Sports Career News is a brand new publication that just released their first issue. The publication is designed to help those hoping to land a job in the competitive sport industry.
While it’s all a solid read all around, I most enjoyed the feature in which they shadowed Raymond Ridder, Executive Director of PR for the Golden State Warriors, as he went through his 16 hour day for the season opener. As someone who has her own 14 hour game days, the feature certainly rang true for me.
You can download the issue here and then go to page nine to find the feature.
A post by Adam Ostrow on Mashable has a great story of Shaq proving that it really was him on Twitter. Apparently, there had been a Twitterer pretending to be Shaq and when he learned of this, he decided to create his own account. In fact one user following his account did not believe that it was actually the real Shaq. After some back and forth, the Twitterer received a phone call from the man himself. A later tweet by Shaq stated that he was going to get some tickets for the Twitterer and his family.
Kathleen Hessert, who manages Shaq’s online marketing, commented on our post yesterday: “Shaq is a joyful person and a riot to be around. He not only gets attention but actually attracts people – he’s magnetic and genuine. That’s why I recommended that he twitter. Frankly it suits him and he’s one of a select few who actually do care about his fans. He’s learning twitter on the run and tomorrow I’m showing him how to respond@ to a fan.”
I think it’s a great opportunity for athletes who may be more technologically savvy. Not only does this provide him with a way to interact and engage with his fans, but it also gives him an avenue to promote his own brand and refute any false statements or accusations.
“Somebody out there was trying to use my language and trying to speak for me,” O’Neal, sounding more amused than offended, said Wednesday night in a telephone interview. “Rather than have that happen, I thought I’d do it myself.”
O’Neal added: “It’s a fun thing. It’s a way for fans to connect.”
In both Shaq’s and Britney’s cases, they took to Twitter to take matters into their own hands and set the record straight. However, Britney’s account is done by her team (and it sounds like her comments are what she “said” to the team) whereas Shaq is all him and that’s what makes him appear more approachable and genuine. I’ve enjoyed watching Shaq over the years and always appreciated his candid quotes, but his move to Twitter bumped up my personal opinion of him. I think this is a great boost for his brand especially now that he’s not the player in the NBA anymore.
Below are links to the nine professional sports teams that I know use Twitter. If you know of any other official Twitter team accounts, please let me know and I will update this post.
After examining these nine Twitter accounts, I found a few differences as well as similarities. The ones I found to be most effective were ones with links to relevant articles about the team, notices about team signings/trades as well as promotions (essentially team press releases shortened to 140 characters), and interaction with their followers. Accounts that only broadcasted their own “stuff” without linking to non-team run blogs or websites or articles and without engaging fans didn’t seem to be as effective and the number of followers appeared to reflect that.
Twitter is a pretty new platform and sport teams have just started diving into it so I feel like a lot of it is trial and error to start off with. As Shannon Paul and Dave Wieme discussed in their interviews with me earlier this week, teams should use Twitter as a way to better engage and interact with fans. If used properly, Twitter can act as a great tactic under the community relations umbrella and provide a unique outlet to reach out to the tech-savvy fans.
Jason Peck has an interesting post up entitled “Why Teams Should Get Involved With Social Media” and it’s certainly a great read to check out. In the coming weeks, I hope to spend some time devoted to the use of social networking sites by teams to engage with fans.
In our fourth day of Twitter week, I am happy to present another interview with a professional in the sports PR industry. Today, you will get to read comments by Dave Wieme, who is the Director of Strategic Communications for Palace Sports & Entertainment. He has held this position for seven years according to his LinkedIn profile. Before I get to the questions, here is a brief bio courtesy of the Detroit Pistons’ Blog Squad page.
As director of strategic communications for the Detroit Pistons, Dave Wieme is in the perfect position to provide insight on the day-to-day operations around The Palace of Auburn Hills. The job is a hybrid of public relations, communications, promotions, marketing, advertising and brand management. His direct boss is Palace Sports & Entertainment CEO Tom Wilson, however, he works with most everyone at The Palace. His position allows him to touch many projects in the organization and be in contact with many people. He is also afforded a great deal of latitude and is able to be “behind-the-scenes” a lot.
1. What does the team hope to accomplish by using Twitter? How did you decide what topics would be discussed on the Twitter account?
The Detroit Pistons set up a Twitter account in order to have a conversation with fans. Twitter is just one part of the Pistons’ social media strategy, which includes Web video (DetPistonsOfficial on YouTube) and Posting Up ‘ the Detroit Pistons social network, which can be found on www.pistons.com/postingup. The account is used to provide news on the team, previews and recaps of games and news about Piston promotions and videos. We also use Twitter to ask people for feedback on the team’s performance. The updates are more than just links to stories and are written in a way that encourages reader feedback.
2. How do you think Twitter can help the average sports team or league in their fan outreach? How do you think sports PR practitioners can effectively leverage Twitter to promote their team or league?
As social media interaction increases, Twitter can certainly play a role in fan outreach. Fans are always looking for information and interesting content and Twitter can point people in the right direction to find that content and keep them engaged with their favorite team. Then, once a community has been established, the followers can become advocates for the team.
3. Did Weber Shandwick help the Pistons develop their new social networking website, Posting Up? How did you decide the format of the website and what items it would include?
Weber Shandwick did not help us develop Posting Up, however, they were instrumental in testing the site before we launched it and promoting it to our fans upon launch. They also continue to make suggestions, based upon their experience and extensive knowledge of social media, to improve our standing in the social network arena.
Posting Up is a result of some phone calls and emails that were made from 2Dogs.com, a software development company on the West Coast. 2Dogs.com showed us examples of social networking sites that they had developed for different sites. We were intrigued by the fact that the sites gave fans an opportunity to speak to each, as well as the organizations that hosted the sites, and were able to express themselves with video, pictures, blogs, forums, etc. We also liked the feature being able to “listen in” to what fans are talking about.
When we decided to have our own social networking site, 2Dogs.com gave us templates to review and we were able to pick and choose the features that we wanted. We gave them a wire frame (based on their templates) with the various features we wanted. 2Dogs.com was very accommodating and worked quickly on delivering a solid version that we could test for about a week.
We launched on Thursday, November 13th at about 4:00 p.m. EDT. I’m happy to report that in less than a week, Posting Up has nearly 1,600 members (the fastest any social network that 2Dogs.com developed has populated), tens of thousands of page views, has more than 65 individual blogs and hundreds of pictures and videos. To date, the social networking site is doing exactly what we had hoped it would do and has given Pistons fans a new voice on the Internet.
4. What advice would you give to current college students interested in a career in PR, specifically sports PR? What skills should students have to be successful?
The fundamentals of PR are the same — the ability to write well, the ability to speak well, the ability to network and the ability to deal with people — and I believe they will always be the same. Take the writing courses. Take the public speaking courses. Read the books on networking and understand what networking really is — not necessarily viewing it as making friends, but seeing it as gathering “tools” for your PR tool belt that you can use immediately or in the future. Work on your people skills, particularly your listening skills and take courses in these skills (Win Friends and Influence People). I believe someone with solid fundamentals will be a valuable asset to any PR position — sports or otherwise — and will have an opportunity for jobs immediately out of college.
We are on the edge of a new frontier called the Web and it provides a space for PR people to communicate and get their messaging “out there.” Newspapers, radio and television are still viable communication sources, however, they are slowly being phased out OR restructured based upon technology. Think about how you get your information today and use yourself as the typical consumer. If you had to reach yourself with a message, how would you do it? You are typical of millions of people out there, so understanding how you gather information is a way to understand how others do too.
I would say that if you are interested in a career in PR, sports or otherwise, you need the fundamentals. But you also need to understand and work in this new frontier of the Web. You can immediately make an impact on your employer with your ability to implement this new technology and will quickly make yourself a valuable member of the team.
As part of my week-long special looking at Twitter and its relevance to the sport industry, I had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with Shannon Paul, who is currently the new media content creative coordinator for the Detroit Red Wings. Shannon is the brains behind Hockeytown Blog, the Wings new official blog, and she also talks about social media on her own personal blog entitled Shanon Paul’s Very Official Blog. I personally see her as a social media expert and was honored to have her answer 10 questions for the Sports PR Blog about social media and sport as well as tips for college students.
1. According to your LinkedIn profile, you started out as a Community Relations intern for the Detroit Pistons before moving on to intern with and then work for non-sport companies before eventually moving back to the sport industry in your current job. What advice would you give to college students interested in obtaining an ideal internship and how can they get the most out of their internship?
I think the best advice I can give is to take advantage of every opportunity you can access, and treat your fellow students like colleagues. This is something that most students don’t think about when they’re still students. I was able to move into my first internship with the Detroit Pistons because of a classmate. She and I had worked on a project together during a previous semester and was already working as an intern with the team. They were looking to taking on several interns, and since another one of the interns wasn’t able to fulfill the duties of the position, they were looking to replace him right away. Since she was already doing such a great job, they took her glowing reference seriously and I was able to start right away.
The other piece of advice that I can give to interns is to ask for assignments that are related to your major requirements and your goals. Your superiors, especially in sports, are very busy — they think about you, they just don’t always think about you. It’s your job to be your own advocate and ask for assignments. Also, treat internships like a job; even when it’s an unpaid position.
2. You are now considered a social media wizard. How did your previous work experiences influence your interest in this medium and what made you decide to specialize in this area?
Well, thanks for such high praise. I still really feel like there’s so much to learn. I guess that’s why I love social media — it’s new and it’s about using communication to build more honest relationships with a variety of publics — not just the mainstream media. I am also a bona fide information junkie. I love gathering information and sharing it with others. I started a blog as an independent study project when I was a student because I wanted to learn how these things worked. Since I was an English major with a journalism/public relations minor, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about literature. Not a big surprise that almost nobody read it, but I learned a lot about the technology, how feeds work, what Technorati does, etc. It wasn’t until I was working at my previous employer, a PR agency. that I really started to dive into social media.
I was already reading several blogs on a regular basis since I considered it an essential part of my professional development. Later, I became involved with Twitter out of curiosity and that’s when things really took off. Twitter enabled me to start forming real relationships with bloggers and other strong voices in the social media sphere. I spent a lot of time learning about the people who were active on social networks and creating content on the social web. In many ways, I really just felt like I found my home. The people I met through social networks and blogs have since become a vital part of my network, and when I was finally ready to launch my blog as it exists now, I had a network of people that I had already cultivated relationships with who were eager to participate with me in the kind of discussion that only blogs can create.
3. You currently work as the new media creative content coordinator with the Detroit Red Wings. How did you manage to get that position and what exactly does it entail?
The team actually sought out someone who was social media savvy. They wanted someone who understood how communication works in social networks to help them develop good communication strategies for the social web. Right now it entails helping them manage their presence on a variety of social networks including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as helping them develop a strategy and create content for the team’s blog as well as the relaunch of the team’s own social network called Red Wings World. It also involves monitoring and managing relationships with other bloggers. Since it’s a brand new position, we’re still working out the details, but that’s a big part of what makes it so exciting!
4. When you first learned of Twitter, what was your immediate reaction? Now that you have used it for quite some time, how has this perception changed?
Mostly, I was just curious about Twitter. I thought it sounded silly, like most people, but I was intrigued. Once I spent some time taking a deep dive into the people and conversations on Twitter, I was hooked. I was elated to have a platform that enabled the development of relationships based on sharing of information. I would devour information so I could pick interesting things I could share in that space. I tell everyone I can that most social networks are great at helping people maintain existing relationships — these are relationships that typically formed offline through school, former places of employment, etc., but Twitter enables individuals to form real friendships and professional relationships in an organic way online — through casual conversation and helpful information exchange. I was also immediately impressed with the quality of individuals in that network; so many people are prolific bloggers or directors of communication, business owners, members of the media. These were the kind of people that I would never have this kind of immediate access to any other way.
5. For someone who is just starting out on Twitter, what key things should they try to avoid? What should they be sure to do?
My advice is always to be as genuine as possible and as helpful as possible. It’s always a good idea to try to add value for other people. If you’re looking to grow your network with other people involved in sports and sports marketing/pr, it might make sense to use Twitter Search and services like Twellow to seek out like-minded people to follow. From there, try to consume information that these people would also find helpful so that you can share it with them through links. Then, be willing to discuss and check out some of the links that they are passing along. If it’s helpful, retweet it — or in other words, continue passing it along to your followers.
6. You masterfully use Twitter to engage others in conversation about a variety of topics from social media to sport. How do you find the time to engage with so many fellow Twitterers and what suggestions do you have in using Twitter to generate discussion with other users?
That’s difficult to answer. Since my network has grown quite a bit in the last few months, managing those conversations has become very different. I simply cannot respond to everyone who replies to me. In the beginning, it was much easier to do this. I don’t suggest everyone use Twitter like I do, but I think it’s best to try to be as helpful as possible and share useful information. It’s also a good idea to promote other peoples’ content through sharing links and to participate on other peoples’ content through comments. Since most people on Twitter have a URL listed in their profile, you can click on that to discover what they’re interested in creating. I think it’s also important to try to meet as many people at offline events as possible — face-to-face meetings at conferences, events, meetups or “tweetups” help to cement the relationship and give everyone something to talk about online as well.
7. As someone who is working for a sports team in the area of social media, how can sports PR practitioners use platforms like Twitter effectively?
Being genuine is extremely important and letting people know who you are as a person helps people feel connected to the organization. Again, people are involved in Twitter to engage in conversations. I think there are exceptions to this when people create accounts that operate more like newsfeeds, but for the most part, people in social networks are usually impressed when brands, and especially sports teams bother to engage in two-way conversations. Twitter is best when it’s a two-way conversation.
8. The NHL appears to be making a strong effort to reach out to its fans digitally speaking. Why is this a beneficial strategy for sports teams and leagues?
It’s a smart strategy for several reasons. More and more time is spent online, especially amongst younger audiences. Already, more than 100 million consumers participate in social networks and of that 100 million, more than 25 percent of them claim that social networking reduces the amount of time watching television. The Internet is quickly becoming the place where we live our public lives and people increasingly have the expectation that the information and entertainment they want will find them. It makes sense to be as available to consumers as possible, especially when so many alternatives are just a mouse-click away.
9. In your opinion, what capacity do you think the average sports team or league will be using social media in their business strategy five years down the road?
That’s always difficult to predict. I think social media is becoming more pervasive in every aspect of doing business, from recruitment to internal communication to marketing and promotion; even ticket sales has the potential to add a social component. Hopefully, social media will help fans feel more personally invested in their favorite teams and help deepen the fan experience.
10. Earlier, you gave tips to students about nabbing a great internship. What type of social media skills should college students have if they hope to get a job in the sport industry, particularly in the PR sector?
It’s my belief that students should get good at listening to what’s already being discussed in social media skills, especially on blogs. Bloggers are the 10 percent of those online who are engaged in creating content. In the future, PR is going to be all about generating relationships that center around good content. Already, anyone can post content, but those who are able to generate discussions around their content are going to be in demand. On the social web, discussions help build relationships and relationships are key to garnering interest in yours or your organization’s content. Social media is so much more than simply having a profile on Facebook, it’s about being engaged in the way information circulates online.
For those of us in college or recent graduates hoping to land a job in spite of the current economy, Twitter can be a great way to network with individuals in our field of interest on a more informal level than an informational interview.
Heather Huhman has some tips for those individuals hoping to use Twitter as a way to get a job or internship. All of her 10 tips are solid and should be followed to ensure that Twitter is used properly as a way to network with others in the industry.
She suggests that Twitter users to first do your homework and pay attention. Basically, you should first get a grasp of what are the kinds of things fellow Twitterers are talking about and if you see someone say or ask something that you can respond to, make sure you do. By sharing relevant information and links, you can show others that you know what you’re talking about.
What you say on Twitter will stay on the web so it’s important that you don’t post or link to anything that could damage your brand like saying that you got trashed last night. While you want to avoid negative tweets like that, don’t be afraid to talk about a variety of things and follow a wide range of users.
Your Twitter profile is also important in the networking process. When you start to follow someone or send your first @reply to another user, they are likely to visit your page and read your profile to see who you are. This 160 area gives you a great chance to quickly introduce yourself and link to your LinkedIn page, website, blog, or online resume. You can even create your own personal background image that offers URLs to other relevant websites, blogs, or accounts. For examples, you can check out the accounts of Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, and Jennifer Leggio.
Her other two tips that I found to be really helpful were the following:
7. When appropriate, send a direct message. “After ‘following’ select individuals, I begin by sending them a direct message introducing myself. This method has lead to at least two face-to-face encounters, which I credit to obtaining one job offer from a start-up interactive agency and a tentative internship offer. These are commonly called ‘Tweetups,’” said Paul Matson, president of the Public Relations Student Society of America.8. Call out specific companies. “Mention company names in your tweets – especially those that are of interest to you. It will connect you to others interested in those companies – some of whom may be employers!” said Robbie Kellman Baxter of Peninsula Strategies.
While I’d love for Twitter to eventually help me get a job when I graduate, I’m on Twitter primarily because it gives me an opportunity to interact and engage with individuals I never would be able to otherwise and I have learned so much from them in the process.
Let me preface this post by saying that I have only been truly using Twitter since early October so I am by no means an expert on the subject. However, my introduction to this social media site has opened my eyes and I have truly benefitted from it, which is why I am passing along what I do know so far.
What is Twitter?
For those of us who were first introduced to Facebook, take the status updates and limit it to 140 characters and you have the foundation of Twitter. You can also view Twitter as a micro-blogging system. A tweet is each message posted by a user. Since then, it has matured into more than just updating your friends with what you’re doing. People now use it for a variety of reasons including to make contacts, share information like an interesting blog post or an informational article, and you can use it for fun and keeping in touch with friends. TwiTip has a great post up entitled 10 Easy Steps for Twitter Beginners that I would recommend new users to check out.
@username This is what you enter when you want to address another Twitter user in response to their previous tweet or to engage them in a conversation.
#hashtag This is used as a sort of category marker as it aggregates all the tweets using that hashtag. During the election, users could include #election in their tweet. It allowed individuals to search for that hashtag and see all the tweets with the hashtag.
You can check out other FAQ over at the Twitter website.
There are some useful programs and websites that can help you sort and keep track of all the tweeting going on every day. In order to search for individuals, you can simply use the search function on Twitter’s website. For a more thorough search, I recommend Twellow which allows you to search for users with similar interests. When I first got my account, I used Twellow to search for other individuals who worked in PR and/or liked hockey. It’s a great starting point if you don’t really know anyone using Twitter before you start (as was the case with me).
I like to use TweetDeck, which is a program you can download that allows you to (1) see the latest tweets from users you are following in realtime, (2) your direct messages and @replies in real time, (3) TwitScoop buzzwords so you can see what Twitterers are talking about, and (4) relevant searches. Think of the search as the Google Alert for Twitter. For example, I asked TweetDeck to update a column whenever there is a tweet about PR, sport media, or sports PR. That way, I will be able to capture the tweets I may be most interested in and might miss if I’m not already following that user.
So how is this relevant to sports?
Twitter is a great way to connect with people from all walks of life. As a mere sports fan, Twitter enables me to discuss the Detroit Red Wings game with other hockey fans and get interesting updates from other Twitterers regarding other hockey games going on that night. I really enjoy when a user actually goes to the game and tweets about interesting game moments or action that occurs off-the-ice.
From a professional standpoint, Twitter allows sports PR practitioners to interact and network with others in the industry as well as share ideas and news and trends. I know I have learned a ton from my own Twitter experience because I basically get to listen in on what these great PR, social media, and sports professionals talk about what’s the big thing, what’s affecting them, and gives me a great opportunity to get involved in that discussion. Another plus is that Twitterers share links to interesting and relevant articles, blog posts, and more that I may never have seen otherwise. By reading this highly informative posts or articles, I can add that to my base of knowledge on the subject.
While I highly recommend interacting and engaging with other Twitter users, you can just start listening at first before diving in yourself and you can still learn a lot in the process. However, you really won’t develop any relationships until you start sharing with others and make it a two-way deal instead of a one-way street.
Over the past couple weeks, I have noticed a couple teams in the news using unique promotions to get press and reach fans. During this tough economy, it’s great to see teams actually acknowledge it and then come up with something different in the process.
The St. Louis Blues are admittedly a team that has been struggling in attendance even without the recent financial crisis. That being said, the Blues are offering their own Fan Bailout Plan. This plan includes every Saturday home game this season where one fan will win a four-month mortgage or rent paid up to $4,000 by the Blues. In addition, the Blues have discounted tickets and will have a Free Food game on March 15th where those in attendance that night will receive free food. So how does this relate to sports PR? Well, for a team that isn’t at the top of the league both on and off the ice, this special promotion caught the eyes of media outside of just St. Louis. Not only did the St. Louis Post-Dispatch mention it, but so did the AP, San Diego Union Tribune, National Post (Canada), The Province (Canada), The Sporting News, and Kansas City Star. Sure the mentions weren’t long and included the online version or blog for many of these media outlets, but it did get the team some press.
While The Hockey News has an online article that has a negative reaction to the promotion, it seems most find it to be a unique way of getting butts in the seat. I personally don’t see it as being insensitive as the THN reporter would suggest, but as a promotion that shows the team understands the hardships facing Americans these days and is using that realization to help boost ticket sales.
Another interesting promotion that I wanted to point out in this post was the recent Paint the Town gas giveaway that lasted an hour in a gas station near the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Detroit Pistons teamed up with Meijer to give away $20 in gas to 200 fans in the area. While that’s a decent idea itself, the Pistons went a little farther and had the players come and personally pump gas for the fans. For such a little time investment by the players, it garnered great publicity for the team as the local Fox, ABC, and NBC stations covered it for the evening broadcast as well as an appearance in print publications like the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. The team held the event just two days before the season opener so the added publicity helped improve the profile of the team just before the start of the season. Plus, it resonated with fans because high gas prices have certainly been a concern of metro Detroiters over the past year.
“With the heightened focus on economy and the fact that all metro Detroiters are feeling a pinch at the pump, we, along with our good friends at Meijer thought this would be a great opportunity to help some Pistons fans AND get them ready for the upcoming season,” said Pistons CEO Tom Wilson.
What I liked most about the event is that it gave a chance for fans to connect with the athletes and allowed even more of their personalities to shine through. Whether it was laughing at Rip Hamilton getting into cleaning windshields of the cars coming through or Rasheed Wallace’s jovial attitude at the event, I certainly enjoyed seeing the teammates’ chemistry off the court while helping fans financially in the process.
Update: Interestingly less than 12 hours after I made this post, the New Jersey Nets announced their new promotion, which goes even beyond the two examples I mentioned above. The team is giving four tickets to any unemployed individual who submits his/her resume to the Nets Job Bank as well as access to a Nov. 22 career fair at their home arena. The applicants’ resumes will then be distributed to the team’s 120 corporate sponsors as well as many other companies that own season tickets. This promotion will last for five home games and 300 tickets will be given out as a part of this program for each game.
“Hopefully they’ll come out and experience the Nets, and then when times get better they’ll invest in us, because we invested in them,” Yormark said. “No other team is doing that, and I think it’s the appropriate thing to do, because times are tough.”
Apparently, the team will do this promotion again next season if they feel that it was successful this year.
Last week, I talked about where college students could start looking when forming their networks or trying to extend their network. Another avenue to network with people is by volunteering because it can give you valuable experience in the field while allowing you to network at the same time.
Volunteering in activities that assist the local community such as building a house through Habitat for Humanity are great opportunities to not only make a difference in the area, but can give you local contacts from a variety of fields. This summer, I interned for a PR agency in downtown Chicago. In just the second weekend there, I volunteered at Chicago Cares Serve-a-Thon, which is a day-long event where thousands of Chicagoans clean up local schools and parks. During the event, I painted, taped, and cleaned side-by-side with other employees at the agency. Not only did I get to better know the fellow eight summer interns, but I got to meet and talk to the higher up employees in the Chicago office through a more casual and informal manner.
I also encourage volunteering for events put on by companies that you are interested in working for. While in Chicago, I had an informational interview with a Chicago Blackhawks account executive. She said the biggest recommendation she could give was to volunteer as much as you could. She actually got her job because she volunteered with the Blackhawks for years and eventually landed a job there. I took her advice to heart and signed up to volunteer at the AVP Tour stop, Chicago Blackhawks Convention, and a Chicago 2016 bid fundraising dinner. Each one provided a great experience to see how these events were run in very different aspects. While the fellow interns were sleeping in, laying out at the beach, or out partying, I was able to network with people I never normally would have been able to.
This year, Versus is trying a new approach to court those long-time hockey fans and they started by reaching out to the hockey bloggers. Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy, the Yahoo! hockey blog, has a great post about what the channel is doing to raise its online profile among hardcore hockey fans. Not only is it using Horizon Media to distribute video and banners to bloggers, but Versus has also gotten popular hockey bloggers to write content for the Versus website.
Horizon Media is a vendor working with the network’s marketing department, doing everything from research to buying billboards to “organic marketing,” which is a more viral approach to promotion within the media.
“[They] reach out to folks we know in the media business to write about it,” said Scarbrough. “I think they’ve had much more success with blogs than calling up a reporter.”
As Horizon had been marketing Versus to hockey blogs, through viral videos and the occasional dispersal of swag, it had identified a few hockey bloggers that showed an interest in some sort of relationship with Versus.com, and wanted to use those blogs as promotional outlets.
I blog about the Detroit Red Wings over at Winging It In Motown and previously at Behind the Jersey. I have been contacted by Versus for both blogs. After putting up a promotional banner during the Stanley Cup playoffs in the sidebar of my blog, I received free Versus gear. It wasn’t much, but it was a nice gesture that helped form a relationship between blogger and Versus through the Horizon Media vendor. While I was personally never asked to create content for the Versus website, other hockey bloggers were asked. How did they convince them to produce content for free?
According to Valentine, the following bloggers are contributing content to Versus.com: Jon Swenson of Sharkspage; Mike Chen of Fox Sports and Kukla’s Korner; Reasonable Doubt from Melt Your Face Off; the bloggers from Hockey’s Ladies of Greatness; and Bryan Thiel from the Bleacher Report.
None of the bloggers are paid, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker for Chen. “It was basically presented to me as a once-a-month thing for goodies,” he said, pointing to tickets, jerseys, memorabilia and the chance for press credentials.
There are also other perks, including interview opportunities for exclusive podcasts with players like Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s a fairly minimal commitment in exchange for some cool stuff, so I had no problem signing on,” said Chen.
The hockey blogosphere is its own little community so I definitely think it plays to Versus’ advantage that they have bloggers creating content for their website. A blogger is more likely to link to another fellow blogger’s remarks about something instead of a corporate article, unless that corporate article contains really unique information. By leveraging great hockey bloggers, Versus can get some free PR from the bloggers on their own blogs linking to their Versus content and increase the likelihood other bloggers link to Versus.
While I certainly believe that Versus is taking a step in the right direction in terms of online hockey content, I think a lot of hockey bloggers and fans would love to see a weekly hockey highlight show at the very least to show a greater commitment to the sport and that could go a long way in boosting the public’s opinion of Versus.