Spence Checketts Learned His Pain Tolerance
“There are still people that will bring it up and I think that will always be a part of my life. Again that’s part of the consequence of making a decision that could be damaging to other people.”
To err is human. Not all errors are the same though. Many fall short of threatening to derail a successful career. Spence Checketts made a mistake two years ago that nearly took away the job he loves. However the afternoon drive host on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City has rebounded strongly from the bad situation.
He has chosen not to hide from it. Checketts has also done an impressive job of shifting his perspective; he is much more appreciative of the opportunities he enjoys.
Spence’s career path is unique as well. The business isn’t crawling with hosts that were once NBA scouts for three years. One of the most thought-provoking comments below is Spence highlighting a trait in sports talk hosts that is important to succeed. Ironically people in the business rarely mention the same trait as necessary. Spence is an interesting guy with smart views and a redemption story. That’s a recipe for a compelling read. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: Tell me about your career path, Spence. Where did it start for you and how did things unfold to where you are now?
Spence Checketts: I fell into this thing. Growing up my father [Dave Checketts] was an executive in the NBA first with the Jazz and then later he was the CEO at Madison Square Garden for about 12 years. He was the president and GM of the Knicks. Seeing the way the New York media treated my father soured me to the media in general. I was actually raised to believe that the media was the enemy a little bit. I never thought for a second that this would be my career path.
I was working in marketing and advertising for a cluster of radio stations here in Salt Lake City. One of the stations that we sold for — and we did all the branding and marketing for — was the station that had the Jazz as one of their properties. I got pretty friendly with some of the producers and on-air hosts. One of the guys there one day just asked me have you ever thought about a career in radio? I said no, absolutely not. He actually said you have a radio voice and you grew up playing the game and you grew up in the league. I had some relationships from my time — actually I was a scout in the NBA for three years.
I came out here and my plan was to play for Rick Majerus at the U. It’s kind of a left-hand turn, but this will tell you what eventually landed me in radio. Back in the day before you could get online and see who the big time high school players were and who the recruits were — I had no idea before I came out here. Rick’s whole thing with me was come walk on and you can become a scholarship player maybe your sophomore or junior year, but come walk on as a freshman. I came out here and the other freshman point guard was Andre Miller.
BN: Oh gosh.
SC: Yeah, so I joke all the time that Andre Miller made me retire from basketball because that’s when I knew I wasn’t — I thought I was really good up until I played against NBA guys. I had a chance to go to five-star basketball camp for a couple of summers. I remember the first time I played against an NBA guy. Do you remember God Shammgod Wells?
BN: I do, barely. I remember the name though.
SC: He played for Providence College and in the league. I was matched up with him at basketball camp and I couldn’t get the ball past half court. He picked my pocket three straight times and that was it. I came home from camp all depressed and my dad was like what’s up with you? I said I’m not going to play in the NBA. I realized this as a 16-year-old. Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace were at that camp. I thought I was good enough to play college ball so I came out here to play for Rick and then went up against Andre.
Within a month, I was in Majerus’ office and I said hey you got to shoot me straight. I can’t play with this guy. He’s bigger, stronger; he’s better than I am.
To Rick’s credit he was very honest with me. He said look you can really shoot it and you can really pass it, but Andre Miller is my starting point guard. I left the team and didn’t end up playing for Rick for longer than a couple of months. That’s how I got into scouting. Then I started scouting for the Knicks, which I did for about three years on a regional level, but I wasn’t getting paid.
I had to find a job and I decided to get into the advertising and marketing side on radio and TV — and back to the original point — became pretty friendly with the producers. Then one of them just asked me, hey you should give it a try. Just come on my weekend Saturday show. That’s how I got into it. Within a month it just felt natural. It felt like trying on a pair of pants that fit really well the first time I cracked a microphone. I knew that maybe I had found something. Within a month I went from doing their Saturday shows to doing afternoon drive and the Jazz pre, half, and post. That’s how it all started just kind of randomly. I didn’t take any journalism classes in college. I didn’t have a radio background. I just kind of fell into it like that.
BN: Because of your scouting background — if you were running a station and had to scout radio hosts instead, what are the qualities you would look for that you believe would make a great host?
SC: That’s an interesting question. First of all I’m a big fan of presence — not necessarily voice, but presence. I grew up on Mike and the Mad Dog. I loved Dog and I still love him to this day. He does not have a classic radio voice, but he has great presence. Just the way you command your airwaves with your presence even if you don’t have the classic, deep, play-by-play voice or radio broadcaster voice. That to me is number one. There are so many guys out there who even if the content isn’t great they can fool you into thinking it is because of the way they command their space.
I think all of us have a certain level of knowledge, but as far as your cadence and how you deliver that knowledge to the listener is a big piece of it. Being in this business now — this will be my 16th year coming up — if I travel and find the local sports talk radio station and I fire it up to see what’s going on, I can tell within two minutes if they’re doing the work. If they’re preparing, if they show up and crack the mic and they’re ready to be on air.
I take the work very, very seriously. If I’m not prepared one day I just get tremendous anxiety. It’s almost a selfish thing for me to be a little bit more settled in to do the work. I would say presence, work ethic, knowledge, and then simply entertainment. It’s fun after all. You just want a guy with a fun personality as opposed to somebody who takes themselves way too seriously.
BN: Sometimes showing the audience that you aren’t perfect is a huge thing that helps you connect with listeners. The DUI you got — how have you approached that situation on air and has it helped you connect with your audience?
SC: The biggest thing is just not running from it — being authentic about it and being honest and upfront with it. I know there have been guys in my shoes — whether it’s a DUI or something else — that have done everything they could to bury it as far as they can and then just hope every day that nobody ever finds out about it. That’s not the reality of how our business works now. We have the internet. People are going to be able to find out. Maybe 20 years ago you could try to bury it, but that’s not how it works. I think trying to hide from it is entirely disingenuous. Just acknowledge it, be upfront about it, and be honest about it.
It was a really tough situation. There are people that will always brand me as the guy who got the DUI. I will never be able to change their mind as far as who I am. That’s my reality. That’s what I have to live with and that’s what happens when you make mistakes. It’s like my mom used to say, consequences are a bitch. But they’re part of it, that was part of the drill.
My whole thing throughout the course of coming back to being an on-air personality, right away in the first meeting I had with my GM, who has become a great friend and a real mentor, we talked about it and he actually said “Well, how do you want to handle this? Should we not even acknowledge it?”
I said no no no, I’m going to address it in my very first segment back on air. I’m going to talk about it. I’m going to be honest and authentic about it and I’m going to be real about it.
The cool thing about it is, I did a piece with the local paper here where we talked all about it. I can’t even tell you how many people have responded and have said ‘Hey just so you know, last weekend I was out and I had some drinks. I had my car with me. Instead of getting behind the wheel, I Ubered home and got my car the next day because I read your story.” That’s been the coolest thing about all of this. Whenever I hear from somebody who elected not to drive drunk or got caught at some point and can relate to the story and is thankful for the fact that I did stick it out and I did decide to come back.
For a minute, dude, I didn’t know that this was going to be my life anymore. I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue to do this because of how many bullets I took publicly as a result of a real unfortunate situation. I think whether it’s me or anybody else when it comes to a slip-up or something that’s happened in life, it shows the audience that you’re human. It hopefully inspires them to be a little bit better if you show that you can bounce back from your mistakes.
I’m a firm believer that things don’t happen to you, they happen for you. That’s how I’ve chosen to approach it. It’s been coming up — it’ll be two years since everything went down. There’s been a good amount of space that has taken place. There are still people that will bring it up and I think that will always be a part of my life. Again that’s part of the consequence of making a decision that could be damaging to other people.
BN: What all was involved in the timeline starting with the DUI and then coming back on the air?
SC: I was upfront with my employer. As soon as it happened I called him just to let him know, like hey here’s the situation. They suspended me initially. I went up to a inpatient rehabilitation facility for 45 days. While I was up there they deliberated and made the decision that it wasn’t in their best interest to bring me back. I can’t comment as to why. That’s a conversation you’d have to have with them.
I was really bummed out but I understood. I get it. No part of me was ever angry at them. It was a station that I really loved and I helped build. They’re all still friends of mine over there. I talked to them quite a bit.
My whole thing was to own the entire pie and not be upset that I didn’t get my old show back, or my old job back, and understand this is part of the deal. I was left to wonder what was next. There was probably a five- or six-month period where I really thought that it may be over. I heard from a lot of people in the industry. I remember I had a conversation with Ryan Hatch. I don’t know if you know Ryan at all.
SC: So Ryan was a guy here who I worked with a little bit. He was a personality here in the market. I really like Ryan. I really respect Ryan. I consider him a good friend. I spoke to Jason Barrett too. Jason’s been great throughout this entire thing and a real supporter of mine. Ryan’s a guy who saw some talent in me early on. I reached out to him and Ryan said to me, “Look, you have to acknowledge the possibility that this may be over for you.”
SC: He was the first person who said that to me. I went, “Oh holy smokes!” I started recalibrating a little bit like what am I going to do here? What’s next for me? Not to sound arrogant, but I feel like I’ve been if not thee guy here, one of the main two or three guys for 13, 14 years. So I just figured if I could put a little time in between the incident and continue to make sure I’m keeping my backyard clean that the phone would start ringing. Eventually it did, Brian, but for a while it didn’t. When that phone is not ringing you go “holy smokes!” It took a year and a half for me to get back on air.
I thought about moving. I spoke to a station in Denver. I was in advanced talks with a station in Atlanta and really thought that was going to be my next destination before ESPN 700 here called, which ironically enough was my old station before I went and worked with the Jazz station [1280 The Zone] for seven years.
The opportunity presented itself. I wasn’t necessarily looking to move, but I was open to it. It was just a matter of learning about my pain tolerance and kind of waiting it out. Continuing just to make sure that I’m doing the things that I need to be doing so when that phone did ring I can answer the questions that I needed to answer in order to approach this next project with everything I possibly have. But it took a year and a half. It was hard. I’m not going to lie. It was really hard and I thought it could be over.
BN: Man, I know that was tough. Has the whole situation of your career possibly ending made you hungrier each day and made your drive a little bit more intense?
SC: Yeah, and that’s a good question. I’ll tell you what it did is it took away every bit of entitlement that I may have had. Instead of approaching this as “I deserve this job. I worked hard at it and this is something that I deserve,” it’s like no, “I’m extremely lucky to have this job.” I know that every single day, regardless of the real estate you carve out for yourself in a market, it can go away like that. For some people when it goes away, it never comes back.
I’ve always been a driven person. I’ve never been afraid of work. That’s how I was raised, but I learned that you can have talent, you can be driven, you can work hard, and it can still go away if you don’t keep everything in line. I always said if I get another opportunity there’s definitely some things I’m going to do differently, but the main thing is no entitlement and just realize how blessed I am to be in this spot.
I probably needed it taken away from me for a while to learn that. As I look back on everything my new favorite word in life is serendipitous. It’s so serendipitous how it all went down. There was obviously a clear reason for why it went down. Again I probably needed it to be taken away for a while to approach it with the fervor and passion that I try to on a daily basis.
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.