In this series of guest posts, participants of PR Advanced: Be The Change will give their own perspective on a different part of the day. The first out of four posts is about the Celtics Breakout Session with Peter Stringer.
Despite the fact that my heart was still broken over the recent trade of former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, I was excited to attend the breakout session run by Peter Stringer, Director of Interactive Media for the Boston Celtics. As the social media guru for the Celts, Stringer is in charge of everything from the team’s Twitter account to its official website. I was hoping to learn how he saw the world of sports PR changing considering the fact that players are now reaching out directly to fans through their own Twitter accounts. This year has seen a number of significant Twitter-related incidents in the NBA, especially the Garnett/Villanueva “Tweet-gate.” Social Media is also credited with phasing out the filter of traditional media, making venues like newspapers less significant. The verdict is still out on whether or not this is a positive shift. Since I’m still undecided on where I stand on the matter, I was hoping to gain some insight from someone who deals with this issue on a daily basis.
Stringer certainly gave me some food for thought, and I was happy to hear that he too was a little broken up and surprised by the trading of Perk. In fact, Stringer said he found out about the trade from the fans on Twitter – a striking example of how traditional media and communications are becoming obsolete. The session revolved around the ever-changing nature of his job, especially within the last 2-3 years, and how sports teams’ interactions with fans are becoming increasingly less controlled. Most players in the NBA have their own Twitter accounts, as do fans, agents and reporters. Thus, professionals like Stringer are finding it increasingly difficult to control the images and messages of their teams. The Perk trade was leaked on social media sites by 2:30 pm; the official Celtics website didn’t acknowledge the trade until almost 9 pm. Social media is making traditional tactics, such as press releases, less important. Stringer strongly emphasized this fact, even going as far as to say he believed the press release is dead–something I hope isn’t true, seeing as I have spent a lot of time during my college career writing the darn things.
Stringer said fans are starting to want and expect news in real time. Even Stringer himself admitted to looking to online sources for his NBA-related news, rather than the previously important newspapers. Stringer also said that this change is affecting his relations with journalists. Now, bloggers are becoming just as important as print journalists, even those who have been reporting on the Celtics in traditional media for decades. He pointed out that he considers any announcement he puts out through social media as an official statement; official channel, official statement. Though the need for traditional media is dwindling, which provides a more direct channel to fans, Stringer also emphasized that players may be seeing tighter rules on how much they can divulge on their own social media venues. I can’t help but agree; the fact that players are bringing game-related beefs off the court and into the public eye seems wrong in a way. What happens on the court should stay on the court.
I think Stringer supports the use of social media, but only in a responsible way. The world of PR is changing, even outside of sports. Everyone from sports teams to big corporations has to be more cognizant of their increased visibility. Stringer cautioned against trying to “own” the public sphere by attempting to control what others say about your client, especially through editing posts by fans on Facebook. He stressed that by aiming for accuracy and treating social media as a legitimate forum, teams can use this shift in trends to their advantage. I left Stringer’s session feeling more confident in the importance of social media and its usefulness. But I’m still pretty sad about Perk.
Written by Eleanor Botelho. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @eleanorbotelho on Twitter.