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How To Become The Next Great Sports Talker

12-18-2-13

Sports radio is the fastest-growing and hottest format in the country, and has been for some time. Why? Because stations can make money, and lots of it. The borrowed imagery of aligning your brand with a professional team is exactly what advertisers are looking for today. A sponsorship of Tom Bradys weekly interview goes a lot further for a client than a run-of-schedule ad buy.

Advertisers are also deeply interested in working with great talent, because great talent know how to move their products. A great talent can make a live commercial read sound as exciting as an opinion on the Super Bowl, and thats a difference-maker for a client. After all, our business is about two things: ratings and revenue. Clients will do business with people they trust, so even if youre not the number one or number two show, you can still drive dollars for your station, and yourself, by creating meaningful relationships with your business partners.

So how you can get involved? Do you think you have what it takes to be the next great sports talk host? If so, send me your resume; Im thinking of becoming an agent.

The next great generation of sports talk personalities are out there. Here are a few tips on what you need to do to become one of them.

Be opinionated. Without a strong opinion, youll never be able to hold the audience. The listeners need to develop trust with you as a host, and they cant do it if you straddle the fence. Theres nothing wrong with acknowledging an alternative point of view, but that acknowledgment cant change the way you think about a subject.

Say what you believe and believe what you say. Be real, and youll win people over.

Be prepared. Listeners are smart. If you dont do your homework, theyll call you out and kill your credibility. You cant just read the paper or watch the game. You need to be where the listeners are, which means getting out from behind the mic and socializing. Be social in public and, of course, on social media. Being social doesnt just mean tweeting. It means reacting to, answering, and engaging with your fans. Fish where the fish are.

Be personable and understand your audience. This is a personality-driven format. Its not about facts and figures. Sports radio listeners are savvy, well-read, and some are as prepared as you are to talk about the core issues on your show. They may have all the facts before they turn on your show, so you need to be able to provide something more than knowledge. You have to have a personality and an edge. Your job is gain a reaction from your audience and to keep them coming back for more. Knowing the stats isnt enough. You need to make them laugh, cry, spit, scream, cheer, and whine. You need to bring out their emotion so that the topics you discuss are lively, compelling, and entertaining to the mass audience, not just the people who love you the most. Part of that process is to talk about yourself. Listeners want to get to know you as a person, not just as an expert whose opinion they care about. A friend of mine has always said that facts tell and stories sell, and hes absolutely right. (Thank you, Mr. Bigby. I steal that line every chance I get.) Discussing the nuts and bolts of sports is the smallest piece of what will make you successful. Your personality and ability to relate to the audience beyond the stats is what will help you grow and, ultimately, win.

Be smart. Too often, hosts try to push the envelope too far. You dont need to be outrageous to be good. Sports talk is loud, its angry sometimes, and thats all well and good if the conversation warrants it. But theres a line, and you have to know not to cross it. The barometer for me is if the discussion filters down to name-calling and personal attacks. Thats simply unnecessary, and going there doesnt endear you more to your fans. It just makes you seem petty.

Have fun. Its sports.

Jason Wolfe is the former VP of programming and operations for WEEI and WRKO in Boston. He can be reached at jlw850@yahoo.com



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