Tag Archives: sports

Taking Gov 2.0 to the Ballpark

Sports franchises face many of the same challenges in implementing social media as government agencies do

Sports franchises face many of the same challenges in implementing social media as government agencies do

I recently had the honor to join Frank Gruber, Shashi Bellamkonda, Mike Tunison, Gayle Weiswasser, and several other social media and microtargeting professionals (sorry I didn’t get everyone’s Twitter names!) to meet with Stan Kasten, President of the Washington Nationals, and several other team executives to discuss how sports teams can better use social media to increase awareness of the team’s activities both on and off the field, better engage with their existing fans and potential fans, create more fans, generate more positive media coverage, and ultimately, help sell more tickets and build a better baseball team. We were all brought together to brainstorm what the Nationals were doing well, what they could be doing better, and what they hadn’t thought of yet. If you aren’t familiar with my background, this was a dream come true for me – bringing together my love for social media and communications and my love of sports. I’ve always been a huge sports fan and used to work in public relations for a minor league hockey team, so I was extremely excited for this opportunity.

However, despite sitting in a conference room at one of the nicest ballparks in the Majors talking with some of the league’s most powerful baseball people, I couldn’t help but feel like I was again sitting in a nondescript cubicle in some office park talking with the Branch Director for a government agency.  From the opening introduction – “you have to understand, we’re dealing with a very unique situation that’s different from your typical organization,” to the challenges they face, “we have to work under Major League Baseball’s strict communications policies so we’re really limited in what we can just go and do,” – the similarities between sports teams’ use of social media and the government’s use of social media really struck a chord with me.

  • Both are trying to reach a very broad and very diverse group of people that crosses all demographics
  • Both operate under a broader entity that creates and enforces the policies and guidelines for communications, including the use of social media
  • Both are primarily operated by conservative and traditional leaders who rely on the command and control communications model
  • Both deal with VERY passionate and very partisan (both positively and negatively) stakeholders
  • Both typically have relatively small communications budgets
  • Both are usually so concerned with the overall mission that communications doesn’t receive the attention or commitment it requires
  • Both deal with media who crave all the information they can possibly get
  • Both operate in a system where they should communicate with other organizations with a similar mission, but instead find themselves in competition with each other
  • Both are determining the best way to educate employees (or players) outside of the traditional communications function who are actively using social media to communicate directly with the public

While there are most definitely some differences, when it comes to social media, the fact remains that we had the exact same conversation the other night with the Nationals that I’ve had dozens of other times with government agencies. Neither the challenges nor the solutions are all that different. During the meeting, I mentioned some of these similarities  – if the government can use social media to do share classified information across Agency firewalls using Intellipedia and the Air Force can allow their airmen to engage directly with the public via social media, there’s no reason similar strategies and tactics can’t be applied to a sports franchise. Sports teams have too much gain from social media and too much to lose by not engaging – it’s a no-brainer to me.

The sports community is a very insulated community – teams and leagues generally look inside the sports industry to hire their communications and marketing professionals, but maybe they should take a look at the Government 2.0 industry to find that next pool of communications talent and innovation.  After all, we’re dealing with many of the same issues they are.

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What’s Going to be Your Social Media Legacy?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Douglas Staas

Image courtesy of Flickr user Douglas Staas

As I sat down the other night to write another blog posting for my company’s internal social media platform, I thought to myself what would happen if I were to stop.  Stop blogging.  Stop Tweeting.  Stop evangelizing.  Stop everything related to social media.  What would happen if I took a job in another industry where social media wasn’t a key component of the job? What would happen to all of the blog posts that I’ve done?  What would happen to all of the people on my social media team at Booz Allen?  What would happen to the social media practice there?

What’s my legacy if I were to leave my company?  Specifically, what’s my social media legacy?  People tend to think that their value to their organization is directly proportional to the amount of destruction that would occur in their absence.  Not only is this not true, it’s the exact opposite of what you should want your legacy to be.  Indulge me with the following analogy – when Bill Cowher retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers after an 8-8 season in 2007, he was widely considered one of the best coaches in the league.  In Pittsburgh, his retirement was met with loads of “the sky is falling” criticism.  Cowher was one of the best coaches in the league – what would the Steelers do without him?  When Mike Tomlin took over as the new Steelers coach, he retained a majority of the coaching staff.  Without Cowher, the team didn’t fall apart, the team didn’t collapse.  In fact, the team got better – they went 10-6 in Tomlin’s first year.  Compare this to Lloyd Carr and who retired from the University of Michigan after going 9-4 in 2007.  Rich Rodriguez took over and in his first season, is 3-7 and on his way to leading the Wolverines to one of the worst records in their history.  Who would you say was the more valuable coach – the one who created an organization that could be successful even without him or the one who created an organization that fell apart without him?  Do you look at Bill Cowher as any less of a coach because the team didn’t implode without him?

This concept doesn’t just apply to sports teams though.  Applied to the government, this is akin to those leaders who create new initiatives in their last year of office because they want to leave a legacy.  How many of these efforts continue after they’re gone?  Have they created something that’s going to continue to benefit the organization even after they’re gone, or something that’s going to have a short-term benefit, but will ultimately fail without someone driving it?  Take a look at something like Intellipedia which was founded by Don Burke and Sean Dennehy more than two years ago.  They’ve fostered a environment in which dozens of collaboration leaders from across the Intelligence Community have emerged to not only sustain the Intellipedia vision, but also to build upon it.  What started out as just a wiki now includes social bookmarking, social networking, blogs, and most importantly, a culture of collaboration that will continue even if one or two pieces is taken away.

I am openly challenging myself as well as every other social media evangelist who is reading this post to be like Bill Cowher.  Have you helped develop other leaders who are capable of taking the reins if you’re gone?  Have you shared your skills and knowledge with others throughout your organization who will help ensure the success of your efforts after you leave?  Have you helped create a successful organization full of others like you?  What’s going to be your social media legacy?

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