Friday Night Lights.

A new school year often brings about new level of excitement and energy. No where is this more evident than on the school’s athletic fields for Friday Night Football where the community can come together to celebrate the hard work of student athletes.

Recently, our school system experienced a panic at a high school football game which put our communication protocols to the test. The result was reviewing our process, gathering input, and announcing new procedures to better ensure the safety of our student athletes and spectators who are there are watch the game:

One week after the events outlined above, another school system in Alabama was in the news for an incident with a different outcome.

It is expected that your school/district have a crisis plan and one that guides your communication responses in the ensuing aftermath.

But what about real-time communication during an athletic event crisis?

As the a school PR practitioner, have you ever seen the plan for an athletic event crisis? Is it as strong it could be from your professional opinion? Being at the table as part of a leadership team tasked with addressing these challenges has been a thought-provoking experience:

  • What role/responsibility does the public address announcer in providing directions in real-time?
  • How would your PA announcer get the information to communicate possible life-saving instructions in real-time?
  • If your PA announcer is not a school/district employee, what is your process for looping them into that aspect of the crisis plan?
  • What does your visiting team know about your crisis protocols (e.g. would they know where to shelter if there is severe weather?)

These days, safety is a key concern for every school/district. The time to consider the answer to these questions is long before you turn on the Friday Night Lights.

When Worlds Collide

Much of my life revolves around sporting events. My earliest memories include going to basketball games at the high school where my dad coached. Most of the males in my immediate family have a connection to sports as either a coach or an athlete, including my son.

I went to college to become a television journalist. I always considered it to be a “for now” job vs. a “forever” job. At the time, I just didn’t know how long “now” would last. Working my way through my journalism career included a sports stint where I served as the weekend sports anchor. My responsibilities would include covering collegiate student athletes, including my own brother.

The author with her younger brother as a collegiate student athlete at a D-I school.

As a school PR practitioner I can still draw on those skills, but this summer, I have found myself doing so in new ways. As the mom of a youth baseball player, I have somehow managed to parlay these diverse skills to help tell the story of his All-Star baseball team in a social media age.

Because families are spread out, I volunteered to set up a closed Facebook group page for the team so that grandparents, aunts, and uncles could participate in the fun. Little did I know that this would become an incubator for me professionally.

What started out as a lark, provided me a professional spark. It was an opportunity to use the platform to test out ideas I could use in my school PR world. Most notably, with video.

Strategy can be applied to something as innocuous as your child’s ball program. For our little group, we wanted to communicate to out-of-town friends and family through social media our game dates, behind-the-scene photos, and highlight videos.

I must confess: I am a broadcast journalism purist. I believe camera shots should be steady and video must be quality high. The era of user-generated content makes me queasy. That why I have shunned cellphone footage in favor of professional-quality videography and editing.

However, as the post season has gone on, members of the Facebook group shared their appreciation for my skill as evidenced by the analytics of their engagement with the multimedia posts created. As a result, I looked for ways to be more inclusive with the work: I asked them to send me their videos and pictures.

How do you tell a story with video over which you had no control and make it cohesive?

This was a huge risk for me professionally! Using this content was more of a challenge that I would have ever imagined, but the payoff was much sweeter, too. It was a challenge I was excited to take on, too, as I can see the implications of using crowd-sourced video in school PR to tell a story from multiple perspectives. As a result, my kid and his friends have series of highlight videos, edited with free cell phone apps and uploaded to Facebook where music was added.

Made by Mom

It was interesting to see that a youth baseball team was capable of pulling the type of analytics one might when posting a video for your school or school system. Even more impressive is that this was primarily shared with only about 65 people!

This post has more than 1,000 views!?!

I think we hit this one out of the park…and will head to the World Series soon! Clearly, my worlds collided.