SBJ/October 31-November 6, 2011/Opinion

How one exec joined the social media conversation

Being in the public relations business is more challenging than ever, and so we invited some key PR decision-makers to our offices in New York City to talk about the complex new world of shaping, delivering and controlling the message.

After our first attempt was swept away when Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast, we convened Oct. 7 and discussed crisis management, the challenges of Twitter, the frustrations with today’s media and how to build and maintain relationships with the press.

There were a lot of takeaways from the discussion, and one that stood out to me was the role that Twitter plays in sports organizations, especially when it comes to the executive level. As NASCAR’s David Higdon said, “When you talk about the executive suite, there is a lot of distress on how far you should be going in. … So it’s a matter of helping them and educating them.” We wondered whether it was a generational issue, but most felt that the use of Twitter crossed all age groups and that it depended more on disciplines or personalities.

Last week, I noticed that Octagon Worldwide CEO Rick Dudley joined Twitter and began following both SBJ/SBD and me (Sorry, Rick, I am a constant follower but have never tweeted, so you won’t get any goods from me!). I was intrigued. I’ve respected him for years, he runs one of the most well-regarded sports agencies in the world and is always aware of the latest trends. So why is he just joining now? I called, and Rick was, as always, upfront and self-effacing. He acknowledged he signed up on Twitter years ago, but never used it. Then about two weeks ago, at a senior management meeting, all the talk over three days was about the need to understand and participate in the social space. “Digital is running throughout our business,” Dudley said. “It’s becoming a part of everything we do. I can’t just rely on the tech guys to help me.” During the meetings, Dudley said, “They threw it back at me and said, ‘You have to live it and feel it.’ I said, ‘OK, I have to be a part of it.’”

Dudley got back on and started following both people and news sources. He is turning inward at Octagon for tips and advice, and while it’s only two weeks in, he feels Twitter will help even a sports marketing veteran like himself offer more. “I was a bystander when it came to talking about digital media. Now, I’ll be able to participate. This will help me bring more to the table, and being a very competitive person, I WANT MORE FOLLOWERS!” I told him he needed to start tweeting to get followers, and then asked what he felt would make for good copy. “It’s got to be interesting and timely observations,” he said. “You may have to take it out to the edge and say something thought-provoking and maybe even controversial. Where that line is, I have to figure that out.”

I’ll be following (he’s at @rduds) to see whether he crosses any lines. Let’s see how he does, a good example of a C-level executive looking to learn from and use social media. If there are other newbies out there joining, we’d love to hear your stories.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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