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A Sports Radio Education From Bill Belichick

One of the real joys of my occupation is when I stumble onto a piece of content that I know will provide a great education for every single person making a living in the sports media industry. Today I’m thrilled to share one of those examples with you.

If you’re a talk show host, producer, anchor, reporter, salesperson, program director or market manager, and you haven’t yet watched Bill Belichick’s interview on CNBC, stop reading this column, and click on it right now. You’ll thank me for it later.

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For those of you who have seen it, continue reading to get a better understanding of how many of Bill’s views on life, leadership, and competition relate to the world of sports media.

Stand For Something – Every successful company, brand, and individual occupies a unique position in the mind of the audience. Understand what it is that makes you special, deliver that message consistently across all of your platforms, and demonstrate thru your actions why it matters and is part of who you are.

Preparation – Inside the Patriots locker room hangs a sign “Every Battle Is Won Before The Battle Is Fought”. Simply put, it’s easier to win when you already know what to do. Before you present your content to an audience, pitch your brand to an advertiser or introduce a strategy to generate ratings and knock off your competition, you must first have a game plan and solid evidence to support your convictions. The better you know your team, product, opponent, and the challenges you’re facing, and the more your people understand the goal, process, and methods of how to win, the easier it becomes to succeed.

Focus On The Moment – It would’ve been easy for the Patriots to point fingers, second guess decisions, and become rattled after Atlanta dominated them in the first half of Super Bowl 51. Instead, Bill Belichick and his team stayed the course. They remained upbeat, focused on the next play and kept on working. In radio, this is no different than investing your energy in your next segment. Worrying about your signal limitations, the competition’s advantages or the lack of meters in your market is beyond your control. What you do control is delivering great content. When you execute consistently, you give yourself a chance to win. Those who do benefit from a little bit of luck along the way, just as the Patriots did when Julian Edelman made that miraculous catch in the 4th quarter.

Game of Adjustments – In sports, teams prepare in advance, and have an idea of what they want to accomplish when the game begins. But when the unexpected occurs, adjustments are required. Those who adapt best often emerge victorious. The same is true in radio. A host and producer may enter the studio with a great rundown, but the second breaking news happens or a guest doesn’t show up, it’s how you respond that determines if the show moves smoothly or gets derailed. Programmers can set a vision that’s sure to deliver ratings, salespeople can create presentations which are guaranteed to impress clients, and marketing director’s can develop promotions which will get the whole city talking, but the second things change, you’ve got to adjust. How you respond determines if you’ll win or lose.

Winning Is The Goal – You can enjoy your occupation and build relationships with those around you, but never forget what the ultimate team goal is. The team/company added you to the organization because they valued a skill you possess. It’s why they’re depositing funds into your bank account each pay period. Radio and sports are very competitive and when you fail they can be downright cruel. Whether it’s making your budget or delivering ratings, never lose sight of your responsibilities and the contributions that the team is counting on you to produce.

Remember Why You Do It – As you grow as a sports media professional, you learn about different aspects of the business that you never imaged being part of your job description. Whether it’s taking part in an endorsement pitch, talking to the media, helping a local charity raise funds, conducting focus groups or dissecting ratings and local meter use, these are areas of our profession that become part of what we do once we’re involved in it. But the reason we chose to chase our dreams and work in this industry is because we loved sports and the platform radio provided in allowing us to share our passion and love for it with others. It’s OK to tackle new challenges and move away from a microphone. And yes there will be days when you feel like you’re going thru the motions and doing a job that isn’t that important. But whether you see it at the time or not, your brand has great value and a special connection to everyone listening on the outside. Don’t lose sight of how powerful that connection is and what it once meant to you. After all, it’s the reason why you’re now working on the inside.

Develop Your Style – While we pursue our own paths and strive to create a unique identity, we’re also influenced by many people along the way. The best performers and teachers in the world take a little bit from everyone and find a way to make it their own. Study others who you respect, enjoy and are inspired by, and find out what makes certain areas of their game special. There’s nothing wrong with using a winning formula and adding your own personal touch.

Learn From Each Experience – While you’re pursuing world domination as a host or executive, you’ll likely first go thru a number of situations that aren’t as glamorous. Although you won’t see it immediately, these lessons will come in handy further down the line. Every little bit you absorb will make you more well rounded and better equipped to handle bigger challenges when you finally ascend to greater heights.

Take Chances – You’re going to introduce topics, features and guests that go over like a lead balloon. You’ll create promotions, sales, events, and team functions that you swear can’t miss but leave you with egg on your face. No matter how many times you get knocked down, get back up and keep swinging. Great hitters make an out 70% of the time. Michael Jordan missed 50.3% of the shots he took. If you’re afraid to fail, you will. Be creative, be fearless and trust your instincts. The wins you enjoy will be that much sweeter.

Define and Defend Your Principles – Every leader and individual has fundamental beliefs that they will not waver from. This is important in growing relationships, maintaining a winning culture and keeping people focused. If rules get broken and aren’t addressed, it’s only a matter of time until anarchy ensues. Be clear and concise on what you expect, repeat the message frequently so it’s understood, and if people violate your trust and infect the group, be prepared to act swiftly and firmly. The way you respond will have a lasting impact on those around you and will speak volumes about your integrity and leadership.

Eliminate Distractions – The job you’re doing is hard enough. When you allow outside influencers and public criticisms to seep into your head, it can become overwhelming. Although those things can be difficult to ignore, they offer little benefit to your career. If you execute your duties to the best of your abilities, deliver the results you’re accountable for, and maintain a strong professional relationship with your boss, you’ll never have to wonder where you stand, even when the outside noise gets louder.

You Get What You Earn – Jealousy and frustration exists in many buildings. Often it’s due to employees feeling that different rules exist for different team members. The reality is that there will be cases where some individuals receive longer leashes than others. Why you ask? Because they’ve earned it. When you perform consistently and help a company make money, you’re going to receive benefits that others may not. Rather than complaining about your lower position on the importance ladder, do something to change it. When leaders know they can count on you, and business increases because of your efforts, it’s amazing how much more rope you’re afforded.

Dependability, Consistency and Coachability – Great talent are always in demand. Those with a passion to improve and who deliver on a daily basis though are what many leaders classify as special. We’ve seen thousands of examples in sports of players who had a ton of talent but never maximized their full potential. In radio it’s similar. If you have skill and can be relied upon to produce, are open minded to hearing feedback, and are willing to put in the work to make improvements, you’ll have a lot of bosses going to bat to add or keep you on their teams.

It’s a Relationship Business – You can be the most talented host, executive or salesperson on Planet Earth but if you fail to possess any meaningful relationships the rest of the world may never know. One of the keys to working in the sports media business is fostering relationships. They come in very handy when all things are equal between two candidates pursuing an opportunity and one has an existing relationship or acquaintance with the hiring manager. If the only time you reach out to an executive is when they have a job posting, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Get to know people when there’s nothing at stake except friendship, education, and conversation, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it comes around full circle.

Celebrate Your Success – The quest for perfection is endless, and the victories you enjoy along the way become forgotten when the next day’s challenge arises. Which is why it’s critical to acknowledge your wins and celebrate them with your team when they happen. If the Patriots can take a few hours to pour and sip champagne after winning a title, and laugh, cry and act silly with their friends, family and teammates, so too should those who are busting their tails inside of a radio station each day to help their companies succeed. If there’s no team togetherness after wins, and little recognition beyond an internal email, success becomes hollow and less important. Take a few hours to appreciate the obstacle you’ve overcome, and the people who’ve helped you do it, and they’ll be helping you enjoy many more special moments in the future.

Jason Barrett
Jason Barrett
Jason Barrett is the President and Founder of Barrett Media since the company was created in September 2015. Prior to its arrival, JB served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He also spent time programming SportsTalk 950 in Philadelphia, 590 The Fan KFNS in St. Louis, and ESPN 1340/1390 in Poughkeepsie, NY. Jason also worked on-air and behind the scenes in local radio at 101.5 WPDH, WTBQ 1110AM, and WPYX 106.5. He also spent two years on the national stage, producing radio shows for ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT. Among them included the Dan Patrick Show, and GameNight.You can find JB on Twitter @SportsRadioPD. He's also reachable by email at [email protected].

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