Timbers’ Kayla Knapp on Building a Social Voice From the Ground Up

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Kayla Knapp originally headed to Los Angeles in search of sunshine and a job in sports.

She got the sunshine right away and the opportunities followed — first serving as a writer for LA Galaxy Confidential, then as a staff writer for Soccer By Ives, and then finally as a digital video producer for FOX Sports. Before jumping into her role at FOX Sports, she also founded Women United FC, a website that was created as a space for female fans of soccer to gather and discuss the game.

A graduate of Ithaca College, Knapp was able to apply what she had learned as a journalism major to her digital and social roles. After spending five years with FOX Sports, Knapp joined the Portland Timbers and Thorns as their senior manager of social content and strategy, a title she has held for closing in on two years.

In today’s episode, Knapp takes you through how she convinced her boss at FOX Sports to get rid of the outside company running its social media to let her do it, why she decided to move her whole life to Portland to join the Timbers, and why her passion for content is rooted in storytelling.

Edited highlights appear below:

On Her Time at FOX Sports (13:58)

“After graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles in search of the sun and a job in sports. After a couple of years, I ended up at FOX Sports Digital, working specifically at FOX soccer. My initial role there was just working as an editor for foxsoccer.com, my first big foray into social in the first few months. When I came in, they had hired an outside company to run all their social media. I did not think they were doing a very good job and I thought we were paying them way too much money to do it.”

“It took about a month or so to convince him and eventually my role expanded into running all of our social media accounts. I was there for five years and had my hand in everything.”

On Transitioning from Media to Team Side (18:28)

“It’s been an interesting transition to go from the media side to the team side. For me, what’s most important is storytelling. I felt like working on the media side, we were telling the stories, but we were just regurgitating news we found other places. What’s most important for me is storytelling. Even before the Timbers and Thorns reached out, I had wanted to move to the team side. I had already been looking at positions for six to eight months.”

“The biggest difference to me is having the access to the players, the teams, the fans and the community. It’s a direct line.”

Social on the Sidelines is Presented to You By:

On Her First Order of Business at the Timbers (21:14)

We had a lot of accounts up and running but there wasn’t a concrete voice for any of it. It was very PR and very stiff and the club wanted to move away from that.”

“The very first thing I did was reach out to fans in the community who were super involved with the team that wanted to help me learn about the club. I felt like it was super important for me to understand the fans, understand their wants and their needs, but also their traditions and their inside jokes.”

“There was so much learning for me in the first six months, kind of across the board, to be able to craft what I felt like was the right voice for both teams. It wasn’t just creating the Timbers’ voice, it was the Thorns too.

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On Changing Strategy (31:49)

“This year is my second full season. 2017 was a lot of tinkering and trying things out and seeing what voice fit and worked. 2018 was about refining the voice and the strategy and 2019 is about what can we do from the content side to step it up even more than we did last year.”

“As far as the voice and the strategy goes, that’s kind of largely stayed the same. It’s more about how do we just keep making our content better, how do we serve our fans better and how do we assert ourselves in the digital space a little bit more.”

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