Karen Freberg: Life with Spectacles as a Social Media Professor

By Karen Freberg, Ph.D.

I tell my students all the time I have three weaknesses: coffee, shoes, and technology. I have always tried to integrate as much technology into my work, research, and teaching as possible. So, when Snapchat announced their latest venture into the camera sector with Spectacles, I was beyond excited.

What was impressive to me was the fact they launched the product in a pretty innovative (and genius) way to create as much FOMO as you could possibly imagine. We'll be talking about the Spectacles campaign for a while since it really tapped into the notion you had to be somewhere at a specific time (as shown on their map page) to get these exclusive devices. The fact they were more affordable than Google Glass ($130 compared to $1500) was another deciding factor.

Investing in new technologies like this is not new to me as as professor. I was a Google Glass Explorer back in 2013 and it was interesting to see the comparison between the two different campaigns. With Google Glass you initially had to send out a tweet to them and state how you would use the glasses. I remember getting the notification I had been selected to be part of the Explorer group and I was super excited. My dad and I drove down to Venice Beach to pick them up in person.

However, as Edna Mode classically states in “The Incredibles” –  this was in the past and it distracts from the now. Now is all about Spectacles, among other emerging tools of technologies.


With that being said, getting a pair of Specs was NOT an easy task. Most of the locations were no where close to Louisville, KY. I also noticed most of them were in CA (not too far from my hometown) and everyone in my network was talking about it.

I saw some people who were able to get a pair and I was waiting in anticipation on what types of videos and coverage they would share with them. Some of the more innovative ways came from some of the professional sports teams, which was cool to see.

I had a few friends who were able to get a pair from the store in NYC, and I initially reached out to a couple of them to see if I could possibly get one from them. Unfortunately, I was not able to get one this way. So, I thought to myself – how can I get a pair? I realized I had to be resourceful (and creative) to see if I could get a pair in time before the spring semester starts.

The answer? This article from Mashable. Definitely check it out. I ordered a pair and a few days later, I got a package in the mail with my pair. Fully charged and ready to go!


This was something I felt was both surprising but also refreshing in many ways. Some voiced this and were publicly reaching out to others to see if they could get a pair of Specs to test, review, showcase, and share with their own networks. We’ve seen a few reviews of Spectacles and the story behind how they got a pair (see Carlos Gil’s review), and I do think the way in which these products were distributed definitely influenced how people perceived them.

We have seen influencer and influencer marketing become more mainstream as brands integrate them more into campaigns and other product/service initiatives on social media. They are the first ones to get the products most of the time and get the chance to share their reviews and feelings.

Some influencer campaigns are successful, but there are others that have not gone off so well and have actually (in my opinion) shifted the focus away from the product from a positive perception to a negative one. Exhibit A: Robert Scoble with Google Glass. When brands hand over power, control, and brand message to an influencer, they are giving them a lot of influence that may not be the kind they want. Scoble was still able to get a pair, but it did not have the same reaction as his initial posting with Google Glass.

With that being said, I think Snapchat did not want to be in the same category as Google with their product, so this is probably one of the main reasons they went a different direction. Do I think this is a turning point for influencer marketing? Yes to some degree. I think influencers have to be aware that not all brands are going to give them first dibs on a product and it all comes down to their vision, objectives, and relationships they have as a brand. We have to all recognize the differences among brands when it comes to this type of strategy.


There have been many reviews, blog posts, and even descriptions of ways you can use these devices in the workplacemarketing, brands, etc. I have been able to use Spectacles now for about two days, and I have to say there are a lot of things I found surprising about the devices, including:

  • Battery life: There were some reviews (like the one Carlos wrote) that discussed battery life as a main point of concern. I actually had no issues with my Specs when it came to using them on an ongoing basis. I took them out on a hike, walked around town, recorded a bunch of videos at my local coffee shop, and STILL had a lot of battery left.
  • Sync capabilities: I was concerned about this because Google Glass really didn’t sync up well unless you were either on wifi or had a really strong connection. Spectacles was able to sync up immediately, even on top of a mountain (yes, I was able to do this today). No worries there if you need to get your video snaps from Specs immediately.
  • No concerns for recording (or really knowing what they are!) from public. This was a HUGE issue for Google Glass. However, the glasses that are part of Specs are actually pretty useful. I picked out a black pair and they look like regular sunglasses. In the time I have had them, only one person said they only noticed when I moved my head they realized something was different about them.
  • Audio: Audio comes out pretty clear as well. I was surprised with how much it actually picks up from the snaps I was able to create.
  • One function for the product: Snapchat really did stay in their lane when it came to these glasses. They record video and allow you to upload it to Snapchat. That’s it. No apps, voice control, etc., like Google Glass. Essentially, they were able to make it simple (and effective) for the user to create and focus on content.
  • Cool factor: I felt exactly like the first time I got Google Glass. Spectacles are COOL! I got flooded with private messages, DMs, and emails about how I got a pair. There are many ways you can get a pair without following the bots at this point (at an affordable price).


I will be trying to do this for my social media class at the University of Louisville (#Freberg17). And while I am still in the process of brainstorming different ways this could be accomplished, here are some initial tactics:

  • Immersive storytelling: This is similar to what we had with Google Glass, but it would allow the professor (and students) to create stories from their perspectives. A day in the life via Snapchat (possibly for a takeover of a university account?), fan experience, showcasing announcements (college acceptances, awards, graduation, etc), behind the scenes experiences, etc. The list is endless.
  • POV Interviews and features: This was what I loved about seeing what BBC was doing with their Snapchat (way to go, GiniCanBreathe!) You can give the power to the students to do an interactive interview where they are able to get both perspectives.
  • How to videos: If you wanted to showcase a tutorial via Snapchat perhaps for your students in specific amount of time, you are able to do this accordingly.
  • Different view of presentations: If you can multitask, this could be fun to share with others on what it is like to present in class (if you want to wear glasses inside), a conference, or a group setting. There are prescription lenses that allows you to change out the lenses, so that’s something to consider if you don’t want to have just sunglasses. This was also a feature that was not available for Google Glass.
  • Snapchat creative movie content: Imagine if you had footage from your POV and then were able to use your phone to capture other views to create a true integrated view of a story? 

Let me know what you think!

Karen Freberg is an assistant professor in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville and an adjunct instructor for the WVU Graduate Online Program Freberg’s research has been published in several book chapters and in academic journals such as Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Relations Education, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management and Health Communication. Freberg’s social media pedagogy practices have been featured in Forbes and in USA Today College publications. You can find more from her at karenfreberg.com/blog.

Industry Spotlight: Gianina Thompson, ESPN PR

Gianina Thompson works at ESPN as their senior publicist for NBA, MLB, FIBA and Little Leagues where she serves as a spokesperson, crafts and executes strategic publicity campaigns, analyzes TV ratings for media distribution, and pitches exclusives and feature pieces for on-air commentators like Sage Steele and Rachel Nichols and retired stand-out NBA players who are now ESPN analysts like Jalen Rose and Tracy McGrady. She also travels to some of the most anticipated sporting events and games where she manages interviews for on-air commentators with various media. She has worked with media from Forbes, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, Allure, Men’s Fitness, and Essence, among many others.

SportsPR.com caught up with Gianina to talk about her experience and insights from working in the sports PR industry.

On being named one of PR News' Rising Stars Under 30 and her experiences working in PR so far:

I’m very blessed to work for a company where there’s a contagious atmosphere of hard work and collaboration. Not everyone is fortunate to find inspiration in what and who they’re working with and that became even more apparent when I worked with Jessica Mendoza. Jess broke several glass ceilings for women in MLB broadcasting. For each interview I accompanied her to, I left inspired… and I’m the publicist, not the writer or audience. I believe that says a lot about the person Jess is and it made my pitches more natural and gravitated an energy to media I worked with.

Another instance that really stands out for me is when I pitched Chauncey Billups to speak with The Source Magazine [hip-hop publication] about his transition from ball to broadcast, hip-hop, style, and of course, top NBA storylines. After the interview, he told me how it was one of his most favorite interviews and to send him the article afterwards. I know it was because it wasn’t just pure hoop talk, it was something different and it included a mix of topics that was akin to barbershop-talk.

On travel and the challenges of a "mobile" office:

I don’t travel for every game, but I must admit I do love the adrenaline associated with being on-site at events, games, and even the studio sets. I like a nice balance between behind-the-desk and in-the-weeds on set or at a game. During the NBA Finals, the hustle and flow between my boss and I was an awesome tag team, especially with last minute changes, requests, or variables that came into play. I think it’s important to build a trust with your team. It's easy to want to be independent because you know what and how to do your job, but trusting your teammate(s) to tap in is imperative. You can’t always be super-man or super-woman but you can be part of a super-team. I have that with the team I’m on and it makes the world of difference.

On being a woman in a male-dominated industry and where she finds inspiration:

I’m still doing a lot of trial-and-error and learning a lot. So many women have helped me along the way… but the ones that stick out are the ones who invested in my growth when all I had were goals and determination, before working for a sports team or network or even a job at that. I’m not going to name each as I don’t want to forget anyone, but their words of wisdom are something I’m always willing to share. A piece of advice that is practically my mantra is, “Never hope for it more than you work for it.” And that’s something that drives any and everything I do.

And as I said before, I’m blessed to work with people who inspire me even if it’s just because of how they carry themselves or their work ethic and the reputation they’ve worked for with sweat and patience. A few of those women are Doris Burke, Ramona Shelburne and Rachel Nichols, who I pitched to a Forbes writer who wrote an amazing piece on how ESPN is boldly putting women at the forefront of its NBA coverage. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a must. Last I checked, it had over 20K views and for good reason!

On "must-have" news sources:

I have to be honest with you, I fall in the high percentage of people who check their phone first thing when they wake up. I look on Twitter and then the ESPN app for game scores and reaction from fans and writers. Later in the morning, I’ll read Sports Business Daily. I also enjoy reading the daily newsletter from Goalposte.

And although I’m in the sports industry, I love reading music, lifestyle and fashion sites. Yes, I’m a “seller” of story ideas, but I’m also part of the audience that writers are trying to appeal to. So I like to see what angles they are going for in non-sports publications. That’s what gave me the idea to pitch Allure to do behind the scenes videos with Josina Anderson, ESPN’s first woman NFL Insider, one of ESPN’s rising stars Cassidy Hubbarth and Mendoza at their studio sets and games. I know the audience may not be specifically hard-core sports fans, but that inside peek into who the commentators are beyond just the sports coverage and how they get ready, their career journey and how they overcome certain instances, makes them more relatable to readers and viewers.

On industry changes and the growth of digital media:

Athletes, coaches and TV commentators are more accessible to fans’ kudos, praises… and even insults and harassment. It's one thing to be critical, but it’s a whole different ball game when it’s thrown with threats and violence. The problem has become too common and how to stop is still unclear, unfortunately.

On a more positive note, social media keeps me on my toes in coming up with clever story ideas to pitch to media.

For example, on Halloween the reporters on the show “Around the Horn” all dressed up and Israel Gutierrez dressed up as UFC fighter Conor MeGregor. I thought, “Oh my gosh, Izzy is ripped and so in shape!” And maybe half an hour earlier one of my friends had retweeted a Men’s Fitness article that they were featured in. That quickly hit a chord for me to pitch Izzy with Men’s Fitness as a reporter who’s just as shredded as the NBA players that he interviews.

I may or may not have thought of that pitch if I didn’t see my friend’s post. Social media allows us to be privy to things outside of our everyday interest and for me that sparks various ideas in my work-related pitches.

I'm also able to get news out quickly via Twitter, whether that's a guest coming on a show, schedule changes, ratings and viewership, further promoting articles from ESPN.com or ESPN the Magazine, or features I pitched that go live.

Gianina Thompson works at ESPN as their senior publicist for NBA, MLB, FIBA and Little Leagues.

Most recently Gianina was named one of PR News’ Rising Stars 30 & Under for her work around ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza who broke several glass ceilings for women in MLB broadcasting, the most watched and historical 2016 NBA Finals and the new Saturday NBA game series on ABC.

Prior to ESPN, Gianina held communication and writing roles at the NFL Washington Redskins, a FOX-affiliate news station in Virginia, Hampton University, a Forbes-featured website Bonfire Impact, and her alma mater Old Dominion University.

At 21 years old, Gianina had already received both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in communications. As a Division 1 college athlete on the rowing team, Gianina focused her thesis on why male college-athletes aspire to play their sport professionally more than female-college athletes.

For more from Gianina, follow her on Twitter.

Instagram Stories and Sports

By Neil Horowitz

Instagram Stories are still relatively new (though the honeymoon period ended, as Instagram Live and, now, Instagram geo-stickers in Stories recently arrived). There is no right way or wrong way for sports teams, leagues, media, and brands to utilize IG Stories, but we're seeing quite a breadth of forms.

The biggest lesson is that there is no best practice - yet - but the competition for attention, retention, and to keep users coming back, is as fierce as ever. Here are a few very different examples of Instagram Stories in sports.

Polished and animated graphics

This is an visually appealing and narrative-focused use, which seems to combine the best parts of Snapchat (chronological, short-form storytelling) with the best part of Instagram (sharp, clean graphics). It feels like Snapchat Discover, which is exactly right — as Instagram allows [limited] file upload natively, while Snapchat only offers this functionality through its distinctly differently looking Memories feature. Check out this pregame example below from the Atlanta Falcons, building up to their game.

Another example from the NFL is the Green Bay Packers, who also have a sleek, animated graphic story for game day. They also included score updates with a custom-designed, visually appealing graphic.


The idea of top plays, photos, countdowns, etc. were an early, but effective use of Instagram Stories. It has also been used as a shorthand to deliver quick headlines. Sports media accounts and leagues have used this style the most. It’s a good way to keep users going through the story and curating some top content from the clutter of the day. MLB used it for headlines, SportsCenter for top plays, MLB for headlines, and more. Check out an example below of a top plays countdown from the NBA account, including tagging players (where applicable) in the highlight.

In a related version, they’re also using it for lineup announcements. Take a look at the examples below from the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets. Sharp.
[ht to Jeff Mason for this one]


Snapchat-like content

For many, especially teams, content in Instagram Stories is similar to what many have become accustomed to in Snapchat – the raw, uncut, behind-the-scenes content. It’s a good way to get that awesome access and content to a wider audience, and to fans not fluent in Snapchat. During games, it is also a repository for the best professionally taken photos. Some use video, others just go all photos. A couple examples below from NFL teams, but these abound across all leagues, too.


This is a unique, novel use of the Instagram Stories that could have some legs for a team or brand with a talented graphic artist. By creating and uploading tons of frames, and instructing fans to tap quickly, a flipbook effect can be realized. MLS did this with a pencil-drawing like image to drive tune-in for the MLS Cup in late 2016.

Sponsored Content

Where there are eyeballs, there will be sponsored content. Instagram has not yet begun inserting any ads in Stories, but there are some instances of sponsored content in sports. Like with Snapchat, intrusive or not value-adding sponsor integration can be met with resistance and resentment from users intimately engaged with the content. Take a look at an example below with content on the NHL Instagram Story, sponsored by Ticketmaster.

Driving web traffic

Instagram Stories have imitated Snapchat with their ‘Swipe up for more’ feature and this has begun seeing some limited use in sports. The typical use case is to link to a highlight or an article. An example below comes from the Denver Broncos, where a swipe up reveals a full video highlight.


Probably my favorite use of Instagram Stories in sports so far felt like an abbreviated episode of "Cribs" (Google it, youngsters), in which Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi took fans through a day, including a mini tour of his house, his fridge, and more. I could watch quick little 1-5 minute ‘episodes’ like this often! And maybe a front or end card and/or logo placement and/or product placement could monetize it. You can see the sample below.

It’s always exciting when a new platform feature comes out (since that rarely happens. Ha!) and experimentation and practices play out before our very eyes. Take a moment to look, to learn, and get inspired.

This post was originally published on dsmsports.net, which can be found here.

Neil Horowitz is a Senior Customer Success Manager at Hopscotch and founder of DMZsports.net, an industry publication highlighting many aspects of the sports business. His Digital and Sports Media podcasts can be found here. Follow him on Twitter @NJH287

Advice from the pros: How to get ahead in the digital era

The SportsPR news team caught up with five industry professionals to find out: What is the most notable change you've noticed in the industry throughout your career and how do you keep up with the continuous digital/social growth?


  • The most notable change I've experienced in my career is the drastic increase in the volume of information available, which creates both challenges and opportunities. When I first started working in public relations, we faxed our press releases and spent A LOT of time on the phone. Now, we have to get more creative with how we build relationships with journalists and cut through the clutter to get attention for our clients. At the same time, now we have huge opportunities to create our own unique content for our clients. Being a good storyteller remains the common thread and has become even more important as we rely less on journalists to tell all our stories. 
  • It can be overwhelming to try to keep up with the constant changes and growth in the digital/social media space. As an agency, at PRO Sports Communications, we are always challenging ourselves to innovate and educate, trying out the latest tools and continuing to learn. We can't get complacent or think that we know it all.  A good place to start is to follow what others in the #smsports space are doing and talking about online.


  • The most notable change I’ve noticed in my industry throughout my career is the birth and explosive growth of digital and social media platforms where stories can be told……and news can spread in real time. It used be that stories were told through the newspaper, radio or on TV….and there was usually some delay in when those stories were told. Now there are social media platforms that allow for stories to be told instantaneously. Anyone with a camera on their phone can be what I call a “citizen journalist” and capture anything from disasters to celebrities in compromising positions to rude customer service.  Crisis PR has changed drastically with the growth of digital and social. Anyone in PR who isn’t monitoring those channels constantly, could wake up to a tidal wave of controversy for their client.
  • I keep up with the continuous digital/social growth by talking to leaders who are shaping the future of these technologies. Since I am the Founder of the Sports PR Summit (www.sportsprsummit.com), we are fortunate to engage leaders in the digital and social media space. Our Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop took place at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco and many of the brightest minds from digital and social media were in attendance. I am also constantly on social media for my radio show Sports Business Radio (www.sportsbusinessradio.com) and for my PR events and clients.

Kara Fisher, Assistant Director, Michigan State Athletic Communications

  • Technology is by far the biggest change in the industry. When I was an intern, I was dealing with modems and fax machines. I think the technology is great, but it also creates a separation. We are always connected, but yet personal communication is dying.
  • The social media growth is exciting; I love trying new things. I remember fighting Twitter and now I feel like I am fighting to keep Twitter alive. Keeping up with new ways to communicate with fans, media and student athletes is exciting, but it does add to the workload. The to do list seems to grow with time as well.

Aimee Dulebohn, Communications Manager, Phoenix International Raceway

  • The most notable change I’ve experienced is the sheer number of PR people who are out there. There can be a lot of gatekeepers to reach a certain individual or find an answer that you need. But if you take advantage of these opportunities, and always build on your relationships, you will find yourself well connected. I’m not the best at staying up to date with digital and social platforms, but I have noticed that those organizations that utilize these opportunities to create a different voice, and those that may push the limit, are often well-received and well-respected.

Valerie Krebs, Media Relations Manager, Fox Sports

  • I consider myself very fortunate that I started my career in sports PR as digital and social media was just beginning to take off, so I’ve been able to grow with it. Although, when I first started, we asked ourselves “if” we should be using social media – now I don’t think a brand can truly thrive without it. Personally, I love the instant feedback you get from sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and I think it makes me better at my job, as I’m able to keep up with news and trends much more easily. However, I think you have to take that feedback with a grain of salt. You’re always going to get more negative comments than positive ones, so you can’t let the vocal few dictate your strategy.