New Channels and a Multi-skilled Team Find and Deliver Information Far and Wide
The Changing Fan Experience
The opportunities and expectations for fans are changing dramatically. Forward-thinking athletic departments are changing with them – they have to in order to get the stories about their programs and student-athletes everywhere they need to be. That’s what Trevor Parks, Sports Information Director at Youngstown State University has found, and why the athletics department at YSU has tapped a variety of resources and talent, enabling them to be omnipresent in multiple channels and wherever their audience is.
While the website is the central hub to what YSU does, people have preferred channels and it’s not always the website. “It's neat to see how people find our information,” says Trevor, “and a win for everybody.” However, filling that hub with content that highlights student-athletes, reaches their fan base, and gets created for the right channels takes a diverse team of talent. Like almost every athletic department, they run lean and have a multitude of sports to cover as evenly and fairly as possible. That’s why students have become an integral part of their story-telling strategy.
“We've had tremendous students through the years. You can't cover everything all the time. I treat those kids like I treat a full-time person and I want them to have enjoyed their time here. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the students from years ago.”
Today, those contributions from the students’ have evolved from basic coverage and statting, to proactively taking a hands-on approach to social media, graphics, and video creation. “They are in touch with our student-athletes. They let us know what they like and what we can do better, and even the direction that coaches are going with recruiting.” Another thing they’ve found is that social channels are a great way to bring international students into the mix, featuring student-athletes and tying it back to their respective cultures.
Thinking Differently About Content
“Every other division one or division two schools is trying to come up with different ways to promote their athletes,” according to Parks. Whether it's live streaming that they've never had before or Twitter or Facebook, it’s coming up with unique ways to convey necessary information and give deeper insights into the program. For example, Trevor often taps the student-athletes to help promote their next home game instead of having the PA announcer read a script that everyone tunes out. Another popular type of content they’ve found is creating small behind the scenes video with a quick Q&A session, or temporary social channel takeovers by athletes leading up to events. At a university where football games consistently draw 12,000 fans and both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have strong live followings, they’ve had some surprises on social. “When you look at the social media numbers, baseball probably has one of our bigger followings,” reveals Parks. It could come down to a number of things he reasons, from lots of games scheduled to longer games, but the end result is that fans are following and finding the information they want on social.
Of course, one of the biggest requests from students is always for photography. That works out for YSU because the first thing they do is post the image to their social media accounts, promoting both them and the university. “When photographers are out, the athletes recognize them and they're like, ‘Hey, get a picture of me.’ I think the images in Youngstown State gear are always pretty popular with the athletes. From a team aspect, the behind the scenes images are becoming our most requested.”
Recruiting Multi-tooled Team Members
While the students play an invaluable role in telling YSU’s story, they can’t do it all and are obviously limited in their work tenure at the university. That’s why they have been very strategic and creative in their hiring process. They’ve been very fortunate to get the right people into different positions for video and graphics, cross-training for skills, then passing those skills to others on the team. For example, a student with an aptitude for photography has added graphics to their skillset and everyone on the entire team is always learning new video tricks. One of the most unique roles they have created works both in athletic communications and facilities, running the soccer facilities but also in different communications capacities. “He's probably 70/30,” says Parks. “For soccer games, he's in charge of the facilities – that's his main facility. Then outside of that he does a radio show with baseball and connects with golf contacts. That person has got to deal with various facility meetings and stuff where traditionally they would only be focused on sports promotion.”
At the end of the day, the goal is to try to do the best for all of the sports that they have. “Sometimes, you know, feeling like you don't do enough but you just gotta try your best,” says Trevor, something everyone in this field can relate to. But looking at it from a higher perspective, I think everyone will agree that the team Youngstown State University is doing great work and maximizing their efforts for their programs.
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