Jeff Catlin: No Matter Who Is In Town, The Ticket is the Bar
No matter who’s in town or not in town, or who our competitors are or aren’t, we’ve always felt like our bar is ourselves.
Believe it or not, there is a lot of common ground between coaching an NFL team and coaching a radio station. Take this quote for instance; is it from a coach or a programmer? “We have to focus on ourselves and we have to focus on our process and our vision. That’s just to continue to grow, continue to get better every week.” It’s from Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott before he faced the New England Patriots for the first time back in 2017. It sounds an awful lot like Jeff Catlin too.
Catlin is the Program Director at 96.7 The Ticket in Dallas. Like McDermott and many other NFL coaches and teams, Catlin focuses on his building and staff, not the competition. Sure, he politely answers a question about Mike Rhyner, the Godfather of The Ticket, coming out of retirement to join a new crosstown rival, The Freak. But Catlin isn’t distracted by what other stations in town are doing. He makes it clear that his focal point is The Ticket.
Catlin also talks about the most important lesson for a PD to learn, why talking about non-sports topics works for some stations but not others, and The Ticket being nominated for what would be its fifth Marconi for Sports Station of the Year. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where are you originally from?
Jeff Catlin: I’m from Arlington, Texas, USA.
BN: Okay, wow, so you haven’t strayed too far from your backyard?
JC: Yeah, I was the PD of KCMO AM in Kansas City from 2000 to 2003. But otherwise, yeah, I’ve spent the entirety of my career in Dallas Fort Worth, except for those two and a half years.
BN: What were those two and a half years like for you in Kansas City being away from home?
JC: It was great. I love Kansas City. I think Kansas City is a great town, it’s a great place to live. It was a great learning experience. That was my first PD job. I was able to really learn a lot there. It was with the same company I had been working for, so in terms of a move it wasn’t that difficult. It’s not too far away from where I was from. We had family and friends visit a lot and we came back to Texas a lot. It all worked out great.
The main difference business-wise in a town like Kansas City versus a market like Dallas, is there was really just three radio companies working in Kansas City at the time. In a market like Dallas, you have all three of the major companies, and then you have another three or four smaller broadcasters, and then a bunch of mom and pops. There’s a lot more competition here. There’s also a lot more companies doing business, where in Kansas City, it was much smaller.
BN: What led to you becoming a PD in the first place?
JC: When I was here at The Ticket in Dallas, Susquehanna was the company at the time. I was the assistant PD and I was the producer of the afternoon drive show. I knew that I wanted to be a PD. The PD here at the time wasn’t really going anywhere; he was kind of entrenched. I had had this goal professionally that I wanted to try to be a PD before I was 30 years old. When this opening came up in Kansas City, as I mentioned, it was with the same company for KCMO. So I went to my bosses in Dallas and said, ‘Hey, this is something that I want to apply for; it’s something that I really want to do.’
It was a different format. It was a news talk format versus a sports format. I thought that was great. It was still spoken word, but it would just give me another opportunity to try something similar, yet different format-wise. They encouraged me and the fact that it was with the same company kind of gave me a safety net because if I got the job, which I did, I would still be working with all the same corporate folks and it would kind of help me along. I thought that was really great and it turned out to be a great.
We had some success when I was there. The station was kind of starting over and it did allow me to learn a lot of different things. I learned some lessons as being a program director there that I still carry with me to this day. Overall, it was just a great experience. When I got there, I never thought I would move back to Dallas again, or come back to The Ticket. That wasn’t my intention.
My intention was to take that job in Kansas City at KCMO and be there and see where it led from there. That was how I approached it. I think that’s the way that you have to approach things, you can’t really approach a job like you’re only going to be there for a year or two because otherwise you’re always looking down the road and you’re not giving that particular station at that particular time your full attention and focus.
BN: What were a couple of the most important things that you needed to learn back then that you still apply today?
JC: The number one thing for any young programmer is just remember that it’s always about the people. When I was younger and when I got that job I just had a bunch of ideas for the format clocks and service elements and the promos and the rejoin beds and what I want the content to be focused on and all those kind of things. And that’s great. So you write all these notes down on your legal pad. But at some point, you have to be in a conference room, or a studio, or an office with the people that are on the air and running the board and producing those shows and doing the news updates. You’ve got to communicate your vision to them and they have to execute it.
You can have the best sounding radio station playing in your head 24/7, but at some point it’s about the people. It’s about communicating to your team what you want, and what your expectations are, coaching them on the way things are being done that are right, and those that need to be improved, and then getting all those ideas out onto the air. It ultimately comes down to somebody else. I think that’s hugely important to remember as a PD because you have to empower folks to do those things, and you have to communicate at every level in every way to people, what that vision is, how to execute it, and then how to follow up and critique and all those kinds of things.
Everybody’s different. You hear this all the time about people: ‘Well, everybody’s personality is different.’ And that’s so true. Some people want to be told. Some people want to be shown. Some people want to see a memo. Some people need all three. I think that was a big thing that I learned initially was just because you’re the PD and you have an idea and you say something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to make it on the air immediately.
BN: The Ticket strays outside of just hardcore sports. And it’s worked for you guys tremendously. Why does that formula work so well for your station?
JC: I think it’s kind of a misconception among sports radio listeners and programmers and talent is that this is the formula that works, X, Y, or Z. First of all, every city and every market is different. What works on the East Coast is not going to work in Dallas, Texas, and what’s working in Dallas may not work in California, or Seattle, Washington. Every market is different.
Going way back to the early days of The Ticket, and I was part of that, we went several years where all we did was talk about sports. I use this joke all the time; for the first two or three years we were on the air, all we talked about was does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame and who’s better, Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders.
But over time, as you start to develop the radio station and develop a relationship with your audience — and this is super important — without a very strong relationship with your audience based on sports or whatever, they’re not going to really allow you as a talk show host or producer or station to kind of stray from what you’re known for. It’s like listening to a country station and they drop in an oldies record. Well, they’re not going to really be down for that.
You have to understand what you’re trying to accomplish first, build the relationship with your audience second, and you will know at that time based on those factors when it’s okay to stray from sports. The reason we kind of knew it was working for us back then, is that when we would stray off into something more pop culture or more timely or newsworthy, we would hear from our listeners that they liked it and it was memorable for them. It was something they could relate to.
As the years have gone on, we kind of developed — again, in this market with our audience with this radio station — what worked, and what balance was right for us between sports and non-sports segments. Now, I think a lot of sports stations do it and they say they’re copying The Ticket or whatever, but it’s different for everyone.
The other thing here at the radio station is our main talk show talent has been with the radio station, some of them for as long as 28 years, and the newcomers have been here for 15 or 20 years. It’s not like we’re hiring people new coming into town and they’re immediately not talking about sports. That relationship with the audience happens along with a radio station organically and it grows over years. Then you have talent and shows that are working together for years and growing up on the air together and with their audience.
When you’ve been on the air for decades, just think about what happens not just in sports, but in life over the last 20 years. A pandemic, 9/11, different wars, protests, Michael Jackson died, it doesn’t just have to be news things, it can be pop culture things. But as those things happen, that’s what people talk about regardless of sports. Yeah, sure, they’re talking about Aaron Judge too, or they’re talking about the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl or not winning the Super Bowl, but they’re also going home and talking to their family about things that matter to them.
To be a radio station over the long haul in a market going on 28 years like The Ticket, you have to recognize that and really ultimately, that’s what we’re doing. We’re talking about what our listeners are talking about. And 85, 90, 95% of the time on a station like The Ticket, they care about sports. But there’s other times where things are more important in the world than sports.
You have to have that broad understanding of your audience and your station and the growth that you’ve had together and the responsibility and the relationship. That’s what allows you to understand and have the ability and the responsibility to talk about other things outside of sports. It’s not something that happens overnight, or because someone in a programming office says this is the way that we’re going to do it. It just doesn’t work that way I don’t think.
BN: Do you ever hear stations in Dallas or around the country that try to talk about things beyond sports and it just doesn’t go over well?
JC: Every single day.
JC: [Laughs] End of answer. Every single day.
BN: What do you attribute that to where it either fits and it works, or it’s forced and it’s just lame?
JC: I think it really goes back to the previous answer, which was a long answer but it’s really true. It’s just understanding what your station is about, how it’s being consumed by listeners, what relationship you have with your audience, and what they really will allow you to do based on those factors. I think sometimes it falls flat for any of those reasons, or it falls flat because the topic selection isn’t correct.
In other words, what you’re going off the sports page for isn’t the right topic, or it’s not something that resonates with the audience, or it’s not handled in a way that’s entertaining or informative. Some of those things are kind of like non-negotiables, right? Great storytelling is great storytelling. Having an opinion that resonates with your audience regardless of what the topic is, is universal. I think those are some of the reasons why it falls flat or it doesn’t work.
BN: You mentioned a lot of competition in Dallas. What’s your reaction to Mike Rhyner coming out of retirement after starting The Ticket to join The Freak?
JC: Well, when I first heard the rumors I was so surprised I didn’t believe it. And now I’m just sad about it. I just wish it wasn’t happening. But we’ve faced a lot of competition over the years and we take every competitor in this market, regardless of who’s there and what format they are, very seriously. And that’s what we’ll do in this case too.
BN: Why do you feel sadness about Mike?
JC: Because I think Mike has a home at The Ticket for life. And I thought that if he was itching to get back into radio, this is where he would have come and since he didn’t that makes me sad.
BN: Yeah, totally fair. Whether it’s that station or any other station popping up, does the competition have any impact on the way you approach things at The Ticket?
JC: Regardless of what new stations pop up, or have popped up over the last three years, we’re constantly evaluating the way we do things and changing them. Always. For example, I would say that for the most part, no media outlet, no radio station, no male-targeted radio station does the same content now that we did prior to 2017 and the Me Too movement for just one example. There are certain things that you could get away with saying 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, or five years ago, that you can’t say now. And that’s fine. That’s what we all do.
As a society, we’re all constantly evolving, we’re educating ourselves, we’re learning, and we change with it. I think that goes for The Ticket too. No matter who’s in town or not in town, or who our competitors are or aren’t, we’ve always felt like our bar is ourselves. We’re constantly evaluating what we’re doing. We want to constantly evolve and make it exciting and new for listeners, whether they’ve just moved into town or they’ve been with us for 10 years or since day one. If you don’t do that, I don’t think you make it as long and have as much success as The Ticket would have had if we just stayed the same.
BN: The Ticket is nominated for Marconi Sports Station of the Year again. The station won last year and four times altogether. When The Ticket is honored like that, what does it mean to you and the entire staff?
JC: I mean, I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty fun. It’s great. And I love it for the guys. Last year, we won Sports Station of the Year and my morning show won their first Marconi for Major Market Personalities of the Year after having been nominated like eight times. Like, seriously, you don’t have a radio station winning Marconis like The Ticket, and you don’t have a radio station with the ratings success over the years with The Ticket without a fantastic morning show. I think The Musers are the best morning show in the country, regardless of format. That was a completely deserved and well-earned Marconi last year, and I am just so happy for them.
But last year to win both, for the station and for those guys to win, it was a huge day around here for everybody. It matters to everybody, that every person that worked here last year, or have worked here before, has a piece of those things. It goes to everybody. Not just me, it’s not about me, it’s about them. I just get super excited and super thrilled for them because in radio that’s like our Super Bowl. To have four of them sitting in there feels pretty good. It’s fun.
BN: It makes all the sense in the world to get fired up when winning those big awards. Who wouldn’t be excited for that? On a day-to-day basis though, what excites you? You just said that’s like your Super Bowl, what’s like a solid Week 7 win?
JC: Well, first of all, being in the media business, we all understand what our report cards are when they come in every month. That is prime goal number one. That’s what we’re doing this for, so that gets me fired up every day. But what is a random win on a day is I just want us to, number one, have fun, and to be executing to the best of our ability on that day, whatever it is. I want the guys to be in the studio having a great time. I want them to be talking about stuff our listeners care about. I want them to be passionate. I want to laugh. I want to have a good time. I want to have something thought-provoking happening.
It’s all those little things that happen throughout the day that make me excited to come to work. It’s the personal relationships I have with everybody up here and that we’re all on the same team and we’re all a part of this thing and everybody is still so into it and excited about it. That’s what is fun for me. That’s what gets me fired up to come in here every day. That’s how I measure our success on the day-to-day. And then those monthly report cards that I talked about sure are nice too.
BN: If you could write the script, what do you think would make you happiest over the next five years for you and the station?
JC: I think to just continue to have the great success that all these guys have had and we enjoy it together. I think that’s the most important thing that you realize as you do this for a long time with largely the same core group of guys, is we want to be together, and we want to continue to do what we’re doing, and we want to continue to do it at the highest possible level we can for as long as we can. I don’t mean that to be generic. I think that’s as true as it possibly can be.
I want this radio station to continue on long after I’m not working here anymore. If that’s not anytime soon, I just want to keep doing what we’ve been doing with the same group of people that we’ve had. Just enjoy ourselves and to continue to change what we’ve been doing and to be leaders here in town.
I think that’s something that we think about and probably take more seriously than we did 15 years ago because it didn’t matter. Our position in the market now and the way that we can serve the community is just as important as making the community laugh or goofing around or whatever. And that stuff’s fun too, but we just have a responsibility to serve the community. I think that’s important to continue to do that in the best way that we can.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com 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.