Mitigating Social Media Risk Through Foundational Education

June 6th, 2016 | by Cody Junot
Mitigating Social Media Risk Through Foundational Education


With commissioned reports from law firms such as Pepper Hamilton, who vetted Baylor, to former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein, who carried out the UNC investigation, Athletic Directors are under extreme scrutiny. There has never been a more prudent time to provide the very best off-field educational programs for administrators, coaches and student-athletes on topics like Title IX and diversity training.

“Ad hoc or slow,” is how Pepper classified Baylor’s Title IX program. The mere word, “ad hoc,” in a report like Pepper’s can cost good Athletic Directors their jobs, coaches their recruits, and programs their dollars.

After listening to a group of digital experts from The National Social Media Initiative in Athletics in Los Angeles, it begs the questions, “What are we missing and what’s next?”

The think tank pooled their expertise to discuss how to better equip social networking users in athletics and schools for a more successful and safer digital future.

Meghan Hanson, the former assistant general counsel to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, believes social media is becoming one of the highest risk and lowest educated areas in college athletics, “All it will take is one public relations nightmare caused by an uneducated social networking user for Athletic Directors to understand the legal consequences of, ‘You didn’t comprehensivelyeducate me.’ The key word being, comprehensively.”

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Hanson’s name is among an impressive and diverse roster within the The National Social Media Initiative in Athletics. Included are various CEOs of digital media marketing, crisis and communications agencies. There are professionals like the net safety adviser to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and former co-chair for the Obama administration’s Online Safety & Technology Working Group. To bolster their legal acumen, the initiative has enlisted the help of professionals like a digital attorney recognized by the South Carolina Supreme Court and multiple law enforcement and cyber agents. Also included are educators, such as the chairwoman/director of USC Annenberg’s Digital Social Media Masters program, the former chairwoman of the American Association for School Counselors, and Social Media Sports Management companies. But the The National Social Media Initiative in Athletics wouldn’t be able to create the change they would like without the support of non profits and various stakeholders from the NCAA and professional sports leagues.

“It’s no longer about stopping people from using social media, it’s now about teaching them how to responsibly, effectively and safely use their technologies,” explained the Annenberg’s Social Media and Digital Masters Program Director at the University of Southern California, Karen North.

When discussing risk aversion, a proactive approach seems to be the consensus, with foundational social media education that includes social media best practices being the primary tool.

“Foundational social media education is much like driver’s education only none of us got it before getting on the social media super highway.” Social Media Sports Management (SM2), CEO, Carrie Cecil stated, “It provides a true foundation curriculum to equip social network users with the 10-and-2. It’s intended to be a well-rounded program to give the user the positive and negative, legal and illegal best practices as well as the stakeholder’s overarching acceptable use polices.”

The foundational approach may be the next generation of social media education. SM2’s foundational approach is gleaned from a program the United States government has deployed, and has been expanded and customized for use by sports brands within the NFL, NHL, professional Motorsports, and the NCAA.

But what seems to be making ears perk up to the foundational approach versus event training sessions is that it provides documented assessments to ensure training retention, measurable results and a digital completion certificate as a record of compliance. This electronic footprint allows Athletic Directors to maintain a record of who has been trained in the event of an investigation or public relations issue.

As a former crisis management executive, Cecil added, “Having a proactive foundational education program in place is less expensive for stakeholders than a reactive crisis management plan. Trust me, I’ve done them both.”

With over 1.9 billion people communicating in real-time on social media, the climate of social media education must evolve, and should be on minds of NCAA stakeholders leading up to NACDA.

“We can’t wait until there is a public tragedy to take real action,” says Hanson. “The time is now.”

About Associate Editor Cody Junot
Cody Junot joined College AD in November, 2014 as a contributing writer and was shortly promoted to Associate Editor in July, 2015. Cody graduated from UL Lafayette in 2011 with a degree in Sports Management.

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