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Are Managers Worried About Cancel Culture?

“They are flying without a net and every utterance over the air, or on social media is judged.”

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Cancel culture is a phrase we hear a lot. We hear that it will be the death of any industry that involves talking for a living. Say one wrong thing and there is a mob waiting to exploit that slip up. They have all of your advertisers memorized and on speed dial and they would love to take you down.

It's time to cancel 'cancel culture' – The Talon

That’s the narrative, right? There are networks that have devoted their entire existence to railing against cancel culture.

It made me wonder how the phenomenon is seen by management. Is cancel culture really something programmers think about? Do they have conversations about it regularly with hosts and producers or is it nothing more than BS talking points – an invisible enemy meant to drive Tucker Carlson’s ratings?

Allan Davis is a respected PD. I asked what he thought.

I was surprised to learn that cancel culture is something the WGR 550 boss thinks about a lot. He told me that it is a concern for him and his crew.

“All our hosts, producers and anchors combine their many talents to create the WGR Brand,” he told me. “They are flying without a net and every utterance over the air, or on social media is judged.”

“Flying without a net” is a phrase we hear a lot. It’s a good visual metaphor for broadcasting. But flying without a net doesn’t mean Davis’ crew is left to guess what is and isn’t okay. He is going to arm them with the knowledge and coaching they need to create great content that doesn’t risk their paycheck.

“Not only is ‘Cancel Culture’ potentially damaging for the brand but – perhaps more so – for the personality,” added Davis. “Therefore, we closely monitor the content on all platforms, provide clear guidelines, offer direction and support and encourage the staff to come to the management team with any questions or concerns. Complete transparency is the most effective strategy.”

I think it is easy to make the mistake that cancel culture is something the right-wing uses to scare its followers into action. That’s not exactly true though. Ask someone how concerned they are about cancel culture and their answer is way more likely to depend on age than political affiliation.

We see this in so many different walks of life. It can be new technology, routine disruptions at home or work, or even a new hairstyle. The older you are, the scarier change is. Plus, the older you get, the less convenient it is to learn new rules.

That can be part of the reason some people dismiss the idea of cancel culture. A 60-something worried he can’t be casually racist anymore is easy to dismiss with probably the worst phrase to gain popularity in a decade: “Okay, Boomer.” It is probably also the reason there is a wide swath of reactions to the idea amongst us older millennials/low end GenXers (I graduated high school in 99, so it depends who you ask). We are stuck between being around or over 40. We’ve been here a while and we have our ways that we are set in, whether we’d admit to that or not. However, we have also largely grown up with the global community technology and social media provide and have had it hammered into us for a long time that our experience is not everyone’s experience.

But maybe it is the opposite that is true. Sure, it can be tough to make changes when you are older, but when you are younger, it is easy to feel like you are wrong all of the time. Saying young people are too sensitive or get their feelings hurt too easily is simplifying what is really going on.

Gen Zers were raised in a culture of permission over forgiveness. Sure, some of them get their feelings hurt easily, but a lot of them can be taken aback by the absolute lack of doubt or fear others can operate with.

That’s not to say that things are never as simple as jerks acting like jerks. It just means that it is a sliding scale with harsh consequences and it is easy to see why that is scary and concerning.

Davis isn’t interested in the sociology of it all. WGR isn’t going to be in the cultural commentary business on his watch. He hopes that eliminates any potential there may be for his station or his talent to get cancelled.

Alan-Davis-2018 - Radio Ink

“It’s necessary given the cultural volatility in our society. We work hard, to offer a safe haven for WGR listeners and followers on all our platforms. Simply put – We talk sports at WGR. Bills and Sabres. All the time. While we recognize and acknowledge, the many potentially toxic events affecting all of our lives each day, we offer our listeners an escape from the noise by sticking to sports.”

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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