Bryan Srabian: A Giant in Sports Digital Media - Work in Sports Podcast
Bryan Srabian is the guy behind the San Francisco Giants digital media and content success story, and he joins us this week on the Work in Sports podcast!
Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast.
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Over the last decade or so there has been a greater emphasis on culture and environment in the workplace, especially in business but more recently in sports.
Not to get all “when I was a young whippersnapper” on you…but when I started my sports career back in 1996, everything was task oriented. Get the job done. Period. My boss didn’t really care about my feelings or how I fit in or whether I felt comfortable taking chances in my role.
If you messed up that was bad… if you messed up multiple times you’d be labeled as unreliable and never given the fun games to cover, or the next opportunity. That was sports and that was the media… we couldn’t really afford to be wrong.
Failure wasn’t seen as a pathway to creativity, it was seen as a pathway to a different career.
Around the early 2000s, my wife, then girlfriend, was in the dot com industry where they played ping pong in the office and totally changed the concept of failure…this new wave believed failure was a necessary part of true growth and creativity.
This idea of failing as an acceptable result always confused me. She played Half-Life around her office and I sprinted around the newsroom trying to get a story on the air and not miss a deadline.
We lived in very different work worlds.
But…despite 90% of them going out of business, the dot coms may have been on to something.
The sports world has come in this direction as well – there is more concern than ever for happiness, inclusion, cultural fits and more.
In fact, the same concept the dot com industry embraced in the early 2000s of failure being a necessary indicator of pushing yourself, finds its way into the sports world modus operandi too as we constantly try to push new boundaries in social media, content creation, branding, advertising, and marketing.
We can’t just recycle – we need to push new boundaries, we need to try new things, we need to be free to fail in the spirit of refining and developing.
It’s not the same as “do crappy work and it’ll all be ok” – it’s the concept that to be unique means you have to try things and you won’t always hit.
I heard someone say the other day – “if you want to see something new, better go to a different planet” implying it’s all been done before. I don’t buy this. I see new often. I see teams and brands and leagues pushing past normalcy daily.
And I see failure.
I think back and wonder if these things are inextricably linked – was I afraid to fail back in my early career and therefore less impactful? So I now feel more emboldened to fail and am more creative?
Hell if I know.
But one thing I know about myself is I do like an environment where I’m not self-censoring every move fearful it will result in my downfall. I do like running a group of people and trying to get them to work fearlessly.
Not carelessly, we still have to be accurate, we still have to do things the right way and be careful what we say and who we say it about… but the idea of trying without fear makes sense to me.
That is the philosophy of today’s guest.
I believe wholeheartedly that for a creative person, you could have no better leader and role model than Bryan Srabian San Francisco Giants VP of Digital Media and Brand Development. For 18 years he’s been a fixture with the Giants, and get this he started his career well before the internet, well before social media… and now in my view, he is the kingpin, the OG of the sports social media.
He adapted to a changing world, became an expert in a growing field, pushed the Giants to new levels and formulated a highly functioning team that wasn’t afraid to fail…and because of that, they’ve succeeded an awful lot.
But I’ll let him tell it – here’s Bryan Srabian, San Francisco Giants VP of Digital Media and Brand Development…
Questions for Bryan Srabian, San Francisco Giants VP of Digital Media and Brand Development
1: Before we get into all the fun subjects surrounding sports social media and fan engagement – you started out with the Giants in Corporate Sponsorship back in 1996 – corporate sponsorship is a long way from becoming the guy behind the Giants social media success story – how did you eventually find your fit in the sports industry?
2: You’ve had two different stints with the Giants, the first go round you were in Game Entertainment and Marketing…spent two years elsewhere…and then came back in 2010 focused on digital/social media side and brand development.
How did the first run in game entertainment and marketing, influence the second run in digital and social?
3: Let’s get into this social story – you’ve seen the changes in social and digital from the early days to now, if you ask me teams used to use social as a listening device to hear from fans, but many now seem to be focused on outbound messaging and creative visualizations … is this accurate from your perspective and is that a good thing?
4: DATA Leaning into that storyline – most of the young people I speak with assume social media requires being the fastest and most creative content developer.
If you were listing the most important aspects of successful sports social media – would they line up with that or be something different?
5: You are about to embark on another very long baseball season – how do you feel about the grind of a baseball season?
6: I’d imagine that has to be a huge challenge, you have games and stories to tell daily… how much are you able to plan, and how much just comes fresh in the moment?
6a: Are you ever able to enjoy some success… or is it always on to the next moment?
7: Has sports social communication lost its authenticity? I wonder sometimes if what used to be this sports playground and storytelling platform …has now become almost corporatized… or has lost its human voice? What’s your feeling on that?
8: When I was coming up in the sports media world teams relied on us as their information megaphone – now with social media content teams and team reporters, sports organizations are their own megaphone – but you have something we never did…access!
How important is that differentiation -- to be able to use social media and your team outlets to tell the stories of your players behind the scenes?
8a: players are owning their own brand now more than ever --- how much of a role does the team play in helping to guide the players as they venture out in the murky waters of social media?
9: Social media changes so rapidly …I feel every day I am bombarded with some new tool, concept or best practice – how do you keep up?
10: Obviously there is an art form to content creation, but there is also a science side of social media in the data, ROI, analytics, tracking, budgeting etc – how important is it for someone who wants to work in digital media to truly value and understand the science of social?
11: You have a social/digital team with the Giants – what is your approach to developing a consistent voice across all of your various platforms, and through many different team members…or do you even bother with that?
12: We’ll end on this – we referenced earlier about the changing landscape for social and how much things have changed over the years – we also see ideas come and go, Vine, Google+, 3dTV’s – so in your mind, what’s coming down the line that has a chance to be sticky and last?
For answers to these questions and more with Bryan Srabian, San Francisco Giants VP of Digital Media and Brand Development listen in to the podcast episode!
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