After Cincy loss, 30-year K-State season ticket holder is done

So, here we are … the end of the season.

We knew we’d get here eventually, even if it was a game or two longer than a solid minority of Kansas State fans wanted. And, the end came in the exact fashion they had been salivating over: overmatched and out-toughed by Cincinnati like a big brother holding his little bro’s head under his armpit for an NCAA-sized noogie.

Losing in the NCAA Tournament never leaves a good feeling – the finality of it all and other things – but this one is obviously different. In 99 of 100 other similar situations – 20 games for the first time in three years, first NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in that same span, picked ninth in the Big 12 before finishing sixth, and returns its starting backcourt and a promising young big man next year (no, not Dean Wade – K-State radio color analyst Stan Weber said as much on Friday during a segment on Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City when he said the other players basically decided to stop waiting on him to figure things out) – this season would be reason for at least cautious optimism going forward.

But those other 99 situations don’t have the inexplicable caveat that a sizable portion of a fan base has simply washed its hands of a coach and wants its administration to do the same. They’re tired of drinking 3.2% Weber beer and barely getting a winning buzz. They want to get winning hammered, even if they don’t know where to buy it.

Regardless, an increasing number of fans want to go shopping, including some who gave it a legitimate go and have legitimate power in their actions.

For example, a season ticket of 30+ consecutive years keenly watched the past year and decided after Friday’s conclusion that they are finished until a change is made. Here’s the note they sent me on Twitter:

“If they keep this man after that effort, I believe I may have to save what amounts to $1000, once I make the full donation, pay for the tickets and parking, the gas and eating out.

“Hard to end over 30 years of loyalty, but the way we play has no semblance of heart, or recruited and developed skill. That got Altman, Asbury and Wooldridge out of here by the 5-year mark. I would think it would do so for a 60-year-old man. It’s probably going to take him resigning, because I don’t think an athletic department in flux, without a permanent choice for AD in place, to would probably pull the trigger.

“Does your voice resonate enough to help us small donors have any say in this? I sure wish the large donors, who effect any of these decisions anyway, knew how a bunch of us little guys feel. If a change is made, I’m sending my dollars right back in. No change, no reaching of 32 years on the streak!!”

It doesn’t sound like this fan is alone in thinking this way.

I don’t know if I have a voice that reaches the decision makers at K-State, and I don’t agree with how things have played out, but here’s hoping those KSU decision-making folks understand exactly how deep-rooted, and growing, their issue is.

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More than a few K-State fans want their team to lose

A couple of recent polls illustrate a fan base nearly split between wanting its team to win in the postseason and wanting a new coach.

The “Bruce Weber sucks no matter what he does” narrative has been a thing in and around Kansas State for some time; all the way back to the coach’s very first day for some Wildcats basketball fans. 

How large that thing actually is has been unmeasured to this point, with the popular thought being that most of the rage boiled down to a vicious but vocal minority.

K-State’s best season since 2013-14 – at least 20 wins, a sixth-place finish in the Big 12 after getting picked ninth, and a return to the NCAA postseason (technically, considering it’s the “Last 4 In”) would seem to be the perfect time to prove that assertion. After all, the program seemed to show a trend upward the past three years, if only a very slight one, moving from 15 to 17 to at least 20 wins.

But hey, progress is progress … until it isn’t, apparently, as a couple of recent Twitter polls showed a pretty serious split among fans when asked to choose between their team winning and getting a new coach.

The first poll was conducted right after K-State knocked Baylor out of the Big 12 Tournament.

Interesting, right? I mean, four out of 10 K-State fans* are still hoping their coach gets canned after a big win that was needed in order to break a postseason drought.

*This statement, and this entire post, makes the assumption that it was K-State fans who voted in the polls. Is it 100-percent guaranteed that every vote had purple in its veins? No. Is it a pretty safe bet that nearly all of those votes were K-State fans? I feel pretty confident in saying yes, mostly because nobody outside of this fanbase cares enough about KSU’s troubles to try and sway a vote like this one.

Still the bigger shocker came via the second poll conducted Sunday afternoon, right after K-State’s name was called to participate in the NCAA Tournament play-in game against Wake Forest.

Just 60 percent of 463 votes said they were happy K-State made the postseason. That left 40 percent saying they either weren’t happy or were conflicted.

That’s no small minority. And, it doesn’t really matter how things got to this point, even if it’s sometimes illogical or unfair.* That nearly half of a fan base can’t or won’t put positive results ahead of wishing for a new head coach demands legitimate attention.

*Personally, I’ve found many of the arguments against Weber to be vague and dishonest — “He’s one of the worst coaches in the league” or “This team keeps getting worse under Weber.” This all despite results showing that Weber has either had success in the past or held his own. Take this year, for example, when he beats every other Big 12 coach outside of Bill Self and Steve Prohm with a team picked to finish ninth. He isn’t the best coach in the league, but he certainly appears to be on par with most of the other ones.

Twitter conversation the past few days also has asked whether Bruce Weber might be the beneficiary of a fluid athletic director situation. In short, one would have to believe so, right? A school president wouldn’t put a coaching hire on the shoulders of an interim director, or shouldn’t. Or, if that does happen, one would believe the interim tag would be lifted soon after.

That timeline bears watching, and in the mean time, it gives Weber, whose current contract runs through the 2018-19 season, enough time to go win a couple of games in the next week and complicate things even more.

Crowdsourcing: What K-State fans hope to see against Stanford

The Kansas State Wildcats open the 2016 season on the road against AP No. 8 Stanford on Friday. With good experience (and talent) returning defensively but questions at quarterback and on a new-look offensive line, it’s hard to say, exactly, what the expectation is regarding performance.*Coach_Bill_Snyder

*Unless you are a disciple of K-State’s 16 Goals For Success, of course, and choose to live by No. 13: “Expect to win.” For the sake of the rest of this piece, though, let’s leave that perfectly reasonable thought to the side for now.

K-State head coach Bill Snyder shared his thoughts with the media on Tuesday.

“Stanford is a great challenge, and our players are excited about playing the game, that’s a positive thing,” Snyder said.

As for his made-over young o-line?

“They will probably see the brunt of Stanford’s defense and movements and all that goes along with it,” Snyder said. “They’re drilling diligently on that right now and they’ve went through spring practice well. They’ve earned the right to be there.

“They don’t have the experience that you’d like, but they’ve had a significant amount of practice experience. So we’re doing the kind of work that we need to be doing and the practice with the environment and how we organize it. I think there will be some carry over for them into the ballgame.”

Snyder also laid out his thoughts on Stanford’s Heisman hopeful, running back Christian McCaffrey.

“I have not met him personally, but I like the way he conducts himself. I would say the hidden ingredient is his leadership on that team in a very humble fashion,” Snyder said. “I just like that nature of his character.

“Aside from that, on the football field, it’s just being able to identify where he is and why he’s there becomes important. He can line up in a lot of different positions and not get baited out of position because of where his linemen are.

“[Our players] have to understand what he can, but also equally important, what he can’t do from certain positions. He can be a deceptive runner, he can be a powerful runner, and obviously he’s got a good deal of speed. We have to be great on our cover units – our punt units and kickoff units – because he offers those things on the return units as he does in their offense.”

Outside of the team, as anyone would in today’s day and age, I asked Twitter what it expects.

“Competitive, with McCaffrey being the X-factor. K-State matches up well otherwise.” – @bclaymoore

“Think KSU defense can keep it close just not sure about how efficient KSU’s offense will be, too many unknowns.” – @jswabash

“Expect a competitive game but not a W.” – @bmalcolm88

“I like our team but I think we’ll struggle to stay in the game. Close at half but we fall 31-13.” – @MultiTodd

“Snyder Goal #13” – @MichaelKBerges

“To be competent and keep things close, IMO.” – @roh_tweets

“Get pressure with DL, keep McCaffrey contained and make someone else beat us, >55% completion rate, and competent OL play.” – @Tye_KC

And, finally, my current favorite …

“K-State 98, Stanford 2” – @Schmidtburgh

Content Marketing: From Drip to Deluge

More than ever, content is king.

It drives a never hungrier Internet. It shape-shifts from e-books and blogs to videos, newspaper articles and Internet memes. All of it combines to stuff our faces with brands, messages, agendas and even, on occasion, knowledge. It gets heavy at times, and consumers have pushed back by becoming guarded, skeptical and better informed – often quick to dismiss anything that seems pushy.From Drip to Deluge, content marketing needs time to work.

That leads to a simple question: How does one best reach and engage a savvy consumer on their turf and on their terms? The answer is that even if consumers have become extremely niched, their appetites for information have never been bigger or more efficient. They consume more info and do it faster than before, and that’s a good thing. It leaves room for your message to be on the menu, and the Internet gives you more opportunity than ever to present why your meal is the best choice.

What a glorious table setting for content marketing.

“Content marketing has always been a part of the marketing mix in some fashion, just under different names such as branded content, brand storytelling and so on,” says Kevin Briody, Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer, for Pace.*

*Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Pace was named 2013 Content Agency of the Year at the second annual Content Marketing Awards.

“However it really took off over the last few years due to how consumers are finding and sharing all that content – in other words, due to the rise of organic search (Google, Bing, etc.) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and their increasing convergence.

“In an incredibly noisy marketing landscape, particularly online, having a powerful, relevant and engaging story to tell has become absolutely critical for brands looking to connect with their customers and prospects. Great storytelling content, and how it fuels organic search and social media, is the root of content marketing as a viable marketing strategy.”

James Meyers is the CEO of Imagination Publishing, which was a finalist for 2013 Content Agency of the Year. He believes the online culture has been a catalyst for content marketing’s boom.

“Unquestionably, the Internet has catapulted the growth of content marketing,” Meyers says. “The combination of needing frequent, valuable content to: improve SEO results; to encourage repeat customer visits; to engage customers; and to feed social networking streams have all become a critical necessity for marketers of all organizations. As a result, agencies of all types – traditional ad agencies, public relations firms and content publishers – have all moved to fill this need. In doing so, they have further elevated the frenzy around content marketing.”

For a marketer who has never attempted a content marketing program, the entire philosophy and process can seem overwhelming and not worth the amount of time, energy and resources it takes to get a program moving. After all, how does one go about affecting the Internet?

But, think of a dry sponge placed under a faucet that has a single drip coming from it. The drip falls, and the sponge absorbs it in quick fashion. You know the water went in; it went somewhere, even if there’s not really any good evidence of such after a brief moment. So, you spend your time and effort keeping the sponge perfectly still while waiting on the faucet to produce another drip, which it does. That drip also hits the sponge in the same spot and seems to disappear. However, this time you can feel where the drip hit. Soon, another drip and then another.

Pretty soon the water’s effect is easily noticeable as it continues to hit the sponge in the same spot and then spread out as more of the sponge begins to absorb the moisture. After a while, the sponge is soaked – all from a steady stream of individual drips.

Now, what if that sponge is your desired consumer group? What if that single drip is your first attempt at content marketing via a new blog entry, a YouTube video tutorial or Pinterest post? Nobody really noticed those first few efforts, probably. However, after some patience, sticking to a targeted approach, and having the resolve to hold your program in place, your message, which smartly has centered on and drummed home the fact that you are the expert of your industry, has saturated your target.

The most critical aspect to any content marketing initiative is, not surprisingly, to make sure you have content.

“A successful content marketing program is a complex undertaking and, depending upon scale, may require full-time resources,” Myers says. “Many organizations have made the mistake of creating a new website or social site, launching it with content and then seen dismal results as they fail to feed constant additional content in a variety of formats to their customers.

“We believe that there are three essential pillars to any successful content marketing program: strategy, content creation and distribution marketing. Without addressing and continuously focusing on all three of these area, most content marketing programs will ultimately fail.”

Briody believes in sharpening your content to the point that it can’t help but hit and impact the desired target; and making sure you can tell just how good the shot was.

“First, define a distinctive brand voice and point of view – why should somebody listen to you instead of all the others out there making noise?” Briody says. “Why should they pay attention in the first place, and keep coming back for more?

“Second, have a goal in mind, one you can measure – so many content marketing programs fail because they set out to “share lots of content” without any clear understanding of how all that content and all that sharing should lead back to measurable business results.

“Third, having a distribution strategy is as important as crafting great content; “Build it and they will come” is something that should only live in movies – it has no place in your content marketing efforts. Just because you launch the World’s Most Amazing Content Hub (or Blog), doesn’t mean anyone is going to find it.

“Lay out your SEO (Organic Search) strategy, then evaluate all the other customer touch points where your amazing content might add value – can it fuel your email marketing, make your social media more effective, add some personality to your events, or some context to your advertising? Where and how can your content be used, so that it has the most chance of being seen, consumed and drive real results?”

As consumers continue to improve their search capabilities, it will become even more vital for marketers to find ways to stand out among competitors. Developing a content marketing plan now, even if you haven’t previously, will go a long ways toward helping accomplish that goal.

“We conducted very successful content programs that have been proven drivers of audience expansion, increased sales leads or conversions, shorter decision cycles, customer engagement and improved loyalty,” Meyers says. “Unlike traditional advertising campaigns where results drop off when the spending stops, content marketing is a long-term program that continues to build over time and has a long residual value tail.”

Briody also believes in content marketing’s staying power.

“I don’t think there really is a ceiling to great content marketing,” Briody says. “If you look at trends the major, iconic brands are following, everyone from Nike to Coke and beyond are making amazing content the centerpiece of their entire digital brand experience.

“It increasingly dominates their traditional advertising and is displacing offer-based promotions in everything from email to social to digital paid media. Great content is rapidly become a de facto requirement for great marketing – so the sky’s the limit.”

*ed note: I wrote this piece in 2014 for the National Auctioneers Association’s Auctioneer magazine. I have made it part of my marketing plan and practice as Director of Publications there to educate NAA members and encourage them to use content marketing. -ck