Throughout the month of February, I traversed the country with my co-workers and peers – Gabe Gabor, Sean Dennison, Brian Dunseth and Dan Courtemanche – to deliver media training on behalf of Major League Soccer to our players at 14 clubs (the remaining clubs used outside firms for their media training fwiw). Seth Vertelney wrote up a great overview about media training over at Goal.com, and I highly recommend you go check it out.
In addition to the topics Seth covers, we also spent a sizable section of our time on social media. This was the first year I’ve presented in this capacity, and I’d like to think that me being in the room acted as physical recognition from the League that social media is an active part of the players’ everyday experience. We talked about strategies for posting great content, and each session got a unique presentation highlighting positive examples from the guys in the room (those always get a good laugh). Of course, we also talked about things to stay away from, and I shared some insights and information that really could only come from three years running the @mls handle as the MLS Director of Social Media, seven years working in professional sports, ten years researching and reading sites like Mashable, and a lifetime in soccer.
So in this post, I’d like to get a little more reflective about my personal experience in media training. Here are three takeaways.
— Amanda Vandervort (@vandey01) February 7, 2014
1. Social media is a critical component of any useful media training for a bunch of guys in their 20-30′s.
The players are open, honest, receptive and in most cases hungry to talk about social media. A quick, very unofficial, show of hands – which I do at the beginning of every session – delivers somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% are probably on Facebook and Twitter, around 60% on Instagram, and a surprising (to me) 15-20% or so on Snapchat. In the past we may have talked about, why you should be on Twitter, but today we’ve evolved to, how to be your best on social media. Inasmuch as they need the tips, tricks and tools to respond to pen-and-paper reporters and video journalists, players are managing relationships with fans and media everyday across these social platforms. In all, the guys were super attentive and responsive, and their thoughtful and insightful questions will help us shape future media sessions as well.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 26, 2014
— Gabriel Gabor (@MLSGabor) February 7, 2014
2. Players are making social media decisions every day.
Sometimes it’s as simple as, to tweet or not to tweet? Other times it’s a complex decision whether to engage with a fan after a match. We advise them to take a moment before they post and ask themselves, could I be offending anybody with what i’m about to say? and if so, just don’t post it. Additionally, we do our best to give them inspiration and ideas for posting about positive and interesting things that MLS fans generally respond to. Since media training, I can honestly say I’ve seen a marked difference in the content our guys are producing. I’ve never delivered the social media segment as part of MLS meadia training before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect or compare to, but I am pleasantly surprised that our recommendations resonated in such a powerful way.
— Amanda Vandervort (@vandey01) February 6, 2014
— John Berner (@JohnnyB_12_) February 22, 2014
3. Sometimes there’s a hard-to-define grey space to which I don’t have all the answers.
As much as I’d like to tell the guys that there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage on social platforms, in the end it really comes down to each individual’s judgement and personality. My job is to give them methods and strategies for making those decisions. Everybody’s social experience is unique and special to them, and I found the players’ openness and willingness to talk about everything from getting harangued by crude fans to dealing with privacy issues refreshing and honest. There will be difficult decisions they will have to make, but my hope is that they’ll remember the tips we gave them to determine when to post, what might be good to post about, and when to step away. I’m definitely looking forward to future sessions where we can dig a bit deeper into more comprehensive community management, the decision-making process and the impact of such immediate and public feedback they both give and receive.
— Clint Irwin (@ClintIrwin) February 22, 2014
— JJ Koval (@jjkoval) February 7, 2014
— Danny Cruz (@Dannycruz5) February 26, 2014
We had a great MLS Media Training thanks to Amanda Vandervort, Gabriel Gabor, Sean Dennison and Brian Dunseth good job guys!
— Wilmer Cabrera (@wclsoccer13) February 20, 2014
— Michael Chabala (@MikeChabala) February 8, 2014
— Dom Dwyer (@Ddwyer14) February 5, 2014
— Nick Rimando (@NickRimando) February 22, 2014
— Joe Nasco (@joenascogk18) February 22, 2014
Bonus takeaway: Any session is only as good as the instructors leading it 😉
A sincere and serious thank you to the team of rockstar presenters I had the pleasure to work with. Gabe, you’re an incredibly thorough and thoughtful media trainer and have an amazing method of delivery. Sean and Dan, you rep the league with class and style. And Dunny, your honesty and sincerity with the guys and ability to harness the teachable moments within your own experience is unparalleled. Can’t wait til the band goes back on tour next year!
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— Amanda Vandervort (@vandey01) February 5, 2014