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The Five Best Strategies I’ve Learned For Coaching Talent

“There is no right answer to “what makes a great leader or coach”. It’s different for everyone because everyone is different.”

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Over the course of my nearly three decades managing content for spoken word brands, (and six months with a digital startup) I’ve been blessed to have the opportunities to lead some amazing talent. 

One thing I never had a shortage of, was advice on how to coach, mentor and lead. 

If I had a nickel for every leadership summit I was dragged to, every life coach I had to meet with, every book on successful management I had to read, I’d be able to retire by now. 

The reality is, there is no right answer to “what makes a great leader or coach”. It’s different for everyone because everyone is different.

That being said, there are five key things I’ve learned that have served me well in managing talent.  

None of these ideas are new. I’m sure that many of you have heard them before. They were all conceived by people that are far smarter than I am. 

Oh, and before I begin, I’m certain that many former hosts I’ve worked with will read this and think to themselves:

“What a load of crap. He NEVER did that with me.”

I will qualify this column by saying that every one of these five tenants that I’m about to share came with years of making mistakes and learning the hard way. 

LET THEM KNOW YOU HAVE THEIR BACK…QUICKLY

The minute that a Program Director walks into the building, the talent universally has one question on their minds: “Can this guy get shit done?”

No one likes an empty suit. No matter how many wins you have on your resume, you are 0-0 when you take over any new station. You need to get some “wins” and you need to do it fast or else you will lose everyone even faster.

The best way to win over talent is by showing them you can help them be successful. More often than not, it involves removing obstacles that they couldn’t overcome.   

I remember once when a talent came to me because he was upset that he was using two producers on his show. He preferred one over the other. We talked about it, what he said made sense and I asked him the simple question, “Why weren’t we doing this already.”

“The old PD wanted to do it this way,” he replied.

“Done,” I said. “I’ll talk to the producers and let them know that we’re making this change so you won’t have to be the bad guy.”

In the weeks that followed, that host went on to produce some of the highest numbers in the history of the radio station. 

Another time, a veteran host literally tiptoed…tiptoed into my office, sat down and said meekly, “I need a favor.”

There was a stunt he wanted to do, it was a fairly minor one. Without going into the details, the worst risk, I could surmise was that we may get written up for a misdemeanor by the police. Deep down, though, I knew it would make for GREAT radio.    

So, I went up to the GM’s office, laid it out to him, emphatically stated that it was a good idea and eventually got the green light.

The stunt was a winner, the station got great publicity and the talent went on to get some of the highest ratings of his entire career. 

GIVE SPECIFIC FEEDBACK AND DO IT OFTEN

One of the best quotes I ever heard on coaching talent was from the legendary spoken-word programmer Jack Swanson from San Francisco.

“Don’t treat talent like children,” he said.  “Treat them like puppies.”

My fellow dog parents will understand this quote. Step one in getting a puppy is teaching them how to behave. You don’t do that by yelling at them when they do something wrong. You do it by PRAISING them when they do something right. Screaming at a puppy when they take a whizz on your living room carpet won’t get them potty trained. However, praising the HELL out of them when they relieve themselves in the back yard will, over time, do the trick. 

When talent do something good, let them know. Find the things in their show, podcasts and social media that you like and talk to them about it. Be SPECIFIC. “Hey, that was a great show or a great segment” is empty praise. You need to cite, chapter and verse, what you liked and WHY.

If you do this often enough and consistently enough, they’ll understand what you are expecting from them. On the flipside, they’ll have a better idea of what they’re NOT supposed to do.

Look, most talent understand when they’ve screwed up. Going back to the “puppy” analogy, my two Boston Terriers have developed (as many dogs have) the habit of walking up to me slowly with their ears down, then rolling over and exposing their bellies when they’ve been naughty. Once I see this, I know that somewhere in the house there is a mess I’ll have to clean up. Many of the talent I know have acted the same way. I remember a conversation with a host who had gotten into an ugly shouting match with his co-host on the air. Right as they went into a commercial break, he walked into my office. The conversation went as follows:

“Hey”

“Hey buddy!”

“Uhm, did you hear that last segment?”

“Yup.”

“Do we need to talk about it?”

“Yea, we probably should.  Just drop in after the show and we’ll figure it out.”

The conversation that followed his show was long, but not contentious. We both knew what the problem was and that we were more focused on fixing it rather than assigning blame.

MEET WITH THEM ON THEIR TERMS

One morning show host I had, hated meetings. My first month on the job, he would literally dart out the back door of the building right after his show so he could avoid me calling him to my office or cornering him in the hallway.

One thing he DID like, however, was beer.

So, I made him a deal. Once a month, we’d meet over a couple of beers and just talk. I really had to couch this as something that wasn’t masquerading as “just another meeting”. He reluctantly agreed. The first few times we met, I made a point to not talk about work at all. We’d talk about sports, our families, politics, money, etc. These “beer summits” continued on a fairly regular basis. The end result: he opened up. HE started bringing up things about the show that bothered him. I didn’t have to. It was all about putting him in a comfort zone and letting him talk on his terms, not mine.

There was another host I had, who would walk into my office after almost every show, sit down on my couch and just start talking. He CRAVED feedback. CRAVED it. He wanted to know how I felt about virtually every program. Many times, I’d sit down and aircheck him on the spot. Once he left the building, though, he was done. He wouldn’t respond to calls or texts. I would try e-mailing feedback and he’d never read it. Eventually, I figured out that he was giving me a window to work with him and, as long as I stayed within that, I could reach him. As a rule, I never scheduled anything the one hour AFTER his show ended.

LISTEN MORE…TALK LESS

Talk show hosts all have two things in common.

  • They talk a lot.
  • They all want people to listen to them.

Some of the best ways to gain a talent’s trust is by shutting your mouth and listening to what they have to say.

I remember a particular Monday morning one fall, just as I was about to head to a sales meeting, our morning show host walked into my office, shut the door and slumped down on the couch in front of me.

For twenty straight minutes, he ranted and raved about everything wrong with his show, with the station, with the industry, and so on. 

After his passionate diatribe (when he had to stop and take a breath), I chimed in.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked.

“I DON’T WANT YOU TO SAY SHIT,” he screamed. “JUST FUCKING LISTEN TO ME!”

That statement was so powerful, it literally knocked me back in my chair.  From that day on, it was cemented in my head.

Many times, talent don’t want advice or counsel. They just want to know that they’re being heard. They sit in an empty room for 3-4 hours every weekday, talking into a microphone, and hoping that what they’re saying will resonate with people. If they can’t get that satisfaction from their show, YOU will have to give it to them.

SHOW THEM HOW THE SAUSAGE IS MADE

On more than one occasion, I’ve had a fellow PD tell me, “I don’t talk ratings with my hosts, ratings are all bullshit, anyways!” This is something that, for the LIFE of me, I’ve never understood.

Oh, I get it, we don’t want them to focus on ratings. We want them to just focus on doing good content. Here’s the rub: hosts are going to worry about ratings no matter what. Why shouldn’t they? A portion of their income is usually TIED to them (by way of bonuses). If we don’t give them OUR spin on the numbers, they’ll seek it out from other people.

Look, as PD’s, we all have a love/hate relationship with Neilsen. And if we can actually get the digital folks in the building (or company) to give us accurate numbers on streaming or podcast downloads…it can be a headache trying to unravel it all. But the reality is, we’re doing ourselves (and our talent) a major disservice if we don’t explain the methodology and how we can get it to work to our advantage. We don’t necessarily need to give people an algebra equation to solve. However, we need to explain the numbers in terms they can understand. Don’t downplay them. Often, hosts and producers are smarter than we give them credit for

Virtually every talent I’ve ever worked with wanted to know how the ratings and digital analytics games work. So, I let them take a peek behind the curtain. I’d whiteboard stats for them and bring in experts to explain best strategies on a regular basis. There were times I’d actually have hosts and producers taking photos of PowerPoints I had so they could remember them. Competitive people like to know the score and how to win the game, sometimes all you have to do is talk to them about it.

BNM Writers

Possible Reversal of The 1973 Roe vs. Wade Decision Dominates Network TV Coverage

“Surprisingly, the overall cable news landscape remained relatively steady in prime time on May 2.”

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News of Justice Samuel Alito’s initial draft majority opinion that would have the Supreme Court overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights — immediately spread like wildfire on the evening of May 2nd.

The development, first reported by the website Politico starting within the 9 p.m. ET hour, holds monumental implications for the nation if the Court officially does overturn the law.

Yet, surprisingly, the overall cable news landscape remained relatively steady in prime time on May 2. Compared to the three prior Monday nights (averaging Apr. 11, 18 & 25), MSNBC’s flagship program “Rachel Maddow Show” slipped 4 percent to 1.94 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Its lead-out “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (1.45 million) was down 7 percent. 826,000 then tuned in to “The 11th Hour” up 3 percent.

Over at CNN, the 9 p.m. hour of “Anderson Cooper 360” (660,000 viewers) ticked up one percent. “Don Lemon Tonight” grew ten percent in the 10 p.m. hour (689,000 viewers) but fell two percent in the 11 p.m. hour (517,000 viewers).

Fox News Channel’s coverage focused on how the leak from the Supreme Court occurred. “Hannity” (2.79 million) stayed even, while the subsequent two lead-out programs on the night jumped up the most (of all cable telecasts) in raw figures — each increased by two million viewers: “The Ingraham Angle” (2.4 million; +9 percent from the 2.2 million average of Apr. 11, 18, 25) and “Gutfeld!” (2.15 million; +10 percent from the 1.95 million average of Apr. 11, 18, 25).

Cable news averages for May 2-8, 2022:

Total Day (May 2-8 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.484 million viewers; 241,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.631 million viewers; 69,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.478 million viewers; 102,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.183 million viewers; 52,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.132 million viewers; 32,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.132 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.112 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.111 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 2-7 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 8 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.286 million viewers; 352,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.996 million viewers; 107,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.605 million viewers; 131,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.223 million viewers; 26,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.206 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.149 million viewers; 54,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.142 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.059 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.052 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.449 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.431 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.371 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.284 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.220 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.188 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.182 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/6/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.151 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.047 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.876 million viewers

36. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/2/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.941 million viewers

159. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 599” (HBO, Fri. 5/6/2022 10:01 PM, 55 min.) 0.870 million viewers

161. Stanley Tucci “Piedmont” (CNN, Sun. 5/8/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.859 million viewers

290. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/8/2022 11:01 PM, 42 min.) 0.567 million viewers

356. The Daily Show (CMDY, Wed. 5/4/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.434 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  CNN, MSNBC, HBO and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.623 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.553 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.533 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.503 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.480 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.475 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.474 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.445 million adults 25-54

9. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.444 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.441 million adults 25-54

76. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/8/2022 11:01 PM, 42 min.) 0.231 million adults 25-54

81. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/2/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.228 million adults 25-54

96. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Mon. 5/2/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.211 million adults 25-54

129. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 5/3/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.167 million adults 25-54

152. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 599” (HBO, Fri. 5/6/2022 10:01 PM, 55 min.) 0.154 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

What Would a Jeff Warshaw Consortium Takeover of Cumulus Mean?

When the news of Warshaw’s consortium became public, some of us looking for a knight on a white horse wondered if this was what we had been waiting for. The announcement led to the question: would a Jeff Warshaw-led Cumulus be an improvement over the current management?

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On April 14, 2022, reports became public that a consortium led by Connoisseur Media CEO Jeff Warshaw made an unsolicited, $1.2 billion bid (including debt) to acquire Cumulus Media.

Reuters reported that Warshaw planned to take the company private with a bid of $15 to $17 per share. As a result, Cumulus shares which traded in the $10 – $11 range over the past year, jumped to $14.21, a 40% increase and a level not seen since July 2021.

Cumulus management responded to the reports by acknowledging the indication of interest and stated it was “reviewing the letter.”

During Cumulus’s Q1 22 earnings call on May 4, President/CEO Mary Berner announced a $50 million stock buyback program and rejected the Warshaw consortium acquisition bid.

Radio companies have lagged the overall financial markets for over a decade. I have participated in conversations with groups that already own radio stations and others currently outside the industry who have considered buying radio groups.

In 2013 music streaming service Pandora bought an FM station in Rapid City, South Dakota. Upon first hearing that news, some of us thought perhaps they realized how undervalued FM signals were and would invest in the medium. Alas, Pandora thought they had found a backdoor means to lower its music royalty costs but otherwise had little interest in broadcast radio.

As somebody who has been involved in every facet of the radio industry for nearly 40 years, I was interested in far more than just the investment implications of the proposed buyout.

When the news of Warshaw’s consortium became public, some of us looking for a knight on a white horse wondered if this was what we had been waiting for. The announcement led to the question: would a Jeff Warshaw-led Cumulus be an improvement over the current management?

To answer that question, I used reviews from the website Glassdoor. Reviewers can rate the company on a one to five bases, with five the best and one the worst.

These reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt as former employees may have an ax to grind, but this caveat holds equally true for all employers.

The company Jeff Warshaw currently runs, Connoisseur Media, receives an average of 2.9 stars (out of five) on Glassdoor. This rating is based on just 32 reviews, so the low sample size is a factor to consider.

Cumulus currently has an average of 3.2 stars on Glassdoor based on over 800 reviews.

These Glassdoor reviews suggest that a new Cumulus led by Warshaw wouldn’t be an improvement over the current management. If it takes a knight on a white horse to make Cumulus a better company to work for, it will have to wait for another day.

To be fair, I don’t know Jeff Warshaw. I have never spoken with him. I would appreciate the opportunity to talk to him at the appropriate time (assuming that his attempted takeover remains ongoing). I also welcome employees of Connoisseur or Cumulus who feel the average reflected on Glassdoor is unfair to contact me (andy@andybloom.com). I will accept comments and input anonymously regardless of whether it is more positive or negative than Glassdoor poses for use in a future column.

While we’re looking at the reviews for Connoisseur and Cumulus, it’s a worthwhile exercise to see how the other major radio broadcast groups fare:

iHeart also rates a 3.2 with over 2,200 reviews.

Audacy receives a 3.5, which is misleading as it’s based on 23 reviews. Entercom had 691 reviews and rates a 3.1.

The best I can find in the industry among the majors is Cox with 4.1. Again, this may be deceiving. Apollo Global Management scores a more modest 3.1.

Hubbard has no reviews. I’m not sure why.

SiriusXM appears to have the highest current score at 3.6.

You’ll find common themes, positive and the negatives are dizzyingly familiar across the companies throughout these reviews.

The main reoccurring negative themes include:

· Low pay

· Long hours

· No chance for advancement

· Doing the work of too many people

· Management pays lip service to feedback but doesn’t do anything

The main reoccurring positive themes include:

· The people

· Fun place to work

· Perks – such as free tickets

· Glad to be working in the industry

I was curious about the differences between the companies employees rated higher and lower to work for. Listening to a couple of recent earnings calls revealed some of the variations. In next week’s column, we will examine some of the differences.

Are the pros and cons listed above familiar to you? I welcome your input and anonymous comments for next week’s follow-up column. Please reach out to me at andy@andybloom.com.

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BNM Writers

Dave LaBrozzi Knew What He Wanted From Day One

LaBrozzi has nearly four decades of experience in radio, most recently as Vice President of Programming for WABC Radio in New York City.

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Dave LaBrozzi was very high on my interview ‘wish list,’ second only to the guy who does the insurance commercials with the nasty emu. There seems to be little LaBrozzi has not accomplished in his career (with the exception of doing an insurance commercial with an obnoxious emu.)

He’s got that voice that hits you like a freight train. That radio voice, even if he doesn’t sit in front of the microphone these days. One of those booming set of pipes you’re just born with.

LaBrozzi is one of those guys who knew what he wanted from day one. Or at least when he was ten years old. Truth be told, he said he was one of those kids who sat at his mother’s kitchen table talking into a wooden spoon as though it were a microphone. 

“I wanted to be the next Pirates play-by-play voice,” LaBrozzi said. “Working as a disc jockey was right up there too. The spoken word has always been a passion for me.”

Future moves in his life were made with one eye focused on a career in radio. It’s the only career he’s ever been involved with. Today he’s with KDKA Radio News, the world’s first commercial broadcasting station. “It’s an honor to be here with these legendary call letters,” LaBrozzi said. “It’s become a second home and a thrill to be sitting in this office.”

LaBrozzi has nearly four decades of experience in radio, most recently as Vice President of Programming for WABC Radio in New York City. Prior to WABC, he was Program Director of WPLJ-FM. In addition to his work in New York, Dave spent 14 years as Vice President of Programming for Audacy’s Baltimore stations and has also spent time programming in Nashville, Austin, San Antonio, and Pittsburgh.

LaBrozzi was appointed brand manager for KDKA, overseeing the content strategy, talent, operations, and branding. 

KDKA was launched in 1920. It started as an opportunity to instantaneously provide news and information about the presidential election returns in the race between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox. 

LaBrozzi said he’s extremely proud of his current on-air lineup. “Larry Richert has been here for 25 years. Kevin Battle has come back. In all, we have a really solid staff that’s deeply entrenched in the community.”

When LaBrozzi drops into his chair behind his desk in the morning, he checks the stories to make sure they’re talking about what matters to people on any given day. “We’re working hard to get back with the community, checking in with people one-on-one.” 

LaBrozzi said they grade stories after they’ve aired, deciding whether they hit their mark and if they mattered. He said it’s important to talk with people and visit neighborhoods.

“I hope local papers hang on; they play such a vital role in the community.

I started in a small station in upstate Pennsylvania with 2,000 people. It was an oldie’s station. The first record I played was ‘Here Comes that Rainy Day Feeling Again,’ by The Fortunes.” 

That song must be like a first love for LaBrozzi. If he’d played a Lawrence Welk song, he might not be where he is today.

His father was a high school administrator and was able to identify his son’s strengths and weaknesses from the get-go. 

“He knew my academic career wasn’t going to send me to Harvard,” LaBrozzi said. “He also knew I had the passion and drive to succeed.”

LaBrozzi tells his on-air folks to connect with listeners one-on-one. “It’s all about being authentic,” he said. “I want them to share their life experiences. Audiences can tell when a person is disingenuous. You can have a different sound on the air, but you have to be real.” He went on to say his staff is very passionate and believes in what they’re doing.

He was born in Emporium, Pennsylvania. Today the town boasts a population of close to 2,000 people. Compared to Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, that’s a metropolis. He went to Mansfield State College, but the radio bug called, tugged, and pulled. “I tell people I got thrown out of college because of what I didn’t do,” LaBrozzi jokes. He said he’d intended to get a business degree, but the math requirements sent him running for the exit.

Why radio? “I think it’s a passion, drive, not that different from being an athlete. It’s something deeply within our souls. “My wife was in the business but gave it up to home-school the kids.”

When he’s not busy being a radio executive, LaBrozzi likes to indulge in books. “I’m reading Ernest Hemingway right now,” he said. “I’ve watched some of the Winning Time series on HBO. It’s entertaining if not factual.”

Then came the dreaded question. Where do you think radio is going?

“I think social media is doing so much to help our industry,” LaBrozzi said. “We need to embrace all it offers. There’s always a need for more information on a local level.”

With LaBrozzi ‘in the can,’ now I have to track down that Emu guy.

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