Paul Trimmier doesn't consider himself an Internet celebrity, but his savvy, creative use of social media has helped him navigate his way into a job with an emphasis on core values that have contributed to his success.
The 22-year-old sports enthusiast, a 2013 graduate of Orangeburg Preparatory School, had always admired Ernie Johnson, a sportscaster for Turner Sports. Turner Sports is the division of Turner Broadcasting System that is responsible for sports broadcasts on Turner channels, including TBS and TNT.
The NBA on TNT, which is Turner Network Television's coverage of the National Basketball Association, has been produced by Turner Sports since 1989. TNT's NBA coverage includes the “Inside the NBA” studio show, which Johnson hosts, and weekly doubleheaders throughout the regular season on Thursdays as well as on Tuesdays the second half of the season.
Because of his character, Johnson became the subject of a paper Trimmier wrote on para-social interaction for his sports communication class at Clemson University.
“We had to write a paper on a communications theory. I chose to write about para-social interaction, where you feel like you know someone on social media just by how they present themselves on social media -- what they post and share about themselves -- and you actually don’t know them,” Trimmier said.
He said Johnson became the focus of his paper because of the sportscaster's character.
“He’s just a good guy. I've just always admired how he carries himself. His beliefs are in line with mine, and he's just a very respectful, intelligent and hard-working professional," Trimmier said.
“He's someone that I felt like I would love to meet and love to enjoy knowing in real life just from what he shares and his story and how he tells it. It makes you feel like you know him, a very personable guy."
The 2017 Clemson grad wrote the paper around the time he first applied to Turner Sports for a job on TNT that was not related to the NBA. Little did he know that a single tweet to Ernie Johnson about his admiration for him and that he was the subject of a paper he wrote would lead him in an entirely different direction.
‘Crazy series of events’
“It was a crazy series of events that kind of took place over the course of about four months. I think it was in early April or maybe March, but right around the time I was first applying to Turner," Trimmier said.
“I knew I wanted to work there. They kind of thrive off the NBA, and so I ended up getting an interview. I applied for a job that was for a start-up app, nothing related to NBA on TNT or anything."
He added, "It was like a four-hour interview, and I got to meet some cool people. They ended up asking me where my passion was, and I made it clear that eventually I wanted to work with the NBA.”
During the interview, Trimmier mentioned his paper on Johnson, on which he had received a grade of A.
A few weeks later Johnson was on Twitter interacting with his fans about his newly written autobiography, Trimmier said.
“I was like, ‘I’m sure that he would love to know that I wrote this paper about him.’ It had nothing to do with the book, but I figured I’d just send him a tweet. He immediately responded and was like, ‘Paul, I have to read this paper,’” he said.
“He said, ‘I’ll follow you, and you can send it to me on Twitter,’" Trimmier said. "You can’t direct message someone on Twitter unless you both follow each other. So he took the time to follow me on Twitter and direct messaged me his personal email address.”
Trimmier emailed his paper to Johnson the same night the sportscaster was doing an NBA on TNT show. He said he thought he’d hear back from Johnson the next day.
“When I emailed him my paper, I mentioned that I just had an interview with Turner ... (in) a different department and that maybe our paths would cross again someday if I ended up getting the job. And, he emailed me back that night!” he said.
“It was kind of this crazy feeling of me watching him on TV, and during the breaks, he’s apparently taking the time to read the paper and email me back. So I’m flipping out because it’s a surreal experience."
Trimmer said Johnson told him in an email, "Paul, I’m very humbled by the paper," and said he was going to give him his “highest recommendation” for the job.
Another applicant got the job Trimmier had initially applied for, but that was not the end of the story. Another social media position opened on NBA on TNT.
“It (was) specifically with the NBA, which is where I wanted to eventually be, and it was doing social media for NBA on TNT, which is where Ernie works. I was like, ‘Wow, that would be crazy,’” Trimmier said.
He said he was cautiously optimistic about his chances. He closed the doors on other job offers he had gotten from other organizations, including NASCAR in Charlotte and NBC Sports in Connecticut, because, "my passion is with the NBA."
As Trimmier's graduation from Clemson neared, he found out Johnson was signing copies of his book the University of Georgia Bookstore. It was Trimmier's opportunity to meet the sportscaster in person and get his own copy of Johnson's autobiography signed.
“My mom got it for my birthday. It was probably the only time I’ve ever asked for a book for my birthday, but I wanted to read it. His story was just incredible. My friend and I walked right up to him, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m the Clemson student that wrote that paper about you.’
“His face immediately lit up, and he was like, ‘Paul!’ … He remembered that I was in the interview process with Turner, and he was asking how that was going. I told him that I was actually referred to a position with TNT but wouldn’t know for sure until later on,” Trimmier said.
He said his signed copy of Johnson's book included more than just Johnson’s name.
“He had written: ‘To my future TNT colleague.’ I was freaking out. … After that, I had more confidence that it was gonna work out,” Trimmier said.
He got the call that he would be hired as a social media editor at Turner Sports during a European vacation he took after graduation.
“That last week in Italy was awesome," Trimmier said. "I was just a lot more at peace because I knew that it had worked out. Noon on Monday came around, and I got a call ... and there was Ernie Johnson, who actually called to offer me the job."
“He said, ‘Paul, you’re part of the team now. I knew from when I met you that you’d be a great fit.’ … The tweet really started that whole interaction with Ernie and kind of helped solidify the job. It’s just an incredible series of events," Trimmier said.
‘Social media has taken off’
As social media editor at Turner Sports, Trimmier has his hand in managing the company’s overall digital image across a myriad of social media platforms.
“The NBA on TNT has social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I am part of the group that is publishing everything you see on those accounts. We work directly with NBA TV, and there are two different accounts with two different voices," he said.
“NBA TV is much more of the factual kind of all-NBA, all-the-time coverage, whereas NBA on TNT is more of taking those storylines and kind of presenting them in a humorous way. It’s meant to reflect the TV show. Those guys are hilarious. They’re talking about basketball, but they’re also just kind of goofing off. The voice of NBA on TNT is to take normal story lines in the NBA and kind of turning them into funny things.”
Trimmier was no stranger to sports and social media, having worked as an athletic communications digital media assistant at Clemson University, where he managed various social media accounts for Clemson Athletics. He was also responsible for website maintenance, analytical reporting and writing.
In his new role with TNT, he creates graphics, funny videos, and “anything to sort of tell stories in a different way,” Trimmier said.
“We work directly with graphic designers and studio editors that kind of take our ideas and turn them into content to display on those different social media channels. It’s a really fun job. It’s great. The conversations that we have about these ideas are insanely weird sometimes."
He added, “It’s just kind of crazy that that’s a job to come up with funny ideas surrounded by the NBA. To me, that’s what makes it a dream job.
"Social media editor at Turner Sports is not my dream job –- it’s the position I have to where my focus is to be in touch with what’s going on in the NBA and be creative and tell a story in a funny way. The opportunities here are incredible. So hopefully, Lord willing, this is a place that I could stay for a long time.”
Trimmier said the massive audience that social media reaches is noteworthy and is what makes setting the tone and direction of social media outreach at a company so important.
“This job didn’t exist five or six years ago. It’s incredible how much social media has taken off. I don’t think a lot of people realize how important it is. It’s reaching a maximum potential audience -- more than TV and radio can. It’s basically just marketing to the extreme because everyone’s pretty much on social media,” he said. “There’s a lot of money behind it, but we’re having so much fun doing it, which is sweet.”
Trimmier said he's part of a team of like-minded young, creative people with whom he enjoys working.
“So we’re kind of in touch with pop culture, we’re in touch with funny movies. And that’s where we get our inspiration from. For instance, right now TNT is doing this collection of famous movie posters that incorporate NBA headlines," he said. “We’ve actually just started releasing them. We had like a ‘Jaws’ movie poster, the classic movie poster that’s very recognizable, but we incorporated an NBA storyline with a player whose nickname is Claws.
“There may be a theme from a hilarious movie that kind of fits something that’s going on in the NBA, and we’ll literally take the players’ heads and paste them on the movie clip."
Trimmier added, “I don’t know of too many other jobs that kind of allow you to be creative but also just have fun doing it like they do here. That’s the most fun. It’s just a bunch of like-minded people that are super laid back, hilarious and in touch with what’s going on outside of sports.”
Social media has its pitfalls he said.
“You have to remember that what you’re sending out is being viewed by millions of people. Each of our pages has two, three, or four million followers. With what’s going on in society right now, there’s a lot of societal issues that we have to be very careful about in how we cover them. So what we post is going through four or five eyes just to make sure that we stick to what’s on the show,” not to mention the basic grammar that must be adhered to, Trimmier said.
“People are quick to call you out on your mistakes. You learn that pretty quickly,” he said, noting that preparedness is everything in the often unpredictable sports world.
“There were a lot of different huge trades that were going on this past off-season. So we would have to be prepared. We had content prepared for a player (going) to like four different teams. Like for Carmelo Anthony, for example. He signed a deal with Oklahoma City Thunder when everyone thought he was going to the Houston Rockets. So we had all this content prepared for the Rockets, and then he switches us up and says, ‘Alright, I’m going to the Thunder,’” Trimmier said.
“We want to be the first to release the content, and it’s hard to do that if you’re not prepared. We’re always thinking ahead.”
There are differences in working with college athletics versus professional athletics, Trimmier said.
“In college, nothing you’re posting is linked with an advertisement, whereas now someone’s making money off of everything we post. ... we’re dealing with sponsors, and you have to follow the rules of their brand. So there are a lot more legal guidelines to follow working with professional teams as opposed to college teams,” he said.
‘Success from creativity’
Trimmier said there is no typical day for him in his social media editor role at Turner Sports in Atlanta.
“The basketball season started on the 17th. When there’s not a game on our broadcast network, a lot of it is coming up with those ideas, planning ahead and being prepared for when there is a game. ... opening night was crazy," he said.
“We have half our team out there. I’m working from Atlanta, the team is gathering content whether that be on their phone, through videographers, photography. They’re sending all that stuff back to me in Atlanta to post out on all the social media channels,” Trimmier said.
Game nights are different than ordinary 9-to-5 jobs, he said.
“On nights there are games, which is every Tuesday and Thursday, I will be in the studio pulling highlights from the games that are on TNT. So, we’ll have a doubleheader every Thursday night. I know that from 5 p.m. to probably 2 a.m., I’ll be in the studio running the accounts, pulling highlights from the games, pulling highlights from whatever Shaq and Kenny, Charles and Ernie are talking about," Trimmier said.
“It’s a lot of moving around. It’s very quick, fast-paced and timely content because we want to get it out as quickly as possible as it happens, but that’s kind of the thrill of it. It’s a lot of fun. Every day is different."
Trimmier, who is the son of Mark and Sylvia Trimmier of Orangeburg, said he doesn’t consider his current position as some sort of shot at social media stardom, but he conceded there are advantages to using social media in creative ways.
After all, that single tweet to Ernie Johnson was just a part of how he told his own story in a unique way -- through a college paper that happened to catch the attention of a nationally-televised sports broadcaster, Trimmier said.
“It was a story that people were intrigued by. I put it on Facebook. I was like, ‘My mom’s friends will enjoy hearing this story.’ And I put it on LinkedIn just because it made the article look professional," he said.
“It’s just crazy that people caught wind of it, and I think that it kind of reflects that success on social media ... comes from creativity. It comes from telling an ordinary story in a unique way."
Trimmier said his parents helped mold him into the man he has become and in everything he’s ever done, including making life decisions and teaching him the value of compassion and responsibility.
"They've just been so supportive of everything," he said. "That's definitely something I don't take for granted because I have a lot of friends who don't have that."