Geoff Calkins Wants To Celebrate Memphis
“When you’re happy, I always figured why roll the dice on greater happiness somewhere else. I was happy here and so here I’ve stayed for now 25 years.”
There are many similarities between newspaper columnists and sports radio hosts. They constantly search for interesting angles to accentuate their opinions. Both look for captivating stories to tell. The occasional, “Man, I really stepped in it,” is also a possibility. Geoff Calkins is a man who wears both hats as a writer and radio host. He has chronicled Memphis sports for more than two decades — formerly at The Commercial Appeal and currently for The Daily Memphian. He also hosts The Geoff Calkins Show weekdays on 92.9 ESPN.
Geoff tells entertaining stories about Hubie Brown, Jason Williams the pen thief, and a tuba playing bet payoff in our discussion below. He also shares an intelligent view about chasing dreams.
As a writer with decades of experience, Geoff is obsessed with word choice. I’m not as magniloquent as Mr. Calkins, but his presence in Memphis certainly hasn’t been fugacious. Unfortunately, photosynthesis doesn’t fit here, so it looks like this is my intro stopping point. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Brian Noe: Is there more pressure writing words that don’t go away, or speaking words without having the ability to go back and edit yourself?
Geoff Calkins: I feel more pressure writing words that don’t go away. I’m always struck by how the things in print for whatever reason are held to a higher standard. Honestly I’m looser with what I say on the radio. In some ways that can get you in trouble. I’ll say things that I would not write. That’s just true; that I’m not as well reported, there are more theories, and more bouncing things off.
I would say there’s more pressure to write words that will not go away. When I’m writing a column, I think about every word. I’m obsessed with words. Word choice matters to me deeply when I write a column. When I talk on the air, I do my best. I try to find the right word, but there are so many words that you can’t sit there and sweat over every single one. It’s a very different enterprise.
BN: Does it feel liberating to be on the air compared to stressing over each word of a column?
GC: Talking is easier than writing. Writing is hard. It just is. It’s like putting bricks together in a way. They all have to fit together just right in that line, but then the whole structure has to work too. You have to think ‘Okay, how am I going to start this? What comes next? What’s the perfect word here? Oh, that’s not quite working, let me try another.’ When you’re talking on the air, you’re just being yourself, or a stylized version of yourself. The labor is not close.
When you work for a newspaper — now I’m with an online newspaper — the job is just a wonderful job of going out and talking to people. It’s just the best job in the world because you have this freedom to go talk to anyone you want about anything you want. The reporting is fun. Being at events is fun. Getting to people’s stories and life stories is a great pleasure. But then there always comes this moment where you sit down at the computer and have to write. That is work in the way that nothing that I do on the radio feels like work. The next two hours of writing, that is hard work of the sort like writing a paper in college. That process is more difficult than anything we do on the radio.
BN: What is your 60-second resume that led to where you are now?
GC: I’m someone who always wanted to be a sports writer who took a detour into the law because he thought it was more respectable, and subsequently realized it was a mistake. I was a tremendous law student, but I was not a great lawyer. I was a very unhappy lawyer. At age 30, I said I’m going to try this again. I did journalism before; I had worked for the Miami Herald one summer, and I had worked for People magazine one summer in college. Those were college jobs.
After I had been at the law firm for a couple of years I said you know I’m going to try it one more time. I’m not going to pretend I’m a news writer. I’m going to be a sports writer because that’s what I wanted to do when I was 12. I was a kid who was one of nine. I grew up outside of Buffalo. If my parents punished me, they would take away my sports page reading privileges. They’d take away The Buffalo News and the Buffalo Courier-Express. That’s what I wanted to do when I was 12 and I just lost track of that because of money and prestige and all of that. I ended up unhappy and so I tried again and it worked.
BN: What other stops did you have before getting to Memphis?
GC: I wrote 300 newspapers and the only one who hired me was The Anniston Star down in Alabama. A guy named Joe Distelheim had been the sports editor in Detroit and was now the managing editor at Anniston. He hired me to do a 10-week internship covering high school sports for 225 a week. At the time I was making six figures as a young lawyer. Back then six figures met something, but I did it. I did two years there.
A guy named Fred Turner in Fort Lauderdale hired me to be the Marlins beat writer. He took a ridiculous chance on me to do that. I was not cut out to be a baseball beat writer, but I was having fun in a way that I never was as a lawyer. In Anniston I was having fun. I loved covering high school football games on a Friday night and Auburn on a Saturday. I was having a blast in a way that I just never was as a lawyer.
Fort Lauderdale was fun and then they took a chance on me here. I had only been a sports writer for four years when they gave me the column job in Memphis, which is a big chance that The Commercial Appeal took on me.
Now I was older because I didn’t start until I was 30, so I was 34. I don’t think I thought I’d stay here forever. In many ways Memphis is like Buffalo in that they’re sort of underdog places but a real strong sense of place and self. I fit here. I was happy. When you’re happy, I always figured why roll the dice on greater happiness somewhere else. I was happy here and so here I’ve stayed for now 25 years.
BN: Did you ever have a moment in journalism school or when you went from six figures to 225 where you were like, “What am I doing?” Did that ever pop in your head?
GC: Yes. What I made for The Anniston Star was not sustainable. I would not have stayed in journalism if I was going to make 225 a week working in a small town in Alabama. As much as I liked Anniston, if that was where I was going to end up, I would have gone back to being a lawyer and said I’ll watch sports in my spare time and I’ll buy season tickets with my money.
I do think that one of the keys with people who want to do this for a living is to take a shot at it, but there is a certain amount of luck and a certain amount of ability that you have to have to make it to a level where this is both satisfying and where you can pay your bills. I’m not an idiot. I would not have stayed as a sports writer for 225 a week forever. I just wouldn’t have.
I tell people whether they want to do radio or print journalism, I tell them to give it a shot because you’re going to kick yourself if you don’t. If that’s what you really, really, really want to do. But be self-aware enough that after you’ve done it for a few years, to figure out if you have what it takes to get to a place in the industry where you’ll be happy because it’s really hard. Not everyone will make it. To me it’s not unlike someone who wants to move to L.A. and try to be a star. I’m not saying we’re stars but I think it’s become kind of a crapshoot like that.
You move to L.A., you give it a shot, and if you make it, great, if not, go be an accountant. Give yourself five years or 10 years, but you don’t have to work washing dishes for 30 years chasing your dream. Maybe I’m too much of a pragmatist. I’m enough of a dreamer to think you have to give it a shot, but I’m enough of a pragmatist to think that at some point you have to realize that sports journalism in whatever form may not be how you’re going to find your greater satisfaction or happiness.
BN: What’s the best advice you got as a journalist and what’s the best advice you got as a sports radio host?
GC: The best I got as a journalist, there’s no substitute for making the next call or for being there. Just always make the next call. When you’re reporting a story and you can make three calls instead of two, make the third call. It’s stunning how often the third call is when you get the exact quote or the exact tip or whatever else that you need. And be there; actually a young journalist was asking me recently how to develop contacts and sources. The first thing I said was to show up. Be at everything. Be at every practice. Be at every Zoom call. Make sure they know that you’re serious and that you take your craft seriously. You’re covering people who take their craft very seriously, so you should take it as seriously. To me that’s the most important thing in journalism.
In terms of sports radio, Brad Carson, who’s our program director, is always urging us to get to the point quickly. I can meander a little bit. I think that was useful. There was someone early on who told me that a radio show is like staging a Broadway production every single day, that it’s not just yammering away about the events of the day. From the beginning to end, it is a production and we can’t craft it with the care and the months of preparation each day that they do in putting on a Broadway show, but in the end we are presenting something to people. Whatever it is — entertainment, opinion, interviews, laughter — to think hard about what exactly you want to present to people every day.
BN: We all know how much Ja Morant means to the Grizzlies, but beyond that, what does he mean for your jobs?
GC: There’s not much more fun in either print or on radio than celebrating wins, celebrating your town, your team, celebrating together. I grew up listening to the Buffalo Sabres. The Bills didn’t win much so I thought more of the Sabres at the time. They had a show called the Fourth Period. Ted Darling was the voice of the expansion Sabers at the time. After a win, I was the 11-year-old kid in bed listening to the Fourth Period because you just want to relive it. Ja Morant is going to give this city and all of us who covers sports a lot of moments that people are going to want to relive. He already has. We’ll see where it goes.
Things can go badly for Rookies of the Year. Anthony Davis, he wasn’t Rookie of the Year actually, but he didn’t work out and in the end he forced his way out of New Orleans. There are no guarantees, but it appears that he’s going to give us the kind of superstar that certainly at the professional level this town has never had. At the college level we had it, but it’s fleeting.
We had a year of Derrick Rose. We had two years of Penny Hardaway. We’ve had fleeting tastes of a superstar. We haven’t had a decade of a superstar ever in Memphis. Ja could be that. When you can just come in and celebrate with the city, be an outlet for that celebration, radio doesn’t really get more fun than that.
BN: It probably means you don’t have to play your tuba outside of the arena though, right?
GC: [Laughs] Where did you hear that story?
BN: [Laughs] I was doing crack research on you before this interview. Can you tell that story? It’s a great story, man.
GC: In the early days of the Grizzlies, they were starting another season. They were 0-9 or whatever they were. The previous year they had started — I’m making up these numbers — something like 0-13. So you run out of things to say about losing teams. I said if this team gets to 0-13, I’ll play Christmas carols on my tuba outside of the Pyramid. This was back when they were in the Pyramid.
Sure enough, they lose, they lose, they lose and we get to the fateful game. I referred to them in my column again. At this point the pressure is building. They were playing the Golden State Warriors and the head coach, I forgot who it was, printed out my column and put it on the seats of the Warriors’ bench before the game to further inspire their team to victory.
I remember Antawn Jamison hit a 3 and said start warming up that tuba. I had to play Christmas carols on my tuba outside of the Pyramid. But what I did was, I called the tuba player for the Memphis Symphony and I got another two dozen tuba playing friends and we had a little tuba Christmas outside of the Pyramid. It was fun.
BN: What’s a memorable story of a player or coach that either ripped you or complimented you for your work?
GC: Okay, well on the bad side was when Jason Williams stole my pen in the locker room. Jason Williams came after me after a playoff game. Mike Miller had to peel him off of me. The audio of Jason is, “You ain’t writing nothing, homeboy.” Actually we use that clip of Jason saying that to start my radio show every day, as if by taking my pen he could stop me from writing something. He later returned to the Grizzlies and they had a little press conference. I put 20 pens in my pocket, so when I walked up the first thing he saw was me with 20 pens. He got fined $20,000 for that though, so it was an expensive pen. Then Calipari I would say. John Calipari hated me. Those are the two.
You know who was great was Hubie Brown. Hubie Brown came here at a time when his career as a coach was supposed to be over. People mocked Jerry West a little bit for the hire. It seemed very unusual for a young team to bring Hubie out of mothballs, but it was really fun. It was a fun few years and Hubie won Coach of the Year. Here’s a guy, every single press conference of his was a tutorial. It was just wonderful. Memphis kind of fell in love with him and his sort of grandfatherly ways.
Hubie, probably more than anyone else, went out of his way to thank me for the way I covered him. Given that he is such a pro, I think that’s why that one sticks in my mind. For Hubie, who knows more about basketball than I would ever think of knowing, for him to thank me for the way I covered him was particularly meaningful.
BN: Is there anything that you would like to accomplish or experience before you retire?
GC: Not really. I’ve covered great events. I think the most fun was the Olympics. I’ve covered eight Olympics and that’s plenty. They’re just a total blast to cover. Super Bowls and Masters and all of that stuff, but to me the fun part was always to be connected to a community, to be one of the voices in a community.
I wanted to be Larry Felser. Larry Felser was the columnist in Buffalo for The Buffalo News that I grew up reading. When I was a 12-year-old kid, I wanted to be Larry Felser. In a way I’ve become that in Memphis. Because of the state of newspapering, there won’t ever be another sports columnist that can have the reach that sports columnists of the past had in Memphis. I don’t just mean me; I just mean everyone who preceded me. The job has changed, but I got to be that for the better part of two decades.
Now I’ve gotten to transition and to be part of doing it differently on a radio show where the conversation is more intimate and there’s more dialogue. You actually are talking to the community. The fun part is being a part of a community and I’ve been able to do that. I just want to keep doing that for a while.
It would be nice for Memphis to win a championship. Memphis has come close. To get back to the Final Four and to have no Mario Chalmers shot or to have Ja carry this team to an NBA championship. But I don’t need that for me to feel like I’ve had fun with this. It’s been a blast.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
Ian Rapoport Is Competing Against Everyone
“When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive.”
The 2023 NFL Draft was a weekend filled with speculation, intrigue and musing among football fans and experts alike. After two quarterbacks were selected with the first two picks – C.J. Stroud by the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Bryce Young by the Houston Texans – Ian Rapoport had the inclination that something was about to break at the event in Kansas City.
The third pick of the night was held by the Arizona Cardinals, but through previous intel, Rapoport knew there was a chance the team would trade it. His phone then lit up with a text message from a source that simply read, “Texans trading.” Receiving a message of this magnitude takes years of networking, credibility and immense trust from the people you cover. Rapoport has worked hard to attain all of them.
He replied by asking, “Did the Texans trade up to three?,” as the team was not set to pick again until No. 12 overall. Once he got confirmation of the scenario, he began to visibly shake in excitement and captured the attention of the NFL Network team.
“I sit there with a camera in front of me that’s not always on air – this is during the Draft – and the producer gets in my ear and he goes, ‘Can you go on air with whatever you have?,’ and I just say, ‘Yes.’” Rapoport recalled. “And then I hear Rich Eisen go, ‘Ian, you have news,’ and I was able to break that the Texans have traded up to three to go get Will Anderson.”
This is the craft through which Rapoport has cultivated a successful journalism career, ultimately distinguishing him as NFL Network’s goto insider. He hardly ever separates himself from the job, equipped with an unparalleled work ethic to ensure he can communicate messages accurately and in a timely manner. While some people may argue that he is in direct competition with others in his position, such as Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, the reality of the situation is that it is Rapoport vs. the world.
“It’s such a small world now and everyone is interconnected – and with Twitter, literally anyone could break a story and have it go viral,” Rapoport said. “Obviously, you want everything first, but really you’re competing against everyone that exists because anyone could get the story at any moment.”
Work-life balance in such a role is usually quite insurmountable in today’s dynamic, interminable breaking news environment. Rapoport strives to find some level of normalcy in his life by playing golf and attending his sons’ sporting events. In the end though, he knows the world of football never sleeps, and it is up to him to remain in the know at all hours of the day, essentially always on standby to break the next big story.
“I do not turn my phone off because that’s actually way more stressful,” Rapoport said. “At least now when my phone’s on and near me, if something crazy happens, I can react rather than having a fake relaxation moment and then being caught off guard with something.”
Rapoport recognized that journalism was the field for him almost immediately after stepping onto the Columbia University campus. He worked his way up at The Dial to ultimately become its associate sports editor. In the summer preceding his senior year, he landed a coveted internship with ESPN where he gained invaluable experience in the world of television production.
By the time he graduated, Rapoport envisioned himself becoming a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, but he knew it was going to require he start small. Three hundred eleven job applications and two interviews later, he landed a part-time role with The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. covering high school sports. It gave him a start in the highly-competitive business – and kept him close to home while trying many new things.
Two years later, he found himself moving from the bright lights of New York City to the quaint town of Starkville, Mississippi for a notable opportunity. He had landed a job covering the Mississippi State Bulldogs for The Clarion-Ledger in the nearby capital city of Jackson and was under the direction of sports editor Rusty Hampton.
“I knew how to write, but I really didn’t know how to report,” Rapoport said. “He was probably the best [at] showing me, ‘This is all about reporting. It’s all about telling people something they don’t know rather than how well you can pen a sentence.’ To be really valuable to society or your newspaper, you really need to inform rather than entertain. I think he was probably the first and best person to teach me that.”
After spending two years in Mississippi, Rapoport became a beat reporter for The Birmingham News tasked with following the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just months into his new role, the program made a coaching change and hired Nick Saban, who has since led the program to six national titles.
Rapoport learned the thoroughness necessary to cover the Southeastern Conference as he rapidly watched the program become a perennial contender. In turn, he became an eminent college football reporter and his work began to be consumed nationally.
Simultaneously, Bill Belichick, another accomplished football head coach in his own right, was in the process of trying to lead the New England Patriots back to championship glory. Known to be stoic and restrained in his press conferences, reporters asking him questions knew extrapolating answers was not the easiest of tasks.
When Rapoport saw a job opening to cover the team with the Boston Herald that required NFL experience, he knew that he was not qualified verbatim per se. Yet he figured the experience he had in covering Saban and Alabama would serve him well in the role, and articulated such in a protracted email to the newspaper’s editors. His strategy worked, proving why Rapoport is considered one of the industry’s best communicators at the micro and macro levels.
“You don’t see a lot of sources within the Patriots or sources within Alabama – there’s not a lot of that,” Rapoport said. “So I learned to report despite that and kind of work the edges and get the information I needed, despite head coaches who weren’t always the most forthcoming with information.”
NFL Network oftentimes has local beat reporters on the air to interact with studio talent and give their perspectives about teams, and it was something Rapoport did while at the Boston Herald. He had no television experience outside of other appearances he made on Comcast New England and certainly no intention to pursue the medium as a career.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants overcame the New England Patriots, who were undefeated for the year entering the game. Rapoport was on hand for the proceedings, and shortly afterwards was called into a meeting with NFL Network executives.
He didn’t know he was interviewing for a job until he asked just why he had been summoned. He expressed his lack of television experience to the executives, who said the network would teach him everything he needed to know.
Once the meeting concluded, Rapoport called his wife, who he had met while living in Starkville, Mississippi, and told her what had just happened. She tempered his expectations, warning him not to get his hopes up as he remained optimistic. One month later, Rapoport received a job offer and found himself moving once again – this time to the Lone Star State.
“I hired an agent and moved to Dallas and basically spent the next year reporting on the Cowboys and some other things being very, very bad at TV, but learning and eventually figuring it out,” Rapoport said. “At the time, this guy, Eric Weinberger, who was our boss, kind of mentioned to me the possibility of transitioning [me] from reporter to insider.”
Rapoport acknowledged that he did not have the contacts necessary to effectively work as a league insider for a national outlet, but through his years of experience, he knew how to network and he was ready and willing to take the challenge.
Once he began the new position, Rapoport, along with reporter Michael Silver, was on the road for Thursday Night Football and contributed to its pregame and halftime coverage. While his television skills improved, Rapoport was hard at work bolstering his contacts and took somewhat of a geographical approach.
Every time he arrived in a new city, he would contact anyone and everyone he could conjure up, including general managers, scouts and head coaches. If he could not schedule a meeting time with them, he would introduce himself by roaming the sidelines at practices and before games. He engaged in a similar practice before the NFL Draft Combine, training camps and the Super Bowl along with other premier events, always staying focused on the task at hand.
“It probably took me five or six years to get a baseline of sources where if something happened, I had someone to call,” Rapoport said. “And then it took me a couple more years to get to the point where I would know before a lot of people when something was about to happen. It’s all a multi-step process, and just [the] layering and layering and layering of sources is really the sort of engine that drives this thing.”
Ian Rapoport always attempts to triangulate his sources to verify information before he releases it publicly. There is no guarantee sources are always truthful or acting in a professional manner. Therefore, it is incumbent on a journalist to ensure the validity of content before publishing it themselves.
“If you’re only right some of the time, then none of it is really worth it,” Rapoport expressed, “because then you say something and they’re like, ‘Well, wow, that’s a big story if this is true.’ The whole point of doing this is when I pop up on TV or when people see my Twitter alerts or whatever, they have to know that it’s true – they have to know.”
One day, Rapoport was having a conversation with a source and discovered through their conversation that Rob Gronkowski had informed the New England Patriots that he would return to the game of football under the stipulation he be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady. There had been much speculation pertaining to Gronkowski’s future after he had worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, and now Rapoport realized he had a monumental scoop – that is, if it was true. Within six minutes, Rapoport verified the story with three sources, contacted his editor and reported to the world Gronkowski’s intentions. The story was picked up virtually everywhere.
“I just think about the job all the time, and I make little lists for myself of things that I need to track down, and I just make a lot of phone calls for it,” Rapoport said. “When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive. It ends up just a brain full of football thoughts, and then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what I can learn from it.”
Working for a league-owned entity can sometimes epitomize an inherent conflict of interest. For Rapoport however, he has found working at NFL Network to be hassle-free. He knows, however, the nature of his job means he will not be universally liked.
“Whatever you do, you’re going to report and the people you report on are going to be happy or upset or neutral – or whatever it is,” Rapoport said. “I’m never going to criticize a referee, for instance, because that’s a nuanced thing and people might say, ‘NFL criticizes referees.’ I’m never going to do that, but I wouldn’t do that anyway.”
Rapoport continues to appear on a variety of external media outlets, perhaps most notably The Pat McAfee Show, which recently concluded its “Up to Something Season.” The grand conclusion of the proceedings was McAfee announcing he would be bringing his show to ESPN’s linear and digital platforms starting in the fall.
While McAfee is retaining creative control and has expressed on multiple occasions that his show will not be changing, many have wondered whether insiders employed by other networks will be able to continue making appearances. It is an answer Rapoport himself does not know, nor has he asked about.
“When the news broke, my phone blew up with all sorts of people saying all sorts of different things,” Rapoport said. “I have no idea. I really don’t.”
Even so, Rapoport is elated for McAfee and his team taking the next step in their show’s journey and is genuinely glad to see them succeed. He does not think McAfee’s goal was to reshape sports media, but rather to cultivate a distinctive sports talk program built for fans and today’s generation of consumers.
“You get to know someone and you think they’re a good person and you respect the way they work. Some people have success and some people have a little success and some people don’t. It’s really rare to see someone who has every bit of success that’s essentially possible and deserves every bit of it, and that’s kind of how I thought about Pat. It’s really cool, honestly. He’s built it himself.”
It was on McAfee’s show where another prominent football insider – Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports – said it would be a matter of “when,” not “if” the NFL would have games seven days per week. While devoted football fans like Rapoport are open to such a proposition, he is not sure the league would ever go that far.
“I don’t even know that it would affect my schedule that much,” he said. “It sort of doesn’t matter. I’ll report all year round anyway.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Face-to-Face Sales Meetings Have Never Been More Valuable
“With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F.”
When did you last attend a face-to-face (F2F) in-person sales call? Let’s imagine for a second.
In New York, Sarah, a determined sports radio salesperson, got tired of chasing a major client for months. Despite her calls, emails, and text, she couldn’t break through to get a meeting.
Throwing caution to the wind, Sarah decided to go for it. She loaded her deck and took her burning desire via airplane to Florida to make the pitch. She showed up unannounced at the client’s office and startled the decision-maker. She was given the meeting and won over the client, getting a substantial annual contract and a movie deal in Hollywood.
We have all seen that storyline. F2F meetings used to be the obvious choice over a phone call, and most buyers were open to that idea. We even conducted market trips to meet our buyers in person and create better relationships.
With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F. Lots of us work and listen from home.
Gartner Research points out that live, in person selling is superior to virtual selling in financial services or, as I think, in radio sales. Now, prospecting new clients F2F is much more difficult. You have never met them, you don’t know who you are looking for, and gatekeepers and remote decision-makers make walk-ins more challenging.
How about getting out and seeing your current or former clients F2F? 65% of outside account executives attain quota, 10% more often than inside reps. Here are some simple strategies to get outside and F2F:
STAY IN TOUCH
Turn the sales faucet on ‘drip’ and contact your current clients with whatever works: phone calls, emails, or texts. Tell them you are checking in to see if anything has changed, give them a local business lead, or share your latest insight on their favorite team. When doing so, tell them you want to meet F2F and go deep into the next quarter’s ad plan or a new idea to get them back on the air. They may start looking forward to your communication.
Schedule an annual review ahead of their busiest time of year to review the upcoming messaging in ads. Go over what worked or didn’t last year. Share a success story of a similar advertiser in another market or show them a new opportunity that fits.
Be upfront that with F2F, we can get more specific, work with better feedback, and partner on hitting their goals. Be the person who looks ahead and helps keep your client focused.
Organize workshops for your current clients. Teach that about streaming, OTT, or Google ads. Get your digital person involved. Let them know you are bringing in other local businesspeople they may want to know or network with and meet F2F! A Mortgage broker may want to meet a realtor who wants to meet a wealthy local businessperson interested in meeting the local head coach. Stand out as a leader in the industry and watch clients brag about working with you.
HIT A TRADE SHOW
Attend trade shows where your current clients will be. This will show you are serious about their business and want to stay current so you can learn and earn. Set up a meeting over coffee or a drink. Share what you learned.
Client Appreciation Events held at your town’s most meaningful events or places. Do whatever it takes to get hospitality tents at big games and concert suites to show appreciation and bond with your current clients. Host a luncheon at the hottest new local restaurant. Focus on providing an atmosphere or experience everyone wants, but not many can attend. Be the exclusive person in town.
GET PERSONAL REFERRALS
Leverage your existing client relationships to seek referrals. Do it in person. Tell them you want to see them and ask for help and advice. Ask for introductions to potential new clients they know, and you will be surprised how much they like working with you.
Bring your Digital manager to them and do a free review of their SEO, PPC, whatever. Working off your client’s pc and bringing them an expert at no charge or obligation is much easier. Watch your partnership grow by providing so much expertise at no extra expense.
Don’t forget the value of F2F meetings. It’s a great way to build trust, connect, and unlock new opportunities. We are in a people business doing business with tons of local directs who still make most of their money serving retail customers F2F. Let’s get out and sell!
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
All Jason Timpf Needed Was A Moment of Clarity
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this.”
There was once a time when Jason Timpf always included Colin Cowherd in his commute to work. As he made his morning drive to a sales job at Verizon, The Herd was appointment listening each morning for Timpf. The ex-college basketball player would marvel at Cowherd’s ability to make relatable references and break down all of the same basketball games he would watch the night before.
One of the unique things Timpf can remember from listening to The Herd during that time was Cowherd saying if FOX ever put someone in front of him, he could tell in five seconds if that individual had the skills to be a host. It was far from a hot take on the Lakers, but still a distinct moment that stuck with Timpf for many years. Little did he know at the time but Cowherd would soon give a five-second evaluation of Timpf’s career.
Jason Timpf was a late-bloomer in basketball. He played college hoops at an NAIA school in Utah, but not until his third year, after being a regular student the first two. After graduating, he pursued a basketball career overseas in India. However, after the league folded, he left the game for a normal job in the States.
There was a real desire for Timpf to get into the sports media business, but he was having difficulties finding the right fit. He wanted advice on the best way to start, but the tips he received just didn’t feel like the right initial path.
“I’d hear, hey, go bang on a radio station’s door and ask if you can work the soundboard,” said Timpf. “Or, try to go to a journalism school. Another big one that everyone was doing was the SB Nation blogs and FanSided blogs. I briefly tried to do that a little bit. But none of it was materializing the way that I had hoped.”
But then the lightbulb went off for Timpf and it happened during the middle of a podcast interview. In October of 2020, Jason Maples of Blue Wire reached out to Timpf to talk hoops on his podcast. It was in the middle of that interview when it all made sense. It felt exactly like the camaraderie he enjoyed with his old teammates and friends talking basketball. It was relaxed, fun and what he used to do for enjoyment. The perfect fit had just found Timpf organically.
“It was, ‘this is it,’” said Timpf. “‘This is how I want to do it.’ It was like a moment of clarity. Like, this is the way I want to talk about the game. Fortunately, I was working in real estate at the time, so I was super flexible, so I literally was just trying to fake it until I made it.”
While Timpf was grinding away on his new platform choice, he was constantly putting out his content on social media. For a handful of years, he had used Twitter as an outlet for basketball talk – not because he was trying to build his brand, but because it was his preferred method of sharing his takes during and after basketball games.
“My wife actually played basketball in college but she, like a lot of people, got out of it and was like, ‘actually I’m so sick of basketball, since it’s all I did growing up, that I’d rather not talk about it,’” laughed Timpf.
As Timpf had built up years of basketball takes on Twitter, he also built up followers. Not a crazy amount, but enough to have regular interactions with several basketball fans. He had no idea at the time, though he remembers occasionally interacting with him, but one of his followers in the beginning was Logan Swaim, who just happens to be Head of Content at The Volume.
Being such a huge fan of Cowherd, Timpf was absolutely familiar with The Volume, a company started by the FOX Sports Radio host. In fact, during his first plunge into podcasts, he quickly took note of how much success The Volume was having with instant reaction and video content. He wanted to emulate what they were doing and would host a Twitter Space after each Lakers game.
Swaim kept up with Timpf’s journey and continued to be impressed with what he saw. He was so impressed, in fact, that a video eventually made it in front of Cowherd’s eyes. It was the moment Timpf had always heard about while driving to his job at Verizon. Cowherd was about to make a declaration on Timpf’s abilities.
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this,” Timpf said. “That was a huge boost of confidence for me, because it meant somebody I deeply respected believed I could work in this business.”
Timpf made his dream come true. He was offered a job by The Volume hosting Hoops Tonight. As much of a dream as it was when he was initially hired, the experience since has been nothing but ideal for Timpf. He gets to cover his favorite sport the way he wants to cover it.
“When I first started and Logan and I were structuring out the show, he kinda viewed it as my show would be the slower, more methodical pace, where I work through my thought process of a game. And also that I’d be a guest on other Volume shows for more conversational podcasts. I really wanted to break down pick and roll coverage. It’s just going to take me a while, so trying to do that in a debate show format or conversational format can get hard. It’s a place where I can let more of my crazy depth out. And I can also have a side format where it’s more conversational.”
Timpf has learned prep for podcasts is one of the biggest elements to being successful. As Hoops Tonight continues to draw impressive numbers over audio and YouTube, he’s figured out the best method to prepare for a long-form podcast where he’s hosting solo.
“I digest the game from the simple concept of how the game was won,” said Timpf. “Where was it won? There’s 100-something possessions in this game, there’s seven different storylines and several runs and sequences and sways in momentum, but what’s the one? Usually I’ll target that first in the opening segment of the show.
“While I’m watching the game I’ll take ancillary notes. About five minutes before I record, I sift through everything I’ve written down and limit it down to the things I think are most important. But generally the flow of the show is how the game was won.”
The whole experience has been gratifying and a full-circle moment in many ways for Timpf. Not only has it been vindicating to do things his way and see it become a success, but he’s gotten to do it with someone who he considers an idol.
Sure, Timpf always envisioned growing up he would be talking to Cowherd as a pro athlete, but talking to him as a colleague is certainly the next best thing. So when he got the call to talk with Cowherd during last year’s West Conference Finals, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was so incredibly nervous, as you could imagine,” laughed Timpf. “But I immediately remember him making me feel comfortable and confident. It immediately calmed me down.
“This is probably my favorite part of the entire experience, I think a lot of people think that these networks try to shove people in certain directions and The Volume has given me such freedom to cover the game exactly the way I want to and nobody is telling me to say crazy stuff. Nobody is pushing me in certain directions, it’s like total creative freedom. The way that Logan and Colin have been letting me do me, so to speak, has been so cool. To see my version of what I want it to look like makes me feel vindicated for talking about it the way I want to.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.