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Manager places news faces

Nov 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

After only five years in business, If Management is proving to be a force to be reckoned with among news talent representatives.
If’s aggressive deal-making and affable corporate personality has enabled it to put together an impressive roster of talent and the media organizations that seek it. Steve Herz, president of If Management, started his company with six clients in 1996. Now If is servicing 128 broadcast news, sports, weather and producer clients in the top 30 markets at the network level.
One client is veteran war correspondent Steve Harrigan, Fox News Channel’s primary reporter in Afghanistan. The Moscow-based journalist defected from CNN in late September after a 10-year-run. Mr. Harrigan called Electronic Media from northern Afghanistan to discuss his manager’s negotiating prowess.
“Six months after I met Mr. Herz, he’s multiplied my salary several times and got me the exact job that I’ve dreamed of,” Mr. Harrigan said. “I wanted to cover hot spots for a major outfit and go where I wanted to. He got me that. When he told me the terms of the agreement, I screamed on the phone I was so happy.”
Mr. Harrigan discovered If six months ago through TVSpy.com, Don Fitzpatrick & Associates’ listing of agents and managers. After researching the company’s Web site and corresponding with Mr. Herz via e-mail, a meeting was arranged in New York, and the deal was immediately done.
“I liked Steve, and the staff is young, experienced, aggressive and street-smart,” Mr. Harrigan said.
Three of If Management’s staff members, including Mr. Herz, are lawyers, and the others have managed clients at rival agencies. They are all sports enthusiasts and often work out together and socialize outside the office.
“We all have an athlete mentality here,” Mr. Herz said. “The key to being a good athlete is having a great attitude about practice, whatever sport you play. That is what we look for in a client.”
Jenna Wolfe, weekend sports anchor at WPHL-TV (The WB), Philadelphia, fits that bill perfectly.
Ms. Wolfe signed with If in 1998 while she was employed at WUHF-TV (Fox), Rochester, New York. She sent tapes to 35 to 40 news directors and received only one offer.
“It was the most horrible experience of my life, and I vowed never to do it again,” Ms. Wolfe said.
“I sent Steve an unsolicited tape, and he invited me for an interview. When we first met, we didn’t talk about business. We talked about my family and what my goals were. Steve said he wanted to represent more than just the person on the tape.”
Within three months of signing with If, Ms. Wolfe jumped from Rochester, then market No. 74, to Philadelphia, market No. 4, while at age 25 also becoming the youngest female sportscaster in that city. She still retains that distinction.
If finds clients everywhere from word-of mouth references to conventions-including the Radio-Television News Directors Association, National Association of Television Program Executives and National Association of Black Journalists gatherings-and the Sports Emmys. The company receives a 10 percent commission on deals, and clients generally sign a three-year contract for representation.
None of the employees at If has a contract or a noncompete agreement. Mr. Herz says the company has “tremendous retention rates,” and there has been little staff or client turnover since its inception.
Traveling is a key component of a news manager’s job. “We don’t make our living sitting behind a desk,” Mr. Herz said. “Someone on our staff is always on the road looking for talent and meeting with news directors and general managers.”
If doesn’t believe in mass-marketing demo tapes as do many other agencies. The company will pitch one or two appropriate clients at a time for a position. Executives responsible for shows such as “48 Hours,” “20/20,” “60 Minutes II” and “Inside Edition” like that approach.
Jim Huber, an Edward R. Murrow award-winning sportscaster with Turner Sports, was one of the company’s first clients. Mr. Herz negotiated a deal for Mr. Huber to do commercial work for CNBC’s senior golf tournament while Mr. Huber was still doing color commentary for TBS and TNT. “Steve is a good salesman and knows everything about you, which he uses to your benefit,” said Mr. Huber.