As SIUE Athletics are unable to compete due to COVID-19, the department is keeping audience and team engagement high through Cougar Connection videos and Isolation Conversation podcasts.
Athletics Communication and Video Production Associate Jeff Bailey came to Broadcasting and Media Relations Specialist Joe Pott with the idea of Cougar Connection because he missed doing live broadcasts and wanted to get as close to that as possible.
“We started with the fall sports that got postponed,” Bailey said. “It’s kind of just a way to let our fans know that we’re still here, and we’re still practicing, and we’re still working hard and getting prepared for the spring. To be live without really being live.”
Pott started Isolation Conversation over the summer as a way to speak with the coaches and keep fans informed about what their teams were up to.
“As soon as we found out that fall sports were going to be pushed, and we weren’t going to have the actual live broadcasts that we normally would have, we wanted a way to really keep information and news out there about these teams, so this was a good way to do it,” Pott said.
Pott said Cougar Connection will not be replacing Isolation Conversation, but rather complementing it.
“I think it’s an addition, so the Isolation Conversation obviously came out of isolation,” Pott said. “It was just a chance to do a little bit more in-depth conversations. It was essentially like a podcast with some of my guests, and actually, I think we’ll get back to doing some of that.”
Cougar Connection and Isolation Conversation have different, but complementary, goals, according to Pott.
“Cougar Connection was more of an idea to showcase some of our programs and our teams ... Just getting a little more personality as opposed to just talking, which, I think, is more what Conversation was, [it] was just a straight interview,” Pott said. “I think [we are] doing a little more interesting things, showing some personality, showing some of the facilities, different things like that, so I think that’s the big difference.”
Bailey said this was also a chance to showcase what the teams and coaches wanted to show off as well.
“It also forced us to kind of sit down with the teams and get creative,” Bailey said. “I didn’t want to do just a coach’s talkback show, I wanted other elements in it to make it student-athlete driven, to show the personality of these teams.”
Bailey said the idea for Cougar Connection’s format came from his almost 20 years of working in TV news, where they used to use a TV news package format as a sports special. Pott said they tried to accomplish showcasing the teams’ personalities through creative segments that give the athletes a break from the repetition practices entail.
“We really approached it like a TV show, to be honest,” Pott said. “We have a couple of different segments set up, and we usually center it around an interview with the head coach, an interview with student athletes, and we’re trying to do fun segments.”
Bailey said the hiring process for students has been opened up again to assist with these new videos and live broadcasts, which he hopes will start back up soon.
“You don’t need any previous experience,” Bailey said. “All you need is the curiosity and the desire to work ... I know exactly what I want, so it will be a coaching process to get things to my level of expectation. That being said, I want the students who work for me to feel free to push their creative envelope as far as they want, and I’ll be there for whatever they need in order to make it look exactly how they want it as well.”
One of the students workers who helped with Cougar Connection was Alex Austin, kinesiology major and graduate assistant from Chicago.
Austin said he had video editing experience prior to taking the job, but no actual recording and live recording experience. He said this job came out of a hidden love he held for video.
“I did a lot of helping set up and shooting B-roll during it, since it was a live show and they were producing kind of on the spot,” Austin said. “I was just catching athletes in action, and just trying to get the B-roll while they were still doing the actual Cougar Connection during practice.”
Pott said they want to move back to the level of student involvement they had before.
“We utilize a lot of students during what would be a normal school year,” Pott said. “So when we’re putting live productions for ESPN+, we use a lot of students to make that happen — running the cameras, running our switchers, running graphics, running replay, and so we normally would be operating with a large student crew.”
Pott said while he’s not sure whether or not Isolation Conversation and Cougar Connection will continue after the athletes go back to competing, he knows for sure that he wants the focus on moving back to live broadcasts for the athletics department.
For more information go to the SIUE Cougars website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter page, or Instagram; and for more information about working with athletic productions email Jeff Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.