Sports teams have been on the leading edge of social media over the last several years, accumulating millions of engaged followers and creating numerous best practices along the way.
From deepening the bond with fans through ongoing two-way dialogue, to live streaming games, events and chats, to providing exclusive offers and events for followers, there’s no shortage of teams using social media in creative and effective ways.
Now it’s time to take the next step.
Every action taken by a sports team is in the spotlight. Whether it’s trading a player to save cap space, taking a guard over a center in the draft, raising season ticket prices or changing the concessions menu, everything is a story.
And it’s not just a story in traditional media. Everyone who works for a sports team, from the owners to ticket sales reps, is on the hot seat with friends, family, corporate partners, customers and prospects. It’s nearly impossible to work for a sports team and not get asked daily about what’s going on with the team – and that’s where social media comes in.
With 750 million people on Facebook, plus millions of engaged users on Twitter and emerging platforms like Google+, employees of sports teams will be hard pressed to avoid getting grilled about the latest news on the team in their social channels.
So what’s the solution? Instruct all employees they’re forbidden to discuss team business on their social channels and direct everyone to the PR team for official responses? Although this is common policy, it’s missing an opportunity to leverage the power of social media and deploy hundreds of brand ambassadors into the digital space communicating consistently on the team’s behalf.
Embracing the conversation and empowering properly trained staff provides an opportunity for sports teams to amplify consistent messages throughout the digital space. It takes buy-in, strategic planning and breaking down silos, but here are some keys to making it work:
- PR should consider everyone on staff to be a potential spokesperson, not to traditional media but to their friends, family, customers, prospects and partners, knowing many of these conversations will take place in the digital space
- PR should have messages for everything relevant and distribute them internally so everyone is communicating consistently
- Staff posts on social channels should mirror the approved messages the owners, GM, team president or other team spokespeople are using with the press
- Create a social media policy for the organization that clearly outlines the do’s and don’ts, best practices and possible consequences
- Conduct interactive in-person training sessions with small groups to teach the policy to the entire organization
- Create a digital communications monitoring and response team to track conversations about the team in the social space seven days a week and flag issues for the PR team for immediate follow-up
These are just first steps, but an important start. In the always-in-the-spotlight world of sports, it’s time for teams to make the leap from social media to social business.
Mitch Germann is a recent addition to the Edelman Digital team as a Vice President in the Seattle office, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Director of Brand Communications for the Professional Bowlers Association and Director of Media Relations for the University of Kansas Athletic Department.
Image credit: Visions by Vicky
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