A Guide to Texting on Game Day
That can really be used to as a guide to texting any live event.
As you probably know, game day or covering any live event for that matter can be a balancing act. We often get asked by new hosts how to add texting into their already busy schedules. How often should you send a text? Should you worry about “spoilers” from live events? What if the cell service at the venue is spotty?
Chad Leistikow, the Iowa Hawkeyes columnist for the Des Moines Register, has used frequent feedback from subscribers and followed his gut a bit to refine his game-day texting cadence.
As a result, his live-event coverage tends to follow a general pattern: 2–3 pre-game texts detailing injuries and any last-minute, need-to-know nuggets; 2–3 mid-game texts, generally at half time or to comment on critical events throughout; and 1–2 post-game texts to summarize his thoughts and touch on some themes from the day.
With that, here are a few helpful insights any reporter can adopt for game-day or live-event coverage:
- Users are looking for insider analysis
It can be tempting to treat your Subtext broadcasts like real-time commentary, messaging every time someone scores or a crucial play occurs. But, most sports fans will likely be watching the game, if not also following along on other platforms. So, aim to send only a handful of insightful texts before, during and after the game. Chad generally sends about 5–7 total.
The main value you add to your subscribers’ game day experience is analysis. Feel free to leave the game lines and mid-contest miscellany to other platforms, while focusing more on providing fans insightful statistics or takeaways that they wouldn’t be able to get from anyone else.
When in doubt, ask your subscribers. Our hosts covering Rutgers football tend to send a few more than Chad, and their audience is very into it.
2. Pump up your audience with pre-game insights
As a reporter with insider access to what game plans the coaches are hatching, let your readers know what calculations the staff have made in the weeks preceding the game. For instance, Chad has seen success in sharing strategic information that he’s gleaned from mid-week interviews.
What threats are they focused on containing? What weaknesses are they looking to exploit? These are tidbits of information that only deeply embedded beat writers, like you, can know, so they are exactly the kind of stuff your readers want to hear about.
One way Chad does this is by tracking and sharing player convalescence during the week. He regularly gives an updated list of who is or is not suiting up before the first snap. Coaches often make these decisions mere minutes before the first kickoff, so hosts are in a prime position to let their subscribers know who’s made the final depth chart. By giving readers this crucial piece of information, Chad gives readers the clearest possible picture of how the game might unfold.
3. Check in at halfway through the event
As you know, fans are accustomed to hearing analysis during halftime reports, so they’ll be looking to their text inbox to see something from you between the second and third quarters. This is a great time to give some basic facts, such as the score of the game and outputs from key players.
You can also use this time to circle back on any predictions you might have made about the game during the week. Is your cornerback shutting down their key receiver? Has a key injury plagued your team’s running game? Is the nasty weather affecting either offense?
4. Let the pace of the event inform your texting cadence
As with all sports, there will be blow-outs, there will be nailbiters and there will be a lot of in between. If the game turns into a one-sided shellacking, feel free to text a little more frequently, filling in the downtime with your observations or even asking questions to your subscribers. If the game is neck and neck though, your readers will probably keep their phones in their pockets. If that’s the case, save your messages for natural breaks, such as a transition into overtime or a weather delay.
Also, make sure to consider other factors of common texting courtesy during contests. If a game runs late into the night or starts very early in the day, try to text sparingly. If there is a somber moment on the field, such as an injury or a moment of silence for a graduating player, make sure your tone of text matches the mood. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of a riveting game, but staying within the bounds of common social graces will earn you a lot of respect from your readers.
5. Send a summary, and then later a recap
Shortly after the game ends, make sure to send a text with the score and a few key takeaways. Doesn’t need to be detailed analysis, but feel free to hint at a theme that you might later expand on.
After you get some rest, send a longer text that encapsulates the major talking points of the contest: what went well, what went poorly, what the coaches said and what’s up next. In the same way your readers are looking for your pre-game insights, they’ll also be looking for your post-game analysis. This is where you can really flex your insider access, especially as it pertains to subjects the coaching staff might be tight-lipped about, such as injuries, disagreement among the ranks or relevant drama.
6. End with plugs, so fans know how to get more of your content
Game day is certainly the highlight of the week, but passionate fans will want to know where they can get more content in the days between match-ups. Following your recap, let subscribers know where you might be speaking or writing during the week, whether it’s on podcasts, radio shows or on any non-regular columns. Of course, make sure to send links to newly published material.
Texting on Election Day and other live events
Like we said at the beginning of piece, this cadence of texting isn’t just useful for game days, it’s really the best practice for most live events. Thanks to our host Cuyler Meade for doubling down on the similarities we can pick up from reporting techniques used across many beats.
As Cuyler describes — just like the big game, you need a few warm up texts leading up to Election Day, a la pre-game insights. It’s a good time to remind your audience of all the stories you’ve prepped for them for this moment. We all know voters are digging up as many resources as the can the night before the polls.
On Election Day, share a few scenes from the polling station — equivalent to the halftime report if you will. A text or two on the evening returns — your summary. And again the following day, final results and/or what else is to come for undetermined races — the looking ahead text.
Our last piece of advice: when in doubt about yourtexting cadence, ask your subscribers!
Want to share your best practices with us? You know how to find us: https://joinsubtext.com/awesomehost