Admit it, you were just as disappointed as I was that there wasn’t a Thursday Night Football game this week.
How quickly we forget that we’ve had our midweek NFL fix already, in the form of a division rivalry matinee on Wednesday. Sure, a midweek 3:40 pm ET kickoff feels oddly misplaced. Yet, fully consider the context. There could’ve been no game at all!
I applaud the NFL and NBC for doing what was necessary to conclude the Week 12 slate under the most delicate of circumstances, even at the expense of making things uncomfortable for some of its players, fans, and media personnel. Certainly, I remain sensitive to the physical, mental, and financial conflict we all are faced with in navigating this pandemic. However, I choose to accept these rescheduled games with much appreciation and gratitude, because I have an idea how detrimental not playing these games might be for all of us.
TO THE PLAYERS:
Brothers, I admire your courage, and respect you for putting your bodies and lives on the line for our entertainment and profit. I hear you regularly voice your frustrations of trying to train, practice, and prepare for battle, in this unusual climate. All the while not knowing if your teammates, coaches, and team personnel, are unknowingly putting your health, along with that of those closest to you, in jeopardy by not taking every precaution accessible. It’s scary! I get it. That said, my empathy has its boundaries.
Fellas, you could’ve opted-out! There were always going to be more risk than usual this year. That part was clear! Bottom-line is, you are compensated quite handsomely for your services, and the NFL has done a good job in trying to provide you with a reasonably safe working environment. Perhaps the league could do more to accommodate you. However, airing these games on whatever day, at whatever time, is what’s necessary to compensate you. A worthy sacrifice, right?!
TO THE FANS:
Thank you for your loyalty and patience as we all try to make the best of this unusual season. Obviously, the NFL and their media partners wish it was business as usual, but that’s just not the reality for now.
What is reality, is that your team’s schedule and roster will continue to fluctuate day-to-day. I want to see the NFL’s top performers at their best as much as you, and yes, matinee football with diluted rosters isn’t quite the product we’d prefer, but is it not better than nothing? Remember those four months earlier this year with no sports? We could still be there, you know.
The league along with media outlets, are taking considerable risk and doing all they can do deliver you the most quality product and viewing experience possible. A little latitude would be much appreciated.
TO THE MEDIA:
Airing games and covering teams this year is clearly more complicated than any of us have ever experienced. The pandemic is forcing us to evolve in spaces and at a pace we weren’t prepared for, or are comfortable with at times. Our typical player and team access compromised. But the fan’s expectations for content has not lessened. Every day, each of us is trying to hit this moving target for the sake of professional achievement and maintaining employment. It’s a lot! We all know this. Again, what’s the realistic alternative?
I have read and heard comments by my media brethren regarding the perceived stubbornness of the NFL to essentially play and televise games by any means necessary. Some of you would prefer the football season be canceled as flu season approaches, or should not have started to begin with, given the concerns regarding a non-bubble team-sport environment. This thought process could be considered both admirable and noble. I however, consider this line of thinking more so impractical. In my mind, the league was always going to kick and push to the finish line for political and business interests alike; even if it meant moving games to random dates and times with a less than ideal roster makeup due to player quarantine and contact-tracing.
Can you imagine the ramifications if those men didn’t play? How many more thousands of jobs would suffer an inevitable fate within these markets and beyond? How much more anxiety would Americans face without the game and its stars to galvanize households and communities during this time?
Again, I can appreciate questioning the morality of the NFL in conducting games under such dire circumstances. Yet, I choose to focus on the bigger picture. Besides, it’s nothing shy of a miracle no games have been completely canceled to date. The league and its media partners should be commended for their collective efforts in giving this season a chance to be successful.
Was it awkward trying to view a Wednesday afternoon NFL game while simultaneously co-hosting a radio show? Absolutely! However, those players have a job to do, and because they’re doing it, thankfully we do too.
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.