Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shib Sibs and Social Media


Maia and Alex explain their social media strategy:
Maia: I don't know if we really have a strategy ... we like to give back or share with the fans.

Alex: I think it's nice for the fans to see a different side of us. It's one thing to see through the screen or live our performances on the ice, but I think it's special for them to be able to get to know us better as people and I think it's always interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes at a show or at a competition, so we try do our best to share that with them."
It's not charity on their part - obviously they're interested in film, enjoy brainstorming and executing a video, and are excited when it's a hit. It's a way for them to enjoy "film production", be creative in a different way, and express themselves. That's understood - they like it. It's not some burden they've assumed out of obligation to their fans. And of course not every figure skater is going to have the talent, energy or interest in creating this particular type of engagement with fans.

Still, when Alex says "get to know us better as people" it has nothing to do with revealing personal information. "Birthday beer with Grandma" and sharing a subject he and Maia study at school is about as personal as it gets. So once again - letting fans get to know a figure skater as a person simply means sharing an appropriate experience. It's not employing overbearing Skate Canada directors as camera hogging intermediaries between the figure skaters and the public, while flogging over-personal, yet fabricated, stories about the skaters.

I also felt that the Shibs talked about studying and used Tessa's favorite word - "balance" - without sounding pedantic or patronizing, as Tessa can when she "explains" school. Their examples of the scheduling challenges they face when it comes to school also sounds realistic, and they put their academic drive in context. They're not 100% self-referential.

As figure skaters, the Shibs/DW/VM have a lot in common. All train in privileged circumstances. Same training center. All of them can take family to every competition if they want to, no matter where in the world it's being held - or at least VM can take Kate. If they want many costume options, to bring in outside dance specialists or any other type of value add - they can and do without worrying over much about the cost, unlike many figure skaters, and their lifestyle (clothes, vacations, non-competitive travel) isn't compromised. If they want to go to university, they go to university, without worry that they can't afford ultra expensive training plus tuition. So, that's nice.

One of these teams is not like the other two when it comes to how they handle public relations. One team behave like people from a reality show who've acquired an inflated idea of their importance and fame, while the other two appear to behave more sensibly. Maia and Alex want fans to share in their experience, get to know them as people, and they produce funny videos shot behind the scenes to share with fans. The outlier team puts out a book and markets it as an opportunity for fans to go behind the scenes, when in reality the book is jammed with fabrications and its aim is to manipulate and misdirect fans, creating even more of a barrier.*

I wonder if the difference is the community where these teams are from. The Shibs are from Connecticut, and New York, DW are from Ann Arbor (which has a lot more going on than just figure skating - even after the Olympics Charlie White said he was hardly ever recognized even on his own campus). The world doesn't orbit around them. They have a good sense of where they fit in in the scheme of things, and while they have a public profile, it's nothing that can't be managed. It's just figure skating. The people where they come from have lives. Meryl Davis and Charlie White aren't the most exciting thing to ever happen to Ann Arbor, and the Shibs haven't validated Connecticut and put the good people of New York City on the map.

Scott and Tessa are the biggest thing in Ilderton and everybody knows them. They may feel as if they're the biggest thing in parts of London, Ontario as well. I just wonder if it's the community's fault fans are treated like shit by Scott and Tessa. If Scott and Tessa's experience with their community led them to believe it would be worse by a factor of a gazillion to bring strangers (fans) into it.

It's great to have community support; it might be less great to have everyone in your home town feel a proprietary interest in you and your personal business, everyone in your home town(s) eager to collar you and offer their advice, and to have everybody in your home town eager for the validation of your time and attention, flooding your mailbox and your relatives' in-boxes and voicemails with requests, invitations, favors, advice and comments about stuff that's really none of their business, but then again, they watched you grow up, so they're entitled, and knew you when, and you haven't changed or gotten too big for your britches have you?

I've always sort of admired Katia Gordeeva's brutal account of Sergei's funeral - it was in Moscow and half a million relatives descended on the service, all of them with opinions as to why he died, what should have been done instead, why were they living in Connecticut, etc. etc., and it was important that Katia herself hear their views.

It was unbearable. These are people who had good intentions, but Sergei wasn't the mechanic down the street - he was an internationally known athlete, and all the relatives and locals were that much more invested in their opinions and feelings, and virtually smothered Gordeeva with them.

The sham definitely was also a good displacement activity for community members - everybody could get busy on facebook after Scott's part was done (he'd often posed for the photos with Jessica way before they saw the light of day) and he and Tessa could get on with their lives and have some privacy, not from fans, but from those who knew them and felt as if they had proprietary rights.

Something gave Scott and Tessa a distorted idea of what it would be like to have fans know even basic facts about their actual status. Maybe they wrongly extrapolated from what it was like to have neighbors, friends, relatives know their business. And of course there's guilt from knowing you were supported and cheered on, or that the stands are packed when you compete at home, but you might also be wishing they'd turn their attention to something else, and crawl back out from up your hind ends.

So maybe they assumed fans knowing would be a gazillion times worse than having everyone in their home town know, and that was already awful - and exhausting.

However, fans are a totally different animal, and a sports management team that had half a brain would have quickly settled their minds about that. Instead they have Skate Canada, which made a lot of ignorant, no-logic, untested assumptions about a lot of stuff, including the public and fan management, and then set about creating solutions to problems Skate Canada had made up. The sham was certainly a boon to Debbi, however, and several others in their Directorships.

When the reveal happens, fans are going to be patronized up one side and down the other. There's nothing that Scott and Tessa can say that can justify the absurdities, the egocentricities, and the arrogance, but more and more it appears to me as if there are some people in Ilderton and London who need to broaden their minds and maybe acquire some maturity and self awareness. Maybe the way many of them jumped on board to "handle" fans for Scott and Tessa is a reflection of the way they interacted with Scott and Tessa themselves. Boorish, intrusive and tactless.
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*I also wonder if some of those interviewed for Scott and Tessa's book - former coaches and the like, were informed that the book was also going to include a lie about a year-long rift after her shin surgery, and aggressively reaffirm the lie that they are and have always been platonic. IOW, I wonder if some of those interviewed for Scott and Tessa's book were aware that the realities they shared were going to be used to help enhance the plausibility of the lies Scott and Tessa intended to tell.

18 comments:

  1. Tessa & Scott are in the stoneage when it comes to social media. D/W & the Shibs, P/B, W/P are all over the place getting followers and regognition. I know some people think that it's not all about followers and feedback, but it truely is. Do they not care? or are they too much in "their bubble" too even notice? Either way, they are falling behind. You can feel the momentum shift.What are they thinking? Or are they Thinking?JMO

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    1. I think you already posted this in the comments section of a couple of other posts.

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    2. This post is more about whether coming from a small community that loves you practically to death, all wanting their time with you, all with their opinions that they don't hesitate to share, make the prospect of having Canadian fans in on their business as well overwhelming to Scott and Tessa back in the day. The sham is aimed most specifically at Canadian fans in Canada. I wonder why, for instance, they made such a huge deal about shamming it up in London for Canadians 2010 (with facebook and staging mise en scenes for the camera), when in that town half the people in the stands knew the score, and the latest, and were gossiping about it to the other half, while getting clueless fans up to speed. You can't put that cork back in the bottle with facebook. I find it weird that at home they worked it so hard, instead of at places more likely to buy into it.
      Maybe it was another way of showing off what a big deal they were and/or a way to involve all the people wanting face time or to be part of the hometown kids' Olympic excitement. Here's my aunt's number - she'll help you help us lie our faces off! And buy a "Believe" sweatshirt!
      I think it's possible they made a wrong correlation between the experience of having Ilderton/lots of London up in their business (i.e., offering opinions, giving advice, trucking your business around town like it's everybody's business) and what it would be like to have fans know the reality of their relationship.
      Fans are managed a whole lot easier than a community made up of friends/family/school/connections. There's a million effective mechanisms for fans, none of which involve any idea conceived by and/or executed by Debbi Wilkes or Skate Canada.
      There's no well mannered, always-grateful, humble way to manage an entire town, all feeling as if your life has to do with them, while you're also a popular subject of local social chatter. Especially when they're well intentioned and everybody is inextricably entwined going back years. We all have families, we all know what that's like. We love our aunts, grandma, cousins, neighbors and siblings and other connections, but do we want them overly invested in our lives, knowing they chew it over among themselves and chat about it in email and when the opportunity presents itself, tell us to our face or have mom pass it on?

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    3. VM's teammates treat the public professionally. VM do not. They're weird, uncomfortable, hypocritical, pseudo-candid followed by AWOL, inconsistent, nonsensical, evasive or outright lying, and needless to say, it often feels pulled out of their back end.

      With VM and fans, their style is more like how you cheese it up to a relative or neighbor's face, promising, thanking, appreciating, making assurances - and then afterwards you tell mom to lie her face off and come up with excuses any time that person tries to follow up.

      If someone convinced Virtue Moir that fans knowing they were in a relationship would be a million times worse than the already tricky community situation, that person was either very inexperienced/unsophisticated or extremely opportunistic. Fans can be managed. Your small town, not.

      I've read enough facebook walls connected to Tessa and Scott, particularly from (but not exclusive to, by any means) the older skating crowd, to wonder what the hell some of these people say away from facebook if they've no compunction about "sharing" certain viewpoints where anyone with a facebook account can see it.

      It's a double-sided coin - you've got all the support in the world, lots of people rooting you on - but on the other side you've got people who consider themselves experts on you, your relationship, and what is best for you and what's not, and want to be heard. Everybody wants their piece of the action and feels qualified/entitled to be part of it. They own a little of you.

      It's a very different experience than when your community is New York, Connecticut and Ann Arbor. Small towns are great, but there's a flip side of everybody being in your business. Maybe that (and a lack of the inherent sophistication that Meryl/Charlie and Maia/Alex possess) contributes to how Scott and Tessa's public relations ended up such a mess in so many unnecessary respects.

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  2. And??? I want to make my point known. What is this BigBrother again all over?

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    1. Blogger? Why do you care? Do have a secret agenda that you are not sharing???Let's turn this blog on its' own head. Please enlighten us...

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    2. I've clarified in additional comments of my own.

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  3. Scott & Tessa Vote Conservative in Canada...??? What a kick in the dick to everyone they know to be gay in Figure Skating. They call them Friends, but if they were true Friends. They would NOT vote for a Party that Dismiss gay people. Who are they really trying to convince? They truely are not Friends to homosexuals. Biggotts!!! Friends don't teat Friends like that...

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    1. Is this about posing with Harper or have they declared they vote conservative?

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    2. Oh for God's sake, you've got to be joking. Hahahahaha!!!! Get a clue moron.

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  4. Should we congratulate Piper and Paul on their silver medal at Nationals now or later?

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    1. Right now! Piper could skate on a broken leg and they'll still pull in scores within 10 points of Virtue Moir.

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    2. But but but Piper and Paul are so refreshing! They're fun! Surely that merits high scores. All the other teams wish they had Piper and Paul's fun qualities that boost their scores.

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  5. so do you buy Katilyn's broken ankle, or is she also pregnant?

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    1. Hahahahahahahaha!!! Giggle.

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    2. She's pregnant, obviously. And Andrew must be the father!

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  6. I just have to say - what clever comments in this thread! Finally someone is putting this blogger in their place.... *sarcasm* If you're wanting to be a troll - then mission accomplished. If you think anyone is taking you seriously, you need to know it is very obvious you are having a conversation with yourself.


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    1. Periodically I mention that I've got the stat counter that can let me know who is having a conversation with themselves. I let this one go because the comments aren't that long, but if it becomes epidemic they'll go into spam. (Unless it's by mistake, I don't delete comments that are removed. They're stored. They may become relevant at a different time and republished.)

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