Thursday, August 23, 2012

PERSONAL: Has it Really Been 1 Year?

En route home from my latest trip on LPGA business – Safeway Classic in Portland to the CN Canadian Women’s Open in Vancouver -  I thought this might be a time to answer a few questions I get quite often.  After all, it’s now been one year since leaving Golf Channel and embarking on a new opportunity. Hard to believe!

I’m always amazed – and maybe I shouldn’t be – about the following Golf Channel has and what it’s given me.  I was just stopped walking down the aisle on this flight by a man who said “miss you on Golf Channel… How’s the new job?”  If I had a quarter for every one of those “how’s the transition going?” questions, I’d be flying privately like some of our well known stars.

That said… here are 5 questions that might provide some insight into what’s happened and what I’ve observed in the last 12 months.

Q: How did the LPGA opportunity come about?
New Era... New Campaign
A: A morning phone call from Commissioner Mike Whan while I was at the U.S. Open for Live From in 2011 at Congressional is where it began.  Conversation over oatmeal and yogurt at the Marriott with David Feherty was cut short that day by Whan’s ringing inquiry regarding the LPGA’s Chief Communications Officer position.  I wasn’t expecting it… but it sure gave me a lot to think about over the next month and a half as we sorted through possibilities, visions for the tour and its future. It was a fastball, and a curveball together in one straight "pitch." To this day, I call it my personal “U.S. Open invitation” but that’s how it all really started.

Q: Why did I ultimately make the decision to leave and join the LPGA?

A:  First off, you need an official offer… which came about in late July.  There was obviously a list of pros and cons - as anyone would consider in making a change like that.  After all, I’d been doing television for 25 years dating back to graduation from University of Missouri.   But in the end, the reason was one thing and one thing only.  It was an opportunity to make a difference.  The same thing I had when I joined Golf Channel in 1995.  Can you join a team and help it become stronger?  Can you add value with new ideas and experiences that can complement those of others?  And given that I was now closer to 50 than 40… what could this provide as a “second career” of sorts?   Executive jobs in professional sports don’t fall in the laps of television guys very often.  I considered myself lucky… and considered it a sign of being a part of something special.

Players are Willing Ambassadors

Q: What have I learned about the LPGA? 
A: I like this question and get it quite often.  The answer is … a lot. The players are amazing to work with and willing to take part in new ideas.  The atmosphere at headquarters is far more positive than people may ever see. As an organization I felt like it had been a sitting duck for scrutiny for a period of time leading up to Mike Whan’s tenure. Talented people were never given credit for positive things.  Players weren’t asked enough about their talents. Loss of tournaments and loss of sponsors were always discussed.  As a media member, there was always a chance to discuss something negative over something positive.  But I haven’t noticed that at all.  Loss of confidence is going away and what has struck me is the “positive vibe” among very talented people who were working so hard to grow a brand and rebuild what I believe is the preeminent women’s professional sports organization.  Tired of being a media piñata, the tour was quietly making big strides and is focused and ready to make bigger news.

Q: What does the LPGA really have to offer these days?
@Caddy Bib Program - We've Got Their Backs!
A:  Three things really.  The first is “partnerships.”  I see the tour as a willing business partner – with corporations… but also the fans and the media.  And to me, it’s important that we consider the fans a business partner and also the media a business partner.  Each has needs and we’re working to make them all feel like they get the same service.  Secondly, is “promise.”  Not that the organization is in the business of making promises.  But I feel like we offer a general good feeling about being a part of where we’re going and a commitment to working to be better at everything we do.  The goal is to create a confidence in what we do and where it’s going. People and businesses want to be a part of that.  Lastly, is “momentum.”  The LPGA doesn’t hide from that recent history.  But we do have good things happening in the form of five new tournaments in 2012, an increase in television air-time and ratings, a successful marketing campaign with commitment to fan involvement and social media, a host of new business partners and some good press that’s gone along with all of it.  Those three things are worth being proud of as we build.

Q: Where do I see the LPGA in 5-10 years?

A:  First of all… to me, there is never a true “destination”… but instead a journey to create a path of successes. I’m not the commissioner but I think having a tour schedule with unique and strong events is key… and a number north of 30 seems right to me.  But remember, bigger doesn’t always mean better.  The LPGA prides itself on strong fields each week, with the best players from around the world competing.  A hypothetical schedule of 42 events doesn’t guarantee that.  I also see continuing growth with sponsors who buy-in to new ideas and  players who’ve already bought-in to being the best ambassadors for their given sport and tour.  And with it all should come more exposure.  The LPGA needs a bigger stage and platform to shout about momentum. 

New Audience - LPGA on WeatherChannel

And I see players becoming more recognizable as we look to market their personalities and stories in and outside the traditional golf space.  I see the fan base growing and I feel confident that media coverage will go up.  Obviously, none of this is a given.  Success to me is about creating opportunities. And that's what we're working to accomplish. 

These are things I’ve talked about in recent speaking opportunities for the tour.  I travel a lot these days - but really enjoy sharing our news and our vision.  I’ve learned more in the last year than I had in the last 5 combined - mostly because it’s new, but also because there are great folks to learn from and work with.  Mike Whan gets a lot of publicity – and it’s earned.  He doesn’t make rash decisions and he’s not afraid to think big – and outside the box.  I hope I bring the same.  I know people are buying in.

One thing I think is important is to make sure you do something worth following.  In other words, don’t just “be”… and don’t just “do” and hope people will take notice.  Do something worth following.  Dare to be different.  That’s what I hope people know that we’re trying to do… from Daytona Beach to a tournament near you.

Follow the LPGA on Twitter @LPGA and follow me @KraigKann

1 comment:

  1. Love the LPGA and Symetra and love your thinking. You and Mike Whan have a great vision for the tours' future. It is a great product that a lot of people love. More growth, especially domestically, is very possible. How about an LPGA event in October at Augusta National now. I think sponsors would jump all over that and so might Billy Payne to "grow the game." It seems like a natural under the new circumstances.