Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5 Tips for Collegiate Athletic Media Relations GAs...

How to Get Noticed by Senior Administrators

If you’re currently serving as a graduate assistant in a collegiate athletic media relations office, you’re on the right track toward a successful career in this industry (and you’re probably also hungry and sleep-deprived). But when you got that fateful call notifying you that you’d been selected for the position, that was the signal that you’re journey was just beginning. Landing the assistantship is never the goal. The goal is to leverage the opportunity that accompanies the assistantship into a great job upon graduation.

It’s really not much different than the training regimens carried out by the teams you work to promote: Hustle, hustle, hustle every day and focus on the process rather than the result.

An important part of the process should be finding ways to distinguish yourself in the eyes of those who run your department. Here are just a few tips to help you along the way.

1: Volunteer to assist at as many events as you can.
Working in collegiate athletic media relations often means showing up before most everyone and being among the last to leave. It can leave you yearning for a more exciting social life; but keep in mind—you’re logging all these hours with the ultimate goal of landing a good full-time gig upon graduation. The payoff will come.

Athletic departments, particularly at the “BCS level,” host several non-competition events each month. Donor receptions, corporate partner luncheons, golf tournaments and other events such as these present opportunities to assist and interact with senior-level athletic administrators. Showing ambition and providing competent and reliable assistance at these events can be a difference-maker for your future.

2: Identify a useful publication your department lacks, and produce it.
Every collegiate athletic media relations department produces publications (I use that term loosely, as fewer and fewer of these “publications” actually exist in printed form) geared toward the recruitment of prospective student-athletes. But does your athletic department have a similar publication to serve as a recruiting tool for talented coaches and/or athletic administrators?

In addition to touting your school’s traditions, championship history and facilities (which you already do for student-athletes), you could entice coaches/administrators with benefits information, apparel deals, conference and TV revenue data, etc. And best of all, who better to consult on such a project than your athletic department’s current senior administrators?

Sport-specific record books, almanacs for discontinued sports and fan’s guides are also publications you may have the expertise to generate. And if your desktop publishing software skills aren’t up to par, find a pet project along these lines and spend an hour or two each night working on your craft and making yourself a more desirable job candidate down the road.

3: Embrace new media and use it to enhance your department’s brand.
Age is a touchy subject in today’s workplace. But if you’re a GA, chances are you’ve got youth on your side. You may be more well versed in social media and digital technology than some of your superiors. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Offer to give “how to” presentations on tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Prezi to your athletic department’s full-time staff members.

Pitch ideas on ways to use social media outlets to engage your school’s fanbase. Is your ace pitcher a candidate for an award that uses online voting? Better yet, is your ace pitcher deserving of publicity that has yet to come his/her way? Use Prezi to promote him/her and make a captivating and attention-grabbing case for recognition.

Utilize Facebook and Twitter to put together a prize-packed scavenger hunt for fans. Use your imagination. Do something no other school has done yet. With social media, it’s possible.

4: Treat the secretaries and janitorial staff the same way you treat your athletic director.
Don’t be so narrow-minded in your ambition that you lose sight of how you treat people deserving of your respect. People talk.

Maybe that kid working on the stadium grounds crew who you breeze past everyday without acknowledging is an associate athletic director’s nephew or next-door neighbor. Take note of the senior level administrators who never give you the time of day—and promise yourself you won’t become that person.

5: Don’t get noticed for the wrong reasons.
To maintain the type of hours we keep in this profession, having a good sense of humor is a necessity. But there’s a time and place for jokes. You never know who may be walking through the office hallway while you’re standing on a desk teaching a fellow GA how to “dougie.”

I’ll offer a personal anecdote here—an example of how my foolishness turned into an extremely embarrassing experience (haven’t shared this story with many folks until now).

When I was a GA, I ate lunch every day at the athletic training table. And on Tuesdays during the fall, we hosted a football media day, after which media members had the option of eating free lunch at the training table as well. On that day each week, all media members and media relations staffers were required to sign in upon arrival at the dining hall.

Foolishly, I thought to myself, “I don’t understand why we need to sign in on Tuesdays. Surely nobody is actually looking at this log book each week.”

So… I started signing in as “Hulk Hogan” every Tuesday.

That lasted about a month or so, until I got a phone call from one of our associate athletic directors one afternoon asking me to come to his office. When I walked in and sat down, he held up one of the sign-in sheets and asked “Are you Hulk Hogan?”

Not my proudest moment. But, I admitted to it and apologized 10 times over.

The moral of the story is that senior level administrators have enough on their plate. The last thing they need is to spend valuable time trying to figure out why Hulkamania is runnin’ wild in the dining hall. So do them—and yourself—a favor, and spend your time figuring out ways to be a productive asset to your athletic department. Your future depends on it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

50 Twitter Tips for Division I Student-Athletes

It's been far too long since my last blog post. The one person who reads it hasn't complained (thanks, Dad), so I wasn't too compelled to remedy my lack of activity here.

But I recently read Darren Rovell's outstanding contribution to social media entitled "100 Twitter Rules To Live By," and I was supremely inspired.

Rovell's revelations led me to author my own list of Twitter rules. However, I decided to focus on a specific demographic. Thus, I present Tom Satkowiak's 50 Twitter Tips for NCAA Division I Student-Athletes:

1) Before you do anything else, read @Darrenrovell’s100 Twitter Rules to Live By.”

2) Your Twitter account is one of many mediums through which you can build your “personal brand.” When people decide to follow you, they are investing in your brand because they believe you can add value to their timeline. Don’t craft useless Tweets—you know the kind… they’re the ones you skip over every day while looking for something worthwhile.

After composing a Tweet, but before you hit send, ask yourself: “Would I be comfortable saying this in front of my parents, my grandmother, my pastor?” If the answer is no, discard it.

4) Turn off the “enable location data” option on your Twitter app. Do you really want everyone knowing where you are at all times?

5) Take pride in who/what you represent. In addition to representing your family, hometown and church, you also represent your university and your team.

The visual elements of your Twitter account (avatar, background) are how other Twitter users form a first impression of you. Put a shirt on. Don’t photograph yourself lying in bed—this isn’t soft-core porn.

7) Twitter hasn’t made the text message obsolete. Tweet things worthwhile that are appropriate to share publicly. Don’t Tweet about the party you’re hosting tonight. Instead, text the party details to friends you want to show up.

8) It’s perfectly fine to display your sense of humor on Twitter. Fans in particular love it when student-athletes show their personality. But don’t Tweet at the expense of others. Making fun of people or Tweeting a photo of the overweight family in Wal-Mart just makes you appear shallow and cold.

9) Don’t allow the impersonal nature of Twitter lull you into a false sense of security. It’s easy for a thought that materializes in your head while you’re lying in bed or sitting on the couch to suddenly find its way into a Tweet. But once you hit send, it’s there for the world to see.

10) Don’t use Twitter as an outlet to complain about how rough your life is. You are getting a college education, traveling to interesting places, getting free athletic shoes and apparel and more. Thousands of people would crawl over glass for the chance to enjoy the opportunities you have.

11) If a fan Tweets at you telling you how much they enjoy watching you play or how much their son/daughter looks up to you, ReTweet them and add a “Thx” at the start of the Tweet. You can make someone’s day just by granting them that simple, public acknowledgement.

12) Chances are there are some young kids who view you as a role model and follow you on Twitter. Do their parents a favor and keep your Tweets “family friendly.” Don’t type LMAO or LMFAO when LOL works just as well.

13) When you Tweet something clever or funny, try to leave around 15-20 characters free. This makes it easy for fans to ReTweet you without having to edit your original Tweet.

14) Don’t Tweet about how much you hate school. You chose to become a college student-athlete. If you hate school so much you should have joined the Marines.

15) Speaking of the Armed Forces, use Twitter as a way to engage your fans. Ask if any of your followers are in the military. Thank them for what they do, then ReTweet the ones who respond. The same goes for schoolteachers, police officers, firemen, etc.

16) Maintain a decent follower/following ratio. @JayBilas has the market cornered as far as Twitter snobs go. He makes up for it by having one of the most value-adding accounts in existence. You, my friend, are no @JayBilas (maybe one day…).

17) ReTweeting profanity is no different than using it in your own original Tweets. Don’t do it.

18) And while we’re on that topic, remember it’s not ok to Tweet about how that meal you just ate was “good AF” or how your finance professor is “on some boring ish.” Assuming your followers don’t know what that ish means is insulting.

19) Avoid replying to or ReTweeting Twitter users with vulgar names. Do you really want to be associated with @oddfuckingtaco, @BigPhatBooty or @herpesboy?

20) Don’t Tweet daily about how hard you’re working on the field/court/diamond/weight room/etc. If you were really working that hard, you wouldn’t be on Twitter to tell us all about it.

21) That’s an awfully nice Twitter background you have… looks like it was designed by a professional. Keep in mind that if the person who designed it for you for free typically charges for his/her design work, you may be receiving an improper benefit.

22) If you wouldn’t say something in a media interview, don’t Tweet it. You’re being na├»ve if you think the media isn’t keeping an eye on your Twitter feed (and locking your account is not a failsafe way of ensuring only your friends are following you).

23) Don’t Twitpic a photo of someone who doesn’t know they’re being photographed. You’d be angry if someone did that to you.

24) Look over your recent Tweets. Chances are you could delete one out of every 10 Tweets and not feel as though anything worthwhile was being lost. That said, don’t Tweet the worthless stuff to begin with. Numerous people who would be considered “social media experts” often compose a Tweet, read it over, think about it and then decide to discard it.

25) Follow at least one news feed that will keep you informed on major current events (such as @CNNbrk or @CBSNews).

26) Don’t allow yourself to be photographed while holding a drink. If you’re posing for a photo, put your drink behind your back or on a counter out of the frame. Even if you’re only drinking water.

27) Baby mama drama? Don’t air your dirty laundry on Twitter.

28) Don't Tweet after a tough loss. You pour your heart and soul into training to become a champion, and losses are emotionally draining. Sleep on it. Your followers will still be there tomorrow.

29) Enjoying a big win? Take 30 seconds to Tweet a "Thank You" to the fans who were there to cheer you to victory.

30) Don't allow a hater with 20 followers to bait you into a “Twitter beef.” Ignore them and remember their actions are usually fueled by jealousy.

31) If you don’t like something a media member wrote about you, your coach or your teammate, ignore it. Engaging in a public Twitter argument is a battle you won’t win. You’ll only end up looking foolish (you’ll also likely boost the other person’s follower count).

32) It’s the morning of a big game/match, you feel like you have the flu and it looks like you won’t be playing tonight. Don’t announce that on Twitter. If you compete in a revenue sport, Tweeting something like that will have ripples that reach all the way to the Las Vegas sports books.

33) Next time you’re skimming the Internet while sitting on the toilet, do yourself a favor and do a Google search for “Marvin Austin” and “Twitter.” Apply the resulting lessons learned to your own personal Twitter usage
(a biased and explicit, yet interesting, account HERE).

34) You know that 10-second period after you type a Tweet during which you re-read it and ask yourself if you really ought to hit “send?” Take two more seconds to ask yourself, “Is this going to give my SID an ulcer?”

35) Consider polarizing topics off limits on Twitter. Avoid commenting on sexual orientation, race and religions you don’t understand.

36) Know the type of Tweets that are boring and painfully unoriginal. They include such gems as A) Just got a great workout in; B) I’m up early, finna get this money; C) Wattup Twitter??

37) Don’t Tweet about how much you respect your mamma and grandmamma if, 10 minutes later, you’re going to Tweet about the “juicy cakes” on the girl walking past you on campus. Twenty years ago, those “juicy cakes” belonged to your mamma. Do you see the irony?

38) Many Twitter users are only religious when they wake up. Do you Tweet thanks to God every morning? If the other 90 percent of your Tweets reflect a different attitude or lifestyle, people notice. So does Jesus—he’s on Twitter (but not yet verified).

39) There are many other teams and student-athletes at your school. Take the time to give them a shout-out on Twitter when they do big things. Ultimately, you’re all on the same team.

40) Smile in your avatar or background picture!

41) People want their experience on Twitter to be fun. Make a real effort to Tweet far more positive content than negative.

42) What happens in the locker room stays there. Things that are said in private team settings should never find their way onto Twitter.

43) Don’t Tweet during class. That’s like disrespecting someone (in this case, your professor) behind their back. And always be mindful that your professors may be monitoring your Twitter account.

44) One of your Twitter followers may be in a position to hire (or draft) you someday. Evaluate your Tweets from time to time and ask yourself, “Would I want to hire this person?”

45) If you feel like the Twitter guidelines your coaching staff and/or athletic administrators expect you to comply with prevent you from “keeping it real,” then that should probably be your cue to re-evaluate your definition of “keeping it real.” Your team support staff has your long-term best interest in mind.

46) Your athletic compliance office is monitoring your Twitter account. And the NCAA has acknowledged that it monitors student-athlete activity on Twitter as well. Even if you don’t compete in a major conference or a revenue sport, don’t be fooled into believing nobody is paying attention.

47) Share Twitpics when your team takes part in community outreach projects. But it’s important to remember that all students entering ninth grade and older are considered prospective student-athletes (PSAs), and should not appear in any Twitpic (for men’s basketball, PSAs are all students entering seventh grade and older).

48) It’s ok to Tweet once about what a great dinner you had at Red Lobster. But multiple mentions of the same business could be considered an endorsement, which is impermissible according to NCAA legislation.

49) Twitter can be a tattle-tale. For instance, you told your coach you missed a team meeting because your phone’s battery was dead and you didn’t get the call/text about the meeting. But if your Twitter timeline shows a Tweet from a mobile app during that time, you’re busted.

50) Don’t let these rules prevent you from enjoying your Twitter experience. It’s perfectly acceptable to show your personality and have fun on Twitter—it’s encouraged. But like anything else, the key is to enjoy it responsibly.

As always, I welcome comments and feedback.
Find me on Twitter @TomSatkowiak.