Every Monday night, I pack up my computer bag and head to the University Club Atop Symphony Towers in San Diego to provide social media seminars for club members. It’s part of my consulting contract and, frankly, it’s one of my favorite aspects of work. I love helping professionals better understand these amazing and cost-effective tools which have completely changed the way we do business and revolutionized the way we communicate. I’ve met some wonderful folks during these sessions and have (hopefully) provided insightful information they can take back to the office and implement.
While it’s a no-brainer that membership organizations like business clubs, country clubs and the like are a perfect match for communicating through social media, it may not be as clear for your business which channels are best to tap into. It is better to select one or two channels where you know you can reach your target audience, versus spreading yourself too thin and attempting to be everywhere. I admit that as a solopreneur, it is tough sometimes to manage my content plan and effectively communicate. I feel completely disconnected and out of touch if a day goes by when I don’t post, tweet or share. But I will tell you that these tools, when used with good strategy and purpose, will produce positive results.
During my Monday night classes, I’ve witnessed several “a-ha moments” when an concept clicks or someone realizes how they can integrate social media into their communication plan. If you would like to learn more about the types of seminars I can provide or need to train your staff (or you!), please contact me. I am eager to assess your business strategies and help you better utilize social media. My number is 619.244.2400 and my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Running through my various lists of San Diego Sports Tweeps today, I came across this tweet from Bill Johnston, the PR Director for the San Diego Chargers.
Saying there's pressure on team to have great draft seems ridiculous considering we won't know results until year(s) down the road.
— Bill Johnston (@ChargersPRguy) April 25, 2012
I was a little surprised to see the PR Director tweet something so negative. Ridiculous? How is pressure for a great draft ridiculous? Or is it the fans who are ridiculous for putting the pressure on the team? I felt compelled to point this out to him. You can see here my response and his “save.”
— Shanna Bright (@shannabright) April 25, 2012
@shannabright Agree. Love it when people care. Just wanna WIN.
— Bill Johnston (@ChargersPRguy) April 25, 2012
This is a really great example of someone not taking that one extra moment to re-read a tweet before hitting the send button. With 6281+ followers, I suspect there are a few Chargers fans in the mix. Would Bill’s tweet have made a more positive impact had he posed a question?
“Who are you hoping the Chargers pick up in the NFL draft?”
Or could he have shed some light on the secret wishes of the players?
“The buzz in the locker room is that so-and-so is high on the wish list.”
To keep the communications in the positive zone, I responded with:
@ChargersPRguy We wanna WIN too! Do we know who fans are hoping for the most? What about the players? Very excited for the draft!
— Shanna Bright (@shannabright) April 25, 2012
Main point being, there was a good chance to engage fans and let them have a say, take a moment to interact. The comment/opinion from the PR Director only sets a stage for negative replies, as some might interpret him calling the fans ridiculous.
I’m all for being human and authentic, and certainly feel that even frustrations can be creatively vented online with a dash of humor and an open invite to comment. When you are a public figure, or sit in a position like the PR Director for a professional sports team, you really must remember that every time you post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or elsewhere, you really have to give second thought to how your post will resonate with your audience. For someone in Bill’s position, he should be able to turn what seems like a personal frustration into a positive interaction with Chargers fans. Furthermore, and no less significant, when the PR Director for a sports team sends tweets out a bit haphazardly, what kind of example does that set for the players and FO staff?
How do you think Bill should have tweeted his pressure-filled comment? What examples have you seen where a negative sentiment or frustrating situation is turned into a positive moment where fans feel included? Thanks for sharing your links in the comments!
Perhaps you’ve seen the news peppered with stories about university athletic departments all geared up to monitor their student-athletes’ social media accounts. With several universities receiving media attention and NCAA infractions, it’s no wonder athletic departments are “scrambling” for solutions.
Without a proper education, there is no doubt that student-athletes are going to commit social faux pas online. Even coaches and athletic department staff have committed noticeable errors. However, the message that you send the moment you set up a monitoring system is, “We don’t trust you.” Your message to your players becomes, “We have the greatest faith in you on the field, but the moment you’re out of our sight, we don’t trust your actions or your judgement. We don’t trust that you know how to communicate or what to say. We don’t believe in you.”
Educating your players, on the court and in the office, prepares them to be successful communicators and builds trust between an organization and its team members. When you (re)educate your team – and I mean every staff member, coach and player – about your brand identity, the brand message and provide social media guidelines (methods for successful communication), you empower your people to serve as brand ambassadors. Enabling them with a better understanding of the various communication tools develops personal pride and a willingness to better serve your organization. Directors and Head Coaches serve as positive, capable examples and can better relate with staff and players about the events happening in the social stratosphere. A thorough education and open discussion can serve as a spring board for ideas which may be generated from the most unexpected sources.
Some universities have chosen to provide some level of social media education, but yet continue to employ monitoring services, “just in case.” That only sends mixed signals to the players, “We want you to learn how to use these tools and we want to help you improve your communication skills. But…we still don’t trust that you’ll be successful and remain worried you’ll say or do something stupid.” How else are these young adults to interpret this? How are they (and you) to learn from their mistakes?
ASU’s Michael Crow said at the NCAA Convention in January that the student-athlete experience is, in a sense, a leadership academy. In addition to creating opportunities for their players to become the best athletes they can be, the ASU athletic department staff and coaches offer “life coaching” to motivate their young men and women athletes to consider what they want their life to mean, what life goals they want to achieve and what they want to contribute to the world.
In a CBS video of several coaches weighing in on social media, it was Jim Christian at Texas Christian University who said, “As opposed to just restricting them, you know, sometimes they have to make bad decisions in order to learn. And I think that’s what college is all about.” And UNLV Basketball Head Coach, Dave Rice chimed in with, “I really believe in the importance of empowering student-athletes, making it a part of the education process and really using social media in a positive way.”
Universities, which are at their core, educational institutions, are far better off preparing their athletes for success versus assuming their failures and continually operating in crisis management mode. Educating your athletes about reputation management, personal branding and all the nifty details of social media, challenges them with responsibility and professionalism and a chance to rise to the occasion. At the end of the day, that IS what college is all about and a sure method for creating an environment of trust and empowerment while paving a path for tomorrow’s leaders.
Through Beaming Bohemian’s branding and social media education, including the development of social media guidelines, you can change your tune and deliver the message of trust to your student-athletes. Investing in this education is a uniquely positive approach which delivers the message, “We believe that you are amazing individuals who have a unique ability to inspire others through your leadership. We believe you are just as talented off the field as you are on the court. As a student-athlete, you have a more visible platform for story telling and brand development. We trust that you respect yourself, your teammates, your coaches, fellow students and members of the community. We believe in you and we are excited for you to share your story with the world.”
Maryland Bill Addresses College Athletes’ Social Media Privacy via The New York Times
Athletic departments get free rein with social media via Minnesota Daily
UNC, NCAA Address Monitoring Athletes On Social Media via WFMY News (CBS)
NCAA: No plans to police Twitter via Missoulian
If you follow the #smsports feed on Twitter, you may have caught the discussions about Tim Tebow’s move from the Denver Broncos to the NY Jets during the NFL trades. You may also have caught some buzz about a particular tweet that appeared on the @Redskins feed today. The tweet that started the discussions began with a comment about Tebow’s move:
Was that the view of the team? Everyone who works for the Redskins agreed that it was an awkward fit? Collective opinion? Most of us could see that it was not the Redskins organization that held that opinion, but the person in charge of the Twitter account, Gary Fitzgerald. So when @dcsportsblog called him out on the comment, the Redskins feed posted:
And that was exactly the point. Just an opinion. On a corporate, team or business Twitter account, personal opinions of the tweeter have no place in the feed. This echoes the GM scandal awhile back when an employee made a nasty comment about the driving capabilities of his fellow citizens, a tweet which appeared to be from GM itself. Major hiccup which led to the firing of the employee who tweeted the statement.
Those of us who were chatting about the Redskins comments agreed that the team had not only misstepped by tweeting a personal opinion as representation of the view of the organization, but also really missed an opportunity to bring their 93k fans into the conversation. Instead of letting Gary tweet his personal opinions (which weren’t even positive), why not stimulate conversation with a simple question, “What do you think about Tim Tebow’s move to the Jets?” Redskins fans react, discuss and grow affinity for their own team and the Redskins positively impact engagement. Win.
It was clear that Gary picked up our tweets, as we all made sure to include the @Redskins handle in most of our conversations. A few hours later, this comment appeared:
Again, a misguided employee tweets something inappropriate for the brand. The Redskins need to yank that computer away from Gary Fitzgerald and let him understand that he needs to stop injecting Redskins communication with his own personality. The above tweets were not edgy, informative nor entertaining. The Redskins allowed the person in charge of Twitter to share his personal opinions as though they were the opinions of the team and everyone within the Redskins organization.
What is clear, then is that the Redskins have lost their grip on their brand’s core values. They do not have a clear brand message and certainly, they have no social media guidelines for employees to follow. It looks like Gary runs redskins.com, which also makes me question who they’ve assigned to communicate their brand messaging. Is the webmaster the right person to manage the Twitter feed? What value does the Redskins organization place on social media if they just toss the duties to the web department? Why not hire a branding, marketing or communications professional?
More important than the lack of internal organization and training, the Redskins simply don’t understand that Twitter provides more than a forum for information and entertainment. They could have used the Tebow news to their advantage to spark dialogue with fans, and shed some positive light on their brand. Sure, they would have been talking about Tim Tebow and the Jets and possibly even Denver and Manning, but they would have engaged their fans on the topic of football during a crucial time in the off-season. There were so many opportunities missed here, mistakes made, and that’s why their comments came into focus – for all the wrong reasons.
My course of action for the Redskins?
1. Do an organization-wide branding exercise so all employees are aware of the brand’s identity and messge
2. With all employees, players and coaches, provide social media education and training
3. Consult with the marketing and communications staff to integrate social media throughout their marketing and business plans.
4. Reassign the Twitter responsibilities to someone who understands that they speak for the brand, and that every letter they type needs to be in-line with brand messaging. “Just an opinion” is never something we should see from a brand like the Redskins.
UPDATE: This video has been made private or removed by CBS Sports. Attempts to locate another version have turned up empty. If you have a link to this video, please leave a comment.
CBS Sports posted this video the other day. Several head coaches weigh in on social media and the attitude they maintain about their players using the communication tools.
Syracuse Head Coach, Jim Boeheim stood out with his response, “I don’t even know what it is.” Followed by, “It’d be hard to adjust that, wouldn’t it?” He went on to comment that while he does carry a cell phone, he does not have a computer. It’s as though he was saying the topic is of no interest to him and he has no desire to learn or care.
Contrast that with a few of the other answers.
John Thompson III of Georgetown admitted that he knows that social media is part of life, but that he does not understand why it is important to post that you are at a pizza joint enjoying a slice of pizza. Understood. With some education and guidance, student-athletes can develop a purposeful content plan that is far more engaging than pizza slices.
Kevin Willard of Seton Hall wants his athletes to develop communication skills, so once the the team enters the building/practice facility, they must speak to each other and folks in the building. Cells phones are turned off and no texting or tweeting allowed. I’m sure everyone can appreciate those goals and rules.
“Teachable moments” is how Jim Christian at Texas Christian University sees social media. He says, “As opposed to just restricting them, you know, sometimes they have to make bad decisions in order to learn. And I think that’s what college is all about.” Here, here, Jim. You have a good attitude. We are working with young adults who are finding their way in this world, and who, unlike most of us in our college days, have any number of methods to shout out to the world. They are human, and yes, they are bound to make some mistakes. I’m glad to see that TCU allows the student-athletes to learn from their mistakes.
I was most impressed with Dave Rice, head coach of the men’s basketball team at UNLV. He teaches his players to use social media for the positive. He wants his players to uplift their teammates, to talk about the great experience they are having at UNLV. He is cognisant of the risks and the possibility that certain issues may need to be addressed, but ultimately, and this is why I appreciate him the most, he says, “I really believe in the importance of empowering student-athletes, making it a part of the education process and really using social media in a positive way.”
Can I get a WOO HOO?!?! As a head coach or athletic director, you may fall in to Jim Boeheim’s camp and not have the first clue what social media is and how it works. But I hope that you will adopt the attitude of John Thompson III and understand that social media is a BIG part of our world and a way of life for the student-athletes you are responsible for fostering. Be like Kevin Willard and set reasonable policies and guidelines which allow the students to utilize these tools, but in appropriate ways and at appropriate times, with a desire to build good old fashion personalities and communication skills.
Be like Jim Christian and take a positive approach to these communication channels and work with your student-athletes to navigate difficult speed bumps so they can survive the experience and learn from their mistakes.
Finally, and most importantly, lead with integrity, like Dave Rice and provide a foundation of trust in your athletes. Encourage them to develop good communication skills, craft good content and use social media for social good. It can be done. Educating and uplifting your students with supportive social media guidelines is absolutely essential in creating the best student-athlete experience. You’ll develop young adults with good character who care about their online profiles and take care to manage their reputation. Well-rounded and socially confident student-athletes better represent the university and are more motivated to be good representatives.
Who do you most identify with in this video? What attitude has your university adopted?