This is an excerpt from Strategic Sport Communication-3rd Edition by Paul M. Pedersen,Pamela C. Laucella,Edward (Ted) M. Kian & Andrea Nicole Geurin.
The rise of digital media allows sport organizations to create their own content and publish messages for their various audiences themselves, meaning they have less reliance on the media to deliver their messages as they once did. Sherwood, Nicholson, and Marjoribanks (2017) called this a "potential paradigm shift in the once symbiotic relationship between sport organisations and the media that cover them" (p. 513) but also noted that social and digital platforms have not dramatically altered public relations practices, as many sport organizations still develop and maintain strong relationships with media outlets in an effort to reach their various publics. Still, the shifting dynamic means that in addition to employing sport PR professionals who possess the skills to communicate with and develop relationships with sport media outlets, sport organizations also have a greater need for tech-savvy employees whose jobs focus on content creation. Although sport organizations can deliver their messages to key publics more easily than ever before, sport public relations professionals must still possess strong people and relationship-building skills, as they must be able to develop engaging content that sparks a conversation with and among publics. Raabe (2017) stated that it is incumbent upon PR professionals to "engage with the public to facilitate discussion and bring influence to the table via the new digital channels" (para. 9).
Social media is one tool that PR professionals use to deliver messages directly to audiences. For example, in November 2019, U.S. women's national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe and her partner, WNBA star Sue Bird, visited the NBA's Golden State Warriors to speak on the issue of inclusion and also to watch the Warriors play in their new stadium, the Chase Center. Before the advent of social media, this would have been a prime opportunity to contact members of the media via a press release with the hope that newspapers or television news stations would cover the event. Instead, the Warriors used their own media team to produce a high-quality highlight video from the day, which was posted on their Facebook page. Teams, leagues, and athletes themselves often use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube to share news and information directly with stakeholders, and journalists also use these social media platforms to learn about newsworthy stories and to share their own stories about sport organizations and athletes.
As illustrated in the Golden State Warriors Facebook example, the use of high-quality digital video is another method by which sport organizations can directly communicate with their publics, and these videos are most often delivered via the organization's social media accounts or on its website. Today's sport fans are interested in short bites of information, and digital videos allow sport organizations to achieve this. For example, when English Premier League team Manchester City beat its rival Manchester United in a 2018 game, Manchester City uploaded a one-minute highlight video set to dramatic music to its Instagram account, which allowed fans who were unable to watch the full game to quickly understand the key moments in the victory and allowed fans who did watch the full game to relive the excitement. Because Manchester City produced the video in-house, they were able to highlight the moments of the game they deemed most exciting or important rather than relying on journalists to do so. The visual excitement and music element of the video also provided a sensory experience that reading an article about the game would not provide.
Along with the increasing use of social media and digital videos to communicate directly with publics, sport organizations are also beginning to use influencers as part of their public relations strategies to get their messages out to key publics. Discussed in chapter 9, influencers are those people who are not traditional celebrities but have built a strong social media following with a captive audience. Raabe (2017) cautions that influence does not necessarily equate to popularity. In other words, someone with a great number of social media followers but who receives low levels of engagement (e.g., likes, comments, retweets) is not the best choice for an influencer. Sport organizations should seek influencers whose engagement levels are high, demonstrating a true interest from their followers. For example, MLB's Boston Red Sox wanted to expand its reach with mothers and enlisted the help of local mom bloggers and women who had written books about family travel. By asking these women to write about the Red Sox on their blogs and social media accounts, the Red Sox were able to deliver their messages to a different demographic than their typical fans and do so in a way that felt authentic to the content receivers. In exchange for sharing content about the Red Sox, the women were able to take VIP tours of the Red Sox's stadium, Fenway Park, and attend special meet-and-greet sessions with the team's players.