I admit I was reluctant to read The Handoff, because I know how the story ends – with the untimely death of sports radio’s bigger-than-life ambassador, mentor, friend and programmer Andrew Ashwood. However, I am better for having pushed through.
This is a book about brotherhood, determination, vulnerability, passion, certainty, self-confidence, self-awareness, and one guy’s successful rise from high-octane, motivated, passionate stock broker to high-octane, motivated, passionate sports radio host.
Through his journey of excesses, friendships, and passions, we accompany JT (currently a host on Fox Sports Radio from 1a-6a ET, 10p-3a PT) as he comes-of-age over and over again. The reader witnesses his evolution into a man, a husband, a father, a friend and talk show host. We are there as John transforms into JT and we are cheering with his buddies when he earns the name “Brick.” It’s funny, intense, authentic, emotional and ultimately hopeful.
JT rips his heart open for examination allowing the world to peer into his dreams, doubts, passions, and feelings. From being elected president of his fraternity to moving across country away from his boyhood home and then again when he quits his lucrative stock broker job only to pay his way on the radio – you will be rooting for JT.
Somewhat surprising for a sports host known for his scratchy, bullhorn of a voice and for banging the phones, JT is refreshingly self-deprecating, self-aware, and reflective. Even though I knew how it ended, it was a captivating roller coaster of a journey. The book gives an honest behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in life and radio. You’ll be motivated by JT’s hustle and moxy, and feel the urge to reconnect with friends from the past.
One of the lessons Andrew passed along was to “make someone’s day.”
Reading this has made mine. Thanks JT.
“Whew! What a party.” - what nobody said after International Radio Day on August 20th.
Yep, you missed it. No worries, seemingly everyone did.
There was barely a blink of a mention on twitter, except relief from one host who made it through another day without being pink-slipped.
Well, they didn’t fire me so that’s good enough for me! RT @Airchecker: What did your station do for “International Radio Day?”
— Jennifer Thomson (@jtradiogal) August 20, 2013
Others were more blunt.
— Wes and The Goat (@wesandgoat) August 20, 2013
And then there was the vitriol.
Today is international radio day… Fuck the radio. Don’t wanna hear all dem damn commercials 😒
— Numinous Enterprises (@ohmanitsdinh) August 20, 2013
So, International Radio Day comes and goes. Again. I didn’t do anything either. But it does seem like a wasted opportunity. A little like being sooo busy saving the true meaning of Christmas that December 25th comes and goes and you don’t notice.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but it seems to me that if there’s already a day carved in the calendars radio ought to do something with it. In fact, there are two days; World Radio Day is in February.
Maybe we can pick a spot to set up a 10×10 tent or have the world spin a wheel.
I am a pretty positive guy. But, put me in a room full of legacy (old-time) radio vets and it’s easy to get caught up in a cyclone of negativity when it comes to the future of radio. That’s why it’s so important to look outside yourself, your radio station, your format, and sometimes your industry to find out what CAN be done and how you can make a difference.
Tim Sanders (twitter: @sanderssays) is the former Chief Solutions Officer of Yahoo! and author of “Today We Are Rich.” Last month, he spoke to a group of radio folk at the Talk Media Conference in Dallas.
He was just the shot of ‘get-off-your-butt-and-do-something’ that I needed. I believe most leaders in radio needs to listen to more guys like Sanders who offer inspiration, preach innovation, and provide motivation. In his opening address to leaders of talk radio Tim affirmed what we all know, “the reality is there’s a lot of trouble (in radio).” But, he didn’t wallow in it, like many of us like to do. He pointed to Napoleon who defined a leader as someone who, “defines reality and then gives hope.” Hope is what has been missing from most of the discussions I’ve been privy to in regards to the future of radio. I’m going to try harder to be a provider of it.
Sanders insisted that the time is now for all of us to get busy. (my interpretation; stop talking about how bad things are going to be and how antiquated radio is — and start doing something about it).
Sanders is a real positive force. His advice assembled below for easy consumption is valuable if you’re a programmer, a talent, a producer, an account executive, sales manager, front desk receptionist, engineer or other…
Feed Your Mind With Good Stuff and Get Rid of the Poison in Your Life
1. Understand that “success” is not a destination, it’s a mind-set — an attitude.
2. Feed your mind with success experiences (the great interview you did, the sale you closed, the great story you broke, etc.)
3. Read your fan mail. Save it and pull it out in high-stress moments to remind yourself of your successes and how what you do does make a difference.
4. Move the conversation forward. This is how you change culture. Culture is just a conversation about how things are done. Stop asking people, “how’s it going?” and start asking, “what are you excited about?”
5. Don’t reward fire starters.
6. Be conscious that you have thee invisible things to give — and they grow as you go; knowledge, network, and compassion.
- Share your knowledge; you will not get dumb helping to make people smarter.
- Activate your network; you spent a lot of time meeting people and making an impression — now what are you going to do with it? Are their people in your network that should know each other? Introduce them.
- And be compassionate. Sanders reminds us that feelings are facts to the person who is feeling.
So,…what are you excited about?
Every day I talk to hosts who strive to model themselves after someone who is already successful. They say, “I want to be the next Rush Limbaugh, Dan Patrick or Jim Rome.” Newsflash: Those shows already exist. Success isn’t found in the shadows of giants, it’s found under the feet of the most creative, entrepreneurial, daring, vulnerable, honest, talented and motivated amongst us.
So, here are the Larry Gifford Media six keys to success for a talk host.
1. Be yourself, which is to be different than everyone else. Individual perspective and experience is the catalyst for creativity.
2. Be a trailblazer. Build your show around your talent and then hustle to sell yourself and your show every day to the listeners, clients, staff, and management. Figure out how you can be a personality on the radio station instead of the host of a show.
3. Be bold. Take risks. Don’t fear failure, learn from it. Surprise your fans.
4. Be open. Give yourself permission to be emotional, impassioned, and wrong. Be self-deprecating. Allow the listeners to know who you really are.
5. Speak your truth. Enterprise your own content. Notice what you notice in the world. Have opinions, perspective, and insight. Challenge conventional wisdom. Be informative and entertaining. (and self-deprecating).
6. Surround yourself with people you trust, people who will challenge you and people who make you better. And listen to them.
“A diamond is a chunk of coal
that made good under pressure.”
Every day whether you are a producer, a talent, a board op, recording a podcast, or editing audio – ask yourself these important questions…
1. Is this the best we’ve got?
2. Would I listen to this?
3. Is this relevant?
4. Are we playing the hits?
5. Is there a better, different, more impactful way to do this?
6. Does this live up to the Mission and Brand of my company?
If the answer is, “no” – what are you doing to change it, make it better, evolve it, and own it?
“It’s the little details that are vital.
Little things make big things happen.”
When I come across smart, successful people have can contribute to our conversation, I enjoy passing along their thoughts. Radio consultant Valerie Geller wrote the book “Principles of Creating Powerful Radio.” Her principles are worth reviewing…
· Tell the truth.
· Make it matter.
· Never be boring.
· Speak visually, in terms listeners can picture.
· Start with your best material.
· Story tell powerfully.
· Listen to your station but also check out other media – know what’s out there and what the audience is listening to and how they get their information and entertainment!
· Ask: Why would someone want to listen to this?
· Talk to the individual. Use “You.”
· Do engaging transitions & handoffs.
· Promote, brag about your stuff (and other people’s stuff!)
· Stay curious, relax, and allow the humor to happen.
· Be who you are on the radio.
· Take risks, dare to be great.
I love those principles. Use these as a guideline as you go about your daily tasks. Every day, whether it’s the NFL Playoffs or the dog days of summer, make certain you are passionate, relevant, interesting, engaging, curious, entertaining, informative, impactful, telling stories, teasing, taking risks, being creative, driving for results, doing everything it takes to make remarkable radio, acting with urgency, thinking differently and having fun. These are the things that separate good from great.
“Success is dependent on effort.”
Your listeners are regular guys with regular jobs, regular families and regular problems. They work hard and can’t afford to go to a lot of sporting events. They’ve likely never been court side, walked on a Major League Baseball field or even talked to a pro athlete. You are their ticket inside. They crave local sports information. These guys are smart, more media savvy than you think, and they know what they like when they hear it. They have high expectations for sports content whether it is on TV, radio, the internet or other. They likely know more about at least one local team than you do and certainly believe that to be true. They are passionate about these teams. They don’t want you to rely on the audience to provide your content, they won’t be calling in and they won’t enter contests. They don’t want you to try too hard to be funny, smart or connected. They don’t want you to waste their time. They are listening by themselves and using you as an escape from real life. These guys are tuning in to hear YOU talk about the things that matter most to them. They want to like you, but often times think you are an idiot. They have no loyalty. If you are boring, they will find someone who isn’t. They want you to take a side, have an opinion, provide unique information, explore an angle, or a go in a new direction. Tell them a story. They want to know you, recommend you, rely on you, and trust you. They want you to entertainment them and tell them something they don’t know. They will steal your opinions and use them as their own in front of their buddies. They’re not as sick of Brett Favre, steroids, and BCS talk as you are, even if they say they are. These are your listeners to lose. What are you doing today to win them over?
- Is the bumper music that we choose really that important?
- Is it important what my Legal ID sounds like?
- Why is it important to talk about the things everybody else is talking about? I want to talk boxing/MMA/bocce/soccer.
- Is important to tell people repeatedly who I am? If they’re listening don’t they know?
- How important is it for a local show to talk about local sports, I think people are more interested in national stories?
Simply stated – it’s all important. Think of your station or show as if it’s a restaurant. When you go to a restaurant there are many details that are important, but you wouldn’t qualify them as important unless they weren’t addressed properly. You notice everything from the moment you arrive until you leave; How you are greeted, that you are seated promptly at a freshly set table, the flowers aren’t dying, the carpet is clean, the music and lighting, the consistency of the menu and whether it’s easy to read, how attentive is the wait staff?, and on and on and on. If the food was excellent, but the carpet was dirty, the waiter was rude and the table was littered with crumbs and old napkins when you were seated – how much would those “details” impact your experience?
In radio, everything you do or don’t do influences the listeners experience and ultimately impacts ratings and revenue. Everything counts. Every choice you make – production, formatics, show prep, topic selection, imaging and every word you say – helps to shape the listeners experience and informs them who you are and what you’re all about. Sweat the small stuff. Make decisions for your shows and station that appeal to the largest cross-section of your audience and make their experience with your station Zagat worthy.