As director of athletics media relations, Denise Gideon has incorporated online interactive tools, from Twitter to blogging to podcasts, to help promote Catamount athletics. Athletes have shared journal-like blog entries. Scores and game updates are published in the quick-update Twitter format. Catamount Tracks podcasts of interviews with coaches and players can be downloaded or heard on the university’s radio station, WWCU-FM.
To master the online tools before deploying them at WCU, Gideon launched a podcast about “One Tree Hill,” a teen-driven television drama set in the fictional small town of Tree Hill, N.C. Her now-syndicated podcast has more than 7,000 listeners.
Gideon is a native of Knoxville, Tenn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sport management with a minor in business, and a master’s degree in sport administration. In addition, Gideon is president of the Southeast Scapers, a fan group of the science-fiction show “Farscape,” and helped publicize and coordinate premier screenings of the movie “Stolen Life.” She joined the WCU staff in March 2007.
Editor’s Note: Interview printed in condensed and edited form.
The Reporter: Catamount athletics recently added a Twitter feature (http://twitter.com/catamounts) – a tool for posting short updates about athletics. How did that start?
Gideon: I knew about Twitter, but I was just so busy I couldn’t get involved with it over the fall. I started working with Twitter after following the Southern Gothic Productions blog site, which uses Twitter, and started using Twitter for my site, “The One Tree Podcast and More Blog.” I host a syndicated podcast, “The One Tree Hill Connection“ and started using that as a tool to get information out about the podcast on a different platform. We started using Twitter two weeks before the women’s basketball team went to the NCAA tournament. A lot of the things that I do to bring more awareness to athletics stems from what I do personally.
The Reporter: How did you become a fan of “One Tree Hill?”
Gideon: It was during the writers’ strike. A show I used to watch got canceled, and I quit TV for a little while. I put “One Tree Hill” in my Netflix queue and, as I watched, started to get involved with the show’s online communities, including a “One Tree Hill” blog. I posted my opinions about the show, and Amy Bennett (a blogger) said there wasn’t a podcast and encouraged me to start one. I took a seminar with Neil Torda in the middle of April, and we talked a lot about it. It all snowballed from there.
The Reporter: When did you start podcasting?
Gideon: I did it right after the (season five) finale on May 20, 2008. It was 15 minutes, scripted, and when I read it, my hands were sweating. I had a towel beside me. I was very nervous. I got a little bit of feedback and decided to go back through and do reviews of all of the previous seasons.
Six weeks later, I got an e-mail from Jeffery Willard, who co-owns FarPoint Media. I signed a deal and am now syndicated by them. … I stepped it up and started pursuing interviews with artists (featured on the show) for a segment called “Artist Alley.” “One Tree Hill” is known for music by indie artists played at key moments of the show. I’ve featured almost 30 artists.
The Reporter: Who are a few?
Gideon: Two of my biggest interviews to date will be published in the next couple of weeks. April 6 is Andrew McMahon from Jack’s Mannequin, one of the artists that personifies “One Tree Hill.” Probably my biggest interview to date is interviewing The Fray, which is one of the biggest bands in the world. I’ll try to edit it and get it out on the 13th or 14th.
The Reporter: How has your “One Tree Hill” experience intersected with what you do at WCU?
Gideon: Our women’s basketball team was kind of searching for an identity before winning all of those games. So the second time I interviewed Joe Manganiello (an actor who plays the character Owen on “One Tree Hill”), he recorded an inspirational message for them, and we played it for them right before we got off the bus to play Furman at Furman (which WCU won 83-74). We have played it a couple of times since. I brought (Joe) a Western Carolina shirt. (See Joe Manganiello in the WCU T-shirt pictured above right.)
Also, I’ve helped develop the Catamount Tracks podcasts Student Athlete Roundtable, and basketball players Heather Swayne and Jessica Jackson host interviews with teams and administrators that were aired on Power 90.5 on Saturday mornings and other venues. An article by Graham Hays for ESPN.com highlighted one of them with Swayne and Jackson.
The Reporter: What other tools have you successfully worked in at WCU?
Gideon: The student athlete blogs are a window into the team that help you feel like you are part of this team. … When we picked up the local newspaper (during a women’s basketball tournament in Montana), the reporter who did the preview story not only had used information from my game notes but also from (women’s basketball player) Kristin Feemster’s blog and how the team ate Thanksgiving dinner at a truck stop. What she wrote allowed family and friends and Catamount supporters into this team and served as a media relations tool.