Christina’s Coffee Talk with Michael Schaffer

Mike Schaffer
Mike Schaffer

It’s a bird; it’s a plane, it’s Michael Schaffer for this week’s coffee talk. This non-coffee drinker (gasp) was a former DJ that uses music to “pump up the volume” for his day.  He’s a savy PR/ Social Media professional working in the entertainment/sports world as social media director for Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications. To get through his crazy days Mike turns to songs from Glee, the Cupid Shuffle, Ingraham Hill and the Beastie Boys for motivation. Not one to name drop, he did admit to losing his cool when he met  Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel.  Also be sure to check out Mike’s blog: The Buzz.

And so I give you, Mike Schaffer, shedding light on the sports and entertainment world of PR.

What past experiences put you on the path to working in entertainment?

In high school I was editor in chief of the newspaper, and in college I was sports director and station manager of the radio station. I interned at a TV station one summer, also.  I knew that being in the media wasn’t for me, but I wanted to work WITH the media, which led me into PR. I majored in Sports Information and Communication (later renamed Sports Media). In college, I interned with Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications in Washington, DC, and they hired me after I graduated in May 2004. While I was attracted to the football, golf, tennis and boxing projects, the SPECTACLE projects became really enticing. Sports and entertainment PR are virtually the same thing so its been fun to crossover between the two.

Tell me your likes and dislikes of entertainment PR.

I love the show. There is nothing like an electric crowd ready to have a good time. I’ve also really enjoyed the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with, like Muhammad Ali, John Legend and Cal Ripken, Jr. (I’m not a name-dropper, I swear!)

On the downside, we work while people work and while people play. There are a lot of night and weekend hours. Creating a balance with work, family and friends is critical. As far other downsides, I can’t think of anything too major.

How do you stay ethical while working in entertainment PR?

Ethics are a real interesting topic. I find that it’s impossible to judge someone else’s morals, since the way we act is the result of our life experiences to date. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible people at all levels. Like in any walk of life, there are people in the industry that I don’t agree with their values, but that’s OK. If I keep my moral compass in the right direction for me, I can sleep soundly at night.

What was the transition like from Senior Account Executive to Director of Social Media?

The transition into director of social media has been a fun ride. In my previous role, I worked on probably a dozen or so accounts, but now I am involved in nearly every account our agency has, not to mention creating plans for new business proposals. I enjoy working with more clients in a direct fashion. I’ve been busy starting a blog for the company while increasing our clients’ social media presence. It takes a lot of start-up work to get each client on-board with a social media lifestyle. To maximize their exposure, it has to be a commitment, not just a campaign.

Tell me more about getting a new client on-board with social media.

I see social media as a two-part system. First, you must have content. If there is no reason for people to follow a brand online, well, nobody is going to follow it! Second, you must have the connections. That means you have to tell people that you are online and have content they want. For example, one of my clients is the National Museum of Crime & Punishment. To bolster their presence, we offered exclusive discounts to Twitter followers. We also linked their account to major DC accounts, like news organizations and other folks with large followings.  I’ve noticed much more chatter about the museum online.

What challenges do you face when explaining a social media campaign to possible new business?

I think business owners are more tech-savvy than ever right now, in general. There are many people out there, though, that think social media is just teenagers talking about nothing. So we try to show them that social media is an outlet they control entirely, like advertising, but doesn’t yet have the “meh, they paid for that message” stigma. In many regards, it can be the best of both worlds.

You’ve taken the initiative to build a community with #sportsprchat. How did it all start?

I’ve had the pleasure of contributing to #PRStudChat, #u30pro and other terrific online chats over the past several months. Looking around the Twittersphere, I also saw some really smart people discussing sports. Being a social media guy and sports professional, it hit me one day that there was a huge opportunity to bring together, and maybe even create, a Sports PR community online.

Recently #prbc debated the pros and cons of text message marketing. Do you have any experience with this?

I have some experience with this and feel that much like any other form of marketing, “social” or “traditional,” it takes time and effort to succeed. In reality, it takes more, since there is usually a cost associated with being a part of a text community. We used a text campaign for a mixed martial arts event. The hardest part was communicating that it was available. We went to dozens of bars and clubs trying to get people to sign up. At the end of the day, we had a few hundred, but it really didn’t justify the time or expense we put into it.  For a national brand with advertising budget, I think it can be very successful. I mean, look at American Idol, which has turned texting into a cultural touchstone! The desire is there, but the motivation to act on it comes from the marketers.

You recently included tweets from customers in a press release for your client, California Tortilla (@caltort).  This is definetely a new tactic. How did it fit their brand?

California Tortilla is already ahead of the curve in social media. They had an email newsletter when other quick-casual restaurant chains barely had computers. Their have a Taco Talk newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter accounts that created a huge online community. If they’re releasing news, the online community gets it first. In a release we sent out last week about their new Bacon Chicken Club Burrito, we included several Tweets from customers who were excited about the new item. We’re hoping that it will create some transparency between customers and media, who will see that people are really pumped for this option.  If it works, it may be something we suggest to other clients, but I think it really must match the brand’s personality to do something like that.

I urge you to join our coffee talk and add to the questions/comments. If you have any additional questions/comments for Mike post them below and we’ll see if he can spare a few more minutes for some answers.

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  • keithtrivitt

    Mike – Thanks for providing all of us with some great discussion and ideas regarding sports and entertainment PR. I, too, come from a sports PR background, having previously worked 5 years in athletics media relations at various colleges. Hearing about your experiences getting a degree in Sports Media brought back a lot of good memories!

    Your point about text marketing is spot on: It's a tremendous idea, especially for sports teams who have a large, presumable captive (at least they hope they're captive!) audience in their own, controlled environment for up to 3 hours and beyond. It's the perfect venue to test out what is a very, very new technology and marketing practice in text marketing. The downside to this, as you point out, is that it requires a tremendous amount of time and money to do it right. I remember when we first tried it at my previous job, we had a great response the first night at a men's basketball game with more than 1,000 texts coming in, but then we all realized that we had very little idea of what to do with this information. It's definitely a medium and form of marketing that needs to be fleshed out more and needs some additional case studies to judge its usefulness.

    As for including tweets in a press release, I am all for this idea. As the pendulum of public and business opinion against canned executive quotes continues to swing, I would love to see more of consumer-based quotes and tweets employed in press releases, particularly those that are geared more toward consumers. Having a canned executive quote in something of that nature makes little sense when it will be your consumers who will be getting the most out of say, a new taco in the lineup.

  • Happy Columbus Day, Keith! (Even though I work in Washington, I don't get today off…bummer…)

    College sports information is a marathon. When I was in college, the media reps worked harder than the athletes! And that was at the D3 level!

    You hit the nail on the head when discussing new technologies. Great, you have all of this information, but how you use it is the true judge of success. Every client wants to “BE” online and innovative, but very few know how to do it well. Using each new tool effectively is probably the biggest challenge facing the promotions industry.

    No negative feedback to Tweets in the release, so it's definitely something we'll keep adding in when appropriate!

  • jeffespo

    Great interview Christina. Mike, like Keith I came from a sports PR background, with about 6 years experience across a variety of leagues, as well and completely agree with the struggle for work-life balance.

    My last job in sports was with a minor league baseball team and was the last straw into that field. Tarp pulls and 20 hour days kind of sucked.

    I think your points on SMS marketing are also interesting. I will also definitely check out the hashtag chat you've set up.

    Would you be willing to chat offline on some SM strategies?

  • laurenfernandez

    The thing I hate about text marketing is that I've seen companies abuse it. How do you teach them? There aren't many 'rules' per say, but I can see people getting very turned off by it. They might do it one night, but hate it the next. So is it a waste of money? Something I've always wondered. 🙂

  • Everyone thanks for the comments. I've been going back and forth with pros and cons of text message marketing so I was glad that Mike could give an example and some feedback.

    I think that no matter what people need to be able to “opt in” and “opt out” this way companies aren't taking advantage of their consumers/customer.

  • Hey, Jeff!

    The power went out in my office as I was about to respond to you!

    One of my closest friends is a minor league baseball radio announcer. I definitely understand the long days of doing EVERYTHING to make the game experience happen. You guys should get a medal!

    #SportsPRChat is REALLY exciting! In just a short period of time, we've been able to start a sports PR community online. There are some incredible sharp people on there, and I hope you can join us!

    I am always willing to chat about social media, sports, etc. My e-mail is michaelgschaffer@gmail.com.

  • Right on, Lauren…it is something that people like, then quickly sour on. I haven't yet seen a sustainable SMS marketing program. And if it isn't sustainable, what's the point? (The one exception is a Baltimore sports news text messaging service I've had for a year or so. Even though I'm just an hour away from home, I need it to stay up to date!)

    It can work as entertainment at concerts. I've been to a few arenas and venues where you can text messages to the jumbotron in between the action. It's a fun diversion, but I'm not convinced it's worth whatever they are paying for it…what's the return for them?

    I really hope we as an industry can figure out ways to make SMS work as an effective marketing tool! Let's get on it! I'll bring the beer.

  • keithtrivitt

    Actually, there are laws that govern how you can conduct a text message marketing plan. The laws are very similar to e-mail blast laws, and are frankly one of the biggest reasons why we have yet to see mass acceptance of text marketing. The laws are unbelievably cumbersome and outdated, and simply getting around them to develop a quality campaign can be a major inhibitor to some companies.

  • jeffespo

    Great interview Christina. Mike, like Keith I came from a sports PR background, with about 6 years experience across a variety of leagues, as well and completely agree with the struggle for work-life balance.

    My last job in sports was with a minor league baseball team and was the last straw into that field. Tarp pulls and 20 hour days kind of sucked.

    I think your points on SMS marketing are also interesting. I will also definitely check out the hashtag chat you've set up.

    Would you be willing to chat offline on some SM strategies?

  • laurenfernandez

    The thing I hate about text marketing is that I've seen companies abuse it. How do you teach them? There aren't many 'rules' per say, but I can see people getting very turned off by it. They might do it one night, but hate it the next. So is it a waste of money? Something I've always wondered. 🙂

  • Everyone thanks for the comments. I've been going back and forth with pros and cons of text message marketing so I was glad that Mike could give an example and some feedback.

    I think that no matter what people need to be able to “opt in” and “opt out” this way companies aren't taking advantage of their consumers/customer.

  • Hey, Jeff!

    The power went out in my office as I was about to respond to you!

    One of my closest friends is a minor league baseball radio announcer. I definitely understand the long days of doing EVERYTHING to make the game experience happen. You guys should get a medal!

    #SportsPRChat is REALLY exciting! In just a short period of time, we've been able to start a sports PR community online. There are some incredible sharp people on there, and I hope you can join us!

    I am always willing to chat about social media, sports, etc. My e-mail is michaelgschaffer@gmail.com.

  • Right on, Lauren…it is something that people like, then quickly sour on. I haven't yet seen a sustainable SMS marketing program. And if it isn't sustainable, what's the point? (The one exception is a Baltimore sports news text messaging service I've had for a year or so. Even though I'm just an hour away from home, I need it to stay up to date!)

    It can work as entertainment at concerts. I've been to a few arenas and venues where you can text messages to the jumbotron in between the action. It's a fun diversion, but I'm not convinced it's worth whatever they are paying for it…what's the return for them?

    I really hope we as an industry can figure out ways to make SMS work as an effective marketing tool! Let's get on it! I'll bring the beer.

  • keithtrivitt

    Actually, there are laws that govern how you can conduct a text message marketing plan. The laws are very similar to e-mail blast laws, and are frankly one of the biggest reasons why we have yet to see mass acceptance of text marketing. The laws are unbelievably cumbersome and outdated, and simply getting around them to develop a quality campaign can be a major inhibitor to some companies.

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