Don Martin has a way of making everyone he talks to feel ten feet tall and bullet-proof. Seriously, if you ever get the opportunity to speak with the Executive Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia Sports, jump at it! The guy is smart, kind, and relentlessly positive.
Many of you will have the chance to speak to Don and hear him speak next month in New York. He has become one of those faces we just cannot have a BSM Summit without.
It’s hard to tell Don Martin that though, because he is always more interested in lifting someone else up.
“Well, first of all, it’s not even about what we get to do,” he says when I ask him what he is interested in teaching people this year. “I need to say that this has become the seminal event for sports radio across the country, okay? It’s the one and only real sports talk event that pulls everybody together that’s built around our industry and I want to say thank you to you and Jason and everybody there that pulls it off.”
See what I mean?
Don will be on stage next month in New York at the 2022 BSM Summit. He will have plenty to teach, but he doesn’t think that makes him any more important than anyone else there. The value of the Summit for everyone is back-and-forth conversation.
“What I appreciate is you learn, but you also get to have your voice,” he says. “And I don’t care if you’re an on-air host or if you’re an audience member, if you’re a producer, if you’ve decided to go on your own. I don’t care if you’re a sales person that gets to go in there and figure out what’s going on within the vertical. This is a place you want to be because none of us are short of opinions and none of us are pulling in any direction other than the same direction to make the vertical better. And that’s what makes this group work so well.”
The industry doesn’t come together nearly often enough. That is why it has always been important that the BSM Summit is not just about giving knowledge, but also about giving credit.
Don Martin has watched a lot of people be called up to accept an award at events in the past, and he has noticed a trend. The awards at the BSM Summit honor industry trailblazers, standout hosts, and programmers that have built and led unstoppable brands. Martin has been impressed to see every one of them show real humility and gratitude when they step to the microphone.
“I mean, you see all of the emotion. You see that it’s legitimate. To be honored by your peers, there’s not a bigger thing I don’t think. You can get honored by the people in your building or your upper management, etc., but to be honored by your peers is sensational. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices that they’re speaking from their hearts and that it really does mean something to them.”
In Don’s eyes, there is something special, maybe even poetic, about the BSM Summit being back in New York for 2022. After all, the last time we did one of these, the country was a little over two weeks away from using the phrase “the new normal” in everyday conversation.
In 2020, the event took place on February 26 and 27. On March 13 of that year, Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19. The games were halted. Shows went from everyone in a single studio to a collection of zoom feeds and hosts learned to stretch the boundaries of the format.
“The Barrett Summit closed down the media and the Barrett Summit is now going to open it back up and it’s all in the same city,” Don Martin laughs. “We closed it down when we left New York, and now we’re opening back up by going back to New York.”
There is a virtual ticket option for those that can’t or don’t want to attend in person, but Don is right. This is going to be the first full gathering of the sports media industry since Covid became part of our lives. Hopefully, that means people are ready to get out and network.
Don Martin has a little advice. Don’t show up with your sole goal being to tell you’re story.
“When you put a lot of people into the room, there’s a diversity of voices,” he says. “So, you’re not hearing it from one side or the other. You’re hearing it from all of them and they all have a really good point. So the one thing I will tell everybody, while we all have a great opinion inside every one of these brains, the more you can listen, the more you’re going to get out of this.”
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 74
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.