Ryan Knapp of the National Premiere Soccer League took the time to answer some questions about his position and sports PR, including blogger relations, with SPRB. I thought his career-related responses were a great fit for this week’s Career Help 101 Series so I wanted to use it as a kick off for the rest of the series.
1) According to your LinkedIn profile, you started a soccer blog entitled Center Holds It that eventually led to your current position as director for the National Premiere Soccer League. What made you decide to start the blog and how did that get you into the PR side of soccer?
I started the blog upon moving back to the US from living a year abroad in Spain. I realized (and still do) that there is a lack of quality La Liga (Spanish First Division) coverage in the US, especially in English. So, I decided to fill that void and start Center Holds It, along with two amazing writers, Jeff Bull and Breton Bonnette. We wrote for about one year, and then CHI moved over to BigSoccer, where it remains today in Breton’s hands.As I started to write, it soon dawned on me that I wanted to make this into a career. I quickly looked for an internship with a professional soccer club, and found a NPSL club in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. With only writing experience to back me up I contacted Christopher Keem, who was GM of Queen City FC. We talked, and I was made Director of Media Relations for Queen City, as a volunteer position. Volunteer or not, the position sucked me in 100% and I found myself completely engaged, and loving what I was doing.
After my first season with QCFC, the executives at the club decided to fold it. I took it upon myself to become Pres/GM and resurrect the club. I did just that – turning the club over to a new owner and renaming the club, Buffalo City FC.
With the transition complete in Buffalo, I had already taken a seat on the Executive Committee of the NPSL as Secretary and continued to be involved with the league. In March, the NPSL created a Director of PR position, and I applied and was lucky enough to be granted the opportunity with the league.
2) You have a wide-ranging list of responsibilities with your current post, including media relations tasks (e.g. writing press releases, transcribing quotes, etc.) and maintaining the website (e.g. writing content, producing podcasts and video, etc.). What prepared you to handle all of these responsibilities and do you find it challenging to balance all of them?
Planning is absolutely key. After the NPSL decided to hire a Director of Public Relations, I was quickly thrown into a whirlwind of ideas, thoughts, jobs and planning for a season that began before I even knew it. The classic mistake is stretching yourself too thin and starting 100 tasks without completing one, so I started out small and attempted to keep my ideas in check, at least until the season is over.
It was extremely difficult to come into the position two weeks before the season began, as I played/am playing catch-up throughout the entire season. As the season ends August 1st, I cannot wait to sit down and chart out a plan for the next year.
On a personal level, my key to focusing and handling loads of responsibilities is to meditate. 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night allows my body and my mind to sort through whatever is clouding my ability to work to my fullest potential. It helps me to maintain focus throughout the day when it might be easy for your mind to stray.
3) As someone who used to be a blogger, what is the best way for a team or league to reach out to sports bloggers? What do you think are the most effective tactics?
You need to interact with your blogging audience. Sending out press releases without even reading a blog is a huge mistake. Engage your bloggers, ask questions, pose solutions, and encourage them to write about what you are doing. If you know them on some sort of level, you have already made important headway.
It is also important to treat bloggers like you do any other media. You need to invest time in getting them the correct information, helping them with questions, giving them access to games, just as you do any other reporter. In soccer, more people get their news from message boards or blogs than newspaper articles any day of the week, so this is an issue that is important to embrace.
4) You work for a young league that has been around for less then a decade. What are the challenges you face trying to raise the league’s profile and how have you used PR to do so?
Anyone that works in soccer faces the same challenges, regardless of the league. Back five years ago, the running joke was to mock the sport as a ‘wussy’ form of American Football and that sterotype caught on and remained.
In our current situation the game is gaining steam. ESPN is actually showing highlights outside of the Champions League, even in their normal broadcasts. Media personalities are not perceived as funny anymore if they crack a soccer joke as they were five years ago because the game has outgrown that terrible stereotype of being a ‘wussy’ form of American Football.
In growing our league, the hardest part is communicating to fans and people about who we are and our skill level. Our league is not a rec league, or some Sunday pub league, but rather our players are looking for professional contracts, or in some cases, our players have played professionally in the United States and abroad. Too many soccer fans still do not support their local clubs, so the hardest part is to get these fans to come out and support their teams, which makes the league stronger.
It is important to use all sorts of PR to disseminate your information. The normal big two (Twitter and Facebook) have been helpful, along with starting a blog. As I said before, after the season is over I look forward to developing bigger and better ways to use PR to highlight the National Premier Soccer League.
5) As a young PR director (just 25 years-old), where do you see yourself in five years?
Only one thing is for certain, I’ll still be involved in the game of soccer. The rest, we’ll just have to wait and see.