KC Regional: Media Team Experience

Titus, a senior on our team, had the privilege of participating on the 2013 Greater Kansas City Regional’s Media Team. The following is written account of his experience.

“I’d like to take a little bit of time to talk a bit about my experience on the Media Team. For the future, I would highly recommend extroverted team members that think well on their feet to take part in this exceptional program. This is KC’s first ever student Media Team, so the stakes were high, but it delivered on all its promises and gave me some of the hardest fun I’ve ever had in FIRST. When the media team met, I picked what I wanted to do (there are three main “roles”… social media, reporter, and the people that direct where the press can take pics and ask questions), was immediately given a bunch of assignments and put out in the field doing work… with absolutely no prior experience. In this particular case, there were reporters coming in the front door in 10 minutes, and I had 6 minutes to collect a story, develop it, discuss it with the rest of the media team, and pitch it so that they would have something to munch on right as they enter the building. It sounded impossible, but Lydia–the amazing head of the media team–assured me it was possible. And we all got our parts done. There were other times when I had to text three people simultaneously about different things, check the schedule constantly to see who is where, what, and when, and then actually find the team I wanted/needed to interview and find a spokesperson and good story.. then corroborate and regurgitate the information to the rest of the team so that they could help communicate more with the press, make phone calls, and direct the incoming press. It’s very much a learn-on-the-go experience that demands a lot of on-the-spot decision making, time management, some writing skills (mainly note taking skills), and good, clear and effective communication with all the people involved (the press, the other members in the media team, the teams you interview, the volunteers, and everyone else). And needless to say, you’re going to need to be able to work well with people and deal with the pressure and stress associated with the job… and actually enjoy doing this stuff.

So basically… being on the Media Team is EXTREMELY FUN if you like talking to people and learning new things and like always having things to do. Also, there are a lot of cool side benefits. Firstly, the badges are just cool, and they grant you access to just about anything. Flash it and nobody gives you a second glance. For example, I got to go in the main competition area and interacted directly with the person in charge of the big screen and music; we made additional presentation slides for him to display later, and he happily obliged. Speaking of access, we also all got DIRECT access to the official KC FIRST Twitter and Facebook accounts. It amazes me how much they trusted us. You can also make direct suggestions and they usually get discussed and implemented within the hour. Other members had great ideas for being more viral on social media, strategies for consolidating our photos, etc., and they all got implemented. I’m sure all of us on the Media Team will all agree with me that it was really refreshing and empowering to feel that we could make an immediate, positive impact on the operations of FIRST and the FIRST experience. Which brings me to my next point.

I think being on the Media Team gives you a perspective you’ll be hard pressed to find in any other FIRST student volunteer position or assignment. We got to interact very often with other teams, collect amazing stories–some of which were jaw droopingly inspiring–and turn them into news stories and promote FIRST and its mission. I’m already on a first name basis with a number of team members, and overall I feel much more connected with the teams and their members. Everyone in the Media Team also worked really well with each other. It was amazing. Everyone had the same interests, personality, and mindset. We got along so well we’re already starting to text each other. Anyway, I’ve become familiar with some of teams’  back stories, struggles, successes, and conflicts. It’s also extremely inspiring to step out of the “I’m on team 3528” mindset and focus on the big picture… that we’re here to have fun, change the culture towards science and technology, and learn from each other. It was awesome to have another team come up to me and say “wow, good job! Your team beat us but it’s not about winning for us. It’s about the experience”. It was amazing to interact with FIRST students from different cultures, backgrounds, and interests. To be able to meet girls on teams that are heavily involved in the build team, girls that are in programmer positions, etc. To talk to a team who give orphans healthcare and teaches them about STEM in the process. To talk to a team whose students write STEM curriculum and teach elementary students about science and technology. To talk to students from a purely liberal art school (if I recall correctly, they’re the only 100% dedicated liberal art high school in MO) that views building a robot as a way of expressing art, and to talk to a team that started out with a 99% female membership. And that isn’t even scratching the surface.

Overall, I would strongly encourage anyone who’s going to be on the team next year to give the Media Team serious consideration.  If you like pushing your comfort zone, trying new things, and can think clearly through the chaos, this is definitely for you. Anyway, as this year is an experiment for them, the Media Team might be very different next year and perhaps, less chaotic. But overall, its an absolutely AMAZING opportunity to gain valuable experience, try something new, learn new things, meet new people, and to be inspired by all the wonderful and talented individuals FIRST attracts. I also have much more respect for the public relations people and journalists. It’s amazing how much information they have to process and react to on the fly, with little to no planning.”