I’ve almost come to peace with the fact that this blog sits idle for long periods of time (especially in the offseason), but am always happy when a thought creeps in that feels worth sharing.
Like many others, I face a pesky day job that must come first and can take a fairly significant amount of time from my whole soccer alter-ego. But for once, the day job has offered me a relevant theme for a Soccer Soap Box post. What it offered was the better part of a week spent in 2011 marketing planning – something the Revolution is certainly in the midst of as well.
Well, if I’m honest, it was a combination of the day job and some recent news out of the New England Revolution. The primary thing that the Revs did which caught my attention was the recent outreach by the Revolution communications team to the blogger community and its requests for input on content and its social media outreach.
Which got me thinking… shouldn’t I have something relevant to say? It’s been a while… And this is when the 2011 work planning and the Revolution outreach came together.
You see, a couple of topics of work planning were extremely relevant to Revolution planning. I sit within marketing at a large technology company and we were looking at our strategy, budgets and many other organizational and directional constructs. Of the many topics that resonated with me two stood out as relevant in a Revs context: improving our company’s focus on our social media exposure and leverage and becoming more agile.
We will revisit the theme of agility in the next blog post, but today, let’s talk about the online marketing theme. The Revolution need a bit more work on this side than my employer.
You know this when one of the most common posts the team needs to make on Facebook says something like, “fans, please watch your language and be respectful.” Typically happy fans are not cursing, disrespectful ones.
The team has already made some steps. On the team’s blog, the Revolution’s marketing “digital department” asked their directly audience for feedback on its content, structure and activity. The team’s marketing and communications department then followed up by looking to identify and promote “bloggers and independent media” that focus on the Revolution. (For full disclosure, yes, I sent in Soccer Soap Box as such a site.)
The marketing and communications groups for the Revolution cannot control the results, the players selected or the decisions made by management or coaches, but they can create and disseminate content about the team. To that end, there are some positive signs… the content is typically pretty good, with Jeff Lemieux becoming the social media “face of the team” in many ways. And that is a good thing.
When thinking more broadly into the coverage and online content, there is one thing that tended to trouble me – the lack of an independent voice. Local coverage of the Revolution is fairly limited, but of all the journalists Kyle McCarthy is by far the most active. In fact, Kyle is so active and close with the team that he often seems to be part of the Revolution communications staff. Don’t misunderstand my point, I like Kyle and read his work near religiously – as any Revolution fan likely does. But he hardly seems likely to create a pointed critique of the team direction or management.
And this leaves a situation where the blogosphere often appears more “honest” – even if that honesty is driven by the infatuation and depression cycles of a fan more than the third-party dissonance of a “real” journalist. The blogosphere however tends not to be particularly kind to a losing team or a team that they feel is not doing all they can to be the league’s best – and this describes the relationship with the Revolution and the majority of their blogging corps today. Some of that angst is probably fair (and seen here on Soccer Soap Box) and some is probably not (and that’s probably seen here from time to time as well.)
So the Revolution have made a smart choice. Embrace the bloggers and independents that cover the team, which will allow them to generate some online buzz based on work that is getting done anyway – even if some of that buzz is tinged with latent negativity. Fans love to be happy, but they also need to complain – whether they admit it or not. Harnessing this energy may be more important than positive story lines – relevance is key in a crowded market, even if there’s a risk that the relevance is not all blatant positivity.
If nothing else, this will provide a better balance perspectives in news coverage about the team. Debate spurs interest and attachment to the team and differing opinions can spur debate.
However, this also enables the team to embrace the community and provide closely managed-glimpses of the inside workings of the team. Oh, and provide some better access and the occasional freebies. Given that some of the frustration with the team is about this perceived lack of transparency, and in its worst incarnation a lack of interest and drive to make the team the best it can be, whatever can be done to show a better perspective would likely help. And hey, bloggers love to feel important, now don’t we?
To engage, and even promote, independent opinions on the team while providing greater access and appreciation for the blogger community – while checking the relevance of current content – is probably a wise play.
Will it work? That largely depends on the stated goals. Can it drive increased exposure to “free” coverage? Probably.
Can it covertly help change views and opinions about the team? I’m not so sure. But it is probably worth over-sharing a bit with the community, just in case.
If Soccer Soap Box seems happy-go-lucky and skin deep in six months, we will know something happened.
And that I need to be smacked a couple of times.