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Radio Must Do More With Less

“How many of your current on air people could be in sales? How many sales reps could be on the air? Have we ever asked them?”

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I was hired to sell radio advertising for Sundance Broadcasting in Boise, Idaho in 1984. I had just finished my football career at Boise State University and after a short stint with Toronto in the CFL, I was ready to finish my degree and get a job.

I sold for KIDO a Big Band/Variety AM station and Q104 an Album Oriented Rock FM format. KIDO was more to my liking because we featured a morning news wheel with sports hits, some night and weekend talk, and most of my clients listened to the station. I was hired to take the place of a former Boise State football player who was moving to Oregon and seen as a perfect replacement.

Imagine that.

I was given an established list, introduced to every one of the accounts by the departing salesman and fit the profile of what the clients wanted in a sales rep.

What a concept!

I’d arrive at the station early each day so I was prepared to hit the streets running. One day while listening to the morning news guy butcher some names of Boise State football players in a story, my manager asked me if I thought I could do better. I said I could. I then explained that I did a college sports talk show, “Inside the Helmet with Jeffrie T,” listened to all news and even sports talk as a kid in Los Angeles on KFWB, KNX, KABC and KMPC and would give it a go.

And so began my on-air career.

I started doing the morning sports reports immediately daily from 6am-8:30 am and then sold advertising the rest of the day. I added a weekly sports talk show in January 1985. Fast forward to 2020, and I just finished my last daily sports talk show in Boise on July 17, 2020. Idaho Sports Talk was Idaho’s first and longest running talk show, sports show, or whatever kind of show you want to name it.

Radio host Jeff Caves to leave 'Idaho Sports Talk' show | Idaho Statesman

Why did it last so long? Because I never stopped selling ads. I never let somebody else tell me what my show was worth. I went out and established that for myself. I could get appointments much easier than anybody else, and nobody sold my show as much as I did. I went on to become a local sales manager, General Manager, Program Director, part owner, cable TV sports show host, TV football sideline and radio play by play color commentator, and started KTIK, Idaho’s first ALL SPORTS station in 1994.

And, I never stopped selling.

I sold my own TV show. I didn’t take a talent fee to sell TV sideline reports, I took inventory. I was never paid anything to do my sports reports or talk shows until 1994. I did a rev share with the station instead. On air talent can sell and salespeople can be on air talent.

Which brings me to a question.

How many of your current on air people could be in sales? How many sales reps could be on the air? Have we ever asked them? How many on air people could at least get appointments for an experienced sales rep to close? How many producers who book guests each day could add booking sales appointments for extra cash?

We are going to have to get more from less employees in radio. I can think of no single greater use of our resources, than getting sales appointments for salespeople. And, until we change the way we pay our new salespeople, we better start feeding our experienced sales people with leads and surround them with the best support staff at the station. We don’t ask the #1 afternoon guy to run the board, book the guests, answer the phone, and do the updates do we? Then, why do we ask the best salespeople in our buildings to prospect, collect and do an increasing amount of paperwork? 

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I know some stations have continuity people, pay on sales not collections, and use a sales assistant to write proposals. But I bet it’s a low percentage. And I know we can do more in how we support our sales folks. We can all do more with less.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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