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Imaging Cannot Be An Afterthought For PDs

“Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than when I hear from someone in the market blown away at how quickly we can turn around high quality promos.”

Demetri Ravanos

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If you listened to as much sports talk radio every week as I do, you would be shocked by how many stations in some sizable markets rarely update their imaging. It’s disappointing. Really, it is short-sighted.

It’s easy to think that a legacy talent is the voice most associated with your station, but in reality, it’s the voice on every liner and promo. After all, that is the voice your listeners hear the most no matter what time of day they tune in. Shouldn’t that voice be regularly saying and telling the listeners new things?

Image result for talking into a microphone

There is one station I listen to with some regularity that puts no emphasis on the production of their imaging. Everything is generic, so liners are rarely updated, if ever. It reminds me of the campus radio station I was a part of in college.

As the sports seasons change, good program directors are incredibly busy. They are replacing liners about the Super Bowl and the local NFL team with ones about March Madness and the local NBA or NHL franchise. They are using imaging to set the tone and lay the groundwork to bring listeners in to hear what the talent has to say.

Raj Sharan, program director of 104.3 the Fan in Denver takes his imaging seriously. This is a guy that once pulled over in the middle of a snow storm to write promos because Von Miller tore his ACL and it was announced he’d miss the entirety of the 2020 season.

“I devote a significant amount of time to imaging, perhaps more than any other task that comes with being program director of The Fan,” Sharan told me in an email. “I always want us to sound as up-to-date as possible. We have multiple new pieces of imaging starting every day, and that’s not including breaking news or landmark moments.”

Sharan emphasizes being timely. That means not only is he ready to write a new promo or liner at a moment’s notice, but he often is able to get it on the air about ten minutes later.

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“Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than when I hear from someone in the market blown away at how quickly we can turn around high quality promos,” he said. “Just this past week when Peyton Manning was on with Stokley and Zach, I already had an imaging piece from the interview ready to go as the first promo to run after the interview finished! Within the hour I had five additional promos completed and running throughout the day. That’s what we strive for.”

Matt Fishman runs WKNR in Cleveland. He takes a different approach to writing imaging. It may not be as fast as Sharan’s way, but it is more collaborative and gives the imaging multiple perspectives and angles on the biggest news of the day.

“We have a committee of four of us that meets every Monday to talk about promos and imaging,” Fishman told me in an email. “During the Browns season we had a lot of promos and imaging around their great season. Even in the off-season we’re ‘The Home of the Browns’ and our content, promos and imaging reflect that. Just this week our production guy, Jordan Klimack, did a really poignant promo on the passing of former Browns Coach Marty Schottenheimer.”

The imaging on these stations capture the sports passion of the city. Listeners not only hear references to the local teams, they also hear caller response and highlights from their favorite hosts. Liners that are the station name followed by laser sounds and a slogan don’t do much to position your brand as an important one to the city’s sports fans.

I asked both programmers about their listeners’ relationships with the voice of their imaging.

Raj Sharan and the Fan use Jim and Dawn Cutler. They are the two voices probably most synonymous with sports radio, thanks to years of voicing intros, liners, and promos for every single ESPN platform. Raj says he couldn’t imagine the Fan without their voices.

“We receive constant feedback from our listeners telling us they listen to the station each day specifically to listen to the latest promos we’ve come up with, and the voices they’re hearing are Jim and Dawn. They’re so talented that they help bring our station to life. When I’m writing imaging, I’ll often run it by our executive producer Parker Hillis or one of our hosts and I always have to say, ‘Remember, this will be Jim and Dawn voicing it; they’ll make it sound even better!’”

Matt Fishman says that for the listeners of WKNR, the station voice is important, but it isn’t the same as the voices of the hosts they know.

“We have a great voice guy, Pete Gustin. He’s blind, he surfs, he’s really cool. I was lucky that he was already the voice here in Cleveland when I started and is super easy and fun to work with. Pete is the only one I’m choosing because of his voice while hosts I am choosing because of their experience, personality, ability to host a show, etc…So your production voice is important, but not as important as the content creators.”

The simplest things can add significant value to your station’s imaging – a good voice, a sense of humor, even just a little bit of effort. The positioning statements and the promotions and events are so important to your station’s identity. Why wouldn’t you constantly ask yourself if those messages sound as good as they possibly could?

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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