When I started my career in upstate New York, I had no business being on the air. I was brand new to radio, and aside from having some knowledge about sports and listening to a lot of WFAN talk shows, I wasn’t trained or prepared to be behind a microphone.
But since I was working for a small privately owned radio station with minimal expectations, I was able to convince the owner to give me a chance to host my own show on the weekends. That allowed me to earn reps and make my fair share of mistakes so I could improve and one day be considered for bigger opportunities.
I wasn’t going to be denied so I put on my sales hat and went to work and within two weeks, I fulfilled my obligation and had signed up four clients. The owner was so impressed that after the first few weeks of shows, he rewarded me with an extra hour.
I took that job very seriously, including making sure my clients were happy. If I couldn’t bring them a large audience, I was going to make sure they felt appreciated on the air, and every individual I knew was going to be encouraged to support them. In some cases I’d show my gratitude by sending my clients tickets to broadway plays, Nascar races, or any other freebies we had available at the radio station.
For the next two years I developed my on-air skills and eventually moved from 2-hours on Saturday’s to 2-hours each night to 2-hours each afternoon. While I continued growing as a host, I also did as a seller. Soon my four weekend sponsors turned into business deals with shopping malls, corporations, and a relationship with a memorabilia dealer which led to popular New York athletes coming to town for autograph signings which I hosted my show and sold sponsorships around.
I was making more money selling the show than I was receiving for hosting it. Although my goal was to get paid to host and not be involved in sales, it was too good financially to pass up. As luck would have it, one of those autograph shows ended up featured on the front page of a local newspaper, and that caught the eye of a General Manager at a larger local radio station, which led to my next opportunity.
As I moved on to focus on hosting and programming on a bigger stage, my days of having to sell advertising were behind me. Despite eliminating those responsibilities, I never lost sight of how important sales were to a radio company, or how difficult the job was. I’ve tried to keep that in mind when programming radio stations and interacting with sales departments.
For this week’s piece, I called on Jason Minnix of ESPN San Antonio because he has a very unique background. I’ve gotten to know Jason a little bit over the past six months and had the pleasure of meeting him in Philadelphia during the Army-Navy game in December. What stood out to me was how he wears two different hats for his employer. He’s the host of afternoon drive alongside former NFL player Dat NGuyen, and he’s one of his station’s top sales people.
When you first hear of someone doing sales and hosting, the quick assumption is “if they’re paying to be on the air then they’re probably not that good”. It’s a stigma that many individuals have to fight to overcome.
What I’ve discovered over the past ten years of working in this business is that this particular formula can be very lucrative for some people, if they have the passion, patience, knowledge, and focus to pull off dual roles.
For example, in St. Louis, Tim McKernan hosts morning drive on CBS Sports Radio 920. He also runs the entire operation. Ten years ago Tim was a guy making a good radio salary to strictly be an on-air talent. But he had bigger plans. He focused his time on developing his own media company InsideSTL, and built it up by selling ads, creating events, and turning it into a profitable business.
That then led to buying air time on radio so he could control the inventory and cross marketing opportunities available to his radio program and media company. By using that approach, he made more money, and put himself in position to now run the radio station, instead of just making a check for hosting a talk show. I can appreciate that type of hard work and hustle.
On the national level, Yahoo Sports Radio hired Matt Perrault to serve in a dual role. Matt had hosted shows during his career in Boston, Omaha, Des Moines, and Huntsville and during one stop in New Hampshire, he served as General Manager and Host for Absolute Broadcasting. By taking on added responsibilities beyond hosting a show, he was able to develop a deeper understanding of the radio business, and help provide a better living for his family.
Since joining Yahoo, Matt has gone from working in Houston to operating out of the Palazzo Casino in Las Vegas. By embracing the hybrid role, it’s helped Yahoo expand their reach into a city where entertainment and money go hand in hand, and that in turn has helped Matt expand his profile along with his wallet.
Please understand that not everyone is equipped to do sales and on-air hosting. Radio operators need to remember that before putting people on the air who belong inside a cubicle, not behind a microphone. I see these situations take place occasionally and no matter how a company tries to spin it, the brand is devalued the second the audience hears a poor content presentation. For every McKernan, Perrault and Minnix, there are great sellers who can’t broadcast, and hosts who can engage an audience but couldn’t sell a band aid to a person who’s bleeding.
Fortunately for the purposes of this column, Jason Minnix has been successful doing both, and he’s been kind enough to take the time to explain how he does it and how it’s paid off for him. If you’re interested in pursuing a similar path and would like to learn more, feel free to contact Jason. He can be reached on Twitter by clicking here or on Facebook by clicking here.
The Advantages of Selling and Hosting by Jason Minnix
All of us on the programming end of the building have heard that the only way to make money is in sales. Every host has also been told to tie themselves to as much revenue as possible, but understand that the real money is on the sales side. Most on-air personalities don’t want to give up their microphone to do sales, but I have managed to do both and now I couldn’t imagine having an on-air job without a sales component.
Honestly, I never wanted to do sales. In 2005 I had to because I needed a job. A friend told me I serviced my endorsement clients better than most reps and that I should get into sales. He was looking for a sales rep so I took the job doing sales with some on-air components at a small News Talk station and had success.
In 2007 before ESPN San Antonio launched, we included sales responsibilities in my job description. There was some reluctance on the part of the station but with it being a brand new station they let me try. We officially launched ESPN San Antonio in February 2008 and as we approach our 8th anniversary, the station, my show and sales are strong.
I am not a pay-for-play radio host. I am a full-time talk show host and a full-time account executive. I am often asked how I make it work. It starts with the support of management. My sales manager and PD understand my dual-role at the radio station.
Time management and focus are the keys to doing both sales and on-air hosting. I generally get to the office between 8:30a and 9a and work on my sales duties until about 1p. Then I shift into show mode. My co-host Dat Nguyen and I start putting the show together at 2p and we’re on the air from 4-7p. Once I get into show mode, my focus is on the show.
There are many advantages to being on-air and selling. When I call on a client and they listen to my show or at least know my name, chances are I am going to get that meeting. I get more callbacks than most people do in sales because of my on-air position.
As the rep and host , the client is dealing with the guy on-air that is going to execute the plan. I have more protection of my show because I won’t promise a client something that I know I can’t or won’t do on the air. Essentially I have cut out the middle man for my clients.
All on-air hosts are selling in one way or another. You’re selling content to the audience. You’ve gone to lunch with a client to help an AE close business. You’re reading LIVE endorsements during your show. Sure you’ll get paid a talent fee for it, but you can get a lot more.
How many times when on remote or through social media has somebody asked how they can advertise on your show and you’ve passed that contact information along to your sales team? Think about how much money you just handed off.
Doing both jobs is not for everyone. You have to be organized, great at time management and willing to put in the work. It’s not easy but when I see my paycheck every month, I wouldn’t want it any other way.