Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek

In each episode of The Playbook presented by FanFood, host Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are modernizing today’s customer experience through technology in sports, entertainment and hospitality. We invite industry veterans to talk about how customer expectation have changed in today’s world, and how businesses need to change accordingly for greater operational efficiency and better guest experience.

Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek

Jeramie McPeek, Founder at Jeramie McPeek Communications, joins Rob Cressy to talk about telling brand stories through digital channels. What are companies missing with their brand strategies? Why is being conversational and personalized so important? How do you build a culture of trying new things and being forward-thinking? Do you need to be on every social media platform?


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  • Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek
  • Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek
  • Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek
  • Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek
  • Ep. 67: Telling Brand Stories Through Digital with Jeramie McPeek

Rob Cressy: (00:08)

Welcome to The Playbook presented by FanFood. A discussion around how leaders are modernizing today’s customer experience through technology in sports, entertainment, and hospitality. I’m your host, Rob Cressy. And joining me today is Jeramie McPeek founder of Jeramie McPeek Communications. Jeramie, great to have you on the show.


Jeremie McPeek: (00:31)

Rob, thanks for having me. It’s about time. We’ve been talking about this for gosh, probably a year I’m thinking. It is good to connect finally.


Rob Cressy: (00:39)

It’s been a hot minute, but you’re someone I love jamming with because of your knowledge and experience. So, let’s start with this. Can you give a quick overview of who you are and what you do?


Jeramie McPeek: (00:49)

Sure. So, a quick overview, I started working in professional sports at the age of 20 workings with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. I spent 24 years with my sons before leaving in 2016 to start my own business. And when I was with the sons, I was their vice president of digital and brand strategy, overseeing all of our websites, social media, mobile apps that sort of thing. And today I’m kind of taking those learnings and helping other brands and leagues and sports teams and events with their social and digital strategy.


Rob Cressy: (1:24)

I love it because one of the things I want to talk to you about is elevating the customer experience and what can we do to engage fans more? Certainly right now of all times that we’ve seen digital and brand strategy is so important right now. So, I’m curious to hear from you what is something that you see that a lot of teams or leagues or companies are missing when it comes to digital or brand strategy?


Rob Cressy: (01:57)

Wow, that’s a tough question. I think being conversational is a big thing that I can’t say a lot is missing, but there are still some that are missing that. They’re still treating social and digital as a one-way communication platform. We’re going to give you our message. We’re going to tell you about our team. We’re going to tell you about our ticket sales or our sponsor or whatever it is and they’re not really communicating back and forth. They’re not interacting with fans. They’re letting fans comment to them, but they’re not having fun going back with them and interacting back with them. And I think that’s really key to making people feel appreciated, make them feel valued for being a fan of your team or league. And I think the more teams and leagues and properties can do that, the stronger bond they build theirs with their audience.


Rob Cressy: (02:28)

I agree 1000% on that, but let’s get to like why that is. So, the ones who do succeed, but the ones who don’t, it’s almost like pushing a rock uphill because it’s a, you don’t get it to type thing. It should almost be like the flip of a switch where you say our social media is a communications tool to engage with our fans. But I know so many of the companies or teams that do not do things correctly, they’re almost like we can just put an intern on this. And the act of posting means we’re successful as opposed to us posting is only the first step to get to the next level of the conversation.


Jeramie McPeek: (03:33)

Yeah, agreed. There are a couple of things you touched on there. I think management not necessarily understanding, and again it’s getting better and better all the time. I think more and more teams and leagues and sports brands are getting people that do understand the importance of it and the importance of social media and fan engagement and digital marketing. And so they are finding they are growing their digital teams and they’re hiring more experienced people, but then there are also still some that think, ah, we’ll just have the intern do that. We’ll have the 20-year-olds to take care of that they can handle that. They understand what that Tik Tok thing is and I don’t so I’m just going to put them in charge of it. Or on the other hand, you have upper management who has never been on social media ever and thinks that they do understand it anyway. And they’re going to tell the digital team how to do it and what to do and they’re going to criticize them and critique them and say,I don’t want you interacting with our fans because some of our fans are negative. So don’t say a word to them, don’t follow them. Don’t like their posts. Don’t interact with them at all. Just don’t touch that. And that’s just that just shows you that there is that lack of understanding.


So, I think there needs to be a balance. You need to get some people that are experienced in digital. It’s okay if they’re young people, but they need to have some experience in creativity. You got to have, as management, you gotta have some oversight and give them some direction and push them to try new things and go this direction or give them feedback if you don’t like something they’re doing. But at the same time, you have to kind of trust that they are the digital people and they aren’t interns. They aren’t right out of high school. You gotta trust them and give them some authority to make those decisions.


Rob Cressy: (05:19)

And I love how you said that because it is, oh so true. And I believe it’s a big challenge because what do you do if you’re a social media manager and the person above you doesn’t get it, or are so often in any business, success or failure trickles down from the top. So, we certainly see this in sports organizations when things do not go well, it’s a culture of things that go bad and then all of a sudden, what can I do? Because the person above me isn’t giving me the tools, isn’t giving me the opportunities. Or we oftentimes hear the same excuses of, I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have enough budget. It’s excuses that everybody deals with. So, because of it, they’ll say, and I loved how you said well, we’re just not going to engage with them because there are some negative people. The other part would be, well, let’s just not engage with them because we don’t have the time to engage with them.


And it drives me nuts because could you imagine if you had the opportunity to speak directly to your customer in person, would you just stand there in front of them and say nothing? Of course, you wouldn’t. Of course, you wouldn’t do that. Or would you say in front of them and just go buy what I’m selling, buy what I’m selling, buy what I’m selling, buy what I’m selling. But, that’s the reality of the situation is, I don’t think people realize how impactful digital can be, but we would never do those things if we’re interacting with someone in real life. But I think you really need to have the same mindset of every opportunity is one to create a positive brand interaction. So, if you’re not taking that opportunity on digital, you are missing a huge opportunity and or you might actually be hurting what you’re doing.


Jeramie McPeek: (07:05)

Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I realized that when you’re working in the digital and social space there are a million different things you can do. So, I get when people say that I just don’t have time or there’s no time to waste on that, but to be honest it doesn’t take much time to interact with people. You don’t have to sit and respond to every single person that ever tweets you or comments on your Facebook, but you could spend five minutes every other hour and look through the latest tweets that have come in and like a few or reply back and say, Hey, great picture, thank you for coming to our game or thanks for being a fan, or we really appreciate your support. OR retweet somebody that tweets a picture of their dog wearing your team’s Jersey or a baby in an onesie with the logo on it. And just quote/tweet that and say, happy to have another member of our team’s family. That kind of stuff doesn’t take much time. So, I understand the pressure to get everything done. And there always is a stretch for time, but you can find a few minutes here and there to interact with people and other fans will see that even if you’re not responding to everybody, they’ll see that and appreciate the fact that you’re acknowledging it and thanking your fans.

Rob Cressy: (08:15)

And quite frankly, the time excuse is a load of crap as you said right there. Because if I might’ve believed that somehow former presidents of the United States or Mark Cuban, or some of the most successful people in the world can find a few minutes out of their busy day to engage back with their audience. But we, the social media managers, you know what, we just have way too much going on in our world, we can’t do it. One thing that I really liked that you said is you talked about personalization. So, when someone shares the picture of their dog wearing the team jersey, and then you quote/tweet it, you know what that does? Is it humanizing your brand or your team or what you’re doing? Because I think that’s one of the biggest differentiators or opportunities that are out there is you want to show love to the people who show you love.


One of the things I love talking about with social media is people love to see their name in lights. If you had the mindset of we’re going to be an account that is all about the people and user-generated content and showing love, my goodness. It would be the greatest thing in the world because guess what happens when a team must call it the Phoenix Suns quote/tweets someone wearing Jersey with the dog? Guess what they’re going to do? I’m going to go and share that with every single person that I know. And then I’m going to feel some sort of way about the Phoenix Suns because guess who is not doing that? Virtually every other team, league, and brand that’s out there. So, it’s an opportunity for you to extend your arms and be like, come on you’re part of our community. Let’s do this. We’re going to show you, love.


Jeramie McPeek: (09:58)

Yeah, that’s absolutely right. You nailed it. It means so much to those people. If they’d been a fan of your team and they watch your games and buy your merchandise and come to your venue just to get a simple tweet back, thanking you and, or sharing your post. That means the world to them. They envisioned that as it’s the entire brand of that team, of my team showing me love. They appreciate me. They don’t realize that it’s a digital person working in the office sending that tweet, and nothing against the digital person, but it just means so much if the brand acknowledges them. It’s just like if a celebrity tweets back to you or Mark Cuban tweets back to you or the Rock, you talk about people who don’t have a lot of time. The Rock’s up at 3:00 AM eating raw eggs and pumping iron and making 10 movies a day. Yet, somehow he still finds time to tweet people all day long and respond to people. That means the world to those people. They’ll be fans of the rock for the rest of their life. And the same thing, if someone’s favorite team responds to them and thanks to them for being a fan or says that they’re their new baby is adorable, that means so much. They’re going to be bigger fans because of that. They’re going to watch more games. They’re going to want to come to more games and they’re going to now raise their child to be a big fan as well, because of that.


Rob Cressy: (11:13)

Yeah. And I want to make sure to emphasize something. This is not just for professional sports teams that any business or person out there can use these same philosophies because they’re representative across the board. Because this is sort of the core element to fan engagement and building customer experience. So, let’s assume you are a pizza shop and people, boom, Friday night and they order their pizza. They send you a picture of their pizza. I would actually create something on Fridays where you say, we want you to send us a picture of you and your family eating our pizza. We will show you love on Istagram or Twitter. Boom. You share those things. That’s how you build loyalty. So, I want to make sure everyone knows this is not something that just because you’re a professional sports team, while everybody wants to be able to root for Devin Booker or whatever so you guys have that, no. This is across the board because this is what fan engagement is. You’ve got to be able to provide value for someone and build this communication. Once again, we talked about it at the very beginning. This isn’t a one way of, here’s our Friday pizza special. This is a two way conversation that says here’s our special. When you order this, snap a picture and send it to us, we’re going to share it. And Oh, by the way, when you do that we may actually give you a coupon for something the next time you come in as a way of saying thank you for you for being a loyal customer of us.


Jeramie McPeek: (12:40)

Yeah, absolutely. I actually worked with the celebrity chef and his two restaurants and wine store the last couple of years. And anytime we saw someone post a photo of their food or their wine or them at the restaurant we were quick to respond and if the photo was a decent photo we would share that we’d repost it on Instagram and thank them for coming. And that exact thing. It gets more people to think, Oh, well if that person loves the spaghetti and meatballs, I’m probably gonna like it too. It’s like word of mouth. It’s more valuable coming from your customers than it is you just being the one always talking about your product


Rob Cressy: (13:20)

Very much so. And that’s why I actually like unpolished content more than I do the highly produced stuff because we can tell when there’s food photography, for example. It looks so perfect. And I’m like, you know what? My dinner table never looks like that, but it all tastes the same. So, there is an element of being able to look in someone’s background and see a fridge or see something that’s like, Hey, that looks like where I grew up in Pittsburgh and my sort of dinner table. I think there’s a balance between the two of them.


Jeramie McPeek: (13:51)

Yeah, agreed. And one of my clients is the United Wrestling Network that has a weekly pay per view every week with professional wrestlers from around the world coming in. And we always try to get the wrestlers to shoot a promotional video in advance kind of talking about their match and who they are and their opponent and that kind of thing. And some of them want to produce really highly polished edited videos with music and the whole thing. And they look great, but they’re not quite as authentic. I almost think it’s more authentic if it’s someone with their cell phone just talking to the camera. Sometimes that raw, authentic video feels more natural and feels more real. So, same thing with the photos. A lot of times I think stuff shot with an iPhone comes across as more real and genuine and authentic than something that is highly professionally shot and edited and worked in Photoshop and Lightroom and or Premiere or whatever. And then all of a sudden it looks a little bit more like a commercial or an advertisement.


Rob Cressy: (14:45)

The greatest of all time to ever do it and you already listed his name, The Rock. If you were to take a cell phone and bring The Rock out into the world, imagine if Rock was cutting his promos in the middle of a four way intersection or while he’s just waiting there, you’d be like, Holy smokes. That’s what makes The Rock so fantastic. So, you mentioned something else that I want to talk about. So, we just talked about the companies, teams or leagues who may have challenges that there trying to overcome, but there’s another layer that you can get to. You’re the company who’s already overcome those challenges. You believe in what we’re talking about right now, you believe in user generated content. A combo of polished and UGC. You have a strategy. So, now we want to build a culture of trying new things and being forward thinking. And why do we want to do that? Because that is what our consumers expect from us because the way that we get down as everyday people, guess what? That’s what we expect out of our brands. And even if the rest of the world says, I don’t have the time for this, you have the opportunity to say, you know what, we’re different. We’re going to push the envelope. We’re going to be better because what we want to do is elevate that customer experience. So, I’m curious from you, what can companies do to build in a culture of trying new things, even if it’s just from the simplest way?


Jeramie McPeek: (16:18)

Wow, that’s a great question. I think it’s a mindset really, that has to kind of come from leadership and has to be continually reinforced and people have to be encouraged to experiment and try new things and always keep learning. I mean, that’s a big lesson I learned in my own career, Gosh, 13 years ago. I remember in 2007 we were named the top website in the NBA at the league meetings or 200 executives there. And I was asked to come up on stage and receive a crystal award from commissioner David Stern about the best team in the NBA in terms of their website. And at those same meetings. The digital group was together one day and someone at the league office suggested that we all get on MySpace and YouTube and as teams and start putting content there. And I immediately dismissed it in my head. I was like, why would we want to do that? We want fans to come to our website. That’s where we sell tickets. That’s where we have sponsor ads. We don’t want to put stuff out on YouTube and MySpace that doesn’t make any sense. And of course, I’m patting myself on the back cause you know, the winner of the best website award and kind of just dismissing everybody and ignoring the conversation. It wasn’t long after that, that Twitter and Facebook explode and then Instagram comes along and Google Plus and all these others. There are a million different channels come along, but I quickly realized my flaw in my thinking and realize that we can actually reach a lot more people if we go where they are. We’re putting our content where they are. We can’t always expect them to come to us and find our content.


Yes, our main owned channel is important and that’s where we have a lot of ability to generate revenue. But you’ve got to also go where other people are. So, that was the lesson I learned early on that you have to be open-minded. You have to be willing to experiment. You have to try the new social channels that come along. And nowadays it’s all the new features that the platforms are rolling out like Instagram with reels, and Tik Tok and Instagram stories, all these things that have come along in just the last couple of years. You can’t be closed-minded and say, ah, we don’t want to do that. That’s a waste of time. That doesn’t make sense. IGTV, why would we do that? You have to experiment and figure out, is there a way to make this work for our brand and our team and our league and our property, or not? And maybe they’re not all going to be sure-fire bets for you, but you have to be open-minded to try it and learn from what other teams, and leagues, and entertainment properties as well, outside of sports. Learn what they’re doing too, and keep an eye on them. So, you can be continually growing.


Rob Cressy: (19:04)

I think there’s a key to this because one of the questions we’ll often get in the social world is, Hey Rob, Hey Jeremy, do I need to be on every platform? And the answer is no. While I completely agree with everything that you just said. So, number one, you want to be where your audience is. Absolutely. But number two, you want to be where you can continually create the content because what we don’t want is for all of a sudden you’d be on every single platform you’re burned out and you’re less effective. Could you say, I don’t have enough time to be great on Tik Tok and Snapchat and reels and do all these things because I’m spread thin. I would much rather someone say, let’s start with one platform and let’s get really good with it. We know our audience is there and we know we can be intentional about that.


And then maybe add one more because so often we can get the disease of more in social can have this always-on nature where you feel overwhelmed because there’s never an amount of content that is enough. Cause you can always do it more in more places. So, instead let’s make this easy and say, what can you handle? And then from there, let’s be intentional. Maybe you say, you know what? For two hours this week, our team is going to experiment with… And it doesn’t mean that you need to be creating on tick talk every single day. But what have you just spent one hour a week and said, you know what, we’re a weekly tech talk where we’re going to create one or one real just like this. And if you can quantify it in shorter amounts of time, all of a sudden you’re going to learn. But what I don’t want to hear is excuses for why something doesn’t work when really you gave about a 30% effort when really you just need to be intentional about the time you’re spending on it.

Jeramie McPeek: (20:59)

Make sure I’m not muted. I have to keep muting because my dog is barking in the background. But hopefully, you can’t hear that. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And that’s a challenge that I think all digital people working in digital have that wanting to be everywhere, wanting to feel like you’re not left out, wanting to feel like you’re taking advantage of all the opportunities out there, but unless you have just a massive team. With a team of 40 people, content producers, it is impossible to be the best at every channel and every type of content and be everywhere at all times. So, you do have to pick and choose. And I like that. I like the idea of carving out some time to experiment with things and really see if you can make them work and see if it makes sense for you and think through it and talk through it to really determine where you want to put your focus. But you also can’t just dismiss things and say, ah, that doesn’t make sense for us. I’m not even gonna bother to try it. As you said, you gotta put in the effort to see what works and what doesn’t, and then determine where you want to spend your time and your focus.


Rob Cressy: (22:06)

It’s actually a very simple way for how do you create a culture of innovation? Well, what if you just designed it into the culture? You said, Hey, we have two hours every single week. That is just innovation. Like, Oh, all right well, I guess this is a thing that we’re doing just like wow, we’re spending 30 minutes a day doing fan engagement. You’re like, ha, here’s some innovation, here’s some fan engagement. And all of a sudden you realize, wait for a second, this might not be that hard. What if we just chuck this out where we’re just doing this here, we’re just doing this here, and we’re just doing this here? Because I think one of the problems people run into again is they try and do too much all at once. They’re jumping between responding to someone and creating, and should I be doing this new thing over here? When instead you just say, yo, yo, yo chill. Let’s just bucket this or batch it. Let’s just be intentional about this time. Boop, checkbox. Move onto the next thing. Rinse and repeat that process ever.


Jeramie McPeek: (23:05)

Yeah. I’ve heard about some big companies that will actually carve out half a day or a full day every week, or one week, every quarter where they just let their employees just learn. Just an experiment. Just try whatever you want, whatever project you think would be good for the company, you go and try it and see what you can do with it that week. And I think that’s that really empowers people. It gets people excited. They feel like they’re not doing the same thing every day. They get to try and take their ideas and make them come to reality and see what they can do with them. So, I think that really really invigorates a staff and a team. If you give them that opportunity to do that. And like you said, you’ll find some really cool new innovations or new ideas to come out of that.


Rob Cressy: (23:46)

You know what I love about what you just said. We started with excuses. I don’t have the time. I don’t have a budget. I don’t have the resources. And we ended empowered, excited, and learning. Think about the framing between the two, because you can have competing companies that do the exact same thing, but the first one can say, we’re making excuses. And the second one can say, we’re going to make this exciting. We’re going to empower you and we’re going to innovate. Do you know the difference between the two? It costs no money, all it is is a mindset. It is the way your organization thinks about how you’re going to engage fans and deliver a customer experience.


Jeramie McPeek: (24:28)

That’s right. You’re going to have happier employees who want to stay with you longer and want to run through a wall for you because they feel like you value their opinions and their input as well. They’re not just there to do what you asked them to do. They’re there to help you grow and innovate as a culture and as a team.


Rob Cressy: (24:47)

So, the last thing I want to ask you is what has your mind or attention right now from a forward-thinking or innovation standpoint?


Jeramie McPeek: (24:56)

Wow, that’s a great question. That’s a tough question because I’ve got so many different clients and we’re all kind of looking at different things and they’re all kind of focused on different areas. YinzCam is the mobile app developer of a lot of sports teams and leagues around the country and events. They’re constantly innovating and trying to figure out new ways to engage fans and customers through their mobile apps. I’ve got clients like the United Wrestling Network. Who’s now doing weekly pay per views. So, we’re trying to figure out the best way to cover those in real-time with real-time content and get fans excited. So, we’re also trying to figure out how to use reels and what to do with that. I work with Family Life, a faith-based ministry out of Orlando and they’re launching a new mobile app right now and they’re trying to figure out the best way to push out content through their podcasts and their website, and their social media. So, every client is a little different and I’m not giving you a great answer. I don’t have one specific thing necessarily that I’m focused on cause I kinda all over the place, but again, trying to keep that mindset of being open-minded and being willing to try things and see what works for each client because they’re all different.


Rob Cressy: (26:15)

I think my answer to this would be live streaming. And while this is nothing new for the majority of us, I believe it is new when you think about the business world. There are certain segments or verticals where this is very natural. So, over the last six months, we saw the fitness industry, boom. They use live streaming so much because they had to. You saw the music industry, DJs are going on there, boom, they’re spinning. And we see influencers using it all the time. The people who give this as an opportunity to connect with them. But one of the excuses you hear from why companies don’t do this is, well, you know what, Rob? We just don’t have someone who… is good on camera. What do we talk about, Oh, this is just another thing. But I believe this is the next opportunity to humanize and add more personality to your brand.


So, the person who sends in the picture of their dog wearing the Phoenix Suns jersey, well guess what? Imagine if they had the ability to jump on live streams and ask questions, maybe a live Q and A. I mean, this is 101 for sports teams where, boom Devin Booker’s on for 30 minutes, lets ask him questions. But even if we do this on the company level, I think it gives you an opportunity to show behind the scenes where you can do thought leadership. Hey, here’s what we’re seeing in the industry. You can do a podcast like this where, Hey, let’s bring some people together and have a conversation. I just believe there are so many opportunities, and just try. I think there’s a big fear gap online because it’s live. It’s like, Oh my God, what’s going on. I’m not a TV person. And you tell yourself why you don’t do it, but we just reverse engineer everything that we just said.


All right, one, we’re going to set aside one hour a week to do this. Two, we’re going to be intentional about it. So, all right, well we gotta do an hour of this so, or we get to do an hour of this. So, what are we going to do now? Let’s create a strategy for it. What are the things that we want to talk about? X, Y, and Z. All right, cool. Let’s turn this thing on live. Hey, what’s up, this is Rob. This is our first live stream. Today we’re going to talk about X, Y, and Z. We would love to have you chime in. Let us know what you think. Boom. And if you use IG Live, you can actually bring other people in, that could be your fans. So, imagine your fans being able to talk to you directly on your IG Live.


Jeramie McPeek: (28:40)

Yeah, absolutely. Livestream Rob. That’s going to be your new nickname I think.


Rob Cressy: (28:45)

Well, I love it. And I preach it because I know there’s such an opportunity out there


Jeramie McPeek: (28:49)

Yeah, I agree. And it depends on every client’s a little different or every team and property’s a little different, but I agree there is a lot of opportunities to live. Whether it’s showing live media day, live practice, live podcasts, behind the scenes of the offices or the training center, or the locker room in sports. Yeah, I agree. There is a lot of opportunities there. You just have to think through what the best way to do it is. So, three minutes into your life. You’re not like, ah, okay. Now what? if you kind of forgot to plan it out and kind of brainstorm and think of creative ideas, you can have a lot of fun with live. For sure.


Rob Cressy: (29:23)

Jeremy, I had a lot of fun jamming with you. Where can everybody connect with you?


Rob Cressy: (29:28)

Yeah, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo. All of them are just my first name, @Jeramie. I’ve got the same handle on all those channels. I’m also on LinkedIn. So yeah, reach out. We’d love to connect with other like-minded folks, other Livestream Robs and, and continue to talk about fan engagement and sports digital.


Rob Cressy: (29:52)

So, let’s keep this live streaming theme going as a call to action. I would love to hear from you. Have you ever done a live stream? And if not, why not? If you do currently do one, tell us about it. What do you love about it? You can hit up FanFood on Twitter @FanFoodondemand. On Instagram @FanFoodapp or on LinkedIn. And as always you can hit me up on all social media platforms @RobCressy.