Winning Reputation, on and off the Court: How Kansas U Uses Media Intel
“Maintaining a national presence is key to us. Meltwater enables us to easily watch brand mentions, as a whole, so we can stay focused on what it takes to develop a winning communications strategy.” – Todd Kober, Kansas Athletics
There are benefits to being a well-known brand. Todd Kober, Associate Athletics Director/Executive Director of External Branding at Kansas Athletics knew this when he started at the University of Kansas in 2013. The 5-time national champion men’s basketball team has one of college sports’ most recognized logos with a well-known battle cry, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!” Given KU’s standing in college sports, the athletics department has an advantage over other universities when it comes to brand awareness, but even with a championship reputation, brands need to be groomed and nurtured for continued success.
In 2013, Kober arrived at the University of Kansas to head Kansas Athletics’ communications. At the time, the department still cobbled together reporting on their publicity efforts by performing daily Google searches. Before implementing Meltwater, tracking coverage—and building momentum—on multiple storylines meant having one staff member spend mornings googling for articles mentioning KU athletics and then cutting, pasting, and sorting these into emails for reporting. It was a time-consuming task that provided little insight into how to manage media attention and didn’t surface the marketing department’s impact on coverage.
Additionally, relationships with journalists were not always strategically systematized. The communications department lacked in-depth, comprehensive research into the coverage that fellow Big 12 Conference teams were receiving or trending topics, essential background research for placing stories in front of journalists. Since the outreach and reporting efforts of the communication department were limited, it was hard to see if and when they had publicity wins. Not adequately tracking wins was frustrating to staff that knew their outreach was yielding results; though quantifying those wins remained elusive.
Kober knew that Meltwater’s reporting would allow the department to monitor story pick-up and spread the word of their publicity efforts. “Week in, week out, our staff focuses on the storylines that we want to pitch to reporters. With Meltwater, we can monitor the success rate of the pitches we make, and then refine our approach accordingly.” It’s been a boon to Kansas Athletics to makes use of the reporting function to track the articles, topics, and social media chatter to put together statistics for administrators. Beyond using Meltwater for listening, this reporting feature with accompanying graphs and statistics is attractive to a data-preferring athletics department.
“The best way to show what (the communications staff) is doing to the entire administration is to demonstrate (via statistics and graphs) the earned value of our activities. We create quarterly reports with Meltwater for the administration, and there’s no doubt about the quantity and quality of the exposure we get,” says Kober, when explaining an important reason he implemented Meltwater at Kansas Athletics.
Using Outsight Insight allows Kansas Athletics to monitor media mentions of their competitors in the Big 12 Conference; it’s an easy way to take the pulse of the industry. In doing so, they can see what type of improvements they’re making in earned media as it pertains to their competitor’s comparable coverage. Using this information, they can adjust their efforts to make sure they retain a competitive advantage.
“Even in communications we are competitive.” says Kober, “We monitor our media placements and hits and benchmark against other members of the league. Meltwater helps us keep our friends close and our enemies even closer.”
Successfully managing the sentiment surrounding Kansas Athletics is crucial in communication efforts to amplify positive stories. By acting on stories and newsworthy items surfaced by their media monitoring, Kober’s team is seeing an improvement in employed media. Ultimately, their goal is to build pride among the university’s students, employees, and alumni; giving students and athletic recruits extra incentive to sign on. Or as Kober put it, “…explain to everybody why it’s great to be a Jayhawk.”