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Social Media Taking Athletes Interaction by Storm

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Curt Schilling announced his retirement Monday on his blog 38pitches.com

Curt Schilling announced his retirement Monday on his blog 38pitches.com

Here we go again, another post on the ever growing trend of social media in sports, but the fact is it’s undeniable at this point. We’ve already covered the Philadelphia Eagles Facebook issue and the Charlie Villanueva halftime Tweet. Monday we saw even more evidence that social media is taking sports by storm when Curt Schilling announced his retirement from baseball on his blog. That’s right, not an arranged press conference, but on his blog! Could you imagine the firestorm this would have caused five or even two years ago?

Schilling will still hold a tear-jerker press availability or at least make the interview rounds, but the influx of athletes using social media to break their own news brings up numerous issues. Joe Favorito at Sports PR & Marketing Roundup has some great info on how athletes can use their blogs not only craft the message, but to capatilize on advertising dollars. By announcing such news on a radio show for example, the stations advertisers win, but by doing so on their own blog the athlete is driving audiences through clicks to their own advertisers.

This new age messaging also begs the question, how can team PR people deal with this type of interaction from their athletes? How can it be ensured that the correct message gets out, or even more importantly, that the wrong one doesn’t? What can be done to make sure a team is aware of what players are doing online?

It can be uncharted territory for a team because there are distinct differences between interviews and appearances set up by the team and what an athlete does in terms of personal branding on their own time. Team reps do their best to maintain relationships with player agents and management, but their personal branding is often done without notifying team officials.

There are action items that team PR people can utilize to stay ahead of the game and avoid suprises. Every PR person should be engaging in social media, whether it be corporate or personal accounts. Remaining up-to-date on the latest online trends requires participating in the conversation. Being one step behind ensures never being able to keep up with where athletes are sharing information.

A little more obvious is “following”, “friending” and “becoming a fan” of your athletes social media pages, and consistently checking them, and their personal websites, for updates. Being surprised by a reporters question about something one of your players posted online can only compound the situation, plus by checking for their updates you might find some personal or community information that would be worth pitching to the media.

Finally, most companies these days are beginning to adopt social media rules for employees, IBM has one of the best employee social media policies. Sports teams should follow a similar model, although a few tweaks might be needed due to the nature of working with contract athletes as opposed to employees. The main idea stays the same though, just as media training is provided to players, so should training for players regarding social media activities.

The key is to remain in the loop on players personal activities in an effort to not be caught off-guard when something is posted that isn’t in-line with team policy.

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 24, 2009 at 10:04 pm

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