How do we still have stations inviting clients on air to come on for five to ten minutes to talk about beer and food specials? I heard this just the other day when monitoring a station. I won’t say where, but let’s just say that I was shocked these tune-out opportunities are still treated as viable advertising in a market this size.
It is so important to be able to hold on to every listener. So why do some PDs let the sales staff walk all over them and create these moments no one is sitting through? Why do sellers still think it’s a great idea to bring Big Bob from Big Bob’s Honda in the studio to talk about the new Accord?
We’re a business built on creativity. Surely there is a better way to do this. I asked two programmers what is the best way to ensure clients get that extra love the seller promised without derailing the momentum of a show.
Jeff Austin runs 1080 The Fan in Portland. He told me that working on creative solutions with sales staff is just part of the gig these days. Being available and hands-on is the only way to ensure you have some say in how these sorts of pluses show up on air.
“You have to have a strong relationship with your sales managers and your account executives. If they can depend upon you to be accessible and find the most creative and natural ways to work their clients into the fabric of the station, everyone wins,” he said. “After all, Sports radio is the ultimate format for sales-programming integration. The spoken word is not an interruption, it’s the content, and our content is fun, not life and death. Our audience is engaged, which is why we get results.”
Rob Thompson told me that he is not above bringing a client into the studio. He just doesn’t want anyone to stop the conversation to talk about the importance of air conditioner tune-ups.
“It is very important for our listeners to get to know our biggest supporters (our top-advertisers) and to get their message out, but it has to be presented very naturally and in a ‘non-salsey’ way,” the program director of San Antonio’s Sports Star told me. “If we feature a client on the air (outside of being at their place of business doing a live show) there has to be a reason WHY we are introducing this person to the conversation we are having with the listener.”
A while back, I wrote about content that was forced on me by the bosses upstairs. Capitol Broadcasting owns the sports stations in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill market. The company also owns the Triple A Durham Bulls. My partners and I were required to talk to the manager every Tuesday. The only way we could make the segment work was by forcing the manager to talk nonsense with us. At least then, like Thompson points out, the guy becomes part of the fun and not a guy schilling dollar hot dog night.
Listeners don’t mind commercials. A lot of them know that is how our salaries get paid. Thompson says they just don’t like being told a conversation is content when it is clearly advertising.
“Sports/Talk listeners are smart, educated, and accepting until you give them a reason to get pissed. And the easiest way to piss one off is by insulting their intelligence. If a listener feels you are trying to ‘pull one over on them’ by weaving a thinly-veiled advertising message into content, they will go South on you faster than a tornado going through a trailer park, and they may never come back to the show, or worse, hold it against the station and never cume us again.”
There is something about blatantly handing the microphone over to a client that seems outdated. We’re smart, right? The business has changed to reflect and take advantage of that.
Jeff Austin agrees. He noted that advertising strategies that made sense in 2006 don’t even scratch the surface of what a station can do for a client now.
“The biggest difference from 15 years ago is that we can take a multi-platform approach. Back then, we had a live-only terrestrial signal and a fairly Spartan website with which to integrate our advertisers. Now, we can work for clients across our social and digital assets. Those assets also give us more opportunities for product placement – the non-spot assets like Twitter feeds, text lines and podcasts a client can own to weave their message organically into the station’s long-form content, consumed by terrestrial, streaming and on-demand listeners. It works! The audience recall for the sponsors of those assets is amazing.”
Maybe you are one of those people that don’t believe time and technology improve everything. Well, you know what they have undeniably improved? Advertising and listener interaction! Take advantage of these things and avoid putting your station and your clients in losing situations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.