More and more in today’s sports world, teams have become their own media outlets.
The immediacy of information was a big one. At the sports networks I worked for we could rely on people tuning in at noon, 6 pm and 11 pm to get their in-depth sports information.
But that changed so dramatically at the turn of the century. Everyone could get information immediately – news, videos, stats, data – it was all available. Many traditional broadcast networks are still struggling to figure out how they are relevant in this new world order…that has been around for a decade plus, but some of us are slower to adapt than others.
The other big fear was teams utilizing their access and turning into their own media provider. Think about it, as a former news director I’d be working angles with the teams to allow us access to players. Everything ran through PR, and half the time they’d say no.
We couldn’t get in the locker room, we couldn’t get into the workouts behind the scenes, we couldn’t see players in their natural environment.
When we’d do a yearly threat assessment, this was always a big one for me… what if the teams decide to do what we can’t? What if they become their own media source?
This is our reality now, and it is incredible for the audience. Information in the moment. Connectivity to the athletes. Behind the scenes looks at the world of the elite athlete. Visuals and moments shared instantaneously.
But this doesn’t happen on its own – this new reality is backed by creative people knowing and deciphering what is interesting about what is happening.
They are the new agenda setters for our world. They tell us what is important with their team – they inspire us to share, life and engage with their content.
They are the gatekeeper to our knowledge - letting us in on a story or holding back on it, deciding this isn’t the right time to explore this angle.
The new power operators in the sports information game are the team social media members – like today’s guest Zachary social media manager for the Pittsburgh Steelers…
1: Before we dig into your role in social media with the Steelers, let’s go back a bit to your beginning.
So many people assume you must go to a big, well-known school to make it in major professional sports. You went to Adrian College in Michigan, a small school with just over 1600 students, which is probably smaller than some high schools in the Pittsburgh area – fast forward a few years and you’re the Social Media Manager with one of the biggest brands in sports.
Broad question but… how did this happen?
2: Before the Steelers you were the Digital Content Coordinator for M
ichigan International Speedway, managing their social media presence…but you also wrote, produced, shot and edited all videos for YouTube and other social channels.
How important is it to have the technical skills to create, not just the creative skills…and how did you learn these techniques?
3: In your first race weekend your social media channels reached over 10million users and 121.8 million impressions. That’s some crazy exposure – and a heck of an impression made on your bosses. I can picture the person who hired you giving themselves a high five.
Those numbers were second only to the Daytona 500 that NASCAR season.
Explain that to me – what was different about your approach than every other race that season…what was it that cut through the noise and reached so many people?
4: How much time do you spend, either with the Steelers or when you were with Michigan International Speedway, studying the fans and understanding how to communicate with them? Every audience is different – how do you take on that challenge?
5: You see many different approaches to social media in sports by organizations – some are funny, some are transactional, some are focused on unique access – what would you say is your preferred approach and why does that work for you?
6: In July 2015 you were the first Social Media Coordinator hired by the Steelers – quite an honor so congrats on that – You are their essentially their megaphone, how did you go about determining and establishing the voice of the brand?
7: As much as we talk about the creative side of social media, there is also a behind the scenes data and analysis aspect – budgets, tracking campaigns, evaluating successes and failures – how much of your time is spent in this area and is that an important part for someone to learn if they want to follow in your footsteps?
8: One of the great things about social is the instantaneous nature. How much are you able to plan things out, versus, just being observant, in the moment, and in the right places to see things worth sharing?
9: What is a game day like for you?
10: What platform do you enjoy the most currently…and where do you think we are headed…what’s next?
11: We’ll finish up with this… you deal with all the other teams in the NFL -- and I’m sure there is some super secret social media club where all teams in all leagues hang out together and exchange ideas – as we mentioned earlier the Steelers only really started investing in their social media department a couple of years back… do you think social media as a role within organizations still has room to grow?
Thanks to Zachary for coming on the show – great insight into the world of sports social media especially in the NFL!
Don’t forget to join me Thursday night 7:30 pm EST for another Facebook LIVE session with me! Bring your sports career focused questions and we’ll handle them LIVE from the Work in Sports Facebook page.
Thanks for listening everyone – now get back to work!