An Inside Look at the @ChicagoBears with Director of Social Media Jen Tulicki

Coming up on her fourth year with the Chicago Bears, Jen Tulicki has been a part of a digital team that is known as one of the best in sports.

The @ChicagoBears have a distinguishable voice that is a mix of whit and clue that will keep fans both entertained and informed. Their content is among the most appealing out there, both from a graphic standpoint and from video. Not only is their digital team highly regarded by Bears fans, but many around the business regularly sing their praises.

This is why I decided to reach out to Jen. As the Bears’ Director of Social Media, not only has she led the @ChicagoBears to become one of the most engaging accounts in all of sports, she’s done so at a time when the Bears weren’t all that competitive on the field.

Jen is your favorite social media director’s favorite social media director. I’ve also learned that she’s one of the most personable in the biz.

Here is just some of the most recent content from the Bears that caught my attention:

Here’s what Jen had to say about social strategy:

1. The @ChicagoBears are one of the most respected social teams in sports for good reason — your creative content and voice seem to continually raise the bar. From your Twitter account’s wit and humor to the sharp graphics and videos like the schedule release video this year, your content catches the eye of so many people. How do you and your team continue to find inspiration?

Living and breathing social media as myself and our team does it’s easy to find content that inspires and motivates us every day just by keeping a close eye on the social landscape. Sometimes it’s simply a hot internet meme, other times it’s a fresh idea, spin, narrative or killer execution from another sports club, brand or media outlet.

But that’s basically stating the obvious. What truly inspires and motivates me are the people we do all of this for, the fans. When you absolutely nail a graphic or a piece of content that gets the fans talking, sharing their excitement and buzzing about the season those are the things that make me say “Ok, how can we do that again and how can we do it better than the last time?” That can put a lot of pressure on the team and at times can feel like a daunting task (especially when things aren’t going right on the field) but something that helps keep it all in perspective for me is that, we are fans ourselves. Every day I consider myself lucky to have a job that allows me to be a fan and I try to never lose sight of that.

We enjoy and celebrate the highs with our fans and we endure the lows with them. Approaching our content from the fan perspective allows us to create compelling content that is shared in an authentic and genuine voice and tone. Being the voice of the fan and the Chicago Bears isn’t always easy, it’s a very fine line we walk (and sometimes cross… lessons-learned) but it’s at the heart of everything that we do.

2. After another successful season for your digital team, many industry professionals are likely looking at the @ChicagoBears as one of the benchmarks in social (for instance, Dan LaToracca named the Bears the 2017 NFL Social MVP). What are some of your team’s goals and priorities this offseason that will help sustain the same level of success?

First of all, Dan is too kind and the work he’s done over the years at both the Panthers and the Nets certainly falls in the inspirational bucket discussed above.

One of our overarching goals this offseason and throughout the season is to listen more closely to our fan base so that 1. We can ensure we’re creating content with them continually in mind and 2. Do a better job of engaging with those that are engaging with us.

After all, social can’t be social without conversation. It’s not talking at, it’s talking with. It’s a two-way street. It’s fostering and building connections through a community and while most people in the social media biz understand the importance and benefit of 1:1 engagement it’s often the first thing that goes out the window when you’ve also got to account for strategy, creation, promotion, and analysis.

UMBC’s Cinderella run on both the basketball court and Twitter is a great reminder of how important it is to listen to what people are saying to you and about you. Some of their best content during those games came by way of listening to conversation around their team and subsequently from quote tweeting media or engaging with fans. Those conversational interactions made people take notice, drove engagement and UMBC’s Zach Seidel smartly ran with it. He embraced the moment and let the fan in him not only join in but shine.

We’re going to be prioritizing another person in the press box with us this season to monitor game day conversation and hopefully that allows us to drive more 1:1 engagements and create more quick-turn in the moment content as well as graphics and content that is born out of ideas stemming from conversation.

Another goal I’ll quickly throw in is to stretch our content and really maximize what’s working for us by continuing to consider different use cases across platforms and different ways of slicing and dicing video. How can the long-form, time-consuming content we capture and create be repackaged and repurposed strategically or when an opportunities arises? Those are conversations our team is continuing to have on a regular basis.

3. Digital media has so many different components to it and there’s no one formula to get it “right”. But what is one concept that you believe many teams underutilize or overlook in social media? 

One thing I believe the teams that get it “right” do is continuously champion the importance of social media throughout their organization by educating and making sure they have a voice at the table. Speaking up to ensure everyone across your organization understands what social is and isn’t and advocating for resources is crucial. To no fault of their own, people who don’t live and breathe social media don’t understand how much time and effort it takes to maintain a strong social presence and all the work that goes in behind-the-scenes. Often it can feel like our jobs are thought to be as easy as just a click of the button and if you’ve spent any time working in this industry, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Same as it does on the football field, it takes a team to be successful. It takes a social team and then some.

We couldn’t do what we do here at the Bears without our entire team of talented graphic designers, videographers, photographers, and others from around the org understanding our goals and bringing ideas to the table. We wouldn’t be able to get buy in from football ops if we didn’t have our bosses boss in our corner advocating for access.

One person should never be responsible for all things social. It’s not to say that a one-man (or one-woman) show can’t be successful, there are plenty I know in the biz doing it solo and getting it right day in and day out. But imagine what they would be able to accomplish for the organization as a whole with more resources dedicated to strategizing, creating, executing and analyzing.

Social media is the #1 way to immediately and effectively get your brand and your message in front of the masses. It’s a powerful tool that cannot be taken for granted and needs to be invested in.

When I first started at the Bears in 2015 I was a one-woman show – pushing majority of our digital content out the door and running around with both a phone in my hand and a DSLR camera around my neck on game days. Looking back, it was overwhelming to say the least but at the time I thought that’s just what the job was. For everyone. And while it still is that way for some, it doesn’t have to be that way if we can get people to understand the role we play in representing an entire organization and smartly articulate the value and return of a strong social media presence.

Our social media department has grown from just myself to now include a full-time Social Media Producer and Social Media Coordinator. We’ll also be adding a seasonal with a strong graphic design background sometime before Training Camp. It’s taken a lot of emails, conversations and presentations to get us to this point and while I’d always take more I feel satisfied with what we’re currently able to accomplish by using our resources wisely and always prioritizing quality over quantity.

4. There are so many young, talented people looking to break into the sports/social industry. You’ve been in the industry for a few seasons now. What is one trait that you believe separates the great candidates from the rest?

I get asked this question a lot and I always respond the same: You have to be both professionally AND personally passionate about social media.

From a professional standpoint, you will work long days and late nights, you will miss important events in your life and wake up in hotel rooms on holidays. You will have to leave the party at a moment’s notice or simply not go at all because you are waiting for news that “should be coming any minute” but doesn’t actually get green-lighted for another eight hours. A willingness to give up some of your own social life for a brand or a clubs social life is required.

Find friends that understand the world you live in and forgive you for being constantly glued to a screen, sometimes two or three at once. Personally, you’ve got to be a student of the game. A true interest in consuming content with an openness to be continually learning will get you far. You have to study it and practice it and test and learn. You have to care and agonize at times about every detail to win in this industry. But when you do, celebrate and enjoy the success, learn from it and allow yourself to momentarily unplug. You’ve earned it. #

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