Wilfrid Laurier University graduate Soheil Jamshidi (B.Sc. '15) is no stranger to the social media spotlight. As community manager for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, Jamshidi serves as the voice of the team's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Laurier Campus magazine caught up with Jamshidi to discuss his role with the team and the Raptors' championship run.
Q: What a remarkable year for the Raptors. What is the vibe like heading into the current NBA season?
A: Very good. Obviously, there was some disappointment about Kawhi Leonard moving on, but everyone is still excited about being champions – and there's certainly no bad blood. From a brand perspective, this is a really exciting time for the organization. This fall marks the Raptors’ 25th season and the team is wearing a white and purple anniversary jersey featuring the original dino. There are a lot of cool things planned for throughout the year.
Q: You were in the building when the Raptors beat Golden State to win the NBA championship. What was that experience like?
A: It didn’t hit me until the buzzer went off. I thought, 'Wait. Oh my God – the buzzer just went off! Did we just win?' My brain quickly went into work mode because I had so much content to publish, from all the pre-planned content to in-the-moment stuff. I had a job to do and, in that moment, that was the most important my job would ever be. When things slowed down a couple of hours after the game, we went to the player photo shoots with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. That was my first chance to see and hold it. It was heavier than I thought it would be – that’s what they all say about the trophy – and all I could think was, 'Holy crap! I’m really holding the NBA championship trophy!'
Q: Was there a moment you knew the Raptors were going to win the NBA championship?
A: I knew we were going to win as we were getting off the plane in San Francisco for Game 6 of the finals. When the guys get off the plane, they don’t usually show a lot of emotion. They’re focusing on the game. But not Kawhi before Game 6. He was smiling. I had only seen that smile a few times during the playoffs and every time I did Kawhi went on to play a big game, like Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Milwaukee. Kawhi was really relaxed during the pre-game practice that night in Milwaukee – he was having fun, telling jokes and even playing to the cameras. That night, he went on to drop 35 points and we won. Getting off that plane in San Francisco I thought, 'If that’s what Kawhi does in a Game 5 situation, I can’t imagine what he’ll do in Game 6 with a shot at the title.' That’s when I told my manager, “We’re not losing.”
- Soheil Jamshidi
Q: What kind of experience did you have at the championship parade in Toronto?
A: There were people everywhere by 8:30 a.m. and the parade wasn’t scheduled to start for another two hours. I was thinking to myself, 'There are a lot of people here already.' It made me a bit nervous, to be honest. The buses were delayed and it felt like forever before the guys arrived at Nathan Phillips Square, where I was stationed on stage. I couldn’t use my phone because the networks couldn’t supply enough data to three million people within five to 10 square blocks. There was nothing I could do other than kick back, relax and watch everything unfold. It was surreal: the people going by, the activity, helicopters flying overhead – like something out of a movie. But when the guys finally did arrive, I’ll never forget the way the fans went crazy. They did anything to get a better view: ripping banners down, climbing up audio towers, scaffolding and production trucks. I thought to myself, 'This championship means something to this city; people have waited a long time to celebrate this.' In that moment it became real. We were champions.
Q: You've earned praise for your work with the Raptors social media accounts. How did you find your voice?
A: When I got hired for this job, my manager stressed the importance of being authentic and being myself. That’s one thing I really appreciate about the Raptors brand. They let me really run with being myself. Ninety per cent of the time whatever I post is what my brain is thinking at that time. If it’s authentic and it won’t offend anyone, I know I can post it. That approach really resonates with our brand’s strongest demographic of 15- to 35-year-old fans. If you walk around the streets of Toronto and listen to how our fans talk, you’ll find it’s how I talk – and that translates well on social media. Followers get my voice and that helps people connect with the team. They can come to our social media accounts and say, “Hey, they’re just like me.”
Q: Do you have a standout social media post from this season?
A: My favourite Twitter post was from Game 3 of the NBA Finals. We were headed to Oakland for the series’ first game at Oracle Arena after playing two games in Toronto. I posted a picture of the guys on the Golden Gate Bridge – and Golden State Warriors’ fans roasted it. Apparently you don’t take the Golden Gate Bridge to get to Oakland, you take the Bay Bridge. You’re going to make mistakes in social media, nobody’s perfect. But during the game I kept thinking about how I could come back at this and come out on top. We ended up winning the game when no one expected us to, so in the final scoring post of the night I tweeted, 'Takin’ whatever bridge we want to SF. Up 2-1.' It was my way of saying, ‘Make fun of us all you want; we still won the game.’
Q: You are science alumnus working in digital communications. Did you have plans for a career in the sciences?
A: I did, actually. When I started at Laurier, I wanted to pursue a career in Alzheimer’s research. I’m fascinated with the human brain, how it works and why. Alzheimer’s is a disease that still has so many unanswered questions. I thought it would be an area that I could contribute to. But as time went on, my plan started to fade. I was putting myself through school and knew that a research career would likely involve graduate studies. At the time that wasn’t very feasible.
Q: What are some of your favourite Laurier memories?
A: There are lots, but I’d have to say being involved with the athletics department. I worked part-time at the Hawk Desk and loved the vibe around student athletics. Sports is a great way to build community and be a part of something. I also enjoyed courses on abnormal psychology, drugs and behaviour – anything with Professor Bruce McKay. I couldn’t get enough of his courses. He has a way of teaching that makes you sit up and pay attention.
Q: How did your Laurier experience prepare you for your role with the Raptors?
A: I don’t think I would be where I am today without my Laurier experience. As a psychology student, I learned a lot about human behaviour, abnormal psychology, social interactions and reactions. That has helped me understand how people engage with our brand, what ignites them and makes them feel connected to the team. I tap into that every day in the work I do to build the brand online. The experiences I had outside of the classroom also played a big role in my Laurier experience. Working part-time on campus taught me how to manage my time and money. It also led to friendships and connections that helped me get where I am today. You never know what doors might open from something as simple as a part-time job on campus.