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Month: May 2016

The necessary evil that is the student-worker (Collegiate)

The necessary evil that is the student-worker (Collegiate)

Sorry professional organizations, this one is for my college bros/sistas.
And now, my screenplay which is a recreation of a typical headset conversation with a student-worker….

 

“Camera 4, you’re looking kind of hot. Can you iris down a little bit?” -Me 

I could only assume this guy sucks in real life. Source: CityMac.com
I could only assume this guy is a terrible human being in real life. Source: CityMac.com

“O, um, ya.” – SW

“Okay, that was your focus ring.” -Me

“Sorry, which one is the iris again?” -SW

“O dear god. IT’S THE 30TH GAME OF THE SEASON!?” -Me

 

Pretty much every collegiate institution is reliant upon student-workers in order to make it’s gameday productions. So just like how it is with the amateurs on the field/court, your fans are expecting a professional grade product from you in the production booth. As impossible as that may be on certain days, there is a means to finding success and that is through constant training and nurturing of your student-workers.

If you have properly prepared for a production, you should always have sufficient time prior to any game where you are doing nothing. I typically have a three hour cutoff for any new materials to be inserted into the show. That way I have an ample amount of time to get settled in before the stress inducing ride that is a live event. One mistake I use to make early on in my career was that I would fax my cameras and then I would wait until our script would begin. What that caused was a never ending cycle of student-worker headaches and on-the-fly teaching moments like the conversation above. The last thing you need to be doing in the middle of a broadcast is to be clogging up your communications with these moments, because it will lead to a number of compounding problems.

This is why you need to take advantage of your pregame downtime in order to constantly educate your student workforce. These kids are already college students, and they are (for the most part) eager to learn, so treat each gameday as if it were a classroom and have a lesson plan ready. Typically you can find 30 minutes every gameday to teach the students about camera controls, situational sport practices, troubleshooting, depth-of-field relations, shutter speeds, social awareness, etc… If you don’t have that time available to you, fight for it and make it available. There is always something new to teach these kids, and it is your responsibility to educate them. Especially for how little you pay them (if you even do pay them.)

God help my kids when I have them.

One last thing. Keep in mind that these are young adults, and they do not respond well to yelling. I know most control room environments involve some form of harsh criticism, but it is my personal belief that speaking to anyone in a belittling manor will only hinder their performance. If you facilitate a hostile environment, you will find that your workers will be scared to branch out and try new, creative things. So keep in mind that your student-workers are amateurs and try to provide the nurturing environment needed for their, and your, success.

How to advertise your program, without advertising

How to advertise your program, without advertising

I’m going to assume that none of you reading this were frozen cavemen and all of you have heard of the Internet. If you haven’t, congratulations! You are reading this on THE INTERNET. And with it’s evolution has come the content era. Think about it, when you are surfing the Internet, all you are doing is searching for more and more content. Whether that’s a Bad Lip Reading video or some football highlights, everything fun you do on the Internet has something to do with content consumption, and god forbid that you see an advertisement, because you installed ad-blocker and that’s not suppose to happen! Even this blog is content; it’s why I try and fail at being entertaining. It’s because I want you suckers to come back.

So how are you suppose to advertise your institution without advertisements? Clearly you need to make content, for content is king. What this is called is content marketing: a strategic method to distribute valuable and applicable content that will attract consumers to your brand. Luckily for us in athletics, there is a never ending supply of possible content if you’re creative enough. Athletics is such an open format that as long as you aren’t offending anyone, you are safe to do as you please; e.g. movie posters, documentaries, highlights, sketches, and so on. There’s a place for informative pieces, but don’t expect them to do much other than raise awareness.

Pictured: Chris Sabo. If he had more arms, he would be holding more trophies.

Some of the best content marketing in athletics is done by my good friend Chris Sabo, the producer/director of The Season: Ole Miss Football. The Season is a 22 minute documentary that airs weekly throughout the fall and features profiles, mic’d up segments, campus life moments, and the best highlight footage in the nation. Now you might ask who has time to watch an entire episodic, and the answer is about 30-40,000 people on average; not including TV airings. That’s what happens when you create content that people want, they consume! One day I’ll get into the details as to why The Season is so successful, but for this blog I’ll just stick to telling you that good content, means a more involved audience. A more involved audience, means a higher likely hood of consumerism. Since it’s introduction, The Season model has now been transferred over to every sport at Ole Miss in some kind of fashion.

Up to this point I have spoken from a consumer angle, but even more importantly is what this content does for all of you in the college athletics world and the prospective student-athletes you are constantly chasing. When it comes to recruits, you are dealing with a bunch of millennial hooligans who do nothing but live on their phones and computers. The only way to really show what their experiences might look like on campus is through the content you share. For schools that might have a harder time getting prospects out to them, this might be your only way to entice student-athletes to even consider you. If content isn’t a part of your recruitment strategy, and no I’m not talking about just highlight videos, then you are truly missing out on one of your greatest tools.

Like I said, content is king, and if you don’t want your institution to be falling behind, it’s time you start accepting that as fact. Now yes, content is expensive, but without it you will do worse than just stagnate; you will find the gap between your institution and the more elite organizations grow exponentially larger. That content chasm will lead to your job becoming more difficult on all fronts and it all becomes rather cyclical from there. So start pumping out that content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and make your content the constant medium between you and your fans!

You might not be creative enough to go viral, but here’s how you can fake it

You might not be creative enough to go viral, but here’s how you can fake it

Actual photo of Tina Fey impersonating me. Source: NBC Universal

If there is something I’m willing to bet my firstborn child on, it’s that every person in productions has had a superior come to them and say some variation of, “Let’s make this go viral.” Now personally, I have a problem with body language on certain days, and the first time I heard that request my eyes rolled back so far that they bounced against my brain stem. But it’s not our job to explain the impossibilities of making viral content. It’s our job to best meet the criteria laid out for us, and the easiest way to meet that sometimes is through social participation.

According to Youtube’s Head of Culture and Trends, Kevin Alloca, making viral content is comprised of several things including surprising your audience, tastemakers disseminating it, and social participation. Making surprising/interesting content is something only a few people have mastered, and honestly, if I knew how to make it consistently I’d probably be living in a much bigger house. That’s not the part we want to focus on. What we can focus on and do easily is social participation.

Source: Youtube

Does anyone remember the ALS ice-bucket challenge? Of course you do! Every single one of your obnoxious Facebook friends posted their personal ice-bucket challenge. Why? Because it was desirable, socially relevant, and every Joe-schmo could find a bucket of ice to dump on themselves. What’s different with working in athletics is that you have many more resources at your disposal, so in turn that means you have the opportunity to participate in viral content that most can’t. The best part is that once you decide on your “viral-content-homage” you can find new ways to differentiate it and cater it to your fans.

Today’s case study is Ole Miss’ spoof on the DirecTV Rob Lowe ads, Andy and Randy Kennedy.

Yes, I made this promo. It’s my blog, I can brag on myself if I want! Clearly, this promo is the furthest thing from original, but it’s because we took quite a few liberties with the original premise in order to make it relevant to our fan base. The largest of which is that we used a character with a name instead of a bizarrely described counter-part. This change came as a tip-of-the-hat to Rebel fans over at Red Cup Rebellion who came up with the original character, Randy Kennedy. From there it was simple enough to contrast the failures of Randy Kennedy with the successes of our talented head coach, Andy Kennedy. The piece ended up being interesting, informative, and culturally relevant. Immediately after the release, the video became a hit with the Ole Miss faithful and drove a substantial amount of traffic to the season tickets page.

Thanks for the nod, Rob!
Thanks for the nod, Rob!

And then came the tastemakers. One of the first to Tweet it out was ESPN and soon after, the man himself, Rob Lowe was tweeting it to his 1.24 million followers. Then came Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, and yes, Red Cup Rebellion (which easily had the best commentary.) So in the middle of July, the unthinkable happened. Ole Miss basketball became the national story of the day.

The success would lead to Randy Kennedy taking on a life of his own. Since the release of the original video he’s done the ultimate Nae-Nae dance, he’s had nationally televised press-conferences, and when a desperate nation came calling, he ran for president. And like most losing presidential candidates, he’ll probably retire from the public eye soon enough. If you didn’t get catch my drift on that one, I’m hinting that you shouldn’t run your material into the ground.

The bottom line is that making original, interesting content is difficult. There’s no two ways about it. So take advantage of what is already socially relevant in the world, cater it to your purposes, and I guarantee you will be able to stir up some form of conversation about your institution. But be careful, because if you execute your spoof/remake poorly, you might find yourselves dealing with the sour side of the Internet. See the comment section of the new Ghostbusters trailer for proof.