Our goal at the end of the day is to help sign the best class in America and to capitalize on the big moments for the program.
Director of Recruiting Content
University of Tennessee
The interview with Clay Bollinger was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Director of Recruiting Content for the University of Tennessee. What does a typical day look like for you?
My job every day is to tell the story of what it’s like to be a Tennessee Volunteer. I use social media to reach our program’s main target audience, the best high school prospects in the country.
Working alongside our recruiting department and with coordination with all the different departments that touch football including sports information, marketing, compliance and senior administration, I’m constantly working to find unique and creative ways to showcase the Tennessee Football program utilizing the social media platforms to the best of their abilities.
Every day, I’m coordinating with our coaches to send content to prospective student-athletes, publishing content to our team accounts and sharing content with our current players.
What are some of the big creative challenges you face with content creation? How do you find content inspiration and brainstorm new ideas?
The college football social media landscape is so competitive and is compared along with every other component of the program like on-campus visits or facilities by the recruits, so whoever stands out on the feed or in their direct messages is going to be who stands out in the recruits’ mind when decision time comes. Keeping up with these other great creative teams is a big challenge, but I love to compete with everyone.
The never-ending nature is also a big challenge because the minute you take your foot off the gas for a second, you’re going to fall behind.
I love following companies like Nike or Gatorade that also have our same demographic as their target audience for the most part. Great ideas can come from literally anywhere and I always keep my ears open to everyone around the building.
I listen to my student assistants and other staff members around the building, especially the coaches that are talking to the recruits every day about what they want to see and learn about.
What is your content strategy thought process? How is it used to meet your goals and measure success? Walk us through this process from executing an idea to tracking data to know if the idea worked.
There are two types of content, event coverage and evergreen. There are a lot of things specifically in college football that is annual and are reoccurring, so you have to have a great plan set for all the events you know are coming. The creative teams that can fill in the cracks with great evergreen content are the ones that stand out on the feed.
Our goal at the end of the day is to help sign the best class in America and to capitalize on the big moments for the program. To accomplish that we have to take the great things that are happening on our campus and take it to the world.
I don’t look as heavily into analytics here at Tennessee because sometimes it is very much fool’s gold. We can post a “bad” video and it will get hundreds of thousands of views because Vol Nation is the most passionate fan base on social and it’s not close.
I focus more on making sure that the messaging is aligned with Coach Pruitt and our whole staff’s vision. Tracking data is still important and I have to keep an eye on what is resonating the most and take note of that for future content strategy. As Wayne Gretzky said, “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
In today’s sports media world, how do you capture attention in an audience that has so many options and avenues to choose from?
Now more than ever, people are consuming so much content. They can see content about our team from national outlets, fan sites or highlight accounts. Our access to the team and staff is obviously what separates us from those other avenues, so we try to let the players tell the story and carry the content. That’s something no one else can produce.
Tell us how you and the Vols Football Program are finding new ways to connect with colleagues and other stakeholders in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. What have you found successful?
There is a rich tradition at Tennessee, so it is always an easy win to go back into the vault to repost great moments.
We also have tried to be as aggressive as possible in interjecting the brand into as many different places as possible whether that be when Luke Combs rocked a Tennessee hat on one of his live streams or capitalizing on winning the content lottery that is Coach Duggs and the Barstool crew. Having the Barstool megaphone tweeting about Tennessee every day for the past month has been incredibly awesome and a bunch of fun.
What advice would you give to recently graduated sports management students looking for their next opportunity and grow to be in a similar position to you one day?
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Get to know everyone in the building you work in currently and in the building, you want to work in. Someone will have a connection that can get you to where you want to be. I’m forever thankful for the opportunity to work on the Clemson creative team as a graduate assistant before coming to Tennessee and to be surrounded by talented, driven people that are there to help you grow.
Surround yourself with people that want you to improve and get better every single day. Before that, I started as an equipment manager at Kentucky during undergrad. I just wanted to get my foot in the door of a college football program. I learned so much that is now critical to my job by coming in on the ground floor and doing the dirty work and developing a strong work ethic.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Clay’s role with the University of Tennessee is vital for the football program. Essentially, it’s Clay’s job to entice top-tier high school athletes to sign with the Tennessee Volunteers. His position is all about telling the story of what it’s like to be a Tennessee Volunteer and Clay does a great job at coordinating all aspects that go into that. I’m no football player but if I were, I can assure you the University of Tennessee would definitely be on my radar after exploring their social media platforms!