Twitter can make you go mad. Just ask Adam Schefter, ESPN reporter. After he began tweeting, he realized how addictive it can be. With over 75,000 followers, responding to all of their questions, replies and comments is an overwhelming task. So how can ESPN manage an employee’s Twitter presence, and how will Twitter and similar platforms continue shifting the journalism landscape?
In a recent interview with Sporting News, Schefter noted his process for tweeting about breaking news. A story filed by ESPN that’s worthy of a tweet, directing followers to check out the ESPN website or tune to its cable television channel. Combined with the following he gets on ESPN, and Schefter is one busy man.
Schefter is a sports television analyst and sportswriter in America. He was born and raised in New York State, attended the University of Michigan and Northwestern University – Medill School of Journalism – graduating from both. During his years of education, he frequently wrote articles for nearby newspapers including the Michigan Daily and Chicago Tribune. He interned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer just after graduating from Northwestern and then moved to Denver where he worked at the Rocky Mountain News and then the Denver Post.
Within a few years he joined the team at the NFL Network and was called on to guest on various ESPN programs – in 2009 he became an ESPN analyst. Sports Illustrated writers included Schefter in its 2010 “Power 40”, a listing of the NFL’s best officials, executives, coaches, players and media members.
With his background, Schefter seems to have a singular understanding of how to best use his personal account to integrate a successful PR outcome for ESPN. Finding the right mix of information, news, sharing new bits about something in the works – all without stepping on the toes of his followers, his contemporaries, or his bosses is not easy, but he flourishes at it.
For ESPN’s brand, it could be a case of getting what you want. The ability to leverage a substantial follower base and redirect traffic on that level is a brand’s dream. Having an established presence prior to creating a Twitter account is helpful. Building on the success of an individual employee takes the brand’s messaging to a new level.
ESPN has it good with Schefter. He gets information out on their behalf and although he’s an employee he’s an independent source to his followers. That’s the ideal PR situation. An independent voice ready to promote your cause at every turn, and one the public finds a dependable and truthful source. Companies and PR people should keep their eye on this situation to learn how to employ similar tactics for the good of their brands.
When it comes to news resources in particular, Twitter proves a very helpful broadcasting tool for getting information to the masses. Even if a story is merely being worked on by the ESPN team, someone like Schefter can spread the message to an entire fan base before other sources get wind of it, possibly scooping them on their own story.
In some ways, this is ESPN’s ability to recapture its audience instead of losing it to a Twitter user not employed by ESPN. The citizen journalism aspect of Twitter favors microblogging sites in achieving phenomenal growth, but it also alerts the entire journalism industry as to the new way of disseminating information. Finding a way to become a part of that process without destroying the integrity of journalism has been a tricky task; one resulting in traditional journalism shifting the way it thinks and operates in a new, socially-driven arena.
Leveraging employee accounts to be the two-sided burden of social media has been a message we’ve promoted for quite some time. In attempting to control employee’s use of social networking while also utilizing it for brand-building, many companies find themselves in a unique conflict of which message to promote to their employees and customers. Finding ways to encourage the use of social networking for the purpose of indirect marketing is a tricky solution that deserves deeper exploration.
Schefter is one example of achieving this goal. Presenting a point of entry for the ESPN brand by using his profile means engaging conversations take place in real-time. This gives ESPN the ability to tap into those followers to learn what they do and don’t like, how they feel, and how to generate communication with them.
Finding a balance between a brand and individual use of social media outlets such as Twitter will be a goal for many businesses in the next year or so. Companies peppered with existing personalities have the best crack at successfully using social media. Incorporating user convenience and tying communication back to the product or service being promoted makes PR easier.
In the end, we expect continued experimentation from companies without their own celebrity or personality on how they can best take advantage of a social media presence. For the time being, however, Twitter provides an interesting study on socially-driven content sharing forces the change of an entire industry and the behavior of its employees.
**UPDATE – New York magazine named Adam Schefter in 2014 as the “Most Influential Tweeter in New York. In May 2014, awfulannouncing.com chose Schefter as the “Best Newsbreaker” in its second annual People’s Sports TV Award Winners. And SI.com listed Schefter as the “Media Person of the Year” also in 2014.
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