This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration.
By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden
Front Office Sports is honored to have sat down with Lynnea Phillips, Social Media Coordinator for the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Colorado State University-Pueblo and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Recreation and Sport Administration (Sport Media and Branding) from Western Kentucky University.
She burst on the social media scene three years ago, but has already made a huge impact. While she was in undergrad, she originally came into school as a marketing major. She quickly changed her major to history and went through her first two and a half years of school as a history major. In her first year, she landed a job in the athletic department, working in sports information. Her motivation was a managerial position she held in high school and her passion of being around sports.
“Why not continue what I like doing in college and get paid for it?”
Because CSU-Pueblo is a Division II school, they only had five or six full-time people on the administrative side. There was only one sports information director, so Lynnea had the opportunity to do many different things such as taking stats, running the scoreboard, calling games, playing music and eventually moving into social media.
“In 2009, when I started school, social media was the big thing athletic departments were starting to embrace.”
The sports information director she worked for was an alumnus of the school, who had majored in Mass Communication.
“He told me about the program and I wasn’t having too much fun as a history major. I ended up switching majors [in] the summer before my junior year. I was still able to graduate on time.”
When she was nearing the end of her time in school, she started applying for jobs and ended up applying for an internship with the NCAA.
“The reason why I came across it is was because my senior year, our football team was really good and made it to the Division II playoffs. I was looking for articles the NCAA had written about our football team and came across the internship, which I’d never heard of.”
She applied and got an interview for one area, but didn’t receive the internship offer. While she was there, she caught the eye of someone else in another department. When the NCAA started interviewing for that position, they called and flew her out to Indianapolis. She received the internship and worked as a postgrad intern with the NCAA in Member and Student-Athlete Affairs for a year. She worked with the Accelerating and Academic Success Grant Program, a grant program for limited resource NCAA institutions.
When she finished her internship, she got the job at UNC and started working in August 2015, the Wednesday before football season started, to be exact.
In her mind, social media is fairly new, but there are so many different ways that sports organizations approach it. The job roles of marketing, compliance and communication are often similar across the board. Social media is similar, but how organizations operate the platforms is completely different depending on the school or sport.
“Because there are different ways to approach it, I’m not sure if there’s a way to track or measure who’s doing a ‘better’ job at social media. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how departments stack up against others.”
When she went to college in 2009, she started working with social media when athletic departments were just starting to own their message. Before that, schools were relying on news outlets and other sources to share their news and story.
“Social media has not only given athletic departments control of their own message, but also athletes and coaches can use a voice and tone they may not have been able to convey to people.”
Because she is the first person dedicated to social media that UNC has had, she is able to chart the course. She interacts with coaches, student-athletes, compliance, communications, university’s social media team; she has touch points all across the university. She loves that she gets to go beyond athletics.
When asked about her favorite social media app, she responded, “Twitter hands down. Twitter switched from a social network app to a news app. News hits Twitter before any other social network, so people can interject their opinions, good or bad.”
She loves the community that Twitter creates along with the real-time aspect because it rivals every other social network platform.
She’s still in the process of completing her Master’s degree, but her coursework has been very similar to what she did in undergrad, but she believes having a Master’s in athletics sets you a part. Even though she didn’t have a GA position in grad school, she thinks it’s very beneficial for people who want a career in athletics. It’s important to either have a learning experience such as an internship like how the NCAA internship was for her. She recommends being a GA or a postgrad intern because it helps you get experiences in business you don’t usually get if you’re in undergrad helping out the athletic department.
“If you’re lucky enough to get a job right out of school in an athletic department doing something you want to be doing, can serve as a good learning experience. Getting experiences like that out of undergrad is important.
“There’s no cookie-cutter path to grad school. Some people are successful not having a Master’s degree or take a year off and do an internship or a fellowship first. Whatever a person decides to do, it needs to work for them.”
Starting out in undergrad as an intern, there were only two women on the administrative side in Colorado State-Pueblo’s athletic department. As far as being the only female intern, it’s something she has been used to.
“It’s a reality, but I don’t necessarily say that as a negative thing because that’s what I’ve always been around. When I was an NCAA intern, there was a lot of diversity. I know that isn’t realistic of a lot of athletic departments. The percentages in my intern class were very different than the athletic departments my cohorts went in to after the program. Being aware of that, I always try to mentor and lead any of the female interns we may have to help and support them in this male dominated field.”
She is a member of National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) and when she was a NCAA intern, she got to go to the NACWAA convention which was amazing because it is the hub of women in athletics.
“It was empowering and uplifting to see so many successful women in this field. It takes you out of the day-to-day reality of being a small percentage of the people who are represented in an athletic department. Being aware and able to help out and mentor the next generation. In NACWAA they call it, ‘lift as we rise.’”
Her advice for anyone breaking into the sport industry is to get involved as early as possible and say yes to things. The more opportunities, the more exposure to the field.
“Take internships, even if you don’t get paid for them. Figure out what you want to do and don’t want to do.”
She also stresses the importance of networking with as many people as you can. Find people to rely on and talk to. Networking is much more than collecting business cards and having a conversation with a person one time.
“This business is relationship driven. Not only network with the people who have the job you want or at the company you want to work at, but also with your peers because those are the people in the business who are going to grow right along with you.”
Professional development is important, even if you’re a student with a packed schedule. Get involved in Twitter chats, read, learn, converse with others.
“If you can go to NACDA, NACWAA, CoSIDA or any other conventions, that’s an important piece. Getting out there and growing yourself is definitely important.”
This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration.