Peter Robert Casey is the undisputed king of social media hoops. I am writing his story to expose the world to him and how he is wired to change the game of basketball. If you are a fan, student or coach the game of basketball you must have heard about Peter. Peter was born with that New York hustle and his rise to social media hoops stardom is a testament to his passion, drive, and desire to carve out a space for himself in the game that he loves. His turn-by-turn navigation in his Personal Branding GPS required him to download a different map to live his dreams.
Peter is a great personal branding case study which is why I chose to kick off my “Personal Branding Interview” series with him. The build it and they will come concept doesn’t work in social media and certainly not personal branding. Come with me as I interview the new face of social media hoops.
Peter Robert Casey (@Peter_R_Casey) was the first media credentialed micro-blogger in college basketball history. Labeled a “pioneer” for altering the composition of St. John’s press row, Peter’s story of social media success was featured in the New York Times, and on the pages of ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, Mashable, and AOL’s Switched.
Both a student of the game and the business surrounding it, Peter enjoys writing about the interplay of basketball, social media, and marketing. His work has appeared on the websites of ESPN The Magazine, SLAMonline, and Bounce Magazine. He blogs at the Huffington Post and PeterRobertCasey.com.
Hajj Flemings (HF): Define Peter Robert Casey in 140 Characters or less?
Peter Robert Casey (PRC): Peter Robert Casey celebrates and promotes the game of basketball as a lever to help others achieve their dreams.
HF: What was your inspiration for doing what you are doing?
PRC: I’ve been inspired by a lot of different people inside and outside of basketball.
I do what I do because I have a genuine love for the game, and because I think people can use the sport to influence others and accomplish great things in life.
HF: Tell us a little bit about the journey when you were under the radar, before St. John’s when you were doing what you loved without the big lights and the big stage?
PRC: I volunteered at the famed Rucker Park in the summer of 2008 to help Greg Marius (founder and CEO of the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic) and his staff draft corporate sponsorship proposals. I contacted Greg through Linkedin (fittingly, right?) and offered my services pro bono to get my feet wet. This was my segway into writing.
Before the summer wound down, I was already thinking of my next move. The EBC is only 8 weeks in length and you know how fast summers go by. With that, I introduced myself to the editors at SLAMonline and pitched the idea of covering the EBC Championship. To my surprise, they obliged under the condition that the quality of writing met their standards.
Here’s a lookat where my online presence all started. Notice I went by Pete Casey then, which proved to be too popular of a name to brand consistently and competitively in search engines and on social channels.
I wrote a second article for SLAMonline.com and was then offered a guest blog post on BounceMag.com. That was September 2008. I leveraged those small successes and framed a pitch to write for ESPN The Mag online. It sat on someone’s desk for a while, but I was ultimately assigned 5 separate articles.
In October 2008, I decided it was time to create a hub to archive my work in a central location, share future work, and to start writing regularly. The result was PeterRobertCasey.com. That same month I joined Twitter and reactivated my Facebook page. I would use both sites to establish relationships, join conversations, and outpost my blog’s RSS feed.
I spent hours upon hours (and I still do) commenting on relevant websites, creating content, guest writing, and building relationships. I put a lot of sweat and passion into it, but it’s what I love to do!
HF: Was the Peter Robert Casey personal brand created to get a job or does this come naturally out of your DNA?
PRC: My personal brand emanates naturally out of my DNA.
Though it would be hard to measure, I honestly feel that there’s nobody in this world that loves basketball more than I do. It’s a bold statement, but I don’t say it for shock value. I mean it. I’m an addict.
I extracted so much value from the game of basketball as a player, coach and student of the game, that I feel it’s absolutely necessary to put back in. More than that, I want to contribute. I developed lifelong friendships and memories. I learned real world values, including the importance of sacrifice, selflessness, and teamwork. The list goes on.
Basketball is simply a game, but it can also be a lever. A lever for growth; a lever for change; a lever for opportunities. I created a personal brand with the intention of spreading that message. Respect the game, but use the game to do bigger things. Great things.
HF: What is your basketball pedigree/background? What qualifies you to be the guy in this space? After following you online I believe you understand the space better than some of the professionals who went to school to do this?
PRC: My interest in basketball started as a player. I first picked up a ball in the 3rd grade, and was immediately hooked. By 4th grade, I was competing in leagues, and by 6th grade I was attending basketball-specific summer camps to refine my skills. I always considered myself a student of the game, wanting to absorb anything and everything that I could about basketball. I was the gym rat’s gym rat.
I played 3 years of varsity basketball in high school and one year of D-III JV ball at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. After college, I called Tom Konchalski for advice and he encouraged me to get back into the game. Initially, I decided to do that through coaching. One of my AAU coaches let me volunteer with his HS program, S.S. Seward Institute in Florida, NY. That was the 2004-2005 season.
I had worked at many basketball camps while playing and during college, but this was my first formal coaching experience. I still go to clinics to learn about the game even though I don’t coach any more. So I transitioned from being a player to a coach, to a content creator and marketer in basketball, which I believe, are converging into becoming one and the same.
Being a student of the game will always be held constant.
HF: What advice would you give people who are going into a field with no road map?
PRC: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” I’m not sure who the original source for this quote is, but it’s true.
Sometimes, though, you have to experiment before you can clarify your destination. Ultimately, you will need to unearth your passion and what it is that you do that adds value or solves a problem, or both.
When you know what that is, it’s much easier to draw up a road map. There will always be detours, speed bumps, and tickets along the way. That’s life.
HF: How do you see technology changing the way fans, teams, and athletes experience basketball in the future?
PRC: We’re already there, and things are going to get even more interesting as time passes. Technology has enabled fans to share their analysis and opinions, connect with their favorite players and teams, and get information faster than ever before. We’re about to see what 3-D basketball looks like, and we’ve seen what USTREAM and Twitter can do for players, both good and bad. Technology is going to continue making the world and the basketball world more and more connected.
HF: How important is character and reputation in building your personal brand in the space you are in?
PRC: John Wooden once said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
I’ve always agreed with this statement. A personal brand should always be an authentic representation of one’s character. I’m me, online and offline, consistently from person A to person B without wavering.
If you try to build a reputation (or perception) for something you’re not, eventually the truth will come to light. So I would say character is everything in personal branding while reputation is merely an ‘estimation’ of who you are. Estimations are rarely precise. Focus on exuding your true character.
HF: How did life change after ESPN and the New York Times covered you?
PRC: It didn’t right away. I still had to report to Columbia University on Monday morning after my mug appeared in the Sunday New York Times sports section and on ESPN.com.
These opportunities gave me positive exposure, which in turn, has led to more opportunities. I’m very humbled and thankful to have been given a press credential. I also can’t take credit for the idea. The genius behind the concept is Mark Fratto, the rising star Sports Information Director (SID) at St. John’s University.
A lot of times I get credit for coming up with the idea. That’s not the case. Mark saw something other athletic departments didn’t; at least not right away. It didn’t hurt, however, that I spent time building a brand across various social platforms. I was able to be found. The love from ESPN and the NYT has made being found even easier now.
HF: What are some basic tips you follow in using Twitter that has lead to your exponential growth in engaged Twitter followers?
PRC: First and foremost, listen. Survey the landscape, learn the norms and accepted behaviors of the Twittersphere. Think about how you could value to your niche community. What do you stand for? How do you want to be experienced? Find niche community members through directories, keyword searches and looking at who the influencers follow.
Be honest, be authentic, be human, and always be useful. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit (share quotes, articles, opinions and laughs). Give credit where it’s due through retweeting quality content and citing the original source. Don’t create noise. Use direct messaging (DM) in lieu of public @ replies when necessary.
Lastly, be active and interactive. Tweet daily. Don’t just broadcast. Twitter is not a bullhorn to blast your marketing messages. It’s a pool of online conversations with real people. Conversations require interaction. If you need advice, ask. Twitter’s filled with generous people ready and willing to share their knowledge.
HF: What tools do you use to monitor your Twitter activity?
PRC: I use Hootsuite and Tweetgrid the most.
Hootsuite is a web-based platform to organize your Twitter activity. You can create groups, search for keywords and trending topics, monitor your brand, view user info, track statistics, and of course, tweet. There’s a lot more functionality than I just described, but I’ll save you from being overwhelmed. Just check out their about page.
Tweetgrid is a real-time Twitter search dashboard. For example, during St. John’s games I track a variety of keywords, not limited to: St. John’s, Red Storm, Johnnies, Norm Roberts, #stjbb, @Peter_R_Casey and @STJ_Basketball. I also do the same for the opposing team. This gives me a pulse of the collective conversations taking place about the game and about both teams.
HF: How many hours a day to you spend watching games, tweeting, writing articles, following up with friends/followers (DMs, Text, etc)? (I want to get people to understand the type of commitment you have made to be where you are today?)
PRC: About 14 hours per day. I average 6 hours of sleep per night, and I try to spend a couple of hours of quality time with my wife. She’s the highest priority.
HF: The word expert gets thrown around a lot? What do you think validates someone being called or viewed an expert?
PRC: Expertise should never be self-proclaimed, and you will never catch me throwing that word around to describe my knowledge or skill set. I’m confident in my abilities, but I’m also humble enough to know there’s always more to learn about basketball, digital media, and business. And there’s always someone out there that’s smarter or more business savvy. An opinion’s an opinion. It’s all subjective, and therefore tough to validate.
HF: As a leader in this space how do you stay ahead of the pack?
I look at the pack as a community, and not competition. I challenge and compete against myself, and I measure my output against what I set out to do (my goals). We’re all in it together, and there’s enough to go around.
HF: Who are your greatest influences in the basketball space?
PRC: Hands down, Tom Konchalski. Tom has dedicated his life to the game of basketball and considers his ability to evaluate talent to be his retaliation for never being blessed with athletic grace. He’s built unmatched credibility through honesty, integrity, forging solid relationships, and by having the chops to accurately assess a player’s ability and forecast their growth. Thought I don’t have ambition to become a scout, Tom’s devotion to the game influenced me. He was the guy that encouraged me to get back in the game after hanging up my playing shoes in 2000. I owe a lot to him.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say my former coaches, teammates, and Dr. Naismith himself. There’s too many to name!