This is the third part of an interview I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment icon Jim Ross. For background on the interview, please see the first part in this series. For J.R.'s appearance here at MIT, listen to the podcast here.
Sam Ford: In addition to your work on WWE.com, you also run your own blog, J.R. What are the differences between writing on the WWE's official site and writing on your own site?
Jim Ross: What I write on WWE.com is a little different than what I wrote on my own blog on JRsBarBQ.com. That's done intentionally. I look at it as apples and oranges because there's a major difference in what I write on those two venues. I write my column every week for WWE.com, and they tell me that it does well and that people enjoy reading it. I believe that's because I infuse that column with humor and entertainment.
In addition, I feel that if I didn't do a good job on the air or didn't have time to get back to a particular story, then maybe I can embellish that story in my column on WWE's RAW page and further that story a little better. I'm glad I have the opportunity to do that, and I try to do so in an entertaining way. My intent on WWE.com is to entertain more than it is to be a "news guy."
On my BBQ site, I expand my focus. In addition to wrestling, I might discuss a variety of other stories that are topical. I may write about something I saw on television, an experience I had attending a sporting event, something from a movie I've seen, something about a restaurant I've visited, and so on. The opportunity that site offers is for me to broaden the spectrum. I've written about the Roger Clemens situation, politics, movies--situations that I find entertaining or that I am inquisitive about. I don't throw those types of opinions onto the WWE.com site, because that column stays on course with what I'm affiliated with in the WWE. On the other hand, the entries on my site has WWE content since that's what many people who come there have an interest in, but I don't want to limit it to that. When they do throw my columns from the BBQ blog up on independent wrestling sites, they rarely print my thoughts on the Super Bowl or things of that nature but only reprint the wrestling content.
Sam Ford: In the past year, you have finally realized your dream in launching a successful food services business with your restaurants and online store. Do you feel your blog and frequent activity on your site serves as a strong promotional tool for your BBQ?
Jim Ross: It's a way to reach our consumers. The conduit which allows me to communicate with our potential customers is that Web site. The Web site was established as a vehicle to sell our sauces, our merchandise, our dry rubs, and our peanuts. We are growing that business. Our site is our store in essence, a store that anyone in the world can shop in.
We dont have the resources or manpower or funds to put a J.R.'s BBQ in every city in every country that the Internet is avilable in, but we have U.S. soldiers who buy beef jerky from Iraq, for example. We ship BBQ sauce to the UK. That site is a store that never closes.
Our site was established to create customers. One of the reasons we get people to check our site out on a regular basis through our content is so that they will come here not just when they are in the market to buy BBQ sauce but rather to give them some content they want to check out regularly. While they are here, we certainly hope they go to our store and make a purchase. We feature a photo gallery and I write blog entries and respond to readers' questions. That gives fans the opportunity to send me e-mails and have me to respond to many of them through the site.
To a fault sometimes, I've been known for my honesty, and I blatantly tell fans that we need their business to keep our site running. I have a Webmaster to pay, and there are a variety of expenses involved in maintaining our online business. I'm not of the technical persuasion, so we need to sell product to keep our ship afloat. I don't make any bones about that. But I hope that, in the process, I am providing my readers with some entertainment and some information through a nice read a few days a week that gives them the chance to get their questions answered.
Sam Ford: In addition to the restaurant, you also actively write and speak about college football in a variety of venues. Do you approach those projects differently than you do pro wrestling, and do you feel that the "Good 'Ol J.R." character, if you can separate it from your off-air self in any way, is different in any way in the football world than it is in the wrestling world?
Jim Ross: For me, it is all the same approach. In all these cases, I have to get into a train of thought to write in an entertaining or informative way. I write a column for OUInsider.com during football season. We are a little fledgling business located here in Oklahoma, and a lot of people who read the OUInsider site come to Norman, Oklahoma, for games, which is where our first restaurant is located. Writing that column links me to my target audience who may well come to the city where my restaurant is located. If they are reminded enough of it, perhaps they will come by and be a guest in our restaurant or let us tailor their tailgate party while they are in town.
I'm not writing that column because it's a payday; I write it because it provides exposure for J.R.'s BBQ. That's just target marketing. I know that, if someone is reading OUInsider.com, it is 99.9 percent likely that you are an OU football fan. If you are a fan, there is a good chance at some point in your lifetime you will come to a game in Norman. If you do, then I've got you in town, and there's a better chance of you selecting our place to dine.
Sam Ford: How would you compare the world of marketing food to merchandising in professional wrestling and sports?
Jim Ross: I feel that the approach to marketing for both are much the same. You have to have a clear sales message, appeal to your customer base with a message that's clearly understood, and reach them as often and as effectively as you can in as many forms as possible. My theory is that, if I weren't doing what I were doing now, I have no reservations in saying that I could be involved in marketing another good or service. I think I could be effective marketing in another genre than sports entertainment or the restaurant or food business, but the key is that you must have a good product. You can't sell goods out of an empty wagon.
You must have a clearly defined and understood sales message that is mentally retainable, and you must be able to tell your customers often enough so that you have a fighting chance in today's 30-minutes-or-less instant gratification, I-sit-with-a-clicker-in-my-hnad mentality. I would suggest to you that, if (WWE Owner) Vince McMahon put his marketing genius decided he wanted to do something else full-time--with no wrestling or sports entertainment but rather a different product, he would probably be very successful because he understands how to get a sales message out there, identify a customer base, and then get that message in front of them to get them to respond.
In the next part of this five-part series, J.R. and I discuss his involvement in various projects outside of his work directly with WWE. Thoughts? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.