It's just past 7pm on a brutally cold January night in Edmonton.
I get settled in my chair in the Rogers Place press box, open up my MacBook, place my stats sheet next to it and take a swig of my pre-game coffee. My Oilers are hosting a huge matchup tonight against the provincial rival Calgary Flames. For the first time in a long time, both teams are in a playoff spot. The Battle of Alberta is back. It's going to be fun.
As I look around the arena and down at my laptop, I can't help but think about how basically none of my current surroundings even existed a decade or so ago when I was finishing up journalism school and embarking on my professional career.
This arena – or even the notion of a new downtown facility to revitalize the city – certainly didn't exist.
Twitter and Facebook, the two biggest social media networks on which I spend countless hours every day, were in their infancy of creation.
Instagram and Snapchat, the two fledgling platforms that have turned the big two into the big four, were still several years away.
Heck, my iPhone – also known as my lifeblood – had barely even been invented.
Generally speaking, digital media was just hitting the mainstream.
In just 10 years, the Oilers went from having one person managing their website, to employing a crew of more than a dozen. Our multi-faceted digital newsroom (web, mobile, social, video) is able to fulfill sponsorship commitments, execute marketing campaigns and, most importantly, feed the intense hunger of the fans for content about their favourite team.
Who'd have foreseen this digital revolution? Certainly not a naive rookie sports reporter looking to carve out a career in print journalism.
Versatility and adaptability are the two traits I've come to value and appreciate most as a digital media professional. I'd love to say I did everything perfectly and was able to evolve as quickly as my industry, but that quite simply wasn't the case.
I thought I could make a career out of just being a writer. I couldn't have been further off the mark.
I went from being the editor of a newspaper that barely used its website and just started a Twitter account, to the communications manager of a junior hockey team and professional baseball team that were hopping on the social media bandwagon, to a role dedicated exclusively to social media, in the span of 13 months.
In order to succeed in digital media, you've got to be a jack of all trades and master of most.
Writing, editing, photography, videography, website management, marketing savvy and even business acumen are all pillars of my day-to-day professional life. What allows our Oilers digital department to thrive is our multi-faceted, multi-talented staff.
"In order to succeed in digital media, you've got to be a jack of all trades and master of most."
- Ryan Frankson
It's amazing how well a team can function when everyone understands each others' roles, even if you're only focusing on one primarily. When your videographers understand social media, when your writers also manage your website, that cohesiveness creates a well-oiled machine. Pun intended, in my specific case.
This extends outside our department as well, as we team up with our corporate sponsorship group to execute partner activations and provide return value for the various investments in our company.
We strive to bring all parties into the initial conversations surrounding a digital campaign with one of our corporate partners. The most successful activations come from having the social media department, video producers and website editors involved during the planning portion, not just the execution phase, so they can provide expertise and guidance relating to their specific mediums.
Working in professional sports, particularly in the digital media sphere, can be quite demanding and time consuming. During the season, there is no standard work week, no set hours. You just go and keep going until everything gets done. But in addition to tackling everything on my plate on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, I have to keep my future in mind and continue to partake in activities that further my professional development.
It would be nice to simply shut things down and coast through the summer months. But this is prime time for honing skills and gaining knowledge. In addition to dedicating time each day to peruse industry blogs and newsletters, I try to attend one or two major digital media conferences per summer in order to cultivate new contacts throughout the industry and continue to diversify my skill-set.
The biggest piece of advice I continually give to students or recent graduates looking to establish themselves in digital media is to cultivate experience by any means possible. Specifically in sports, there are so few permanent, full-time opportunities available, so it may take a few internships, a couple of contract positions and perhaps some relocating to build that experience base.
Nothing is more valuable than hands-on growth, and no opportunity is too small or obscure to sink your teeth into and treat like it's the big leagues. I've watched an industry completely change right before my eyes and battled to keep up with the curve. With new digital platforms and technology emerging every day, the revolution is ongoing.
You've got to stay hungry, focused and committed in order to maintain your spot in the lead pack.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Frankson is the Director of Social Media & Publications for the Edmonton Oilers.
After 10+ years’ experience in journalism, public relations, communications and social media,
Ryan now manages one of the NHL’s most influential and engaged social media portfolios.