October 22, 2014

Josh Rawitch Shares Some Final Thoughts on the Dodgers and Social Media

September 28 isn’t just the last day of the Dodgers’ 2011 season.  After 17 years, it’s the last game that VP of Communications Josh Rawitch will be representing Dodger Blue before he becomes the Senior Vice President of Communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

As a fellow PR guy, I’m really bummed to see Josh go. Always professional, Josh never said no a media request from us, always helped find answers, and helped facilitate some of our favorite stories over the years, including our profiles of team photographer Jon SooHoo and organist Nancy Bea Hefley.  Ona personal level, Josh is just a great guy, and it’s always sad to see an organization like the Dodgers lose a character guy – either on or off the field.

Josh was also a huge advocate of social media, creating and hosting the annual “Blogger Nightsat the beginning of the past four seasons, arranging tours of Camelback Ranch in its inaugural year, coordinating off the record group interviews with Ned Colletti, and even credentialing bloggers for the press box at Spring Training and regular season games.

As he told us back in May 2009, how fans consumer information and show their support for their favorite team is changing. “As we all know, [the] world of information consumption is changing dramatically and as an organization, we recognize that many of you who are dedicated fans also have the ability to speak to other fans around the world,” said Rawitch.  “We want you to be as informed as possible and the best way to do that, as the mainstream media has known for centuries, is with access to those who make news and make decisions.”

We caught up with Josh earlier today and, on the eve of his last Dodgers game, he shared a few thoughts with us on the Dodgers, social media and his favorite memory over the past 17 years with the club:

Having spent 17 years working for the Dodgers, what’s changed the most and what’s stayed the same?

“First and foremost, what’s stayed the same is that it’s a ‘people’ industry. The volume and types of media have changed and the speed at which news is delivered has probably been the greatest change, creating the 24-hours news cycle we now live in. But when it’s all said and done, whether you’re talking to the lead columnist at the main newspaper in town or the local blogger with a tiny following, it’s all about relationships and always has been.“ 

In the social media era, are fans more demanding now?

“I don’t think fans are necessarily more demanding, but their voice has been amplified. Back in the day, they would write letters to the editor or call in to sports talk radio and hope they were heard. Now, they can speak directly to the team and get responses in a matter of seconds, which is hard to fathom. Fans should demand a lot from their teams and we should deliver on what they expect. It’s a basic rule of customer service.”

The Dodgers have certainly had one of the most progressive social media policies in MLB. Will the organization continue these policies next season? And will you look to develop a similar program with the Diamondbacks?

“I’d hate to speak for whoever fills my role going forward, so I can’t really answer that question. And while I hate to avoid the second question, too, I’d prefer to wait until I get a sense of how things operate in Arizona before making any silly declarations. But I can say that it has been a very successful program here in Los Angeles and I have yet to really see the drawbacks to the program.”

Note: I think Arizona bloggers can expect to see a little love, if Rawitch’s past statements are any indication.  In May 2009 he stated, ““…there’s a very exciting buzz online about extending our reach into the world of social media.  As long as our fans are informed and talking about the Dodgers and sharing their passion for the team – the highs and lows – it has the chance to be a really good thing.  In addition, it connects the Dodger brand to fans around the globe (and those who aren’t even fans yet), which is important to us organizationally.” 

I once asked you what MLB thought of you credentialing bloggers for the press box and Pat Courtney responded, “Good for you. Let us know how it goes.” In the 2+ years since then, how has  MLB embraced social media, if at all?

“I think the whole world has embraced social media over the last several years and MLB has absolutely done so as well. In fact, you could argue that Major League Baseball saw all of this coming long before the rest of us because they created MLB Advanced Media back in 2000 and have invested tons of resources into engaging fans online. Then again, the Dodgers were one of the first teams with a website and were winning awards back when I was in college for their online efforts, so I think that this is just a natural progression of the Internet.”

What’s the one memory that you will cherish the most from your time with the club?

“It’s impossible to take almost 17 seasons and pick one memory, but if I had to, it would be the night that we beat the Cubs in 2008 to advance to the NLCS for the first time in 20 years. After the game, nearly the entire front office went to a local bar called the Rustic and took over the place and celebrated together. There aren’t too many workplaces that can spray champagne on one another and feel that sort of camaraderie and that evening will always stand out in my mind. But more than anything, it’s just being a part of the Dodger franchise that I will cherish because this team means so much to so many people and our ability to actually affect people’s lives is something we don’t take lightly. It’s been my favorite part of the job over the years.”

As we turn the page on this season and look ahead to 2012, it will be interesting to see if the new Communications VP continues to build upon the foundation Rawitch has established, or moves in another direction.  Either way, I know I speak for other Dodger bloggers when I say thanks for everything, Josh…you will be missed!