Alumni Spotlight: Shahbaz Khan

Khan is the digital managing editor for the Sacramento Kings.

Interview by Amanda Fretheim Gates

As a student at the U of M, Shahbaz Khan (B.A. ’15) gravitated toward writing, communications, marketing and online media. He found that being a journalism major on the strategic communication track helped provide him with the most well-rounded opportunities. He first pursued opportunities in social media, with positions at The Raptor Center and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’s been with the Sacramento Kings for nearly two years, creating and editing content for web and social channels.

Why were you attracted to digital marketing and social media as a way to tell stories?
I was drawn to the fields by the way they allow brands to connect with millions across the globe who are looking for good content. In addition, being involved in the day-to-day strategy and execution of a global team quickly became a dream of mine. Every day there are new stories to tell, new people to reach and content to produce, and the only way you’re expanding organically is by continually pushing the envelope.

How did your time at Hubbard SJMC prepare you for that type of career?
First and foremost, my professors truly took an interest in my growth and passion for the industry, and were willing to help me find avenues to test the career path. The classes I took set me up for success, and many were like the day-to-day work I performed during my internships. Knowing how to leverage current events and pop culture, quickly put together written articles, as well as edit photos and videos, set me up for where I am today.

Why is good storytelling important at a sports organization?
Good content is a product of quality storytelling, which is a hallmark of our digital department at the Sacramento Kings. All content—blogs, videos, galleries, etc.—is a way to connect with our fans, and the most effective way to reach a global audience about a team they care about is through creative, meaningful and entertaining storytelling.

What's the most challenging part of engaging with an online audience, and how do you overcome it?
The most challenging part is also the most fun—every day there’s something new. You could be planning for something that’s relevant one hour in the online space and the next hour it’s dated. Navigating which trends and activities are feasible, relevant and make sense for the brand to engage with is an ongoing process, but having strong relationships with fellow departments, my teammates and thought leaders in the space allows us to quickly make decisions and stay on the leading edge.

A digital editor has to have relationships with all facets of a sports organization—players, coaches, administration, fans and more. What tips do have for managing expectations of the organization while also producing engaging stories for the community?
Communication is essential. With so many variables at play and the real-time nature of the digital landscape, having conversations with all parties while having a strong awareness of what’s in the best interest of the organization allows me to effectively manage expectations and produce meaningful content.

What's your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?
Our Kings digital department earned one of the NBA’s peer-voted Digital Innovator Awards for the 2016-17 season—given to just three teams who best pioneer new methods on digital platforms throughout a year.

You recently came back to speak at the School. What message did you hope students walked away with?
Persistence and perseverance pay off. Chase your passion, don’t settle, network in the right circles and continue learning your craft so you can be at your best in the area you choose to pursue. In my opinion, it would set prospective SJMC graduates apart from the competitive field. Many will likely graduate and gain internships—it’s your demonstrated passion, hard work and creativity that makes you shine. 

Shahbaz Kahn