By: Travis Gorsch, @tgorsch3
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Katrina Doell, Director of Marketing at Aviator Sports and Events Center in Brooklyn, NY. Katrina was gracious enough to offer up her time and insight in to the importance of knowing who you are talking to, getting skills that are transferrable in industries outside of sports, and sports marketing in a multipurpose venue.
You received your Bachelor’s Degree from St. John’s University in Journalism in 2004. What were your career goals after graduation? Did you ever considering pursuing a Master’s Degree for your profession? Is it necessary?
I was really lucky that I always knew that I wanted to be a sports writer. I pursued that through my time at St. John’s and got very lucky in my last semester to have a professor who was an editor at Newsday in the sports department. Eve Sarris liked me and brought me in for an interview. So before I graduated I was working at Newsday in the high school and local college section. At that point, going back to school wasn’t really an option. There was some significant consideration given to going back to pursue a legal career however. I wanted to use my writing background to possibly become an agent. I wound up being happy at Newsday for three years. When I was at Newsday, I found that telling the stories of athletes as they were becoming stars helped shape my storytelling ability. It helped shape who I became as a writer.
I never really considered pursuing a Master’s Degree. I was fortunate enough to get a job before school ended that set me up for my career. I wouldn’t trade my experiences.
As you said before you began your career as a staff writer at Newsday in 2004. What interested you about high school and college sports?
Getting into Newsday was a bit of a dream come true and a great way to get my foot in the door of the sports industry. I learned a lot about hard work and due diligence. Covering local sports was fun because I got to travel across Long Island to different areas and learn about the different communities.
Your next position was as a Public Relations and Community Outreach Coordinator for Lighthouse Development Group for three years. Here you initiated social media practices and policies when social media was rather new. What were your major challenges in developing a social media presence? What did you learn from this experience?
After all I learned at Newsday, it was time for me to move on. I was always passionate about being a Long Islander and landed a position as the community outreach and PR coordinator for Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project.
The Lighthouse Project was Charles’ vision for transforming the Nassau Coliseum into an economic engine for the county. Through our grassroots approach to gaining support in the community we ran over 200 meetings, and we leveraged the very active Islanders fan base to drive support and to get our message out. We ran a blog, engaged with people on Twitter, and ran a Facebook page. It was very successful and we told the story that the mainstream media was not.
It was really kind of a turning point for me professionally. You can’t count on media coverage on such a hotbed issue. It would be a good strategy to have a blog to tell our side of the story. There was information that would often get overlooked so we wanted to make sure it was out there in some capacity. Whenever Charles was having a press conference I would use that and create hashtags for that. I wanted to get everyone in a group where they could go to ask a question to people that felt the same way, so on top of the Facebook page, we had a group. There was always someone from our organization that was monitoring the page/group. We bridged the gap between the people that wanted information and to discuss it with their community. It took on a life of its own after that. People felt like there was a real opportunity to have this conversation. If the people are talking we have to be a part of the conversation. It was community management 101.Personally, I took to social media to build connections in the industry. Those folks trusted our message and help support us as well.
During your time at Lighthouse Development Group you worked closely with the New York Islanders. Later on you would end up working for the Islanders as a Digital Media Manager. Can you talk about the importance of relationships in the sports industry? How did this position come about?
After things died down with the Lighthouse Project, I was promoted to Digital Media Manager of the New York Islanders. I was very lucky to be the first person at the team to hold this position. I feel that my passion for the organization and my talent were greatly rewarded. The team gave me a lot of opportunity.
In terms of building relationships, always know who you are speaking to. Do your research. Know who people are. Be aware of what they are saying, listen, and engage. Before meetings I always do research to know who is in the room. If you don’t know who you are talking to, be humble and ready to learn. That level of respect goes a long way in making a first impression.
In my time with the Islanders I met people from the NHL, other NHL clubs, etc. To this day I remain connected to most of those people. When other jobs come up we are able to pick each other’s brains and help each other. It’s great to have an industry knowledge base of people you enjoy talking to.
You moved outside of the sports industry to North Shore-LIJ Health-System, which sells health system products as a digital strategist and producer. Can you talk about the benefits of getting skills outside of the sports industry and how they can apply to jobs in the sports industry and visa versa?
I left sports for the opportunity to work at one of the largest health systems in the United States. At North Shore-LIJ, I was a part of a team that was built to specialize in digital media and strategy. As much as I thought I knew about social strategy and content distribution, I learned even more working on a specialized team. North Shore-LIJ also taught me the importance of project management. Develop a strategy, understand the personas that make up your customers and target audiences, and execute with a team approach.
I am proud that I was part of a team that redesigned our website in under twelve months. It was one of the most important projects in my career. As much as I wanted to get back into the sports industry I needed that time at North Shore to further develop my leadership skills. That was my main goal.
Your current role is with Aviator Sports and Events Center as a Director of Marketing. What is the difference between marketing a multi-purpose venue that draws multiple sports rather than marketing something such as the New York Islanders which focuses mainly on hockey?
I am so happy to be at Aviator Sports and Events Center. It’s a very special place that over 1 million people from across the tri-state area visit. In my first six months, we set a 100 day plan and identified some KPIs. I wanted to set the tone of accountability and empower the team to learn from missteps. Marketing is not a perfect science and when you are dealing with as diverse a customer base as the one we serve, there are going to be pain points.
We are developing and implementing an integrated strategy, putting the emphasis on branding and engaging the community. To deliver on these strategies, we are thinking out of the box. Aviator has a strong community base, but there is so much room for growth and my initial tactic is to drive the messaging bearing the perspective of the customer. One of our biggest initiatives is to take advantage of all the activity at Aviator to create content. We will be doing more content marketing in the future.
I find Aviator very similar to North Shore-LIJ. There are multiple layers of businesses, just like service lines. Aviator is the brand and the umbrella to all the layers. We need to help people define what Aviator means to them and then introduce them to the layers.
Aviator is home to the new NWHL’s New York Riveters. Can you talk about this experience and how it was different than your experience with the NHL?
As a hockey fan and as a woman in sports I’m pretty excited that Aviator Sports and Events Center is a part of making history. It’s something that’s going to do a lot for women in hockey in this community. Working with Dani Rylan, the General Manager of the Riveters and the NWHL, has been fun and interesting. Planning different events with the PR staff. It has been a fantastic experience.
Since I don’t deal with the team on a day-to-day basis, I would be remiss in making comparisons. I will say that the players are all class, and that’s been my experience in both the NHL and with the NWHL. There is though, an obvious difference in how the league will be marketed. As an upstart league, they will rely heavily on digital and PR. Other traditional marketing that requires big budget is going to be cost prohibitive. Fortunately the hockey audience are savvy communicators in the digital space, so they should be fairly receptive.
What advice do you have for students and young professionals interested in PR, Marketing, and Social Media?
Work hard and be a sponge. You never know how any situation will teach you something important.
Take the road less travelled and when you look back, be happy that you did it.
We would like to thank Katrina for her time and insight and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors!
This interview is another edition of "Winning Edge Wednesday" in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry. If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.