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it, I dislike the word ‘consultant‘ because too many ‘think‘ they know what I do based on others who have come before me. Except not everyone operates in the consulting space the same way. For example, I’ve met many music consultants over the years who don’t do what Fred Jacobs does, yet somehow they’re all lumped into the same category.

If I could find a word that defines a writer, host, creator, ratings analyst, advisor, researcher, influencer, seller, sales connector, recruiter, coach, social strategist, and brand builder I’d make the switch, but for now I guess I’m stuck with an outdated title. What I do know is if it involves content, creativity, sales, and management, I speak the language, and my track record of results shows I know how to help brands win.

To those I’ve had the good fortune of working with, it’s been a privilege to be a small part of your success. Your trust and partnership matters more than you know, and without it none of this is possible. To those who read our content, thank you for the continued support. We have a great team here at BSM who care deeply about the industry, and I appreciate you making time each day to digest the words that appear on your screen.

I’m lucky to wake up each day and pour my energy into something I love. We’ve made it five years, and I’d like to do this for another five. I guess that means I should probably start working on that five year plan.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network

“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”

Jason Barrett

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To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.

As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.

If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Which brings me to today’s announcement.

If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.

After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.

The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.

I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.

One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.

Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.

Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.

What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.

Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.

Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.

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Barrett Blogs

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs

“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”

Jason Barrett

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I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.

Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.

But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.

Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.

If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.

Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.

For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.

At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.

I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.

Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.

Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.

Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.

Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.

Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.

Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.

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Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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