Kyle joined the Atlanta Falcons as the team’s social media coordinator this past season (what timing). He graduated from the University of Florida in 2014 with a telecommunications degree. He interned with WFTV and WESH in Orlando while in college. Prior to the Falcons, he worked with the University of Nebraska’s Cornhuskers and George Washington University. Kyle was behind the official Atlanta Falcons Twitter account during the Super Bowl game.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Kyle: When I got into college I decided I wanted to work in sports. In my freshman year of college, I wasn’t super involved because I was a manager for the Florida Gator Men’s Basketball Team. I thought I wanted to go into coaching but I decided that I didn’t. So I got really involved in like ESPN Radio in Gainesville, WUFT, and Gator Vision. I was really involved in pretty much everything you could be involved in when it comes to sports. I’ve always loved sports. I am a super positive, happy person and I could never cover sad breaking news. (As an intern) I was out on a story with a reporter and I saw my first dead body. Right then, I was like there’s no chance I could do this. That just kind of added to my reassurance that I wanted to be in sports. I didn’t know at the time if I wanted to do on-camera news or if I really wanted to work for a team but I decided to work for a team and it’s worked out pretty well.
Q: Would you say the sports journalism field is very competitive?
Kyle: It’s incredibly competitive. I think there’s a lot of people who want to do what you’re doing. My first job was out with the University of Nebraska working for the Huskers. It was one of those things where you had to have such an open mind in this industry. Your first job you better be willing to go anywhere in the country. If you’re going to say, “I just want to stay in Florida,” do something else because you’re not always going to stay where you want to be in this field.
Q: What’d you do over in Nebraska?
Kyle: I went out to the University of Nebraska. I was there two football seasons – so 19 months. I produced video content, kind of like what I did at Gator Vision. Out there is where I really learned about social media. My boss out there was a huge mentor for me. He ran all of the Huskers social media. I was in his office for hours at a time just drilling him with questions. I really found there the intrigue with social media, with the way they interact and engage with fans. I went from there to George Washington University and I was there for 10 months. It was a really good experience for me because I was able to run my own social media/digital media department. But then I got the opportunity to come to the Falcons and I just finished my first season with them.
Q: How did you come across this job?
Kyle: It’s all about who you know. It was actually my roommate. He is a Gator as well. He knew of me. I knew of him. He DMed me one day on Twitter and he was like: Hey man, I see what you’ve been doing at GW. I’d love to just pick your brain and just understand a little bit better of why you’re doing what you do. He was a video intern here at the time with the Falcons. So, we were on the phone for a solid hour and a half. I asked him a little bit about how he loves working for the Falcons. Then, right at the end of the conversation he was like: we have a brand new boss hiring her own department and if you’re interested shoot me a resume and I will at least put it on her desk. Right when I got this job, they brought him in full time. So him and I do all the social. It all kind of worked out well. It’s all about who you know.
Q: Do you think your internships and all of these past experiences helped you to where you are now.
Kyle: I’ll be honest I studied very little social media in college. I really learned most of that out in Nebraska. I think what I absolutely learned and took away from my internships and college was the grind of sports. On game day, it’s a solid 12-15 hour day. I just learned the work ethic that you need in sports. I’ve always had a high sports IQ but as far as the workforce IQ, that’s what I really valued with internships.
Q: Walk me through your first season with the Falcons. What was that like for you?
Kyle: It was a total whirlwind considering I came when the season already started. We had a bunch of new people here and we were really trying to implement our new strategy. It was great – just really trying to connect with our fan bases was very important to us. We have really passionate fans and I think that’s really exciting. We manage all of our social platforms: Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – anything else that comes along. For the Super Bowl, we used Periscope Producer to stream. It’s an awesome challenge trying to figure out what’s best on each platform, what we do best on all platforms, and not doing the same things on each platform. My favorite part is being able to engage with our fans on a daily basis – to feel their emotions whether good or bad. We don’t want to speak at our fans, we want to speak with them. We want to understand how they’re feeling.
Q: Were there any challenges while covering the Super Bowl?
Kyle: I was thinking about it the night before: I’m going to tweet a Super Bowl from an official account and the amount of eyeballs on us is just insane. You want to be really cautious about not having any grammar mistakes at all cause there are so many eyes on you. I really don’t think there was any challenge of working a Super Bowl. There is so much hype around it, but once the ball is kicked it’s just another football game and we had done that so many times. At the start of the season, we were putting our team together and figuring out how to best accomplish things. That was harder to get a really solid workflow down for all of us than the actual Super Bowl because we knew what we had to do and we knew all of our responsibilities.
Q: Well, obviously I have to bring up what happened after the third quarter.
Kyle: Do you have to? *laughs*
Photo courtesy of @AtlantaFalcons
Q: I mean, how do you roll with the punches?
Kyle: The biggest thing is, you can’t be tone deaf. After the game, our fans were in pain. We’re in pain. Our players, our fans, our coaches – we understand that. The day after the Super Bowl we put out one tweet and it was a ‘Thank You, Fans’ graphic. You don’t put stuff to put stuff out. Always have purpose. That was definitely the case that Sunday night – we didn’t put anything out. Our mentions were not fun. I just think it’s one of those things where you always have to gauge the temperature of your fan base. There’s always going to be some highs and there’s always going to be some lows. We weren’t going to ignore our fan base. We were going to give them some space to breathe. Give them some time to breathe. I think that’s important. Even our tone from then to now, it’s not the same as it was the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Two or three weeks later, our fans are still hurting. As much as we are trying to look forward, we are not just acting like the Super Bowl never happened.
Q: Is there any other advice or guidance you have for student journalists?
Kyle: I wouldn’t have gotten any of my three jobs if it wasn’t for networking. I would just say you have to love what you do. I know I really feel that way. The money may not always be there, especially right out of college. The hours may really suck sometimes. We played on December 24 in Charlotte. It is what it is. At the same time, it’s rewarding. If you’re going to find negatives about it, I guarantee you will find twice as many positives. You can have straight A’s out of college, but if you don’t know anybody you’re not getting a job. In my findings, the first job is the hardest thing to get. Once I was in that position, then I was able to network a lot more. Then my second and third job was a whole lot easier to get. Don’t be discouraged if you’re applying for a hundred jobs. I applied for over 150 jobs and I had like three call backs. When you get your first job, work your tail off. It’s not going to be that hard again.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Benzion