Finding, Retaining + Working With Agents According to the On-Air Talent

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Photo Source: Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Each month, industry veteran Arda Ocal brings you different tips and tricks on being an on-air talent. Whether it's television, digital content, audio, your work in front of the camera or microphone, on social media and everything in between, you will leave with great advice to help with your own career.

One of the biggest questions hosts and broadcasters ask, especially when they get to a certain point in their careers, revolves around agents: What can they do for me? How do I get one? What do I pay them? (Spoiler: By law, agents are only allowed to take 10 percent. This Backstage piece breaks down the role of agent vs. manager, who gets paid what, etc.)

You probably have more questions regarding agents, so I decided to ask my agent, Mike Sones, who has been a broadcasting and marketing agent at The Montag Group in New York since 2014. He was kind enough to talk about five aspects of finding, retaining, and working with agents, especially in the broadcasting/hosting space.

1. Talent and agents often find each other by word of mouth and cold calling.
“We find talent through referrals from current clients and TV executives, through our own research (finding someone online or seeing someone on TV), and occasionally through unsolicited submissions, i.e. when talent reaches out blindly through our website,” says Mike. On the flip side, the agency collects inquiries through their website or people who cleverly found agents emails. They typically go into a pool for agents in the company to check out, and if an agent sees something in your reel, the conversation can begin.

2. The three things agents look for are authority, warmth, and energy.
Michael describes it like this: “We look for people [who] are confident, comfortable, and trustworthy on the air. We call that authority. We look for people [who] are friendly, inviting, and relatable. We call that warmth. And we look for people [who] are naturally energetic, not overly energetic as a result of trying too hard. Obviously, we call that energy.” Other key features that play a great supporting role are voice, appearance, and body language.

Of course, there’s the “it” factor: broadcasting comes naturally to certain people. Taking the innate factor out of it, high-character talent gets a competitive advantage. Broadcasters who are committed to their jobs and want to become the best versions of themselves. Broadcasters who treat their peers and bosses with respect. Broadcasters who have fun but always stay professional. Broadcasters who “do their homework” and thoroughly prepare for all their assignments.

READ: 3 Things to Do After Getting Dumped by Your Agent

3. Trust is key.
Your agent should know what you’re doing and you should know what your agent is doing for you. There should be open dialogue and a level of trust that allows this kind of dialogue. That’s how you cultivate a relationship with someone who will battle for you through thick and thin and always represent your best interests. Not every conversation is going to be comfortable, but that honesty is what brings you to uncharted heights.

4. Your agent needs to know the industry.
“You want an agent who knows the industry like the back of their hand,” explains Michael. This means knowing all key players, current and future job openings, and being familiar with industry trends. This is an always-evolving industry so it’s important to stay on top of it. You want someone who can help you devise a strategy that puts you in a position to succeed for years to come" It’s crucial to plan for the short-, medium-, and long-term.

5. Talk it out.
“Communication is a big part of any relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, so you look for an agent who values your time as much as you value theirs.” Different levels of communication work for different people: some clients talk to their agents once a month or less. Others talk almost every day. It’s all about finding the right balance.

This industry is fun but it’s also highly competitive so you have to take it seriously. If you can understand that, it makes the relationship between talent and agent that much stronger.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Arda Ocal
Arda Ocal is an award-winning broadcaster based in the New York City area. He currently works as a host on MSG Networks and ESPN.
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