Jamie Ducharme wrote a very interesting piece for Time. It’s about the American workforce and just how fragile it has been revealed to be. You have seen all of the stories and heard all of the complaints about people not wanting to work anymore. Now Ducharme paints a more realistic picture of what is happening. It is something that Texas A&M business administration professor Anthony Klotz calls “The Great Resignation.”
In short, Americans walked away from their long-held jobs in record numbers in 2019 and in 2021, we are on pace to shatter the record again. The reason has been the same both years: burnout. People feel like they have had all they can take of the work-life they have known for so long.
Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. You can’t even call it a once-in-a-lifetime event. Plenty of lifetimes went by without existence as we know it transforming forever. Something like that is bound to make people take stock of what matters most to them and whether or not they are happy.
It has affected every industry and radio is no exception. You can burnout in any job, even one that doesn’t really feel like work a lot of days. To make sense of it and to discuss how managers can best combat it, I turned to two leaders in two very different situations.
Mary Menna is the Vice President and Market Manager of Beasley’s cluster in Boston, which includes 98.5 The Sports Hub. She and her staff put an emphasis on safety as soon as it became clear Covid-19 was something to be taken seriously. The protocols they developed and actions they employed made it possible for the Beasley staff to return to their Boston building in some capacity by Summer of 2020. Mary says that gave her staff options and that helped tremendously.
“We worked hard to make the office a safe place. That ability to be in person really kept us connected and the ability to also work remotely kept the burnout level to a minimum,” she told me. “I think working 100% at home could be very isolating and stressful. The hybrid balance really worked for us and got us through the darkest of times.”
Justin Acri is in the almost polar opposite situation from Mary. He is in a smaller market at a locally owned station. He is the GM of Signal Media’s 103.7 The Buzz in Little Rock. On top of being the GM, he is also the PD and he hosts a mid day show. Forget his staff for a moment. I wanted to know how Justin managed to avoid burnout of his own!
“As the sports talk great Jim Rome says, I take a lot of vacation because I get a lot of vacation. I encourage my staff to do the same,” he said in an email. “I know the value of getting out of town, not keeping up with everything going on in sports and pop culture for a few days, sticking your toes in the sand and letting your brain relax. I am 100% convinced it makes me better when I come back.”
It is great to hear that Acri is willing to lead by example when it comes to prioritizing the ability to disconnect when you need to. I did wonder though how he could get to the point where he is wearing three very demanding hats.
“That was not always my policy, but it has made me a much better broadcaster and manager.”
He extends the same policy to his hosts. College football and basketball season matter a lot in Arkansas. The state will likely never have a major league professional team in any sport. That means the Hogs are the lifeblood of sports talk in the state. Acri wants his hosts to know that they are needed during those times of year, but if they have their own needs, that is okay.
“As much as I prefer the main hosts be here throughout football and basketball season, I have never denied a PTO request. I want my guys to take days when they think they need to take a break.”
I asked Menna what a leader’s responsibilities are to his or her staff. Is it best to be as involved in their day-to-day work life as possible so that the leader is more likely to spot problems in the early stages or is it better to let an employee come and ask for help or relief?
Menna, like that little girl in the Old El Paso taco shell commercial, answered “why not both?”.
“As managers, we have a responsibility to be in touch with our people and help them to be their most productive selves, make sure they have the tools to perform their jobs, and give them the encouragement and guidance necessary to help them manage through difficult work situations,” she said. “We cannot be expected to be mind readers and interfere with the personal lives of employees if they do not want us to interfere. We certainly want all our employees to be honest with us and let us know how they are feeling, but that just isn’t reality. We may have that relationship with many of our employees, but we will never have that with 100% of them. Many people prefer to be more private, and we need to respect that too. Help where we can and be there for all of our employees.”
Menna said that one thing that has always been radio’s saving grace from employee burnout is that for so many that work in the industry, this is their dream job. Getting to where they are was either their ultimate goal, or it is a piece of the puzzle. Dreamers don’t want to risk derailing the dream, and that has helped some evaluate if their burnout really is about needing a career change or can be solved with a few days or a week off.
What about bringing new people in? Ducharme’s story says that one of the motivators for people leaving long-term employment is shifting priorities and goals during the pandemic. In some cases, people have taken a “life’s too short” approach to work life. They are leaving careers that no longer (or in some cases never did) excite them for dream jobs or jobs in fields they truly love. Has Beasley Broadcasting and 98.5 The Sports Hub benefitted from people looking for that kind of change?
“We have not had an increase in the number of inquiries we have gotten to work at 98.5 The Sports Hub,” Menna says noting that she sees that as a very good thing. “We have so few openings because our staff does not leave, and that consistency is a great thing for our listeners! Sports is always going to be a recruitment magnet.”
There is a flip side though that has hit Beasley in Boston just like everyone else looking to fill low-wage jobs. As live events came back, Mary Menna found her staff needed to fill street team positions. Being a road to a dream job in a cool environment wasn’t the lure that it used to be.
“In this recruitment climate, it was harder to hire a temporary student workforce at minimum wage, so we increased those hourly rates a bit to become more competitive and attractive.”
Overall, Menna has a lot to be happy about. Burnout is real and it is not like Beasley’s Boston building went untouched. She notes that she lost about 3% of her staff. For some people, the allure of working from home or a new professional challenge is just what they need in their lives and that is something you can’t really do anything about. You wish those people well and focus on meeting the needs of the employees you still have.
Sports radio, any talk radio really, is about storytelling. It isn’t your typical 9 to 5 where you know what will happen during 99% of 99% of your days. Acri thinks that sets the bar a lot higher for burnout in our industry.
“One of the things that help us avoid that is even though we are structured and there is a rhyme and reason to how we do the shows, there are always new and interesting things happening that serve as a challenge on how to approach these topics on the air which keeps it fresh, fun and exciting.”
We have cool jobs. I think most of us that work in sports radio genuinely love sports and entertaining people. The duties of the job are never the things we will complain about. Radio has largely been lucky, but American work culture was long overdue for an overhaul. Even those of us that cannot imagine doing anything else have moments that we feel taken advantage of or simply disrespected by our employers. Workers on whole are waking up to the fact that their jobs may need them more than they need any one particular job.
I have written before about employers needing to wake up to the fact that the pandemic changed the way people thought about compensation. Our industry is just like any other industry. Right now, it is part of that “Great Resignation.” The leaders that are best positioned to retain their people are the ones the spot signs of burnout, ask questions and listen to what their employees tell them they need out of their worklife.
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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