It can be easy to want to steer clear of political talk, especially right now. We’re coming off the most unique election cycle any of us have ever lived through, and as I type this, we are still waiting to find out who the winner is.
I turned to Brian London. The former Ticket morning man and APD has a history of letting Miami listeners know where he stands on political and social issues.
London writes that political and polarizing topics should never be off limits for hosts and shows. It certainly helps though to know how to approach those topics and which ones actually give you the chance to make an impact on your audience.
The election is over….I think….. but it’s safe to say in the hyper-partisan world we live in, that political discussion, discord, arguments or topics are not going away. And certainly, the crossroads of politics and sports isn’t somehow now in the rearview mirror. No matter what is going on, on the field or court or ice, there will always be issues not involving scores and stats that will enter our world.
I’m a liberal snowflake, somewhere to the left of center, but not quite as far left as those that think I should rub eucalyptus oil on my infected wound (I don’t really have a wound so there’s no need to worry). I mean the essential oil may end up working in about a year, but I’ll be getting that script for Amoxicillin from my doctor. You get the idea.
When I was on the radio, and now on my YouTube channel, or any other platform I’m on these days, I’m not afraid to express my political leanings, but that comes with a few self-regulatory strategies.
I don’t force my politics down your throat. I’m always willing to hear your side of things. Just because I think one way doesn’t mean I won’t like you and you won’t like me. My number one priority is always to entertain. If I get to the point where my politics gets in the way of me entertaining you, I’ve gone too far.
Now, there are outliers. There have certainly been people that have changed the dial, or hit stop on my video, or hit unfollow on Twitter, simply because they disagree with my views. I have certainly hung up on a caller or gone off on an unhinged rant on some texter. I’m willing to deal with that in order to be myself. The majority of feedback I get from people that disagree with me politically is, “Hey Beast, you are totally wrong, but I’ve always liked your stuff, and support you.”
I’ve always been against a PD or GM telling talent to stay away from politics, or, (my biggest pet peeve) STICK TO SPORTS!
Most of us aren’t single celled amoebas. We have brains and lives and thoughts outside of passer rating and on-base percentage. This should especially hold true for local issues that impact your audience. Is there an owner who is trying to look for public money to build a stadium? Is a team trying to leave town? Local issues are exactly the kind of topics that YOU SHOULD be shoving your nose into.
When I was co-hosting a morning show with Brendan Tobin and former NFL RB Leroy Hoard, Tobin led the way as we fought for a street here in Miami to be named after Dwyane Wade. We battled with local politicians. We bad mouthed city commissioners. T-shirts were made. Hashtags were used. And, in the end, Tobin and we got Miami’s greatest sports star (I know, I know…but Marino never won) his street. Those are the things you need to be vocal about. Those are the things that your audience wants to hear your voice on. They may disagree with you, but that’s why they are tuning in. If we did a show where our audience agreed with every word that came out of our mouth, that creates the media bubble that has partly been responsible for creating the exact hyper-partisan world we live in.
As for the bigger, social, political and national issues, that’s up to your comfortability. I supported Collin Kaepernick from the beginning. Sure, I got into heated arguments with callers and texters and tweeters, but it was something that was important to me. Again, though, I never got personal. I never made it seem like I was superior to the listener. I still kept my eye on entertaining the audience.
So, you do you. Don’t be afraid to venture into the world outside of the lines. Just remember, your words, your tweets, your takes, your posts, last forever. If you want to be that person that fight’s the battle on the Qanon or Antifa hill, have at it, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find yourself looking for another gig like I am, with quite a bit more baggage.
Brian “The Beast” London has been a staple in South Florida sports media for close to 25 years. He most recently was APD and morning show co-host on Entercom WAXY-AM in Miami, before being “corporately displaced.” You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @MiamiRadioBeast and you can check out his YouTube channel where he gives hot takes on the Canes, Fins, and important issues like “The Bagel vs the Donut.”
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 74
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.