Pirates increasing social media team, efforts

By Mark J. Burns

With what the Pirates see as a bright future ahead of them on the field despite currently being in last place in the NL Central, the organization is preparing to capture that future success online and across social media. “We wanted to be able to tell the story of the journey we’re going to go through to become a championship-caliber team on the field,” Pirates President Travis Williams said to SBJ. “We wanted to be able to take advantage of that and have a championship-caliber team off the field in this space to be able to take us there, get our fans engaged and have them come on the journey with us.” That transition ramped up in February as the Pirates separated marketing and sales into two different verticals, hiring Stephen Perkins, formerly of the Washington Football Team, to be Exec VP/Marketing & Fan Engagement. Eight staffers in video production, design, editing, and project management were combined into one centralized content and creative team, in combination with two to three social media staffers, according to Perkins. Pirates VP/Content & Creative Jon Willey joined in April to oversee the restructured group. Once a Dir of Story is added this fall to lead the Pirates’ video efforts, the newly-formed group will approach its full capacity of 13-15 people, Perkins said. “Creative is going to be a place that is really at the epicenter of how we lead as a brand going forward,” he added. “We feel that content is one of the most meaningful ways to build a bridge between your brand and the consumer.”

BIG SPACE TO WORK WITH: At the beginning of April, two large conference rooms at PNC Park were converted into one shared workspace, complete with eight to 10 stand-up style desks to ensure flexibility for the new team, four flat screen televisions to monitor multiple social media feeds and aid in content production and the addition of a creative magnetic whiteboard along one wall. The setup, as Williams described, is similar to one constructed during his prior stops with the Islanders and Penguins. The Pirates are already seeing the fruits of their labor with a 62% increase in engagement rate on Twitter in '21 versus '19 in addition to a 20% year-over-year increase in engagement across all of social media. “We’re going to challenge ourselves to find stories that matter and stories that connect,” said Perkins, who cited the club’s video and creative work around spotlighting Pirates staff assistant Jeremy Bleich pitching for Team Israel in this summer’s Tokyo Games.

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