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Cowboys’ Taylor Stern on the Digital Strategy of America’s Team

Now the content strategist for the Cowboys, Taylor Stern is helping craft the digital brand of the future for America’s Team.

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Taylor Stern’s career started out with a bunch of “random volunteering” opportunities. A native of New Mexico, Stern went to college at the University of New Mexico.

Outside of working for the university’s TV station, Stern worked in various intern positions including at the NCAA, Orange Bowl, and Mountain West Conference. After spending a year with the Cotton Bowl as a marketing and communications manager, she made the jump to the Cowboys where she has been for the last three years. Now the team’s content strategist, Stern finds herself helping oversee the digital footprint of arguably the biggest brand in all of sports.

With the social space young when she first started, Stern takes you through the evolution of her role, why Jerry Jones is the catalyst for a lot of the freedom they have, as well as what it is like helping build the digital brand of one of the most revered franchises in sports.

Edited highlights appear below:

On the Early Days (17:11)

“Social media coordinator was such a new job when I took it. The role was all 20-somethings who were like, ‘Yeah, I use Twitter, I use Facebook.’ When I first started, it was a lot of GIFs and a lot of clever captions and all that fun stuff. Then, we all got the hang of it and it became about how we could make ourselves stand out.”

“I remember I asked my boss, ‘How are you going to say that I deserve a promotion or how am I going to deserve a raise?’ They said, ‘You need to get wins; little things that ultimately better the department. ‘”

On Successful Content (18:54)

“In 2016, we did this thing called ‘Breakfast Club’ when Zeke was new on the scene and was doing the ‘feed me’ celebration. The concept was simple but the content went viral. We followed that up with a ‘Finish This Fight’ series that was more long-form storytelling and it did really well for us.”

“The biggest thing I took away from those two different series was that good content is good content. There’s really no formula for success. It really just comes down to knowing your audience.”

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On Who is Driving Innovation for the Team (14:08)

It really comes from the top. Jerry Jones is just innovative as a person and he has always told us to hit home runs. If they hit, they hit, but if they don’t, they don’t. We’ve also been very fortunate because of the fact that we have that much freedom to just focus on making good content.”

“We also act as our own network and media outlet. That’s something we have the luxury of that most other teams don’t.”

On Dealing With Losses (26:27)

“We normally don’t post any sponsor-related content on a Monday after a loss. We take the approach of trying to sympathize with our fans because a lot of time you’ll find people coming to our site even more than when we win because they’re trying to find out what went wrong. We want to be the knowledge that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Of course, we understand the negativity and the frustration that fans will feel, but by addressing what went wrong and what could have been better, you kind of see a different engagement than you did before. It’s probably a lot more replies and retweets, but you’re still engaging your fans.”

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NBA Reporter Seerat Sohi on Building a Career as a Journalist

An NBA Reporter at Yahoo, Seerat Sohi joins Social on the Sidelines to discuss her journey into NBA content, her start in sports, and more.

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As another NBA season comes to a close, the social and digital content surrounding the league has once again been among the best in sports. Someone creating such content is NBA writer Seerat Sohi

A graduate of the University of Alberta, Sohi is currently an NBA reporter for Yahoo Sports based in Toronto. She has covered the league for the last seven years with pieces published by outlets like SB Nation, The Athletic, ESPN, and more.

Sohi joins Shabaz Khan and Amara Baptist to discuss getting started as a journalist/content creator, covering teams on deep playoff runs, and more.

Edited highlights appear below:

On her first steps toward a career in sports (14:27)

Sohi: “When I was 17, I was sitting in the library at my school after getting a particularly bad grade and realizing that I can no longer rest on my laurels. It was my first year of university and I thought maybe trying to go to business school and becoming a lawyer might not be the best path for me or that feasible…I started actually just scrolling down the majors lists … and journalism popped up and it kind of just clicked….that was never really something that I had considered up until that moment. So it kind of clicked with something somebody else had said to me before about how I was posting too much on forums and posting like tirades basically against the [Chicago] Bulls. I was a Bulls fan at the time and they were frustrating. So then I decided to just take all of my thoughts onto a blog and it was right around the time that NBA Twitter was sort of coming into the mainstream… it was around the time that team blogs, like SB Nation and ESPN True Hoop were starting to blow up. So I just kept writing and talking to people and just trying to improve and eventually landed …with True Hoop blogs. And from there it’s like anything where you slowly go up the ladder and then you meet more and more talented people and you’re like ‘how could I be a little bit more like them?'”

On being a woman in a mostly male career field (26:25)

Sohi: “I think the number one thing I’d say is that there are just so many women who came before me who made this so much easier than it could have been. I think now when I look at the Raptors’ locker room, I always see like two or three other women in there with you pretty much no matter what time of year. I think that alone made a huge difference for me. I think that if I hadn’t had that, I probably would have been feeling like people were watching me, making me feel self-conscious, something which is still something that I think sometimes. And that’s probably one of the bigger challenges is just getting to a place where you feel like you belong so you can actually just go do your job instead of worrying about what other people are thinking about you doing your job.”

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On how covering the Raptors has changed in the midst of their postseason run (32:13)

Sohi: “Day to day, not too much changed up until probably the Eastern Conference Finals. Before that it was like, okay, you’re covering this pretty promising team. So obviously the Kawhi Leonard trade changes some things and the element that he’s a “rental” there’s a little bit more pressure… I’d say around mid-May was when things really started changing and ramping up. It was like, ‘oh this run is really something special.’ We’re in the midst of it right now. It’s been one of the coolest things that I’ve ever been a part of, to be honest.”

SEE MORE: Twitter’s Will Exline on the Platform’s Evolving Place Within Sports

Advice for people trying to break into a career in sports (38:54)

Sohi: “I think the core thing of it all, especially with content creation now, is just try to be yourself, especially with the amount of noise that’s on Twitter. Whether it’s people saying that you should write a certain way or ‘why aren’t you writing about this’? or ‘why aren’t you paying enough attention to this?’ especially if you’re trying to grow as a writer. I always think about this now as somebody who got into Twitter at a time when it was a much friendlier place. Just try to shut everything out and do your best and gravitate towards the things that you like and have the confidence to follow your curiosity because there’s so much out there that if you aren’t going to a place only you can know, you’re not really going to be able to survive.”

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Emmy-Winning Videographer Ty Rogers on Freelancing and Staying Curious

A strong sense of curiosity has led Ty Rodgers to work with some of the biggest names in sports like Michigan football, Duke basketball and Cam Newton.

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One of the biggest parts of any team or brand’s digital presence remains video content. Popular teams the likes of Duke basketball, Michigan football, and Indiana basketball have trusted their video content to Ty Rogers.

Rogers is an Emmy Award-winning content creator and former graphic designer who largely taught himself the skills needed to create high-quality video content.

Now pursuing a career as a full-time freelance content creator, Rogers joins the pod to discuss how he honed his craft, his experience building strong relationships with high profile athletes, and much more

SEE MORE: Twitter’s Will Exline on the Platform’s Evolving Place Within Sports

Edited Highlights Appear Below:

On building relationships with athletes (19:00)

Rogers: “Being able to build a friendship or relationship with student-athletes or even the professional athletes, when they feel more comfortable when you’re around them, they’re more likely to give you better content…If they feel comfortable with you around them and they have that trust feeling knowing that you’re going to shine a good light on them and not make them look bad…I think that can only help. Building that relationship and not just holding a camera and filming them or photographing them, but getting to know them as people…because it helps you tell a better story when you get to know that individual and what they’re about.”

On being mostly self-taught (21:24)

Rogers: “I think the one thing that I have always had, and I know a lot of other people do as well, [is a strong curiosity]…I didn’t go to school for this.
This was all self-taught… a lot of YouTube tutorials…late at night at home,  I would learn something…There’s a lot of knowledge out there. If you spend the time and know what to search for and follow the right people, you can really learn a lot…I owe everything to youtube that I’ve learned. Obviously, there are people along the way, other photographers or video guys that I’ve picked up knowledge from. But how I grew is the more I could learn in my free time and downtime has helped me continue to grow and get better.”

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On reasons for and what it is like turning freelancing into a full-time job (28:27)

Rogers: “One was the opportunity just to work with Cam [Newton]. Going back a year now, I didn’t really do freelance much on the side and it was strictly full-time Michigan football. But when I got that opportunity, it opened my eyes a little bit to make not only more income, which everybody would like, but the opportunity to grow and continue to improve and network and build relationships… Being able to take on multiple different projects I think is what I’m looking forward to the most  being able to work for some really cool brands here in the coming weeks and hit the ground running here soon.”

SEE MORE: Midnight Oil’s Jack Appleby on Digital Lessons From His Extensive Career

Advice for aspiring content creators (33:48)

Rogers: “Be proactive and have a curiosity to want to, um, continue to not only learn, but improve and be willing to not get stuck in one way…When you find your niche, that’s cool, but you want to continue to learn. When you do that, you can only get better….Try to just have him that curiosity and be proactive to go and create content. You don’t always have to be filming the NBA Championship or Superbowl to like create good content…You got to continue to create and do that stuff and promote yourself in the right way. It’s why social media, I would say, is important.”

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Twitter’s Will Exline on the Platform’s Evolving Place Within Sports

Twitter’s Will Exline joins the pod to discuss his favorite team accounts on Twitter, areas of improvement for sports commentary on the platform and more.

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Due to the real-time nature of the platform, Twitter continues to be a major part of the sports landscape more than a decade after its launch. By working teams and brands all over the industry, Will Exline has been a driving force behind Twitter’s constant presence in the sports and digital world.

A graduate of Long Beach State and the University of San Francisco, Exline spent nearly a decade in sports working with a variety of teams and brands including Fox Sports, Top Drawer Soccer and Advanced Soccer Media prior to joining Twitter in 2016.

Now Sports Partnerships Manager at Twitter, Exline joins the pod to discuss his favorite team accounts on Twitter, areas of improvement for sports commentary on the platform and much more.

Edited highlights appear below:

On his career stops prior to Twitter, including with Fox Sports and Advanced Soccer Media (11:51)

“Throughout your career it’s important to take little pieces, or even big pieces, of every stop you go through. Going all the way back to when I was with the startup, you need to be flexible and willing to take on pretty much anything that comes across, like not being too big for any one job or one task. That’s something that I still try to hold onto today. With Fox Sports, being that big of a company, it can be pretty difficult to get ideas past the higher-ups or get approval. So you really need to be good about selling your ideas and really push what you believe in, which is gonna help you for any role down the road.”

SEE MORE: Midnight Oil’s Jack Appleby on Digital Lessons From His Extensive Career

On best practices for utilizing Twitter from a team perspective (13:18)

“Twitter is very much live… the magic of it is the real-time nature. So as you’re watching a game or an event unfold or even something like NBA Drafts, just being able to fall in real time to see both concept from the teams — but then everything they pull in from the reporters — that’s kind of the sweet spot of it. For teams that do really well, I think it’s a combination of having short impactful content, really eye-catching images or videos and… being conversational. Not necessarily like full-on snark all the time… but just being able to speak in the language of the Internet, I guess, where it’s not just a RSS feed or a play by play of the game.

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On observing Twitter’s evolution over the years (22:41)

“It’s funny, when I first joined the platform, I followed a bunch of athletes. But one of my teachers a couple of months later said you need to follow sports business personalities and the writers. And that was kind of like a light bulb. It’s almost like your personal newspaper. That was kind of Phase One and then it evolved as more folks got on there into almost like a networking [tool].

There were a lot of Twitter chats and [I] met a lot of people through there and some I’m still in touch with today… From there, I think when you started seeing media forward or auto-expanded images, I think that was the next step. Like, okay, now this is becoming a rich media platform and then video on the platform. And then a few years ago when live started to kick in. So it has really evolved from just kind of an RSS feed-fashion and now it’s really like a conversational place for teams and for folks in the sports world beyond just like getting content out there.”

SEE MORE: Annie Finberg of The Atlanta Hawks on Growing As A Digital Pro

Why he loves working at Twitter and how it helped him the sports industry differently (29:24)

“Coming out of school, the very first idea was I need to work for a team. [I thought] I have to get in the front office  That’s the only route into sports. Then, obviously, over time your eyes start to open and see there are different paths that could be everything from working for a social platform like Twitter or working for a brand like a American Express… working for an agency. There are so many different roads to take.”

“As you can imagine, most of the Silicon Valley is very laid-back, but one of my favorite things about it is just how entrepreneurial it is, where it doesn’t matter if you’re a senior vice presidents or if you’re an intern or coordinator. If you have a really good idea, it can scale across the entire organization or across the entire team. Like there’s not a limit on what you can put out or how you can make an impact. [Twitter is] really big on making sure that we’re getting the best ideas from everywhere.”

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