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Rob Perez’s Journey from Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality

Rob Perez AKA World Wide Wob talks his emergence onto NBA Twitter, advice for breaking into the content creation space, and lessons he’s learned along the way.

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Rob Perez wasn’t always World Wide Wob as he is known for today. Perez, who graduated from the University of North Carolina, got his start in the NBA selling tickets in the middle of the recession in 2009. An avid fan, he was just looking for any way to be involved with the league.

Finding success, Perez then eventually went from the team side to the broker side where he and a business partner started what he calls the “Groupon for sports tickets.” After selling that to a larger company, Perez found himself back working a 9-5 job with time to watch NBA games again and get back to doing what he was most passionate about, talking about the league.

Five years and few depressed Pizza Rolls later, Perez has become one of the most visible personalities on Twitter when it comes to the NBA. From working at Outback Steakhouse at 25 to help fund his ticketing startup to working for Fox Sports, Cycle, and now The Action Network, Perez has built a passionate following by investing in himself and trying to be great at one thing.

His story is one of dedication, a deft understanding of how to create content that people will care about, and the ability to risk it all to get it all.

Edited highlights appear below:

On How It All Began (6:14)

“The backstory on me was that I went to the University of North Carolina and got a degree in journalism like everybody else. I didn’t even use it coming out of college. I was working for a team just like the two of you, but it was on the season ticket sales side. When I graduated in 2009, there was not a job to be had. It was like the biggest part of the recession.”

“So, the only jobs that were really hiring were sales jobs. So I knew I wanted to work in the NBA, just being a passionate fan at all. So I took a very entry level job and did well at it. I quickly moved up the corporate ladder and quickly realized how much money brokers were making on the other side, so I moved to the broker side for a couple of years after that, ended up starting my own brokerage slash ticketing website that was like the Groupon for sports tickets.”

“We ended up selling that to a bigger company. The reason why I’m telling this story is because once I got to the bigger company, it was back to the nine to five where I had the ability to live a life again. I was watching the NBA as always, but this kind of gave me an opportunity to, get back to the what I’m passionate about, which was talking about the league.”

On the Growth to Where He is Now (12:54)

“There was no Ken Bone or Walmart yodeling kid type of overnight virality. I never really had that moment. It was just a slow drip of basketball content that got me to this point. Maybe that’s why everyone is still kind of hanging around because they feel like they’re part of the story at some point.”

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On Police Chases and His Personal Social Media Strategy (16:14)

“The big picture of it all was my strategy towards social media and content in general. I wanted to be really good at something, one specific thing first. For me, when I was just getting going I was talking about NBA gambling and stuff like future bets. I wanted to be known as that guy first and then I moved into play-by-play commentary. Then I moved into whatever the hell it is I’m talking about now.”

LISTEN MORE: Zach Harper on the NBA, Soup, and Finding His Professional Way

“I continued to go base to base here and just say ‘I want to be the best at this’ before I add to my arsenal of whatever my content battle station is. I know that sounds corny and cheesy, but it’s true. So police chasing just became the next thing that I wanted to own on the internet.”

On His Advice for Others (34:10)

“My recommendation is, whether it’s fair or not, is I don’t think you’re going to succeed in this industry unless you make it your lifestyle. You have to be 24/seven about it because there’s gonna be people like myself that don’t leave the apartment for five days. Like that’s just the truth of it. When I was getting going, I was working at an Outback Steakhouse at the age of 25 trying to pay my bills to watch NBA and start a ticketing website.”

“You have to be willing to invest in yourself. You have to be willing to not take a paycheck and commit to getting your voice and your content out there as much as possible. For a long time, there’s not going to be a cash influx. That’s just the way the industry is right now. Maybe that will change down the road, but you have to really be willing to risk it all to get it all.”

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Timbers’ Kayla Knapp on Building a Social Voice From the Ground Up

After spending five years at FOX Sports, Kayla Knapp moved to Portland where she was handed the keys to the social accounts of the Timbers and Thorns.

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Kayla Knapp originally headed to Los Angeles in search of sunshine and a job in sports.

She got the sunshine right away and the opportunities followed — first serving as a writer for LA Galaxy Confidential, then as a staff writer for Soccer By Ives, and then finally as a digital video producer for FOX Sports. Before jumping into her role at FOX Sports, she also founded Women United FC, a website that was created as a space for female fans of soccer to gather and discuss the game.

A graduate of Ithaca College, Knapp was able to apply what she had learned as a journalism major to her digital and social roles. After spending five years with FOX Sports, Knapp joined the Portland Timbers and Thorns as their senior manager of social content and strategy, a title she has held for closing in on two years.

In today’s episode, Knapp takes you through how she convinced her boss at FOX Sports to get rid of the outside company running its social media to let her do it, why she decided to move her whole life to Portland to join the Timbers, and why her passion for content is rooted in storytelling.

Edited highlights appear below:

On Her Time at FOX Sports (13:58)

“After graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles in search of the sun and a job in sports. After a couple of years, I ended up at FOX Sports Digital, working specifically at FOX soccer. My initial role there was just working as an editor for foxsoccer.com, my first big foray into social in the first few months. When I came in, they had hired an outside company to run all their social media. I did not think they were doing a very good job and I thought we were paying them way too much money to do it.”

“It took about a month or so to convince him and eventually my role expanded into running all of our social media accounts. I was there for five years and had my hand in everything.”

On Transitioning from Media to Team Side (18:28)

“It’s been an interesting transition to go from the media side to the team side. For me, what’s most important is storytelling. I felt like working on the media side, we were telling the stories, but we were just regurgitating news we found other places. What’s most important for me is storytelling. Even before the Timbers and Thorns reached out, I had wanted to move to the team side. I had already been looking at positions for six to eight months.”

“The biggest difference to me is having the access to the players, the teams, the fans and the community. It’s a direct line.”

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On Her First Order of Business at the Timbers (21:14)

We had a lot of accounts up and running but there wasn’t a concrete voice for any of it. It was very PR and very stiff and the club wanted to move away from that.”

“The very first thing I did was reach out to fans in the community who were super involved with the team that wanted to help me learn about the club. I felt like it was super important for me to understand the fans, understand their wants and their needs, but also their traditions and their inside jokes.”

“There was so much learning for me in the first six months, kind of across the board, to be able to craft what I felt like was the right voice for both teams. It wasn’t just creating the Timbers’ voice, it was the Thorns too.

OTHER EPISODES: Cowboys’ Taylor Stern on the Digital Strategy of America’s Team

On Changing Strategy (31:49)

“This year is my second full season. 2017 was a lot of tinkering and trying things out and seeing what voice fit and worked. 2018 was about refining the voice and the strategy and 2019 is about what can we do from the content side to step it up even more than we did last year.”

“As far as the voice and the strategy goes, that’s kind of largely stayed the same. It’s more about how do we just keep making our content better, how do we serve our fans better and how do we assert ourselves in the digital space a little bit more.”

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Cowboys’ Taylor Stern on the Digital Strategy of America’s Team

Now the content strategist for the Cowboys, Taylor Stern is helping craft the digital brand of the future for America’s Team.

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Taylor Stern’s career started out with a bunch of “random volunteering” opportunities. A native of New Mexico, Stern went to college at the University of New Mexico.

Outside of working for the university’s TV station, Stern worked in various intern positions including at the NCAA, Orange Bowl, and Mountain West Conference. After spending a year with the Cotton Bowl as a marketing and communications manager, she made the jump to the Cowboys where she has been for the last three years. Now the team’s content strategist, Stern finds herself helping oversee the digital footprint of arguably the biggest brand in all of sports.

With the social space young when she first started, Stern takes you through the evolution of her role, why Jerry Jones is the catalyst for a lot of the freedom they have, as well as what it is like helping build the digital brand of one of the most revered franchises in sports.

Edited highlights appear below:

On the Early Days (17:11)

“Social media coordinator was such a new job when I took it. The role was all 20-somethings who were like, ‘Yeah, I use Twitter, I use Facebook.’ When I first started, it was a lot of GIFs and a lot of clever captions and all that fun stuff. Then, we all got the hang of it and it became about how we could make ourselves stand out.”

“I remember I asked my boss, ‘How are you going to say that I deserve a promotion or how am I going to deserve a raise?’ They said, ‘You need to get wins; little things that ultimately better the department. ‘”

On Successful Content (18:54)

“In 2016, we did this thing called ‘Breakfast Club’ when Zeke was new on the scene and was doing the ‘feed me’ celebration. The concept was simple but the content went viral. We followed that up with a ‘Finish This Fight’ series that was more long-form storytelling and it did really well for us.”

“The biggest thing I took away from those two different series was that good content is good content. There’s really no formula for success. It really just comes down to knowing your audience.”

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On Who is Driving Innovation for the Team (14:08)

It really comes from the top. Jerry Jones is just innovative as a person and he has always told us to hit home runs. If they hit, they hit, but if they don’t, they don’t. We’ve also been very fortunate because of the fact that we have that much freedom to just focus on making good content.”

“We also act as our own network and media outlet. That’s something we have the luxury of that most other teams don’t.”

On Dealing With Losses (26:27)

“We normally don’t post any sponsor-related content on a Monday after a loss. We take the approach of trying to sympathize with our fans because a lot of time you’ll find people coming to our site even more than when we win because they’re trying to find out what went wrong. We want to be the knowledge that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Of course, we understand the negativity and the frustration that fans will feel, but by addressing what went wrong and what could have been better, you kind of see a different engagement than you did before. It’s probably a lot more replies and retweets, but you’re still engaging your fans.”

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Addressing the Challenges of Working in Social Media

Amara and Shahbaz discuss mental health struggles while working in social, challenges working in the field, and more.

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Working in social media is no easy task. From long hours and negative comments to having to deal with being understaffed in more cases than not, being the face of the digital brand is not as easy as people would like to think. (Yeah, most of the people behind the account aren’t interns.)

In a candid conversation, Amara Baptist and Shahbaz Khan discuss mental health struggles while working in social, challenges working in the field, and much more.

Edited highlights appear below:

On Reading vs. Not Reading the Mentions (2:47)

Amara: “It really does take a toll on you. I think the thing with social media is it feels a lot bigger than I think it really is. It’s a huge thing, everybody’s on there, but it feels like everyone in the world is telling you that you’re awful and taking their frustrations out on you because we’re so invested and so involved.”

Shahbaz: “I think it’s multifaceted. You work for the team, so obviously you want them to succeed, right? Then things don’t go according to plan and that takes a toll by itself. I’ll say, in my time with the Kings, we did some stuff that was amazing. I’m still to this day so proud of what we did in Sacramento. A lot of ideas are shut down — not internally, but from a fan perspective — because of the negativity that’s out there, so it kind of hinders some of the creativity and some of the ideas that you’re willing to execute.”

On Struggling With Anxiety (12:06)

Shahbaz: “I’ve been in a place where, quite honestly, I was depressed and I’ve struggled with anxiety, not solely due to (reading the mentions), but it doesn’t necessarily help to read those all the time. And so putting yourself in a place where you’re able to separate those as much as possible, focus on a lot of the positive comments, and the positivity that’s out there is a good thing.”

“I think more than anything, it’s super important to know who you’re working with and trust them. The amount of time you spend with your coworkers is so insane. You probably see them more than your family, so you just need to know to trust them. If you’re having some internal struggles or you’re having some creativity issues, go to them and trust each other.”

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On Managing a Staff (14:08)

Amara: “I think it’s important to take these things into consideration for people in manager or director positions that aren’t doing the grunt work every day — that this does take a toll and that they need to be conscious. Sometimes the coordinator or the person that’s constantly engulfed in this place of social media might need a break or a day off. I think this is also really important when you’re you’re hiring interns.”

On Biggest Struggle in Career in NBA (25:41)

Amara: “My biggest struggle since working in social media has been that since our jobs are largely based on metrics, I find that sometimes carries over to my personal life, which I really don’t like. If I’m on Instagram and I post a photo, my brain immediately goes to how many people like this, and I think there’s so much that’s really stressful in itself because you’re already judging yourself on the work that you’re doing, and then it goes over to your personal life.”

Shahbaz: “For me, it was probably the switch from Sacramento back to Minnesota. There’s a lot of different strategies and ways that I would have to go about the job that’s different than what I’m currently doing. It’s one of the things that’s unique about our jobs and one of the things that I prided myself on in going from Minneapolis to Sacramento the first time and being able to implement a new strategy in Sacramento was something that I thought was a lot of fun and something I looked forward to. Then, coming back after some of the stuff that we were able to do in Sacramento, I put too much internal pressure on myself to try to live up to a standard that everything that we were doing needed to be humorous and then taking a step back pretty much two days in and realizing that, ‘Okay, you’re not in Sacramento anymore.’ There’s a completely different organizational tone.”

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