This interview is part of our Sports Jobs interview series where we talk to successful sports business professionals about their role in sports, how they got there, what a typical day looks like and advice they would give to sports business students looking to land their dream job in the sports industry.
Sports Jobs – Peter Stringer – Boston Celtics – Director, Interactive Media
Peter Stringer is the Director, Interactive Media for the Boston Celtics (NBA). Peter wears many hats in his role and has plenty of great advice for sports business students aspiring to work in the sports industry! Check out the interview below and if you have any questions for Peter, please leave a comment below.
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Sports Jobs Interview Series – Transcription
I’m honored to be joined on the phone today by Peter Stringer who is the Director of Interactive Media for the Boston Celtics. How are you doin Peter?
I’m good. How are you?
I’m great. So Peter I wanted to ask you a few questions about the job you’re currently in, how you got there and some advice you would give to other people. So maybe start it off with how you got into this role. What was your path? Maybe go back into your education, your background and where you’re from and all that kind of stuff. Let us know who you are.
Sure yeah. I went to Boston University to pursue a journalism degree and that education led me to an internship with New England Sports Network. Kind of one of those things where I was in the right place at the right time. When I was in school in the late 90’s the Internet was really taking hold and becoming something where people were actually publishing and news outlets and media outlets were kind of setting up shop and becoming publishers in that platform as well. So when the local sports tv station NESN, or New England Sports Network, was looking to set up their site they were looking to take in interns who knew html and I had learned that from a previous internship at a PR firm and have, of course, been a passionate Celtics fan and Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots having grown up in New England.
So it was kind of a right place at the right time. Got the internship and then really kind of sunk my teeth into learning Web development and content writing. So I was coming to the games at the Garden, covering the Celtics and the Bruins mostly, during the Winter and then the Red Sox in the Summer time and little of the Patriots here and there because NESN at the time was owned by the Red Sox and the Bruins. So I spent a lot of time coming to the Garden and covering the events alongside professional journalists as an intern and really there were only a few sites at that point doing that.
So it really gave me a leg up into the sports industry and continued even after I left that job and took a full-time job with NESN after I graduated in ’98. I stayed there for a couple years. Then when I left the full-time job I took a job at Fidelity doing corporate work. I was still freelancing for [NESN] covering some Celtics games and some Bruins games as well. Just using that journalism background in writing and reporting for their site.
Fast forward to 2005, I had been out of sports for a little bit and had been strictly doing professional Web consulting when the opportunity with the Celtics came up. I had gotten to know our PR guy Jeff Twist, who has been with the Celtics for 30 years; a guy that was hired by Red Auerbach, a legend in his own right. He helped me get my resume in front of the people that needed to see it. The job was open and I came on with the Celtics in November of 2005 as their Internet Operations Manager, chiefly responsible for the Web site. That has since changed into being Director of Interactive Media and controlling all of our social media platforms as well as the Web site and all of our digital marketing and social media efforts.
So you touched on people that may have influenced you along the way but is there anyone in particular from a mentorship standpoint that helped guide you to the path that you’re on right now in getting your foot in the door?
Yeah, absolutely. The guy I would point to is the guy that many people in the sports business would point to; you’ll hear this name a lot but a guy named Jack Falla who was a Sports Illustrated hockey writer for a long time. Jack was a professor at BU for sports journalism and I had him for a couple of classes at BU. He was a no-nonsense guy where he’d go to bat for you and try to get you a job in a bunch of different places. We actually were co-workers at NESN, when I was an intern, he was doing freelance hockey work for their broadcast of college hockey and in a bunch of different capacities wrote a column for our site.
So he was a professor, a mentor and co-worker and he spent plenty of time with me trying to hone my craft both in the classroom and out of the classroom as a friend and a mentor. He was somebody I went to for advice if I need advice about a certain job. Then as I established my own foot hole with the Celtics he was the guy that always emailed me about interns and said “Hey I’ve got this kid that would be a great intern for you, can you take him on?” And knowing what I knew about Jack, anyone that came with a recommendation from him I knew was going to be solid. So I did have a couple of kids who were recommendations from Jack as interns and they have gone onto other jobs as well.
There’s countless people across the sports industry; PR, sports PR; that all were disciples, if you will, of Jack Falla and really one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He passed away a couple years ago and it was really tough for myself and a lot of us who were students of his. As a friend and a mentor, he was really just one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with him. He really was instrumental in helping me become a professional in the sports industry.
Yeah it definitely sounds like he was a great man. So Peter let me ask you; you obviously wear many hats within the Boston Celtics organization with the Web site and social media and everything else. Give us a glimpse into what a typical day looks like for you when you get to the office in the morning?
I mean it depends whether it’s a game day, an off day or a practice day. It really depends if the team is home or on the road. So everyday kind of has it’s own little wrinkles to it. For us, really the way we’re communicating with the fan base is through social media. In the past, just a couple years ago, we would be relying on people coming to our Web site, maybe through an email blast to get them to our site. Well now we don’t even have to do that. We can reach them whenever we want by shooting out a blast to Facebook or Twitter. Rather than relying on them to come to us we go to them.
Thats really been a paradigm shift for everyone in sports and brand marketers across any industry or any vertical. Typically we’ll shoot a couple different updates out throughout the day on a game day; it’s a little slower when were not playing. But certainly for us it’s constantly about putting out information, news and in some cases ticket offers. It depends on what’s going on at that specific time. But there’s no shortage of things going on with regards to digital operations for us. I mean it’s really how we connect and communicate with our fan base these days.
And you manage the Boston Celtics fan pages; is that the largest one in the NBA?
The Celtics Facebook fan page is the second largest in sports in North America. There’s only one bigger than that; I won’t tell you who it is but they are our rivals on the West Coast. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.
Possibly, yes. But we won’t mention their name.
So looking back on your transition into this role you’re in right now, is there anything along the way that you possibly would have done differently with regards to internships, education or networking?
I would say that I would have started networking a heck of a lot earlier in my career. It’s really only something I’ve been doing actively the last couple years. The age of LinkedIn and Twitter has changed the game completely and opened a lot of doors for me in terms of having my own Twitter presence, my own blog and my own brand out there. For someone coming out of school in this day and age in 2011, it’s very different than it was when I came out of school in 1998.
I spent a lot of time going to technology based networking events in Boston because I’m one of the few people at the Celtics who is immersed in technology, specifically on the social media side of things. So, I spend a lot of time getting to know the players in the marketplace and city. Because you never know who you may need from a vendor standpoint or a collaboration standpoint, but it also shows you’re enthusiastic about the business.
What are the trends? I think that’s important, especially if you’re going to work on the technology side of any business, you need to be up on what’s going on. That’s a full-time commitment and requires a lot of reading and research and keeping up with trends. I think it’s very helpful to do that through Twitter and through the Internet but also just by talking to people and finding out what they’re working on and what types of things they’re seeing. It helps validate a lot of the things you’ll read online and you’ll find out “Are people really working on these kinds of things?” And generally, the answer is yes. But you’ll see people are taking many different approaches to it and I think that’s helpful for us because we’re not a technology company at heart.
As one of the few people here who really spends their day thinking, living and breathing technology, I think it’s important for me to be ahead of everything and up to date on what’s going on out there. And so, I think that from a networking standpoint, that’s really important. And also I think it’s a different world now, like I said before, networking allows me to keep in touch with my peers, different teams, different leagues and different brands to see what they’re doing. I want to know what people are doing, not only in the NBA, but across the 4 major sports, UFC and WWE. All these big brands that have massive followings and digital fan bases. I want to see what they’re doing and how they’re approaching their fans and they possibly want to know what we’re doing as well.
So I think the networking side of it is something that I wish I had gotten involved with much earlier in my career. Of course, in-person networking, but certainly with technology and social media, now there’s no excuse. It’s just a lot easier than it ever has been at this point.
Is there any advice that you would give to sports business students looking to land that dream job in the sports industry? I know we have a lot of readers on Sports Networker that are students that are essentially trying to break into the industry and they’re just starting to learn how to use these tools from a networking standpoint. Are there any tips for somebody just starting out? So they don’t have a Twitter account yet, they’re not on LinkedIn, what would you suggest?
Well first of all they should be on Twitter and Linkedin.They should also secure their name as a domain name. I have peterstringer.com where I blog about what’s going on in digital marketing and sports marketing and industry. With setting up a blog, it doesn’t matter if you get huge traffic numbers. You need to look at it as an extension of your resume, it is your online resume to build your brand. If you want to get into sports marketing, you want to be thinking living and breathing sports marketing constantly. You want to demonstrate that you have opinions, you’ve written about different things and you’re following the trends. Just by virtue of reading about it, Tweeting about it, blogging about it, you have an inherent advantage because you’ll know the stuff inside out. You’ll start turning up in search results based on what people are looking for.
I didn’t have this coming out of school when I was looking for a job and again, I was kind of in the right place at the right time with the whole NESN gig. But now, I think the students that are going to separate themselves and become contenders versus pretenders are the ones who are really going to put the effort in, learn the craft and understand the business they’re trying to get into. I mean, I think people forget that sports is a business like anything else and openings do not happen often in sports business because everyone wants to work there.
The day I leave this job they’ll have hundreds of resumes for my position. Anytime someone leaves the Celtics, we get a ton of resumes and how do you get to the top of that pile? Well obviously, it helps to know someone at the organization. But, more than that you really have to demonstrate that you’re going to bring something to the table. Being a fan isn’t good enough to get you anywhere. Everyone is a fan. That’s easy to do and that’s easy to claim. But what you have to demonstrate is what you’re gonna bring to the table.
I know when I interviewed here at the time it was really just about managing the Web site and I came in with a plan of how I would revamp their Web site. That’s the type of stuff you have to be able to do to separate yourself and make that distinction. Because, again, you’re going to be up against hundreds of candidates to begin with and if you’re lucky enough to get the interview you might be up against 10 or 15 interviews. So it’s super competitive, everyone wants to work in sports. But, at the end of the day there’s usually only a few that will stand out in interviews and those are the people that organizations are going to gravitate towards and those are the ones we’re going to want to end up hiring.
Really I think the onus is upon students especially because they dont have any professional background. They need to demonstrate what they bring to the table, build their brand, start thinking about these challenges and demonstrate that they understand these challenges that are facing teams today in 2011.
The other side of it, I would say, is to not just focus your search on a specific team or industry. There are plenty of companies that surround the sports industry. Very few kids are going to get into the sports business right out of school. It’s just unlikely, again, based on the competition. If it’s between a student who has no experience and a professional who has worked somewhere else, the professional is probably going to get the nod. I can’t speak specifically on our hiring practices necessarily, but I would say in general terms, you are up against experienced candidates. There are plenty of other businesses that surround the pro and college teams. If you look at a team’s corporate partners, those are great places to start because these are industries that have connections within the sports business. I would always tell people not to be too narrow in their search in terms of getting into the sports business.
It may not be point A to point B, you may have to take a job that maybe isn’t ideally what you want right away, but will help you get to where you’re trying to go to. And, I think that’s something that shouldn’t be lost on kids as they’re trying to break into the sports business.You’re not necessarily going to graduate in May and be working for a sports team in June. It just doesn’t work that way.
Right, right. Great advice Peter thanks very much for that. Now you’re obviously a very social guy yourself and you already mentioned you have a blog so how can people connect with you online?
Sure. On Twitter it’s just @PeterStringer, the blog is peterstringer.com and the LinkedIn is obviously there. Facebook I don’t typically use beyond my small circle of friends, I’m not really a big Facebook guy in terms of public brand. I think those are the places that everyone should be and again if you wanna be a professional in the sports business, especially if you’re trying to break in, those are really important places to be.
Great stuff. Thanks very much for doing this Peter
I appreciate it. Thanks for the time today.