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Lessons from 'the dark side'

By Dan Armitage
My career as a full-time freelance outdoor writer and radio show host came via “the dark side.” After graduating from college in the late 70s, I was a sales representative for a rock ’n’ roll radio station in Key West, Fla. My show, “Buckeye Sportsman,” is in its 14th year with 24 affiliates. I credit much of my show’s success to what I learned trying to sell radio advertising.
You are only on the air as long as someone can make a profit by partnering with your program to sell products or services. With radio sales experience, it is easier to relate to the needs of other sales people.
radioThe following has helped sales, too. I always ask for a straight salary for producing my weekly, one-hour program. By drawing a set amount of pay, the sales force selling air time within my show knows they are not in competition with me to sell the program. I have known of several similar shows over the years that allowed the host to sell air time. The result was often plum accounts going to the host, leaving little for the sales crew.
When working to obtain a new affiliate, I arrange a face-to-face meeting with the program director and the sales manager of the prospective station. After explaining my show, I tell the sales manager I sometimes use qualified experts from sponsoring businesses as guests on the show. I offer to meet with the sales team, explain the show’s content and market, offering a season-by-season round-up of topics I rotate annually. I also pass along any leads I run across in the course of lining up guests for the program. I give each sales person my office phone number and e-mail address so I am readily available to give advice about how to approach a particular prospective sponsor or how to manage co-op programs. Because I was once a sales representative, the sales teams of my affiliates and I relate to each other. That helps sell the advertising that keeps “Buckeye Sportsman” on the air.
The other angle that has made “Buckeye Sportsman” a success, which I have impressed from day one, is to keep the show’s content consistent. I promise my listeners that my show’s content will always relate to Ohio and never stray from traditional hook-and-bullet subjects.
Back to how I got the career I have today: One of my accounts when selling air time in Key West was Boog Powell’s Angler’s Marine, now Miller Marine, on Stock Island. When Powell’s contract to sponsor the local news was about to expire, I visited Angler’s Marine to renew the contract. Powell said he wanted to instead sponsor a fishing report. Powell added that the Miller Brewing Company, which was featuring him in the first of the famous “Less Filling-More Taste” ad campaigns for Miller Lite beer, would help co-op the effort. I said it could be done, gave him a price and took the order. Before leaving for the station to get the new show in the works, I asked Powell who he wanted to host the show. Knowing I was an avid angler, he answered, “You!”
I told him I wasn’t an on-air personality and didn’t have the experience to host a show. “Nevermind,” he said, ending the discussion. However, when I returned to the station, the owner greeted me at my desk and told me I was the new host of the weekly “Key West Fishing Report” sponsored by Angler’s Marine. Apparently, Powell and the boss knew each other. The following week, I started my career as an outdoor broadcaster. That morphed into outdoor writing when I showed a knack for fishing script writing at about the time the Key West Citizen newspaper needed a fishing columnist. Soon, I found myself with both feet in the outdoors beat.
I’ve kept them there through a move back to my home state to raise a family, write freelance outdoor articles and host my own outdoor radio show. So far, so good. ◊
Dan Armitage is a full-time freelance outdoor communicator, active OWAA member since 1987, host of “Buckeye Sportsman,” and a regular contributor to several regional and national outdoor magazines. He can be reached at armitage@wowway.com.

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