The Life and Realities of Being a TV Reporter / MMJ
Once you see this you can't unsee this. This is the reality a recent J-School grad faces when starting out as a Top 75 market MMJ / Reporter in 2020. The world they need to be prepared for: 1. Even while trying to live within their means and they will find themselves further and further in debt. 2. Student loans and talent agent's commissions ensure they will live nearly at poverty level. They will pay an agent over the life of the contract more than they spend on food and dining out. 3. Lending institutions need to be partnering with educational institutions and looking at outcomes before burying them in debt. 4. Making skills and experience transferable to other opportunities will become critical. Too many become enslaved to an industry that they will inevitably 'time out' loaded with debt. They need to have one eye on the "what's next?" from Day One. I'm hopeful parents, educators, lenders, and employers realize we are bankrupting our future if we let this continue. I'm not suggesting young professionals skirt accountability or responsibility. On the contrary, they will be living with this for decades ......
check out follow up articles; 'my TV career be like ..' and "If I were a MMJ today, I would …."
"my TV career be like ...."
If you are in your 20's, it's likely you won't retire from TV broadcast news business. Bold statement. So the industry might not be headed for extinction but external forces are changing it forever.
The demos of the consuming audience and the devices used to deliver their news is creating huge channel shift. No one is waiting for 5, 6, and 11 to get their news. The push model is dead, extinct.
The ease and speed to market for content creators using social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and now IGTV, has fragmented the audience. For example, at the first inkling of breaking news do you head for your TV remote or your phone, tablet, and computer? None of this is news to you, right?
The important takeaway to this post should be that you can't wait for some decision you can't control before you start reinventing your career. Events like contract renewals, a new incoming News Director, the talent ahead of you retiring, the sale, merger or acquisition of the station/company, are great examples.
While you wait, the industry continues to evolve and leave you behind. The talent coming up behind you waits for NOTHING!
Check out the recent article "If I were a MMJ today, I would …." for more on topic.....
From September 2019:
Regardless of the industry, for the past 50 years the goal of young talent has always been to move 'up market', seeking positions with greater responsibilities in terms of (market) size and scope (of position). This was the driving force in careers for good reason.
There have always been two primary reasons for moving up. The biggest being compensation. Market size drove the size of the paycheck. The second, exposure which translates into image which fuels and builds personal brands. The bigger the brand, the greater the chance to move up. Move up, more money. The equation was simple (personal brand equity + market size = salary and incentives).
Today however, the typical career path is being blown up by a bunch of young upstarts that aren't waiting for their turn. I'll come back to that topic in a moment. First, it's important to understand the drivers behind the impending change. The primary focus of this article will be relative to multimedia outlets and in particular, TV broadcast news. However, you'll see parallels in many other cyclical industries as well.
What's driving change? There are trends and technology that have been very disruptive to the status quo. They include:
Decline in audience and clients as a result of rapidly changing distribution models. In the TV news business, audiences are using online and over-the-top networks for their news consumption. In retail, Amazon is slowly obliterating the big box retailers and many other mass market merchants.
Social media has given talent direct access to their audiences without the burden of censorship or scope of bandwidth. It's instant global access. Talent isn't driven by watts or ratings, they can create their own audience and following. Many times the content can be in direct conflict with company policy and procedure. Management looks the other way in many circumstances because it's nearly impossible to enforce. Again, there are many parallels to retail, financial planning/investing, and automotive to name just a few.
Salary ranges are getting flatter and flatter not fatter and fatter for talent. Payroll reporting agencies help talent acquisition and people strategy managers make much more intelligent decisions regarding compensation. This has a significant impact on the leverage agents used to have in the negotiating process. Negotiating from a position of fact (strength) levels the playing field, and the field is tipping in favor of the hiring manager.
Recruiting was nearly 100% dependent upon relationships, like dinner and drink kinda relationships. Today, job boards and social media have almost negated the advantage of relationship. The power of relationship today is in the value add and reputation. For example, I try very hard to deliver clients that have seen the contract or employment agreement before getting to the altar. My reputation is that I'll get deals done without a tremendous amount of back-and-forth. That said, my clients have the EXACT same access to hiring managers that I, or any agent, might have.
There isn't enough focus put on retention. Proof? Why do we continuing write 2 year contracts and employment agreements. Yes, I understand in terms of freelance or contractors that IRS policy drives much of the churn but why continue this practice with our top recruits. Literally 1/3 of the time under contract the talent is spending trying to renegotiate, move up and out, or flat out break contract.
Ok, so that's a whole bunch of 'glass half empty' perspective on the marketplace. For the early and mid career talent, or even the new/recent college grads, the future has never looked brighter if you begin to manage your career differently than those before you. Here are some of the things I would be thinking about if I were in your shoes.
Stop constantly thinking about moving up and start thinking about 'playing time'. Sitting on the bench in a big market or in a perpetual support role gets you nowhere. In fact, it might be setting you back in the long run. Playing time is critical for skill development and no one gets better sitting on the bench. You should be developing your current skills first and foremost!
The gap between number 1 and number 4 in a market makes all the difference in the world. A market dog in DMA 10 can be drawing a smaller audience than the market leader in DMA 20. DMA 10 with a 10% share is 240k. DMA 20 with a 30% share is 400k, more than 50% larger. It's eye balls and exposure that will help your career in the long run not the DMA number on your resume. Why you ask? Here's why …..
Your future will be tied to your multimedia audience across multi-channels. Your Instagram audience could end up being twice the size of your television audience and it will have much higher retention and stickiness. As channels become blurred, it becomes a math exercise at some point. Think about the number of YouTube stars with 1 million followers/subscribers that have never been on broadcast television. Start balancing your energy between traditional outlets and new multimedia platforms.
I wouldn't spend my hard earned money on an agent and rely on them for job placement. I would instead focus on a broader talent management relationship with a PR Agency or a Talent / Marketing Manager with a focus on two things: brand building (content development) and multi-channel placement. Process is super simple in structure, super hard in practice. Segment. Target. Position.
Consider lateral moves when necessary. My most disgruntled clients are the ones sitting on the bench in markets that might be two-three years beyond their current development. A move laterally gives you a rare opportunity to reinvent yourself and step up your game without baggage. Let's face it, within the first 3-6 months of a new role, you are being sized up and cast. Also, it just might be the fact that there is a log jam in front of you in your current position. You need to find clean air because drafting is getting you nowhere quick.
I would build a one or two page media/press kit immediately. You need a visual that's not a resume or a reel but a graphic introduction that you can repurpose for your resume, LinkedIn profile, or an industry bio for a speaking engagement. This can be a simple PDF. If you need an example, feel free to reach out.
Stop trying to impress your girlfriends and a future spouse and begin thinking about who's going to pay you and for what. No one loves a bikini picture more than me but I don't accept clients that are trying to build a multimedia news career with a constant stream of booze and bikini photos in their social media. Think about your future audience and the path to it. Now, if you are panning for a role as a bikini model or a spokesperson for White Claw, that is obviously a different story.
Finally, I would spend at least 60 minutes each day looking at alternative distribution channels. What's coming, how to use it, when are the best times to post, etc etc etc. If you aren't getting the playing time, why aren't you developing your own channel of live content on Facebook, YouTube,Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, to name a few.
In summary, and your BIG takeaway, channels are becoming blurred and you can't take a traditional path to a business that is facing severe disruption. The key points are:
If you are a MMJ/reporter and have less than 5 years experience, you should NEVER hire an agent. If you can't find work on your own, you have skill development issues, either presentation, image or interview issues. You need a coach or mentor, not an agent.
You should at ALL TIMES have a 3-5 min reel, an updated resume, a LinkedIn profile, and a great elevator pitch.
You should create a social media strategy and put in practice behavior that reflects your personal brand.
You should network on 3 levels - below you, at your peer level, and above. You should include influencers from all three levels.
Be intentional with EVERYTHING. Live with intent and work toward a goal but always understand the next step.
Enjoy the ride! You won't get many opportunities to relocate or reinvent yourself so you need to enjoy each one!
So, many friends and former associates ask me why I'm so interested in media and entertainment and in particular, the TV news business. The answer is very simple. I've made a living by looking at trends and where I find significant disruption and opportunity, I jump all-in. TV broadcast news will live forever, just maybe not as static as it has been for the past 50 years.
After mentoring a news producer back in 2012 and getting an inside peek at a business facing upheaval, I started a pro bono talent management business, ultimately building an advisory board and forming TalentBlvd.com. From those early days, I've been retained by hundreds of MMJs, Reporters, Anchors, Producers, New Directors and Corporations.
As always, the door is always open to everyone, client or not. Your insights and feedback make the whole industry better.
Be Bold. Be Great. Be Timeless. #TalentBlvd
About Mike McNamara:
Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.
Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services to the underprivileged and underserved. Today as founder and CEO of TalentBlvd, he coaches a number of high profile business and media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.
Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House – St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.