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Social Media and Student-Athlete Handbooks

Social media guidelines exist so that an entire company and all of its employees have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them when they are representing the business online, whether it be on or off the clock. Universities, typically a bit slower to catch up to mainstream business practices, are definitely behind the curve when it comes to establishing guidelines for students and student-athletes.

In browsing some of the athletic department policies and it was surprising to see program after program devote less than a page to such a pressing topic.  For example:

Gambling …………………………………………………………………………………. 49 

Hazing …………………………………………………………………………………….. 50 

Social Networking Websites ……………………………………………………….. 50 

Grievance Policy ………………………………………………………………………. 50

And on Page 50, under the rules for hazing came:

SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES

Utilize your best judgment when using social networking websites. Our concern is not only about the content that is posted in the form of photos but also the proliferation of personal information, such as, cell phone numbers, class schedules and home addresses which many of you have made public. The content posted on these sites is not private. Your information may be currently viewed by: university officials, professors, parents, coaches, future employers, local and national media among others. Further, there have been a number of cases of assault that have been directly attributable to these sites.

As a student-athlete at (university name) you are held to a higher standard then the general student body. We ask that you do not post any information that might embarrass or otherwise cause harm to you, your team or the university.

 

Another athletic department gave a similar amount of space to the topic:

Team Rules………………………………………………………………..28 

Voluntary Withdrawals…………………………………………28 

Social Networking Websites …………………………………………29 

Criminal Activity ………………………………………………………….29

And once you landed on Page 29, you found:

SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES

Student-athletes are representatives of not only themselves and their teams but also Intercollegiate Athletics and the University as a whole. As outlined above, student-athletes are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that positively represents Athletics and the University. Student-athletes who post profiles on social networking websites, including MySpace and Facebook are reminded that the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct and behavioral expectations apply to those posted profiles. Student-athletes not only represent themselves and their families, but also their individual teams, Intercollegiate Athletics, and (university name). Student-athletes should consider if they would share information with all of those constituencies before posting it online.

Student-athletes are also encouraged to limit the amount of personal information they post on those sites for their own safety as well as for future job searches and background checks. Once the information is posted on the Internet, it is in the public domain and can come back to haunt the poster later. Many employers are already checking social networking profiles before making any offers of employment. Predators also spend time on such sites looking for easy targets. Student-athletes should please be careful and think twice about what they post, especially photographs and contact or schedule information. Student-athletes can be targeted by predators via social media, and should report any such contacts to their coach or the Associate Director of Athletics/Director, Athletics Academic Services.

 

It’s also interesting to see where social media appears in the table of contents, next to hazing and criminal activity, in these examples. It doesn’t have to be that way! Social media guidelines can also represent the positive and help your students use social media to their advantage. Guidelines that are ripe with “don’t” as well as best practices, will serve as a resource to your student-athletes.  Keep in mind that, whatever guidelines you do implement should also be applicable to staff and coaches. Student-athletes are not the only ones to post inappropriate photos or tweet troubling comments. The purpose of social media guidelines is to inform what rules are in place, but also to allow everyone to achieve the department goals. You should want your team to be a success online. Guidelines are a good first-step to prepare them for that. (Education is a must, too!)

One service that Beaming Bohemian provides is the development of social media guidelines for your department. If you are an athletic department, a university or business who needs to establish this type of resource for your students or employees, please contact us. Social media guidelines are not a one-size-fits all rule book. They should reflect the culture of your department and allow everyone to take ownership in the final – and living –  document. We can work together to develop the best handbook for you. Contact shannabright@f5c.d03.myftpupload.com

The Coaches’ Game Plan for Personal Branding

This article was originally written for Hoop Group. You can read the post HEREHoop Group is the worldwide leader in basketball instruction. Hoop Group has offered premier basketball camps since the summer of 1963. Having touched the lives of over 1 million young men and women since Hoop Group has evolved into much more than just summer basketball camps. Learn about the 4 divisions and what Hoop Group does by visiting their website at http://hoopgroup.com/.  You can also learn more by following @DaveKrupinski on Twitter  

The slightly altered version….

University athletic programs are increasingly placing pressure on coaches to better understand social media and use any variety of networks to interact with and monitor athletes, converse with students, be available to supporters and identify prospective donors. Coaches are in a unique position to either excel in the sport of social media or walk off the platforms scoreless. Coaches have undoubtedly reached the moment when it is crucial to not only understand how to use these social tools, but also how to use them with purpose and in a positive way. If coaches take an authoritative approach over their accounts, they can very well work to build a positive brand image, not only for themselves, but for their team, sport and school.  Here are a five key steps coaches can take to to build their brand and use social media more effectively.

1. Create Your Identity

Before your fingers touch the keyboard, you’ll need to develop your brand identity. Creating your brand identity starts with discovering your core values.  What are you passionate about in life? What motivates you? Why are you coaching basketball instead of soccer, softball instead of volleyball? What makes you special?  Why is your coaching style unique? These are all questions that you can ask yourself to drive down to the core of your being and determine what you value.

This is an exercise that will take a few hours, but it is well worth your time to discover three to five of your most prominent values. With each core value, it is essential you also write a core value statement. A few corporate examples:

Education

We can generate greater appreciation and loyalty from all of our stakeholders by educating them about natural and organic foods, health, nutrition and the environment.

Integrity

We demonstrate integrity every day by practicing the highest ethical standards and by ensuring that actions follow our words.

Collaboration and Partnering

Providing opportunities to meet, communicate, collaborate, and partner within the information industry and the business community.

2. Craft Your Brand Message

Using your core values and statements, draft what is your vision. Incorporate your core values, but also give some thought to what your audience wants to hear from you. What are their core concerns? This will set the tone of your brand communications and define your purpose for using online tools.  Why should people follow you? Why should they engage with your posts, read your content or share with their circles of friends?  What information are they expecting from you? Keep this in mind as you draft your brand message. It’s not only about what you want to tell them. It is more about what your audience wants to hear from you. Maybe you know your fans love behind-the-scenes photos. Perhaps they go crazy for post-game analysis. They might want to know what it’s like in the day of a coach. Fans could be looking to you for inspiration.

Even the biggest brands have gone through these first two exercises. The best brands incorporate their values into their brand message and communicate that through various channels, particularly social media.  Another way to think of these first two steps is to imagine that you are building your house of communication. Your core values are the strong, solid foundation and your vision and brand message serve as the framework for your communications. Without these, there is no house. Step into the world of social media without these game plans, and you are planning to fail.

 

3. Choose The Right Channels

One easy mistake to make is to have the desire to be all things to all people and exist everywhere. We tend to want to gain as much exposure as possible, and find we’re signing up for every social network ever built. But in order to hone your skills, it is better to narrow your focus.  Just think in terms of sports.  If you coached football, water polo, lacrosse and tennis how good of a coach would you be at any of those sports?  If you cut out the others and focus only on football, how much greater of a coach would you be? You would see your skills refined and improved.

But the question remains, how do you choose the right channel?  We have to think about your audience again. Where do they “live?”  If the majority of your fans, friends, community members, etc., use Facebook, then by all means, zone in on Facebook and utilize the features to your advantage. If you enjoy using Twitter to share news, gain a following and Twitter turns out to be a great method for telling your story, then go nuts on Twitter. Choosing the right channel is a blend of where you know your audience will receive your communications and what channels best promote your brand message.  You may have to test a bit and find what works and where your audience engages with you the most. Rest assured, you will find what works best for you. In order to better understand how each network functions, gain the help of the person who manages social media for your athletic department. They will be delighted to help you. If one of your athletes is a social superstar, ask for their help. They would love the chance to give their coach a few pointers! And what a great conversation to start with your players! (That’s an entirely different blog post!)

4. Be consistent

You’ve taken the steps to create your brand identity, to craft your brand message and choose the right channel to communicate, now you have to keep at it and build your brand.  One simple tip to brand yourself across your chosen channels is to use similar images for your profile or background photos so that fans will know they’ve landed on your page.  Use images that well represent your team or even pictures which promote your schedule. Put some thought into the photos. Don’t underestimate the power of a great photo. It’s valuable real estate for promoting your brand and lends a lasting image.

Just as a business would, you should plan ahead and create a content plan. You might not need to get super specific, but some outlines of what you might consider posting on a weekly or monthly basis can come in handy. This will help you with consistency. Luckily, you have a practice, game and tournament schedule that can guide you in what information to post. Check out a few professional teams like the Boston Celtics, The LA Kings or the Chicago Cubs. Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll does a great job on Twitter. Mimic what is working for the pros. The more consistent you are, the more you will see your following grow. They will learn they can depend on you for either specific bits of news and information, or expect dedicated times when you are online and available for conversation.  Coaches may want to consider a weekly window of time to be present online and allow the community to chat with you about an upcoming game. This type of chat can be neatly executed on most social channels. So again, find the one where your audience is present. You might also do something like welcome game-day quotes that you’ll retweet or posts of photos of fans in school-spirited gear on your Facebook Page.  There are lots of opportunities to create regular and consistent conversations and sharing of great content.

 

5. Be Valuable

Not only should you create content of value, but you should work to be valuable.  A few questions to ask yourself: Are you promoting your sport? Your team? Your school?  Your league or division? Are you cross-promoting the other sports at your school? Giving accolades to your players or to other athletes at your school who excel? Are you sharing content that is a positive reflection on your personal brand? Are you sharing information your audience wants to receive?  Do you really look at who your fans and followers are? Any prospective donors in the mix? Can you name the team’s biggest fan?

If coaches take the time and make the effort to promote their brand, they will grow to serve as valuable assets to the team, the athletic department and to the school. Coaches with strong personal brands can positively affect recruitment, player performance and professional development, community support, ticket sales, donor relations and public image. When your contributions off the field are just as significant as your work with your athletes, you bring added value to your team and to the athletics program. You can serve as a social media example to your players and, in turn, help them improve their communication skills.

 

Far too many coaches have written off social media as something that exists only to get their players in trouble or as some silly thing kids use to broadcast which sandwich they chose for lunch.  In reality, social media serve as incredibly powerful communication tools which, when approached professionally, purposefully and positively, can set you up for the winning goal.

 

Beaming Bohemian, unconventionally brilliant communication, was founded to infuse communications with positivity and purpose and to empower you to build meaningful, personable brands which connect and inspire people. If you are a coach in need of more guidance, we’d like to help you. We can consult with you privately to get you active on the social networks which best fit your goals, or we can bring the Coaching the Coaches program to your campus and allow all the coaches on your teams benefit from personal branding and social media education. Contact us! 

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