Sports PR: Get Your “Shine” On [National Conference]

Photo by Shaun Luberski
Photo by Shaun Luberski

Editor’s Note: The PRSSA 2013 National Conference was in Philadelphia from October 25-29. All National Conference posts can be found here.

Imagine you are the most passionate fan of your favorite professional sports team. Your family has been season ticket holders your entire life, you know the stats of every player. You eat, sleep and breathe that team. It only comes natural that you would be the perfect fit once a public relations job opens, right?

Not necessarily.

In the “Step Up to the Plate: Sports PR” session, industry professionals provided aspiring sports public relations professionals with the insights needed in order to land your dream sports job.

According to Michael Preston, director of public relations for the Philadelphia 76ers, just because you are a diehard fan of a particular team doesn’t mean you are qualified to work for that team. In fact, Preston said if he reads in a cover letter something along the lines of, “I have loved the 76ers since I was a little boy,” he automatically throws out that cover letter.  What Preston looks for are the candidate’s capabilities, expertise and knowledge of the public relations field, rather than a fan.

Bonnie Clark, vice president, communications at the Philadelphia Phillies, similarly stressed the importance that, “it’s not just a sport, it’s a business.”  Just because you know Chase Utley’s batting average, doesn’t mean you will be successful when a crisis occurs at 3 a.m., and you need to take action immediately.

Kevin Saghy, manager, communications at the Chicago Cubs, discussed how his hard work and never-ending effort lead to his current role with the Cubs.  He made unique, different cover letters for each member of the Cubs he interviewed with. This proved to the Cubs how hard he was willing to work just to get the job, and that he would work even harder once hired.

A theme every presenter agreed on was the importance of networking.  All three got their foot in the door because of some connection, whether it was a friend of a friend or a PRSSA member. They said the exploration of networking is essential for young professionals striving to obtain their first public relations job.

“PR is not a nine-to-five job,” Clark said. “It’s your life, you never clock out.” Session moderator Rebecca Timms, public relations coordinator for the Philadelphia 76ers, said working 18 hours a day during basketball season is the norm. If the sports industry is your passion, than late nights and even earlier mornings are in your foreseeable future.

One of the most interesting statements of the day came from Preston, who said that it is statistically easier to play for the 76ers than to be the public relations director of the 76ers.

Even so, if working in sports public relations is your passion, then the sky is the limit.  “At the end of the day,” Preston said, “it’s a really cool job.”

Eddie Ravert is a Senior PR major at The University of Scranton. Follow him on twitter @eddie_rage and on LinkedIn

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