October 25, 2014

Dodgers Host Third Annual Blogger Night; Embrace New Media

Alex, Ron Cey, Chris

The Dodgers get it. I’m not sure that there is another organization in professional sports that gets it the way that VP of Communications Josh Rawtich and the Dodgers get it. 

What the Dodgers “get” is how to engage with bloggers and members of non-mainstream media outlets to expand their outreach into conversations that are happening across the internet. 

Josh and his staff reaffirmed this position when they hosted the third annual blogger night at Dodger Stadium on Monday, July 5th in a luxury suite behind home plate. As with past events, there was a steady stream of Dodger dignitaries that stopped by to engage with the bloggers in attendance, including Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.  Colletti stayed for an hour after commenting that his visit last year ‘felt rushed’ and that he was impressed by the level of questions and discussion at past blogger engagements. 

Ned Colletti

Colletti wasn’t the only front office visitor that the 14 blogs who were in attendance had a chance to meet: Assistant GM Kim Ng, Dodgers legends “Sweet Lou” Johnson and Ron Cey and Dodgers President Dennis Mannion all dropped in for a considerable piece of time to listen and respond. 

Dodgers President Dennis Mannion

The list of blogs represented was also impressive, including many of our favorites, such as Dodger Thoughts, True Blue LA, Sons of Steve Garvey, LA Dodger Talk, and Vin Scully is My Homeboy, just to name a few. These guys were engaged and made the most of their time with Colletti and the others, while also taking time to stay on top of the game that was going on (something Chris and I weren’t able to do nearly as effectively). 

Chris and Sweet Lou

Following are a few thoughts and nuggets of information that were of interest to us: 

Pitching and the Trade Deadline 

Both Colletti and Ng were clear that pitching is their top priority as the trade deadline nears. They didn’t seem to be particularly focused on starting pitching or relievers, but it was obvious that both character and consistency were at the top of their list of traits they were looking for. Ng and Colletti split duties here, and either one might be involved depending on who has an established relationship with the key individuals (player, front office, agent, etc.). 

Digital Media is Growing for the Dodgers 

Chris and I had a great exchange with Josh Lukin who is the Director of Digital Marketing for the Dodgers. Josh started ramping up the digital marketing efforts for the club a few years ago while working on more traditional marketing efforts, but now dedicates most of his time on social media. It’s clear that Lukin is very interested in pushing the envelope in the digital space and leveraging Twitter and Facebook in particular to drive promotional efforts, deliver news and generally get folks more engaged with the Dodgers online. We talked about his recent promotion where he rewarded members of the four new Dodger email clubs with the opportunity to purchase standalone game tickets to the Yankees series before also sending a Twitter broadcast with a similar offer to the team’s followers. Lukin said the ROI on Twitter, Facebook, and SEA engagements have been very strong and that we could expect the Dodgers to do more in this space. 

Continued Blogger Support For Home Games 

The Dodgers are continuing to support a select set of Dodger Blogs with shared credential access to home games – something that MLB and other teams have been very slow to follow-up with on their own. Public Relations Supervisor Amy Summers told me that blogs now cover roughly 30-40% of the home games at Dodger Stadium and that weekend coverage is at almost 100%. She indicated that the Dodgers organization was very pleased with how the program has worked thus far and we discussed the “storytelling” aspect of blogs as compared to traditional journalism. 

Blogger Camaraderie 

Most of us who have been blogging about the Dodgers have met one another a few times over the past three years. What’s most impressive is the sense of mutual respect that runs through the group. Each blog really is unique and has its own slant or type of storytelling, which differentiates it from the others and removes any sense of competition. When we all get together at outings such as this, we share stories, trade insights and generally enjoy one another’s company. It’s a refreshing change from how blogs from other teams or sports interact with one another and something that just seems to have developed amicably. 

Overall, it was a great night in Chavez Ravine. I even saw team photographer Jon SooHoo in the parking lot getting set for a fireworks shot while perched at the top of a ladder (his image is shown below). I’m looking forward to next year’s event and the continued dialogue with both the team and my fellow bloggers in the second half of the season. 

Fireworks at Dodger Stadium - Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers

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Dodgers Bring the Real Field of Dreams to the Fans

Blue Heaven Sleepover

Blue Heaven Sleepover

Ok, so I still think this is one of the coolest opportunities out there for baseball fans.  Get this: the Dodgers are bringing back the Blue Heaven Sleepover and are inviting fans to bring their sleeping bags and sleep out on the outfield grass during the August 14 game against the D-Backs in Phoenix.  The Dodgers will be providing dinner,  breakfast the following morning, and will also allow fans to play catch on the field, followed by a screening of “Field of Dreams” (one of my all-time favorite movies).  Are you kidding me?  Hell, I’d definitely consider going if Friday night wasn’t my birthday.

But the Blue Heaven Sleepover isn’t cheap: $200 for adults and $100 for kids 12 and under.  The event is limited to 500 participants and the deadline to enroll is Monday, August 10.

This experience is part of the DODGERLIFE program which gives fans a way to live the Dodger lifestyle through a series of unique experiences.  There’s also a Jr. Dodgers Dance Team, Jr. Dodgers Training Days and a road trip to watch the team take on the hated Giants in SF.  Pretty cool stuff.

Photo Credit: Amy Matsumoto/LA Dodgers

From the Press Box to the Cheap Seats: What’s Next?

Yesterday’s experience as a credentialed member of the Dodgers media posse was really quite something.  After having a little time to process everything, I’ve come to appreciate the way the Dodgers set this experience up.  They didn’t over-regulate the experience or tell us what we could or couldn’t do.  Rather, they only asked that we represent their point of view in our coverage of the team (which I certainly hope we always do!).  Beyond that, we were free to roam and explore the stadium, the dugout, the press box and the clubhouse.  Follow the lead of the established media and enjoy.  That was it.

Much like Orel from the Sons of Steve Garvey, I’m hesitant to reveal too much, as I don’t want to taint the experience for other blogs that will go through this same process, but I will say that the entire afternoon and evening was truly was an eye-opening experience that gave me a lot of insight and appreciation for what professional sportswriters do an daily basis.  Just sitting in the Dodger dugout at 4:00 p.m. before the game and watching the interactions of the beat writers and reporters with the players, coaches and front office staff, showed close working relationships.  I hope over time that our coverage will indeed benefit from this access in some small way, much as it has for the mainstream media that are with the Dodgers day in and day out. 

When the Dodgers hosted their first Blogger Night, there was a lot to absorb from our conversations with Frank McCourt and Ned Colletti.  Since that time, we’ve learned how to better use the information that we learned, and apply it in a more thoughtful way leading to better writing and content.  Over time, our coverage  of the Dodgers will continue to get better as we spend more time in the press box and with the team.  We’ll transition from taking in the experience to making the most of the opportunity.  I think right now we’re somewhere in the middle of those two points, but I already have big plans for making the msot out of my next trip to the press box.  But when all is said and done, we’ll always consider ourselves fans first, and our coverage will always reflect that passion and intensity for the team, but yet will be kept in check by doing what’s right from a content perspective.  This is an interesting period in time in the world of social media, and I believe the way forward is still being discovered.

One question that I’ve received quite a few times from people is about how we wrere treated by the mainstream media.  The answer is that they couldn’t have been nicer.  In particular, Dylan Hernandez from the Los Angeles Times was a great resource and an even nicer guy, and Kenny and Josh from “Dodger Talk” were their normal easy-going and helpful selves.

Finally, we also learned how many little communities of Dodger fans there are out there!  Let me just tell you that Dodger fans love Twitter, and I’d like to say a special thanks to Alyssa Milano for spreading the word to her fans about our coverage last night.

So for those of you that are new to Dodgerfan.net and just discovered us over the past 24 hours, Alex and I encourage you to keep coming back throughout the season as we continue our dialogue, and we invite you to be part of the conversation.  Check back regualrly and contribute – this is your home, as well as ours.  See you at the Ravine!

Dodgers Credential Bloggers for Press Box; Embrace Social Media

At Dodgerfan.net, we’ve always been interested in the communications side of baseball, as well as what happens on and off the field.  And while the Los Angeles Dodgers have always been  known as one of the most progressive organizations in professional sports, they recently broken new ground in LA (and potentially in the MLB and in other major professional sports), by providing press credentials and full media access to select amateur Dodger bloggers.  What makes this so interesting is that these bloggers are not professional journalists, but rather passionate fans who have developed a forum and following for their opinions and analysis.  I had a chance to talk to Josh Rawitch, Vice President of Communications for the Dodgers, about this intriguing shift in policy.

“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.”

The Dodgers first official engagement with the team’s leading bloggers was in April of 2008 when Rawitch hosted a “Blogger Night” at a regular season game.  The team provided a luxury box as the venue and offered an open forum with owner Frank McCourt, General Manager Ned Colletti and Special Advisor to the Chairman (and Dodger legend)  Tommy Lasorda.  The team followed up with a similar event in March 2009 at the new Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility and then again in May 2009 at the second Blogger Night at Dodger Stadium where Colletti and  Executive Vice President of Creative and Communications Dr. Charles Steinberg answered questions from the bloggers in attendance.

“We have had full support throughout the organization on this from ownership on down,” said Rawitch.  “As you know, the first Blogger Night even presented an opportunity for you all to meet with Frank McCourt, so obviously he and Jamie, our CEO, are extremely welcoming of this new medium, as are Dennis (Mannion, President and CEO of the Dodgers) and Charles (Steinberg).”

Neither the Dodgerfan.net staff nor Josh Rawitch could cite any examples of many other major sports organizations going to such lengths to embrace social media, with the lone exception being the New York Islanders’ “Blog Box” program which, comparitively, is not as extensive as what the Dodgers are unveiling in 2009, as contact to players, coaches and traditional media is limited.  With the Dodgers’ program, the participating bloggers have complete media access and are trusted to act in a professional and respective manner (i.e.: no team clothing or cheering – something that is surprisingly hard to do).

But in the grand scheme of communciations, what does this all really mean?  In my opinion, the Dodgers are embracing all outlets (regardless of medium) that are serious about discussing their brand, and they are providing access and information that allows those of us that communciate about the team to be as  informed and educated as possible.  I can say without a doubt that our stories here on Dodgerfan.net are better as a result of this access, but we go to great pains to make sure that it doesn’t cloud our own editorial decision-making.

Rawitch agrees, “…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.”

Major League Baseball is also watching.  “They were very supportive,” said Rawitch. “Pat Courtney, Vice President of Communications at Major League Baseball, basically said, ‘Good for you…let us know how it goes.’  I’d imagine they’re going to keep an eye on this, as it’s a topic we’ve all talked about regularly at our annual PR meetings for a couple of years now and this is part of the natural progression.”

Regardless of your views on whether or not this is a good thing, it will be very interesting to see how social media evolves and changes the way we communicate as a people.

When asked about the future of social media within the world sports, Rawitch responded, “I really think it’s going to become part of the culture at sporting events to the point where fans on the field will be ‘chatting’ with fans in the pavillions and all around the stadium during games.  It’s already taking place to some extent, in raw form.  But college kids today (and anyone younger than them) have pretty much grown up knowing nothing other than the Internet, and it will be the sports industry’s job to adapt to the way they live their lives, not the other way around.  We have to be cognizant of the fact that not all of our fans will get their information through social media, which is why the traditional media still plays an extremely important role in information dissemination.  But none of us know how how the majority of the world will get its ‘news’ 10 years from now.  I’m just not that smart!”

Maybe not smart enough to predict the future of communication, but smart enough to embrace how people are communciating today, with an eye towards the future - something that all professional sports organizations can appreciate and learn from as they court a younger audience.

Ok, back to the game…

View from the Dodgers' Vin Scully Press Box

View from the Dodgers' Vin Scully Press Box

Dodgers Go 13-0 at Home; Show Bloggers the Love

What a game, eh?  I think what I love the most about this team are the variety of ways they get the job done.  Tonight’s game looked to be a pitchers duel and then bam!, here come the runs. In all fairness, it could have been a lot worse for the Nationals…I think Manny came to the plate twice with the bases loaded, right?

And while the streak is nice, one of the things that I like most about it is that it has fans caring more than they normally do about Dodger baseball in early May.  It was cool to be at the game tonight.   The Kardashian girls threw out the first pitches….Larry King was in the house (giving yours truly a knowing head nod outside the suites)…and Jon Weisman from Dodger Thoughts was there too!

Tonight was also the Dodgers second annual Blogger Night at Dodger Stadium and the turnout was fantastic.  I’m estimating that there was nearly double the attendance of last year, with all of your favorite blogs representing, including Dodger Thoughts, the Sons of Steve Garvey, True Blue LA, Dodger Dugout, The Trolley Dodger and Blue Heaven,  plus some blogs new to the Dodgers scene (or maybe just to me) like LAist (who knew they were this into the Dodgers?), isportsweb.com, Baseball Savvy and Bleacher Bums.  If I left out your blog, drop me a line!  Let’s just say that the Dodgers are building a nice community here based out of respect and mutual admiration.  There is some fantastic writing going on here – check it out.

Big props to PR Guru Josh Rawitch and his team, including Drew and Amy, for their hospitality.  Dodger fans, let me tell you, this team gets social media.  Lots to talk about in the weeks and months ahead, but let me just say now, this is one progressive communications team.  Personally, I’m very excited to be apart of it all, and I can’t thank them enough for the insight they provide to our site and others on an ongoing basis.  The value of perspective is an important thing, and it doesn’t mean we’re “selling out” when we express the Dodgers’ point of view.  Rather, it allows us to create more informed pieces of content that are still anchored in our personal opinions, but are pieces that are also balanced by the other side (whether that’s in print or not).

Anyway, tonight started out with a visit by General Manager Ned Colletti. I wish I had more to report here, but I was stuck in traffic so missed hearing Ned’s reflections on the team.  Next up was Chief Marketing Officer Dr. Charles Steinberg.  As a fellow marketer, I really appreciated this guy’s point of view and his belief in the fans to serve as the guiding light for the franchise.  More to come on Charlie in future blog posts, but he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite front office guys.  Next up was KABC “DodgerTalk” broadcasters Ken Levine and Josh Suchon.  Both guys were great, knowledgeable and very personable.  And if you weren’t aware, Ken and Josh have one of the local bloggers on every Sunday as part of their show.  The Dodgerfan.net guys have heard nothing but great things from their fellow bloggers about the experience and we’re looking forward to sharing our unique point of view later in the season!

Ok, it’s late, but there will be more posts, photos and video from tonight’s game coming tomorrow.  Thanks again Dodgers PR Team – you’re setting a great example for PR in Los Angeles and it’s fun to be along for the ride.  Now let’s go out and make it 14-0 tomorrow night!