Pat Donahue tells Yahoo Sports’ @wyshynski about the @LAKings #SMSports Voice

Last weekend at South By Southwest, Yahoo Sports hockey writer Greg Wyshynski chatted with Los Angeles Kings Director of Digital Media, the guy behind their well-known Twitter account @LAKings, Pat Donahue.

Donahue (@patatack on Twitter) discussed the development and evolution of their social media personality and strategy, responding to trolls, representing a major brand on social media, the future of digital media in sports, and more. The conversation was also full of some fun and interest anecdotes and jokes.

I would highly recommend you listen to the full podcast.

Here are some quotes that stood out to me from Donahue. Also, check out some of the insights he offered on one of the panels at South By Southwest Sports, as seen in our Twitter recap of #SXSports.

On the @LAKings social media personality

“I think Twitter is too PC and boring…I’d like for people to start having more fun.

Last year, we really had fun with (our opponents’) fans…Game 7 in Chicago, I knew who all their fans were that were going to tweet us and I knew how to respond and how to engage those people…”

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On how @LAKings Twitter personality has evolved since 2011-12

“It was much snarkier (then) and much more (me) writing jokes…I just liked making people laugh…I genuinely just liked people responding and saying we were hilarious…”

(Also notes big increase in followers as a result; more people to receive marketing and sponsorship and sales messages)

(Compared to more snark in 2011-12) “Now (the @LAKings account is) a lot more fun and (has) more an appreciation of hockey and the game.”

(Kings mascot, @BaileyLAKings) “Bailey is a perfect example…His Twitter feed is his personality and it completely fits in with our brand.”


On the @LAKings getting recognized for their Tweets

“It’s great when…There’s 30 (NHL) teams and the LA Kings aren’t (often) mentioned…It’s nice to be relevant. But we don’t want to be negative media. We want to (get) positive (media attention). That stuff is great. I mean I’ve had 4 tweets on SportsCenter.”

(Pat also tells story of meeting Pete Cashmore of Mashable, who was impressed to meet him, the guy behind the @LAKings Twitter feed)


On balancing the personality with being a bit thoughtful and careful with their tweets

“Its a case-by-case kind of thing…Luckily, I’ve never (done) something so overboard…If I ever write something that I think I might need to send someone else to see [prior to posting], that’s the first sign I don’t need to send this…(Laughs) I’ll send this to @TheRoyalHalf and (he’ll) post this.

There are these people that look for outrage…and they get so passionate and riled up about stuff that they don’t understand on the Internet.

It’s tough where we represent huge brands. It’s not just me on my (personal) Twitter account laughing about jokes.”

We’ve probably apologized [for tweets] twice in four years…You have to look at it from a bigger sense of something will happen (and) we’ll have to have these meetings about ‘Did we cross the line?”

A lot of stuff gets taken out of context, which is tough on Twitter…It’s part of a three-hour game. I probably have over 200 tweets (during the game), but now there’s one that gets screen-shotted…I have to have the wherewithal to say ‘This might be taken out of context. I need to make sure it’s OK by itself, which is really hard…

You have to look at the volume [of response]. If we say something and 100 people respond…then we have to look at it…If two people are really upset about it, I have to be able to look at the bigger picture and understand that our fans aren’t offended…”

You have to look at the volume [of response]. If we say something and 100 people respond…then we have to look at it

On how he uses 1-on-1 communication on social media to deal with difficult situations on Twitter

I’ve often DM’ed someone and said ‘Hey man, this was a joke and (what you said) was way overboard.’

We get a lot of stuff that’s super homophobic or super racist and I respond to it…And if (our followers) go ahead and attack that person, good. That kind of stuff doesn’t need to be on the Internet…And a lot of times, then, they apologize…If I don’t respond to it, maybe that person doesn’t recognize what they’re (saying) is wrong.”

(Awesome anecdote from Pat on an encounter with TMZ trying to ask him about Slava Voynov, Kings defenseman on trial for sexual assault)

I have to have the wherewithal to say ‘This might be taken out of context. I need to make sure it’s OK by itself’

On how the @LAKings work with blogger @TheRoyalHalf, who also writes for team website

(Former Kings digital exec) “Dewayne (Hankins) and (@TheRoyalHalf) struck up a deal a while ago…We have kind of cultivated how it works…We like him writing for our website. He sits next to me in the press box and we’ll bounce jokes off each other…We work like he’s a member of the media that I’m just closer with…I’d rather have him write for our site because he does something so different (from traditional media)…”


On traditional media becoming ‘boring’

“I want someone’s opinion on the game. Someone’s opinion I value…(newspapers) are [just] a box score…It’s boring. I watched the game, I get it…There is some sort of personality to it, which is what we’ve done with social, that a lot of bloggers and writers do that traditional media just does not.”

On @LAKingsInsider, Jon Rosen

“Jon is very professional on what he can and can’t say. It’s fantastic that we have our own media…We have Jon in the room, who probably has even better relationships (with team staff and execs)…It is a very collaborative effort.”

On what’s next in social media and sports for @LAKings

“I don’t want to take things to Snapchat, (but) they’re going to Snapchat…Our players are using Snapchat…And our players don’t use Twitter (much).
It looks like it’s staying around….I could see on a game day, we could put together a Story from morning skate until the game and put together a cool video piece…(Fans) want to see (content) immediately. Any way we can get things (to fans) quicker or live (is good)…”

On hockey and virtual reality

“…And the VR [virtual reality] stuff is really cool. I’ve used Oculus and it’s incredible. I want to get [Oculus products] to a game and just see how it works…It feels so real…
The only thing is ‘Are you going to sit at home with goggles on?’”

“What’s cool is the NHL likes to be the first (to try new things)…Even during intermission, (I could see) come and watch a goal from the Stadium Series (outdoor game).

I think there’s a long way to go for (VR) in broadcasting…(notes limitations of what Kings can do due to content and media rights and limitations, still. Also cites bench cam used by Fox Sports West and locker room cam used in Australian Hockey League, AIHL).”


On the anachronistic nature of ratings and reach in traditional media measurement

“It’s crazy to think (that) a fan in Los Angeles can’t watch our games online…There is so much money you can make from subscriptions to sponsorship…I don’t have a cable subscription, I watch it all online. That’s how it works now…(TV media) is such an archaic industry.

In the playoffs, we can look at Nielsen (numbers)…We’ll have more people tweeting about the game than people watching it (per Nielsen). How does that make any sense? (People) are at a bar watching or don’t have a Nielsen box.”

The LA Kings have enjoyed years of success in social media, coupled with their success on the ice, including two Stanley Cup victories since 2011-12. All along the way, Donahue (and, before going to the Trailblazers to become their VP of Digital Media, Dewayne Hankins) cultivated and thoughtfully laid out the LA Kings unique personality and strategy. It has since become a much imitated style of social media nearly omnipresent in sports. As Donahue says at the outset, it’s about having fun and earning more attention.

Editor’s note: For more insight into @LAKingsInsider, check out the podcast I did with Jon Rosen last year on his role with, and coverage of, the Kings as an internal beat writer.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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