SBJ/June 12-18, 2017/Media

NFL Network wants on-air talent to go deep with social media

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NFL Media reporter Dan Hanzus trailed Robert Kraft as the Patriots owner handed out cigars in New England’s Super Bowl-winning locker room this year.

Hanzus, who was recording the moment on his phone, stood directly behind Kraft as he hugged quarterback Tom Brady. His video picked up a conversation where Brady told Kraft that somebody stole his game jersey. “You better look online,” Kraft joked.

The video captured the first moment that anyone outside the Patriots locker room realized Brady’s jersey was missing.

Hanzus tweeted out the 73-second video and wrote a 366-word story for NFL.com.

“That piece of video was ground zero for that story,” said the NFL’s vice president of social media and emerging programming, Tom Brady (no relation to the Super Bowl LI MVP). “That was a fun reminder for the citizen journalist in each of us that a good story can come from anywhere.”

That piece of video was used as a case study for how NFL Media executives want their on-air talent to use social media. During a seminar for the NFL’s on-air personalities held last week in Santa Monica, Calif., the consistent theme the league pushed was that NFL Network talent should use their access and name recognition to build social media audiences.

“We want to be more nimble about creating content and using our talent as the boots on the ground,” Brady said. “They have a stronger level of access in a lot of cases. They have great relationships with the teams and the players. We want to leverage that using each of the social platforms.”

Like other sports TV networks, NFL Network holds these types of seminars once a year (though it was not able to schedule one last year).

Whenever social media came up in the past, NFL executives would have to persuade several of their reporters to use it, especially considering the trouble some reporters and analysts have experienced from an ill-timed Facebook post or a poorly thought out tweet. Just two weeks ago, for example, the Denver Post fired a longtime sports columnist because of a racially charged tweet about the Japanese-born driver who won the Indianapolis 500, Takuma Sato.

Six hall of famers presented a segment as part of the NFL’s media seminar.
Photo by: NFL


This year, though, Brady and NFL Network’s executive producer of studio and remote content, Mike Muriano, said there was no pushback from the league’s reporters and analysts getting more involved on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media platform.

“We wanted to show our on-air talent how they can be more impactful socially,” Muriano said. “We want to show them how we can help build each other’s brand socially.”

During the seminar, the league focused more on best practices rather than coming up with a list of social media rules. In conversations with Brady and Muriano, several consistent themes emerged. Here are six suggestions the NFL made to its reporters and analysts. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but Brady and Muriano believe the league’s on-air talent can help build a social media presence if they follow them.

Do not use every platform the same way

One of the biggest mistakes Brady and Muriano see people make is when they put the same content on different social platforms. Great tweets sometimes bomb on Facebook. Snapchat posts will not have the same impact on YouTube. Instagram posts are not effective on Twitter.

“They’re not even the same company,” Brady said. “On Twitter, it will end up being a link rather than the actual video.”

Brady told the league’s on-air talent that they need to understand each of the social platforms. “The features change so quickly on each platform that it’s hard sometimes to make sure to stay on top of it,” he said.

Don’t feed the trolls

It’s great when one of NFL Network’s Hall of Fame commentators tweets with fans. It’s not so good when that hall of famer gets into Twitter arguments with those same fans.

“Talent needs to be careful with that level of engagement,” Muriano said. “Be smart and sensitive to if you’re getting trolled or not. Then just stop. Our talent, as the known quantity in this exchange, does not benefit by dressing down a fan — even if that fan is way off base. At some point, they have to know when to say that this has taken a turn and I’m not taking part anymore.”

Avoid politics

Politics is so divisive, there’s little upside for NFL reporters and analysts to wade into those battles on social media. Muriano called it a “no-win scenario.”

“Those debates are healthy in the middle of newsrooms and discussions face-to-face,” he said. “But playfully or not, what happens in face-to-face conversations can be construed in ways that you don’t want on a public forum like Twitter — especially when it comes to politics.”

Know why people follow you

One message the NFL gave its talent was to be cognizant that people follow them for their football knowledge. “When in doubt, keep it to the game,” Brady said. “There’s always a time to showcase your personality and be able to engage with fans and go outside of your core. But at the end of the day, as a member of the NFL Media Group, try to stick to football because that’s what people want to hear from you about.”

Show your personality

Brady pointed to Raiders punter Marquette King as a good example of someone who effectively has been able to show his personality on several social media platforms.

“He understands each platform really well. He brings his personality to it. It’s all fun,” Brady said. “You’ll start to see more recently retired players become active on social media because they’re more native to the social platform.”

Think before you tweet

There is a danger to unfiltered messages that can be delivered to a mass audience immediately. The league told its on-air talent to use common sense when posting on social media.

“Don’t fail the social media IQ test,” Muriano said. “Is what you’re about to put out there that important? Give it a second thought.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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