A new initiative we’re going to try this year at High Heels & High Sticks is to have a bimonthly feature called Women’s Hockey Wednesday. Starting off today is a Q&A with the woman behind @NWHL, Savanna Arral.
Full disclosure: Savanna is a friend of mine, but I’m still very grateful she was able to take the time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer some questions over email about what it’s like to work for a startup women’s league and what it means to do communications for a sports league. We’re hoping to get similar Q&As done in the next couple of weeks, but for now, some behind the scenes:
What is your exact title and your duties at the NWHL?
My title is Director of Communications. I’m in charge of social media, digital content (website, etc.), online marketing, and public/media relations. I supervise our writers, graphic designers, and team social media and marketing staff.
How did you get involved with the league?
I reached out to Dani through a friend via Twitter last April, and she started me off by having me run the Boston free agent camp! I moved to NYC for the summer and took over all the league and team social media and content creation.
How many minions do you have at your command?
Currently… 12. That includes PR interns, social media interns, a stats intern, writers, and graphic designers. We’re in the process of hiring interns for the fall right now.
What is the overriding ethos regarding the message and tone of NWHL social media accounts, etc?
For the league, we want to be professional, but fun. Social media is a marketing tool, for sure, but it’s also a way to build true relationships with your fanbase, and we don’t want to squander that. I want each of the teams to have their own voice and personality, but remain tied to their identity as a pro hockey team. Trash talk, within limits, is highly encouraged 🙂 We learn as we grow, and we change things up when necessary.
What’s a typical day like? (I realize there probably isn’t such thing as a ‘typical’ day but…ballpark it.)
I get to work, get more coffee, email my remote staff, chit chat for a few with my in-office staff to see where they’re at on any projects, and zero my inbox for anything that came in overnight. I try to stop checking email around 11PM every night, but the key word there is “try”.
I may have interviews to coordinate between players and media, event planning to work on, data collection from digital marketing efforts, or a new announcement to get out that day, in addition to the daily social media and website content.
What are some of the biggest challenges involved in being a part of a new league?
Everyone wants us to be perfect from day one. All of our struggles are public and right there for everyone to pick apart, and some people find joy in trying to tear us down. We’ve found a lot of solace in sticking together as a family.
I know you work crazy intense hours. What’s your morning routine to get yourself psyched for the day?
Coffee. I drink so much coffee, it’s so bad for me, but I do it anyway. I have more of a wind-down routine than a morning routine, to be honest, mostly because I hate mornings and I wake up late every single day.
Who is the person you were most starstruck by?
I don’t have time to get starstruck! Honestly, I can’t think of anyone. I tend to give a lot of attention to the little kids who bring signs to the games and such, though, they make my day.
Maybe AJ Mleczko, who did a few games with us on NESN. She’s an inspiration. I want to be as cool as her when I grow up.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve had to explain about social media to a player/coach/etc?
People think that social media and PR are easy jobs because all you have to do is “send a tweet,” but there’s a lot more than goes into an announcement than that! I think the funniest thing is how people refer to social media platforms— The Facebook, Tweeter, etc. Or ask me why I’m always on my phone and not watching the games…
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love seeing the fans fall in love with our teams, players, and this sport. Every time a new person tweets that they just discovered us or sends a picture of their baby/dog/disgruntled husband wearing their NWHL gear, my heart grows a size bigger.
Any particularly funny stories you can share?
In Japan, we almost lost Jenny. I’ll just leave that one there.
And lastly, what have been the biggest triumphs in this job, personal and otherwise?
I spent the inaugural season living in Boston Monday through Thursday, and New York Friday through Sunday. I finished a college degree (ed note: she’s being a little modest here: she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Harvard this past spring) while working full time on this league, and seeing the explosion of popularity we’ve gone through has been a trip. I’m proud of all the hard work we’ve done behind the scenes that gets overlooked by the mainstream media. There have been a lot of naysayers, and we never let them really get us down.
Savanna can be found at @savannaarral. Join us in a couple weeks for Q&As with other comms gurus!