Tuesday Ten: Kyle Bruce

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Oh, Foot-ball

Oh, Foot-ball

There’s always col-lege foot-ball.

It’s only two weeks away! 

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Sorry to hurt your ears with that song from Annie, but I am chomping at the bit. That makes this week’s Tuesday Ten episode all the more fun. Join me on Tuesday, August 11, when I’ll be joined by Kyle Bruce, Assistant Sports Information Director at Eastern Washington University. We’ll be discussing Eastern Washington’s season opener versus Sam Houston State on August 23. It will be broadcast live by ESPN’s family of networks. Kyle’s specialty lies in his creativity and innovation. He speaks the language of the EWU students and fans. And, maybe, just maybe, we’ll get in a little bit of soccer talk too. 

WHO IS KYLE?

In his second year as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Eastern Washington, Kyle Bruce serves as the primary contact for EWU’s volleyball, women’s basketball, soccer, golf and tennis programs. He is also responsible for crafting and implementing the department’s social media strategy across a broad range of platforms.

In his first year at EWU in 2013-14, Bruce spearheaded an innovative social media campaign involving the use of Snapchat, garnering a 2014 SoMe Award in the “E.T. Phone Home” category.

Prior to joining Eastern, Bruce served as a graduate assistant in the athletic media relations office at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., where he worked with the Tigers’ women’s basketball, water polo and swimming programs. While at Pacific, he implemented the first-ever live video broadcast of home aquatics events, streaming contests from Pacific’s home pool for the first time. He also traveled with the Tigers’ women’s basketball team to both the 2012 and 2013 Big West Tournaments in Anaheim, Calif., where he handled all of the team’s media responsibilities during the postseason tournaments. Bruce also served as the primary statistician at all of Pacific’s home basketball and volleyball contests.

In March of 2013, Bruce volunteered at the Second and Third Rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in San Jose, Calif., serving as a locker room quote taker and mini-cam steward, among other responsibilities.

Bruce served as an intern in the sports information department during his final two years of undergraduate study at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Ore., working primarily with women’s basketball and softball. While at WOU, he created the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages, giving the Wolves their first-ever online presence outside of the deparment’s official website.

Bruce received his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in sport management from WOU in June of 2011, graduating summa cum laude. He received his master’s degree in sport management from Pacific in December of 2013.

Bruce currently resides in Cheney and enjoys spending time with family and friends, eating Mexican food, reading the occassional book and cheering on Liverpool FC. He is currently a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

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WATCH

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Kyle and EWU Eagles

  • Twitter: @_KyleBruce

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Social Media Q&A: EWU Eagles

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In 2012, I had the privilege of watching Eastern Washington University’s (EWU) football team. For those who don’t know, Eastern Washington is a small university located in Cheney, WA, which is just outside of Spokane, WA. Spokane is located near the Idaho panhandle border. EWU plays in the Big Sky Conference, football in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA). It was my first real experience covering a team in any form. I say “covering” loosely because it wasn’t like a beat reporter. It was mixture of social media and photography.

One benefit to being around EWU last year was getting to know the staff. Meeting Athletic Director Bill Chaves and Sports Information Director Dave Cook was a great help to a novice writer/reporter like me. I watched, learned, experimented and tried to stay out of the way. I got a look at what Dave and his staff did to make the game day experience fun for fans. This year, I noticed an increase in their social media game. While not on the level of your larger universities like Oregon or Miami, Bill, Dave and their staff have made a decision to increase the school’s social media presence. It starts at the top with Bill and Dave. But, a key cog in the social media wheel just might be Social Media Coordinator, and Assistant Sports Information Director, Kyle Bruce.

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1. Please tell me a little bit of your background and what your duties entail.

I got my start in sports information at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Ore., where I worked with the department’s women’s soccer, women’s basketball and softball programs. I also created the department’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, getting my feet wet in terms of using those sites for media relations purposes. I got my bachelor’s degree from WOU in June of 2011. From there, I was a graduate assistant at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., where I worked primarily with the department’s water polo and swimming programs as well as its women’s basketball program. I received my master’s degree from Pacific in May of 2013. Currently as the Assistant Sports Information Director and Social Media Coordinator at Eastern Washington University, I work with the Eagles’ volleyball, soccer, women’s basketball, golf and tennis programs while spearheading the department’s social media guidelines and implementation.

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2. What prior experience do you have with social media?

A majority of my experience comes from both watching other programs as well as trial and error. At Western Oregon, we were just delving into it as a department, and I didn’t understand the potential it really had at the time. At Pacific, I was a little more proactive and used it more as a marketing tool, trying to drive fans to games as opposed to simply sharing releases and results. I’ve been lucky to have worked for people who allowed me to have some free reign, allowing me to try new ideas and see what worked and what didn’t.

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3. Have you received any type of training (either formal or informal) regarding social media?

I’ve personally read a lot of articles on how to use social media well, both personally and as an athletic department. Observing what others post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram has had the biggest impact in terms of gaining knowledge on how to use social media well. Again, I’ve been fortunate to work in places that let me learn by doing, which is a form of training in itself.

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4. Please outline for me your responsibilities regarding social media with the department. What social media platforms does EWU utilize? Why?

My main responsibility at Eastern when it comes to social media is to craft a department-wide guideline detailing how we would like staff and coaches to use it. We have a lot of energetic people in our department who understand the value of using social media well. Giving those people guidelines will definitely help us better promote our student-athletes, teams, department, university and community. There is also a core group of us who is crafting a social media strategy, specifically what types of content belong where, how to better engage fans, etc. Once we get all of that nailed down, my other responsibility will be to implement that strategy and be a resource for people in our department.

Right now, Eastern is using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Like a majority of departments, our fans are gravitating toward these platforms, so it makes sense for us to be there to engage them. We’re trying to give our department a more visual identity, so using Instagram and Facebook specifically helps with this mission. YouTube is great for posting interviews and highlights, and we’ve really emphasized creating more video content as well. And Twitter is ideal for real-time news and is tailored perfectly for sports. We share live scores with our fans that follow us there. We’re really just trying to meet our fans where they already are and give them content that is engaging.

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5. Who is involved in the development of social media plans? How often do you strategize? How often do you (or in this case, will you) adjust or make changes to your social media processes? After every game, every month, every season, etc.? If and when you decide to make changes to the strategy, does everyone among your staff have to approve, or are you the final decision maker?

There is a group of us who is directly involved in the development of Eastern’s social media strategy. We have folks from marketing, sponsorship, video production and media relations, along with our AD for External Relations. We’ve also brought in Chris Syme as a consultant, and she has been providing guidance when needed. Our group meets once a week to go over that weekend’s social media plan and make sure we’re all on the same page as to who is delivering what content.

Our social media process is still evolving and changing constantly. We’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and what fans like and what they don’t like. We discuss the previous week’s posts every meeting, breaking down what we thought went well and what we might go away from. We’re doing a better job of looking at metrics, as well, like Facebook Insights and HootSuite reports.

We talk about every potential change as a group and come to a consensus. There really is no one decision maker so to speak. Of course, certain people’s opinions carry more weight than others, and there are people whom we can’t overrule, like our AD, but every change is discussed and decided on as a group.

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6. It seems like this year EWU has ramped up their social media efforts. Is that the case? How did that come about? Have you encountered any roadblocks or issues along the way? What process was utilized to implement the current social media plans? Do you have to provide a report on each social media strategy used by the department? Is it based on each team?

Eastern has ramped up its social media efforts simply because they put someone in a position to do so. It’s hard for athletic departments to cultivate a social media presence without someone dedicated to doing it on a daily basis. We all come from different departments and have responsibilities that go along with that, but I have been specifically tasked with implementing our social media strategy. My job description was expanded to include social media, giving our department the ability to ramp up our efforts.

Everyone I’ve worked with at Eastern has been great when it comes to implementing new social media content. Everyone seems to understand that it is a powerful tool when used well. I’ve really met no opposition. That has really helped when it comes to trying new things.

We meet as a group on a weekly basis, and our plans are constantly evolving. It all comes about through discussion and what we think our fans want to see. I personally track our numbers on all platforms, and I check Facebook Insights and HootSuite reports frequently to see what fans find engaging and what they don’t. I share these numbers with our group periodically when I feel something important needs to be noted.

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7. What education has EWU provided to student-athletes? 

We’ve worked with Chris Syme this year in an effort to educate our student-athletes on social media. She came to campus and gave a presentation to all of our student-athletes last week, going over extensive privacy settings not only on social media but on their phones, such as location tracking. She also discussed how to use it well and what content to avoid posting, including profanity and certain pictures.

It is an ongoing process, for sure. She’ll be back on campus later this academic year after taking some time to evaluate how our student-athletes do in these next few months.

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8. For the first time at the Western Oregon game, the department used Tagboard during the football game? How did the use of Tagboard come about? How did you hear about it? Were you pleased with the results? Are there any social media platforms or tools out there that you’d like to look into further?

Tagboard came about because we were looking for ways to better engage our fans, and it seemed like the perfect fit. Fans love to see their stuff on the video board, and it gave us a great vehicle to drive engagement and increase followers and likes. I had heard of Tagboard here and there, and our marketing director was aware of Tagboard through the Seattle Mariners.

We were very pleased with the results at our first football game, given that there were fewer students present. It took our fans about one quarter to realize what was going on, but once they did, our feed blew up with posts from all over. We used it at our first home volleyball matches at the end of September, and we didn’t get quite the same volume of responses, but we’re confident that once we host our first athletic events now that school is back in session, this will change.

Honestly, I think we have enough on our plate right now before we consider branching out to other platforms. We’re still trying to perfect what we’re doing now on social media. Granted, social media is constantly changing and what is popular now won’t always be popular, but I like what we’re doing now and want to continue to make it the best we can before we consider adding anything else.

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9. We talked during the Western Oregon game about the social media survey that was sent out. Who all was that sent out to? What has been the response so far?

That survey was sent out to season-ticket holders, members of the Eagle Athletic Association and anyone who has signed up to receive our releases through email. The number of responses was good, enough to form some general conclusions.

Our primary goal coming out of the survey is to constantly push our social media accounts, cross-promoting them to make sure our fans are aware of every page they can like or follow to get more information. Doing a better job of publicizing media information for certain sports is another goal, like making sure we use every platform to tell fans what TV channel, radio station, live stat link, etc. is broadcasting our game.

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10. Are there any other schools, teams or even leagues that you’ve liked what they are doing on social media?

Some of the programs that I think do a great job with social media are Louisville, Miami, and Oregon, among others. Granted, they have more resources than we do at Eastern, but I think the visual nature of their social media initiatives is where we need to be.

I really like Kentucky’s #WeAreUK campaign, and there are some other schools out there that do a tremendous job with video. Wisconsin’s stuff is also very engaging.

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11. What do you foresee as the biggest challenges for you and the department with regard to social media?

I think the biggest challenge is simply finding time to fit in social media while also taking care of our other job-related responsibilities. The fact that my job has been expanded to include social media is a great first step. It shows a renewed commitment to social media that is really exciting. We’re still working through how best to make sure we maintain a focus on social media while also taking care of our other jobs. The ultimate goal is to promote our student-athletes and teams, and everyone is on the same page when it comes to that.

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12. What does the future hold for social media and EWU?

I think the desire for more visual content will continue. I am of the mind that our culture is becoming more tuned into visuals more so than text. We’re trying to keep this in mind as we go forward. My personal goal is that when people think of good social media use in the Big Sky, they think of Eastern. I think we’re taking great strides in getting to that point, and I really enjoy going to work everyday with people who also want to get there.

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Thank you, Kyle, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.

Find Kyle, Dave and Bill, as well as EWU Athletics on Twitter:

@_KyleBruce

@davecookie1963

@EWUeaglesAD

@EWUAthletics

Eastern Washington Athletics is on Facebook and YouTube as well. Also, check out the Tumblr page on starting quarterback, Vernon Adams, bigplayva.

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EWU Starts Fast, Finishes Off WOU, 43-14

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Let down game?

Not for these Eagles.

And certainly not for a Beau Baldwin coached team.

Baldwin’s Eagles came out fast and efficient from their first drive on their way to a 43-14 victory over D-II Western Oregon. Vernon Adams picked up where he left off last week with a 63-yard scoring strike to Cooper Kupp. Adams would connect three more times in the quarter, (yes, quarter) to help Eastern jump out to a quick 29-0 lead. Zack Gehring (4-yard TD), Cory Mitchell (15-yard TD) and Shaquille Hill (58-yard TD) would each be the beneficiary of Adams’ first quarter efficiency. Adams would finish the quarter 8-9 for 189 yards and four touchdowns.

Good thing too. For as fast as the Eagles jumped out to a lead, that is how quickly they sputtered when the second quarter rolled around. In fact, neither team could do much on offense in that quarter. Western Oregon had 43 total yards on offense including this “impressive” line of 6 rushes for 6 yards. Eastern, for their part, fared slightly better but only garnered 96 yards of offense. Here’s how the 2nd quarter possessions ended up:

  1. Punt (WOU)
  2. INT (EWU)
  3. INT (WOU)
  4. Punt (EWU)
  5. Punt (WOU)
  6. Turnover on downs (EWU)
  7. End of half (WOU)

The score remained, 29-0, Eastern Washington at the half.

Western Oregon’s first possession in the third quarter resembled their first half possessions. Ineffective. After giving up 527 yards of total offense to Oregon State last week, the EWU defense tightened things up against the Wolves. 44 yards of total offense given up in the first half was followed up with only 71 yards in the third quarter. Three Wolves possessions resulted in zero points. Their best field position of the quarter came after a Vernon Adams interception at the EWU 27. But even then, the Eagles D proved stout.  Two Ryan Bergman passes for Western Oregon failed to result in points, including two chances at a fourth and four at the eight yard line.

Adams and the EWU offense wasted no time on their first possession of the second half. Aided by a personal foul penalty, the Eagles only needed 2:31 to go 70 yards with an Adams-to-Hill eight yard touchdown pass.

The Wolves would be given another opportunity early in the fourth after a Mario Brown fumble for EWU. Standout defensive lineman, Kraig Akins would recover the fumble and return it to the EWU 40. Two plays later, Bergman tossed a 36-yard pass to all-GNAC wide receiver, Tyrell Williams to cut the lead to 36-7.

After an exchange of punts, the Eagles decided to eat up some clock with the run game. For the series, Jalen Moore would rush 6 times for 36 yards before an Anthony Vitto 14 yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne. Vitto had come in on the prior series for Vernon Adams at quarterback. EWU upped its lead to 36.

One more Western Oregon possession would result in a touchdown but it was too little too late for the Wolves, as Eastern Washington prevails, 43-14. The Wolves lost for the fifth straight time to the Eagles but still lead the all-time series between the two former NAIA foes, 9-7. EWU travels to Toledo next week while WOU heads to Central Washington.

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FINAL COMPARISONS

  • Defensive stat of the night: In the first quarter, the Eagles gained 254 yards of total offense. Western Oregon gained 217 total yards for the game.
  • Misleading stat of the night: The kickoff return battle was won by WOU. Six chances to return for 106 total yards. EWU had zero yards. But…on one attempt.
  • Lopsided stats of the night: Passing – EWU (320) WOU (189); Rushing – EWU (277) WOU (28).
  • Spreading the wealth stat of the night: 10 different EWU players would catch a pass in the game. Shaquille HIll led the way with 8-117 yards and two touchdowns. WOU was almost as generous with seven players catching a pass. Tyrell Williams had 6-97 yards and one touchdown.
  • Do-it-all stat of the night: Vernon Adams’ line – 18-24 for 298 yards, 5 touchdowns passes, 2 interceptions, 7 rushes for 45 yards and 1 punt (yes, punt) for 30 yards. Adams did also “slow down” Kraig Akins on his fourth quarter fumble recovery run just long enough for other Eagle players to bring Akins down. Akins is listed at 6’2″, 270 lbs. Adams is listed at 6’0″, 190 lbs. Picture that in your mind.

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QUOTES

Coach Beau Baldwin

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On the game: “This is one of those games that had a roller coaster feel to it, is the best way I can describe it. I liked the way we started in terms of starting fast. We came out after halftime. Didn’t like some of the lulls and sloppiness that was out here today. Defensively, we played pretty solid all day with the exception, of course, with the penalties. Overall, we played a pretty solid game. And played a lot of guys on both sides of the ball. There’s always good and bad. I love coming out after a 43-14 win feeling like there’s a lot of stuff we can correct and coach here for week 3.”

On starting 2-0: “Feels good. Feels very good. Can’t remember the last time we started the season 2-0 around here. We always play a challenging schedule. Maybe I’m off on that but it feels pretty good.”

On the sluggish second quarter: I felt like we started on fire on both sides of the ball. It’s learning how to sustain it. The guys didn’t let up any. We had a couple of mistakes in the second quarter. We’re going to have quarters like that. On both sides of the ball. You just have to keep responding.

Quarterback, Vernon Adams

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On starting 2-0: “Feels good (to start 2-0). We’re going to come back tomorrow and watch film on Sunday, get ready for Toledo next week, fly out there and hope we get another big win for the program. And keep working.”

On offensive 2nd quarter struggle: “We just want to get a win whether we win by two points or 40 points. Second quarter offensive-wise we kind of went down. We didn’t do much. We got back on in the third quarter. Anthony Vitto finished out the game for us and did really good.”

On penalties: “I’m pretty sure tomorrow we’re gonna get it. We got a lot of 15-yard penalties. We’re going to clean it up. We’ll going to come back tomorrow. Ice bath. Watch film. Work hard. Learn from it. Come Tuesday we’re ready for Toledo.”

On playing in front of the home crowd: “It was awesome. Obviously we’re not in school so we didn’t have everybody but it was still full. We had fun. They were into it. I was into it. The team was into it. Eagle Nation is the best. Go Eags.”

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[Sorry, Eagles fans. I cut off the Vine video below before the players finished E-A-G-L-E-S]

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