This past weekend, for the 20th time, I attended the annual Banquet for alumni and students of WJPZ radio, the student-run station at Syracuse University, where I spent four years practicing the craft of communications. I last wrote about the event in 2009, as media changes smacked us between the eyes. The station has always been one-of-a-kind – a professional CHR (“Top 40”) format and often a ratings contender in a real-life medium-sized market.
The Banquet is also one-of-a-kind. In a typical year like, it attracts about 50-100 alumni from around the country (to Upstate New York’s snow belt in March!) – from freshly-minted broadcasters getting their feet wet to industry leaders who are decades out of school. This year, our keynote speaker was Matthew Berry, who is a widely popular Fantasy Sports analyst across all of ESPN’s platforms. Berry and I overlapped in school. He was an acquaintance with whom I shared several mutual friends, but I did not know him well. That’s because he hosted the station’s morning show when I was the news director and was having so much fun at night that I scheduled staff members to handle news in the mornings while I spent my on-air time in “afternoon drive.” Those who were up early in those days tell me he was very talented and funny, which is not surprising.
Part of Berry’s compelling keynote speech focused on how he was able to build his career and carve out a niche as the Internet was making an enormous impact on sports and on media. One of his secrets to success, he told the group, was how he developed and maintained a brand that allowed him to become recognized as a leader in his niche field. To accomplish that, he spent time and sacrificed money, to build his brand through, essentially, the power of PR, through media interviews and a website that provided compelling content to a growing audience.
The advice he dispensed was familiar to me as it mirrors what we tell our clients. Your brand is what distinguishes a person, organization or business. Communicating that brand effectively allows you to accomplish your goals. Living up to your brand promise allows your brand to be sustainable.
Matthew Berry successfully transitioned from Hollywood screenwriter to “The Talented Mr. Roto” online to valued ESPN expert – recognized instantly by fans (I saw that first hand, as soon as he arrived on campus Friday night to the clicks of camera phones when spotted by onlookers).
If you had told us back in school that one of us would develop a global brand by talking about, as Berry put it “fake sports” it really would have sounded like a fantasy. Today, it’s a reality for him, thanks to sound branding and PR.