Chris Plank Wants To Keep All The Jobs He Has
“I don’t ever want there to be a point to where I’m on the air and I’m like is this thing almost over?”
Do you remember Ben Zobrist? The utility baseball player was a Swiss Army knife — second baseman, outfielder, switch-hitter — most notably for the Royals and Cubs during his career. The guy practically sold hot dogs and handed out cotton candy as well.
In many ways, Chris Plank is the Zobrist of sports radio. Plank hosts multiple national shows, a local show in Oklahoma, broadcasts OU softball and volleyball games, and was also a program director. The only thing missing from his credentials is International Man of Mystery or 007.
Plank’s versatility has made him valuable to numerous companies throughout his career. Broadcasters that accumulate so much time behind the mic usually have interesting observations and great stories. Plank is no exception. He talks about Oklahoma’s shift to the SEC, his most challenging role, the point when he thought he made it in the industry, and the partner that makes him want to quit radio. It’s easy to feel Plank’s passion for broadcasting when you hear him. Reading the conversation below is no different. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What has local sports radio been like ever since Oklahoma announced that it’s heading to the SEC?
Chris Plank: Oh, it’s been wild. I know you work with Tyler McComas. We were putting together a piece on SEC expansion for a magazine we write for. He gave me a quote where it was one of the most exhilarating feelings whenever you realized this was really happening. We have probably spent the better part of like 15 years talking about conference realignment. Is the Big 12 going to expand? Is the Big 12 going to survive? Where is Texas A&M going? What’s up with Nebraska? This has been a regular topic of conversation forever.
When you realize that this is legit, that this is really happening, it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced. It’s been exciting. In my state in Oklahoma, it’s been very combative. Oklahoma State fans are pissed and understandably so. Oklahoma State has a lot to provide and always wants to talk about hey, we don’t need Oklahoma. But then when push came to shove they realized wait, you did this without us. So their fan base is mad. That brings in a whole different kind of angle to all of this. To see those two sides come together on social media and just clash, it has been a wild couple of weeks. We’ve spent a long time thinking we had things figured out and then boom, something hits and it’s been one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.
BN: Is it better for your local sports talk show if Oklahoma stayed on top in the Big 12, or shifts over to the SEC where who knows what happens?
CP: The complaining about not having a good conference home has always been fascinating from my seat focusing on Oklahoma a lot. And as someone who works regularly on Big 12 Radio, yeah I’m okay if they wanted to stick around for a little bit. But Joe Castiglione is the best athletic director in the game. In my role that I have with the University of Oklahoma, he has always challenged us to have a broad vision. I’m all about what’s best for the greater good. And for the greater good in this instance is the health of the University of Oklahoma.
Do I love the conference debating and things that have taken place for so long? Yeah, sure. It’s fun. But at some point the rubber has got to meet the road. I’m absolutely positively juiced about this for the future of Oklahoma. And I don’t know what it holds. You think about people that work for the Longhorn Network at Texas. What does that truly hold for them? We don’t know. What does it hold for those of us at Sooner Sports TV? You don’t know. But you’re excited for the potential of what it could mean and where it could go with the SEC. So I’m pretty juiced about it.
BN: You’ve got your local show, your national commitments, the Oklahoma stuff; what does your schedule look like during the workweek?
CP: Every day is different. I have my local show which is on at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. Outside of that I’m just picking up whatever I can get. My number one priority is the University of Oklahoma. If it’s the podcast that we put together, a TV deal that they need me to sit in on, a volleyball match that needs a play-by-play guy, that’s number one on the depth chart. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I live in Goldsby, Oklahoma, just outside of Norman, because I wanted the opportunity to do more. If you ask what the daily schedule looks like, it varies. But if you’re looking at the depth chart, that’s number one.
It’s like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes when you look down and you feel like you have too many pieces to fit in one place. It’s like jeez, there’s a SiriusXM responsibility, there’s FOX Sports Radio, you’ve got two games, your local show’s got a remote here, oh by the way there’s another game you need to add, you’ve got a TV show, and then there’s a Coach’s Corner and a practice report. How are you going to fit all of these together? It always works out. Then there’s some weeks where it’s like oh look, you’ve got your local show. [Laughs] It’s wild to think about.
I think we all want to be in that situation where we’re doing a three to four-hour show Monday through Friday and that’s it. We don’t have to worry about filling in the voids anywhere else. But I’ve got three kids; all of them are going to want to go to college at some point. I’ve got a wife that’s a stay-at-home mom whom I love very much and I want to provide for her. I can do all of my stuff from here at home for the most part. It’s a walk from my house to my garage. The easiest answer is I don’t know what my daily schedule is because it changes seemingly every single day and I love it.
BN: If you go back to the beginning of your career, how did you get into sports talk?
CP: I got out of college and I had decided that I wanted to get into TV. I couldn’t get a job. I had been an intern at a couple of places. I got a part-time job at 1430 in Tulsa. I worked at this media services place, Orca Incorporated. My boss was Harry Willis. He was a big sports fan. They had a spot open up for a producer on a morning show. I was like hey I’ll jump on and help. It was kind of non-stop from there.
We had a few issues where personnel changed, so I ended up just basically starting as a part-time board op, Brian. It led to an 18-year career at one station, which is an anomaly in this business. I’m very proud of that. I’m not saying it was always the most lucrative thing on the planet and I have an ex-wife to prove that, but it was a unique route because I went from part-time board op, to full-time co-host, to afternoon host and program director in about the span of three years. I’m 23 years old and I’m running two stations. I don’t have a clue of what I’m doing. That’s how I got in.
I was very lucky when I was in college. I went to the University of Tulsa and I worked in the sports information department. I got to know a lot of the media guys. That helped a lot. The play-by-play guy at Tulsa had just started, Bruce Howard, and he’s been a lifelong friend and mentor to me. It’s been wild to think about that time — we’re talking ‘97 here — the thing was you’re going to go to Bozeman, Montana and then you’re going to go maybe Sacramento, and then if you’re lucky you could end up in St. Louis. I was prepared for that path, but it just never really materialized. I fell in love with radio and thankfully it got me to where I am today, which is finally making enough money at 46 to keep my head above water. Barely.
BN: When did you feel like you had made it in radio?
CP: In ’07 I got a divorce. I realized, all right I’m going to have to do something more than being the afternoon host on 1430. There was a guy named Andrew Ashwood who worked at FOX Sports Radio. He had helped me out with a few things because I needed some advice on a guest or something. I said listen, I’m thinking about sending out these CDs, will you listen to it and tell me what you think? He called me back and he was like do you want to fill in on Saturday night? I don’t even know what that means but okay. I have no idea.
I ended up filling in in like ‘07. It took off from there. I ended up doing what was The Third Shift, which was 1-5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights. Ben Maller was doing the weekends. I think Jorge Sedano had just taken off for ESPN. They moved Ben to the weeks and I did the weekends. Somewhere in there they had a massive bottom fallout in radio. I want to say it was like ’08, somewhere around there. And everyone was gone. The whole thing changed. At that point I felt like I had made it. I’m doing national shows. I’m making good money. It’s on top of what I’m doing locally. Everyone locally is happy. That was a moment I thought I had made it.
BN: What led to you doing sidelines during Oklahoma football games?
CP: It was perfect because in 2011 the play-by-play voice for Oklahoma retired. Bob Barry was a longtime, legendary play-by-play voice. I had done some fill-ins. I did a basketball game on New Year’s Eve in like 2009 when Tiny Gallon broke a backboard. When he retired they moved Toby Rowland, who was the sideline guy, up to the booth. I happened to mention hey, if you need someone to fill in for the spring game, I’d love to do it. The station I was at in Tulsa was an affiliate with Oklahoma. So they’re like yeah, go for it. Let’s do it.
It’s still one of the wildest things because I hadn’t met Toby once. We did that one game together and you knew it clicked. You just knew that this can work. If you guys will have me and if I can do what you want, I have no problem driving back and forth. So my station was all about it, thankfully. I would just get in our station van and I would drive back and forth every Saturday from Tulsa to Norman. If we had a road trip, I’d catch a flight in Oklahoma City and go to wherever they were. That’s how that relationship started.
BN: When you think of your entire career, what would you say was initially the most challenging role you’ve had?
CP: Husband, dad. The balance of it. I don’t have a good balance, bro. I don’t. I struggle with it till today. I was thinking about this a lot the other day because my wife and I have been in a fight about me wanting to add stuff to my local show. My point is you don’t ever want to be typecast. You don’t just want to be the fill-in guy. You want to do enough in those moments to where you wow. It’s like damn man, I heard Chris Plank on the other night with Brian Noe, they’re freakin’ awesome. They can do our drive-time or our morning show. That was great stuff. For me you never know when that moment is going to come and they might hear you. So you have to take everything you possibly can and show that you can be versatile. I don’t want to be typecast as just a college football guy. There’s so much more to me and to sports. That’s been my challenge.
I’m very lucky that I have a very understanding wife. I have two kids that get it. We’re sitting here in my home studio and my seven-year-old will come out here every now and then and sit and wait for me to go to a commercial break to talk. That’s been the hardest thing for me in the real world is just that balance. I then stop and I pause and I’m like damn, what a great problem to have to where you’re trying to balance when can I do a fill-in, when should I do a fill-in. Ninety-nine percent of the time you ask me, I’m in. The only time I’m not is if there’s an OU event in the way.
I’ve got a son that’s a senior in high school this year. He’s going into his senior year in high school and I’m like what? I know that I just blinked and he went from being a little kid that was running around the studio breaking my partner’s bobblehead doll that I couldn’t replace, to being a senior in high school. I don’t want that same thing to happen with my two girls. It’s tough. There are no guarantees in this. Even if you have a contract, that thing can blow up in a heartbeat. That’s been one of the hardest things for me; that balance has been the biggest thing for me, man. It’s tough.
BN: What other job could you see yourself having the same passion for if not the radio stuff?
CP: It’s funny, I was thinking a lot about how I compartmentalize things. I can remember being so broke early in the days having to go to a remote and stop in my truck and having to scrounge in the seat cushions to see if there was enough change to get gas. I remember seeing those little signs on the side of the road that were like earn $50,000 by calling this number. I’d call that number and the next thing you know I’m an hour into a pyramid scheme pitch. All these things that if I didn’t love sports and I didn’t love radio so much, I probably could’ve put myself in a position with a media services place that I started with, or a marketing department somewhere.
My first father-in-law, which sounds so weird to say, he was the Executive Vice President at Merrill Lynch. I probably could have said hey Bill, I want to follow in your footsteps. I could’ve done that. But I like the pain of not knowing if I was going to be able to work the next day because I was going to get fired. I got really lucky that I got some of the breaks that I did and I hope that I’ve taken advantage of them. It’s been fun, but you’re right, I’m 46 now, nothing is guaranteed, but if all of this is to fall apart I’m like gosh, am I going to be a farmer? What am I going to do? I have no idea what I would do if everyone just says all right, we’re done with sports, we’re not doing this anymore. No clue.
BN: What it’s like to work with Arnie Spanier?
CP: There are a lot of different layers to that. There are moments when it’s really awesome because Arnie is not afraid to be the bad guy. I don’t think he would mind me saying this, but there are also times where working with Arnie makes me want to quit radio. And I’m not even kidding. I fought with him for three years about Tom Brady. I’m like, Arnie, Tom Brady’s not done. He’s a good quarterback. Every year, ‘Tom Brady’s old. He should move on. The Patriots stink. They’re done. They’re finished.’ Every Sunday it was a fight. Then all of a sudden last year after the midpoint of the season, suddenly Arnie’s like well they have Tom Brady so they’re the best team. I’m like we spent years fighting about this and all of a sudden you do a 180 and it’s his brilliant idea that he came up with. Never acknowledging anything, anything, that had taken place before. It’s funny because there are enough people that catch on and are like did that just happened?
Arnie likes to take the team that everyone is saying great things about and find something wrong with them. That’s fine because I’m the complete opposite. It’s great and it’s enraging sometimes because he wants to act like he takes himself so seriously when he really doesn’t. I think that’s one of the best parts of him. He’ll be the first guy to text you when your team loses and the last guy to text you when they win. That’s Arnie for me but I love working with the guy. It’s been really fun. It’s been really eye-opening. I grew up listening to Arnie Spanier. When I started in radio he was the evening host on One on One Sports with Papa Joe Chevalier and you, at 800-777-2-907. So it’s been fun for me. He’s a blast. He’s become a true friend.
BN: When you look at the next 5-10 years, do you have any specific goals that you want to accomplish?
CP: Sure, yeah. I would like to get to the point where I can take a couple of weekends off and not be worried about it. I want to get to the point, and my wife always jokes with me about it, to where I could say hey Scott, listen man, I got my kids this weekend and I just want to spend a Sunday night with them. But I can’t allow myself to do that. Am I worried I’m going to get fired? I don’t know, maybe. But that’s more of a me issue. I have FOMO bad, a fear of missing out. I would like to keep all the jobs that I have. [Laughs] I would like to still be the Oklahoma Sooner utility guy to where if I’m not doing sidelines for football, I’m doing play-by-play for softball. I would like to see that roll continue to grow and expand. I would love to have my local show get to a point to where it’s grown. If that’s through affiliates, if that’s through ratings, sponsorships, whatever.
But more than anything else, Brian, I know this is going to sound so corny, first I want to lose 20 pounds, and then I want to keep loving what I do. I don’t ever want there to be a point to where I’m on the air and I’m like is this thing almost over? And we’re all going to have those. There can be some times when you’re filling in for Ben Maller, and it’s 4:30 in the morning, and you’re like oh gosh, I’ve got two more segments. I never want to have that to where it’s 11:30 a.m., and I’ve got another 30 minutes left in my show, and I’m saying I want to go home or I want to be somewhere else. I want that passion to continue to burn bright because it is right now. That’s the most important thing to me.
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.