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#Storyteller: Episode 118 with Carolina Hurricane’s Dan LaTorraca

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He calls it the three P’s: people, process, and planning.

These are Dan LaTorraca’s keys to success. As the Senior Director of Marketing for NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, these are the principles he’s following as LaTorraca and his team get closer to the NHL’s return to the ice. The Canes will play on August 1st in the first NHL game since March 12, the start of a revamped 24-team playoff format.

“From a fan engagement standpoint, it’s what can we take that is special about being at the game, and what can we do to put that on social?” asked LaTorraca. “Is there a way to make a t-shirt toss possible on social media? Are there ways to use our fans and their passion from their couches, or their cell phone videos? Is there a way to leverage something like that and weave it into our content strategy?”

Leading up to puck drop, Dan joins this episode of #Storyteller to chat about how they’re planning to engage fans watching from home, their content strategy for the last 4 months even without live hockey, and how they turned a commentator calling the team ‘a bunch of jerks’ into a marketing hat-trick.

 
On engaging fans during the playoffs:

I do firmly believe that challenge and adversity and limitation do help breed creativity. So our team is constantly talking and ideating and looking at what other people are doing and trying to leap off that to come up with other ideas of how we can engage our fans. We like to keep it simple with a lot of what we do. We think the more complicated things get, the less fans will buy in and understand and adopt it. So there are certain things, the basics, that we’ll do for our normal storytelling. We’ll try to keep that as normal as possible and produce opportunities and inventory for sponsorship sales and all that. From a fan engagement standpoint, it’s what can we take that is special about being at the game, and what can we do to put that on social? Is there a way to make a t-shirt toss possible on social media? Are there ways to use our fans and their passion from their couches, or their cell phone videos, is there a way to leverage something like that and weave it into our content strategy? … Giving our fans a voice and making our fans feel a part of this, that’s what we want to be the ultimate goal. Our fans are with us, and we’re with them. We appreciate and are thankful for their passion.

On building a relationship with your fans:

Sports fandom and passion is about a sense of community and belonging. It’s really important to leverage what properties and platforms we have at our disposal, as part of a marketing and communications department, to build that relationship. That’s something that being engaging and incredibly responsive, answering as many fans as we can, that strategy worked at the Panthers. That strategy worked at the Nets. And that strategy has worked at the Canes. That’s something that I think some corporations and brands may fail to understand the value of using social as a tool to speak with, other than at…it’s the most important thing you can do is truly invest in building a relationship with your fans and your audience. That’s knowing them. That’s understanding, that’s listening, that’s taking notes.

On why the team called themselves ‘a bunch of jerks’:

Nothing galvanizes a fanbase like media criticizing your team when they are dominating. It puts this chip on the shoulder of everyone and it connects everybody. I saw that happening and unfolding in real time, and it was an opportunity we just had to take… Don Cherry went on this rant, this really, really angry rant about these storm surge celebrations, and called us a bunch of jerks. The light bulb went off right there for our team. It was like this is a gift. The first thing I did is I changed our Twitter bio to say ‘we’re a bunch of jerks’. The goal there was we wanted other people to notice that we had acknowledged it, without us just acknowledging it head on. The way Twitter’s algorithm worked at the time, and it still kind of does, is people would screen cap it, and maybe tag us in that Tweet, and we would like that Tweet. So that would filter to people’s feeds without us ever having to make a single Tweet to acknowledge it. It was just there, and just cooking up the whole game.

 

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