Thursday, September 2, 2010

Some Offense Taken

One of the challenging parts for TigerBlog each day is coming up with a headline for TigerBlog.

The headlines on are pretty straightforward. They run towards the bland, usually something like "Princeton Hosts Harvard" or "Smith Leads Tigers To Win."

Of course, if you read the headline on, you have a basic idea of what follows. TigerBlog, on the other hand, is different.

The headline is supposed to tease a bit without giving away the whole point of the story. The goal is to make the reader curious about where it's going that day and thus want to read it.

TB is a veteran headline writer, going back to his days in the newspaper business, and he has a long history with the art of writing interesting headlines.

This morning brought two interesting headline attempts, one of which falls under the heading of "highly optimistic" and another that is a bit more thought provoking.

The first was from a college website, and it mentioned that its golf team "takes second in dual" versus its opponent that day.

The second came off of CoSIDA's website and refers to a statement made by the chief marketing officer for NASCAR:
"COMMENTARY: NASCAR seeks communications professional, insults entire sports athletic PR profession."

The story talks about how NASCAR is looking to significantly expand its communications arm and how the organization is looking to hire a communications director and as many as 20 staff members. NASCAR currently has 25 people in media relations.

The offensive part, or supposedly offensive part, is this:

The chief communications officer most likely will come from outside of motorsports and could come from outside the sports industry, Phelps said, and will be someone with broad consumer marketing communications experience on global brands.
“This is not going to be an SID from somewhere,” [CMO Steve] Phelps said. “This will be a leader in the communications business in strategic thinking, creativity, someone who’s a proven and trusted brand thinker.”

This led to a response on a blog by a professor of recreation and sport management at the University of Arkansas named Steve Dittmore, who points out that more and more SIDs are being elevated into strategic roles.

TigerBlog was a tad offended by the original comment, because it clearly demeans the profession that TB has been in for nearly two decades. The whole point of the original comment was to imply that the NASCAR job is going to be far above what it is that SIDs in college athletics regularly do - and if one cares to extrapolate, what they're capable of doing.

For starters, TB is pretty sure that there is not one part of the new job responsibilities that NASCAR is going to come up with that many SIDs that TB knows couldn't handle.

At the same time, the comment does raise a big issue in the college athletic communications field: How are those in sports information evolving to make themselves as relevant as possible in the changing media world?

TigerBlog often refers to the Inside Lacrosse multimedia model. IL started out essentially as a newsletter and then magazine. Now it is its own complete lacrosse media universe, with a printed publication and a website that is stocked with video, audio, blogs, other original text, merchandising and every other type of communications.

The result was the launch one year ago today (or maybe yesterday; TB can't remember exactly) of, as well as the successful TigerCast podcasting series that originated last year.

As TB has often said, when he first started at Princeton, the OAC was about 97% a media relations outlet. Today, it's about 3% a media relations organization and about 97% a media relations outlet.

This evolution has strong ties into marketing, fundraising for Friends' groups and development, branding, corporate sponsorship and any number of other areas that fall under the heading of revenue generation, as well as the equally important areas of student-athlete experience, athletic integration on campus and other areas that can be housed under the broad umbrella of "Education Through Athletics."

Because of this, the OAC has become a critical element of the department's strategic planning.

In other words, the days when the top priority was writing a post-event release and faxing it to the media are long gone.

The comment by the NASCAR CMO is on some levels offensive to those in sports information. For the most part, though, it's thought-provoking.

Sports information offices all over the country need to ask themselves what they've done to make themselves as relevant as possible in their athletic department. The media world is changing everyday; sports information needs to keep up, or the answer to the question will be self-fulfilling.

1 comment:

Steve Dittmore said...

Dear Tigers Blog ... thanks for linking to my comment regarding the NASCAR quote and SIDs. I think your point is well taken about the profession and the importance of evolving to remain relevant.

Taking that a step further, it is also important that directors of athletics believe their SIDs are well-suited for strategic, as well as tactical, roles.

Thanks again, Steve Dittmore