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5 Goals: Ramona Shelburne

“I did The Sterling Affairs.  I’d really like to do another one of those.”

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ESPN

Ramona Shelburne is a versatile NBA reporter, writer, and on-air talent at ESPN. Here are five things she says she still has left to accomplish.

Ryan Shirts

1 and 2. Maintain balance with health and rest. 

We’ve all, over the last 1.5 years, learned how to do our jobs remotely. Some of us adapted better than others. I tended to really like being home and spending all this time with my son. I feel like I took care of myself much better than I normally do in my grind — flying, traveling, getting home late from games, getting up early for shows. It’s tough on your body and it’s tough on your life.

I felt like, during my time in quarantine, I was much better at eating, resting, and taking care of myself. I lost a bunch of weight, I ate healthy. I worked out every day. I still feel like I have enough connections and relationships that I can do my job well without always being on that intense grind on the road. I just want to keep that balance, as we return to games and seeing people. I realize I’m better as a person, a mom, a writer, a reporter — all those things — when I have that balance. 

An example: the other night, I got home from the Lakers game around midnight, and I hadn’t done my daily swim. I was like I just gotta do it, and got in the pool for a half-hour. I just want to keep that up. We are all so much better when we’re healthier and balanced, and this job can kind of turn you off the path of health and wellness. 

I tend to be a night owl. I do a lot of my writing at night. While it’s also the time when my son is sleeping, I’ve always been a night owl. Before my kid, I used to stay up all night and write. My editors laughed at the times I sent stories to them. I’d sent it at 4 am on the west coast, which meant they’d wake up to it at 7 am ET. 

But now, it’s not super healthy to do that, because I have to get up in the morning, be a mom, and go do my job whether it’s in the radio or TV studio or wherever I’m going that day. I’ve been trying to scale back on my all-nighters; before my kid, I was even worse — I used to hole myself up in a hotel room, intensely focused for 2-3 days, and put together 6,000-word stories. I couldn’t do it at home. I’d get distracted. That was my way of literally locking myself in a room and doing it. 

That’s something you can pull off in your 20s and 30s. When you’re in your 40s, and you’ve got a kid to take care of, it’s a little harder. I’m trying to be more balanced, and have more focus on my health and sleep. I’ve found out that you can do that and still do good work. I used to think as a writer that you needed to suffer and face mental and physical exhaustion to pull out greatness. I’ve had to be more strategic and focused. I actually don’t need all that pain. 

3. Make stories that cut through and matter.

It’s harder to find these stories when we aren’t seeing each other in person, but they’re still out there. I just did one a week or two ago with Ben Simmons, where I told the much bigger, deeper story as opposed to the daily news. It’s valuable to take a longer, deeper look at a story. Nowadays, people read a headline and three paragraphs on their phones. I just believe that people also have an appetite for deeper dives like that.

I’m not saying everything needs to be 10,000 words, but if you do the work and you tell a good story and really get to the heart and humanity of the matter — people find them. They’re hard to do, especially without in-person access, but I want to keep challenging myself to do those. Those are where I can separate myself.

4. I’d really like to do another longform 30 for 30 podcast. 

I think podcasts are a great medium for this day and age. People just love long-form narrative podcasts — almost more than long-form narrative written stories now. I love to read good writing, but I am always driving around and I listen to podcasts when I swim. If I find a good one, I can swim for an hour!

I did The Sterling Affairs.  I’d really like to do another one of those. It’s hard to get off the ground, because I do have a day job, but I have a bunch of ideas that I want to take from stories that I’ve done that I think can be longer and better and lend themselves to the podcast format. I want to do another one of them, and I think I will relatively soon. 

It’s a lot of work to do them. I had a great producer — Julia Lowrie Henderson, who is leaving ESPN for a great new opportunity, and I want to make sure she gets a shoutout. She was just incredible to work with. I can’t imagine a better podcast producer in the business. Creatively, I don’t know if I’ve sparked with anybody as much as with her when we worked on The Sterling Affairs.

5. Be optimistic.

It’s been a rough couple of years. I’ve had a lot of joy, but it’s been rough for a lot of people, whether they lost their jobs, got Covid, lost loved ones. People were separated from friends and family and got lonely — I just thought that my theme of 2021 and 2022 is to be optimistic. This is gonna pass. It’s gonna get better. It’s gonna get back to some version of normal — it might not be the version we left behind, but hopefully, it’ll be better.

Courtesy: ESPN Images

Whenever we get kind of bummed about what’s going on in our lives or work, I think we just need to be optimistic again. It’s been pretty heavy. But, sports have been great! The baseball playoffs, every night they’ve been awesome. We’ve been having amazing nights of sports. 

We got away from a lot of the fun stuff we do in our jobs — actually going to games, experiencing live sports, being around people and not just talking about the pandemic all the time. It’s still going on — it’s heavy — so I just want to be optimistic about getting back to a version of our lives that is happy and we can enjoy each other’s company again. I don’t know when, but I’m optimistic that it’s coming.  

BSM Writers

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.”

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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.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

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.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

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.

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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.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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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!

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

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?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

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.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

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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