The NCAA Tournament is always an interesting time for sports radio stations. This is the only sporting event that even comes close to the Super Bowl in terms of cultural awareness. Your mom may not know who the favorites are, but she knows people fill out brackets and there is something called the Final Four.
Where the NCAA Tournament and the Super Bowl diverge is in the lead up. The NFL routinely dominates TV ratings in the fall. NBC’s Sunday Night Football has been the most watched show on television for more than a decade. College basketball doesn’t have that kind of pull. Ask the average American that lives outside of North Carolina, Kentucky or Indiana how much college basketball they have watched this year and more than 75% of respondents would tell you that the first games they watched were during conference tournament week.
So how does sports radio deal with this? The NCAA Tournament is a benchmark on the sports calendar. It is a local event for so many markets, but you probably aren’t an expert on every potential opponent the home team could face. Hell, in some markets, you don’t even really have to know much about the home team.
“Don’t fake it! Your listeners know you and know your show,” says Brent Axe of ESPN Syracuse. “Be honest with them about your knowledge of college basketball because here’s a little hint: It doesn’t matter! How often does it turn out someone in your pool who wouldn’t know Jim Boeheim from Jim Carrey ends up winning the thing?”
Brent covers the Syracuse Orange. That school has a basketball culture. Jim Boeheim is every bit the institution in that city that Dinosaur BBQ is. He isn’t the kind of hose that will tell you the sports world is dead between the Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament. But he knows that he is the exception.
If you’re talking about the Tournament field with just the regular cast members of the show, Brent says to keep it light. If there is an investment in a local team, that is the only team you need to be able to give your own perspective on.
“If you want a breakdown of the 2-3 zone or why this is the year Gonzaga is going to win it all, bring on a guest who can speak to that better than you,” he says.
Hosts in large markets with major league sports teams can have wildly different experiences with college basketball throughout the season. Chuck Sapienza, program director of 105.7 the Fan in Baltimore, says basketball is part of the culture of the city. Without an NBA team in town, that means the Maryland Terrapins have a passionate following.
“Maryland Basketball is right up there with the Os and Ravens in terms of fan passion in Baltimore,” he told me in an email. “Baltimore is a huge basketball city. Some of the best High School hoops in the country is played in Baltimore. Jalen ‘Sticks’ Smith (From last season) and Darryl Morsell both went to Mount Saint Joseph in Baltimore City so people follow Maryland hoops from the beginning of the season. Then it really ramps up after football ends.”
As a state, Texas has had an amazing college basketball season. Seven teams from the Lone Star State are in the Tournament. In addition to the Longhorns, who have the state’s largest allegiance, the Houston Cougars are a two-seed. Texas Southern will be in one of the play-in games. The city of Houston should be buzzing, but Sports Radio 610 afternoon drive host, Ron “Show” Hughely told me that if he put a major focus on college basketball on his show, he wouldn’t be serving his listeners.
“This is going to be a real challenge for me because the NCAA tournament is my favorite sporting event,” the diehard Kansas Jayhawks fan told me. “But I can’t be selfish when here in Houston football is king, and the top story in the NFL has fallen right in our laps. We certainly won’t force the local teams in the tournament on our audience. We’re still going to give them what they’re thirsty for.”
I asked Ron what advice he would give a host trying to figure out the best way to cover this tournament for his audience. He said that you can’t be afraid to be honest about what you don’t know. There is no harm in that.
“I think the audience is smart enough to understand we have lives, families and most know we ain’t staying up studying the Mountain West,” he joked. “Hell I’m a college basketball guy and I can’t give you 5 players this year in the Pac 12, but I know the things people will care about and I won’t fake things don’t know.”
Having worked in sports radio in North Carolina, it was imperative to know enough about college basketball to stay in a conversation. I didn’t know the ins and outs of every team in the ACC. I don’t think I really ever knew the ins and outs of the three local teams, but I knew enough to be able to participate in a conversation with the other members of my show and let them do the heavy lifting and analysis.
Sometimes that is the best thing you can do. Whether it is a partner or a guest, let the educated do most of the talking. I asked Brent Axe how he knew when a member of the national media was talking about a team they clearly knew nothing about. He said it was knowing when that host was reading. Someone faking their way through a college basketball conversation won’t have a natural speech pattern he says “because they’ll have more information in front of them or will have to look things up on the fly.”
He then points me to a video of Mike Francesa as an example.
For The Fan in Baltimore, after the Terps, Sapienza says they will look at the tournament largely from a gambling perspective. After all, that is what the event is to most Americans.
“One of the members of the Big Bad Morning Show, Jeremy Conn, is gaining a national following for his gambling acumen,” the PD says. “He is being used by Entercom in the gambling content space on a national level. He will lead our gambling coverage throughout the tournament.”
The running theme here is you don’t have to pretend when it comes to college basketball. Yes, the Tournament is a tent pole of the US sports calendar, but we are talking about a sport featuring more than 320 teams. It is unreasonable to think a host in Denver knows as much about Abilene Christian as he does about Colorado. There’s a lot going on in Denver. Listeners probably don’t expect the host to know much more about Colorado basketball than they do.
In 2021, there are a lot of options for talking about and covering the NCAA Tournament on the radio. The best piece of advice would be to talk about the Tournament in a style that keeps you inside your comfort zone enough to create great content.
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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