During my time with the Wings, I have now seen five players retire thanks to one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Nick Lidstrom, announcing his retirement this week after 20 years with the team. With that in mind, I thought it might be prudent to point out some things PR departments have to consider for press conferences without using specifics from previous pressers.
Depending on the situation, not all of these are necessary to even consider but the goal is to give you an idea of the many issues and areas of the company that may be considered and involved in pulling off a press conference (sometimes with only 24-48 hours notice).
- Some announcements only warrant a teleconference rather than a press conference. Make sure you go with the appropriate route for the announcement.
- Schedule the time for the press conference and make sure the room is available at that time at least two hours prior to the start of the press conference so media can set up their equipment with ample time.
- Sometimes you can have no say in the timing of the presser because of the schedule limitations of the participating parties. If it’s something that you’ll have to really work to get media to attend, make sure there is no other big announcement planned for that day or big event that would take away from your press conference.
- Send out a media advisory with information about the press conference. It has to be carefully worded to avoid giving away the announcement if it needs to be kept under wraps.
- Make sure the operations department knows exactly how to set up the room for the presser and that there are enough seats for the anticipated number of media and guests.
- Work with your new media (video, web, social) to have teasers/promos about the actual press conference as well as have content ready to go for the website as soon as the announcement has been made.
- If possible, set up live streaming of the press conference on your website.
- Make sure your parking department knows to expect media and allow them to park for free when normally they may have a media list to follow.
- Work with your hospitality department to have at least the basic beverages provided for the media and guests in attendance.
- Have a press release, if necessary, ready to be sent out via email as well as distributed to media in person at the presser. Have numerous people review the release at least before distribution.
- Select an individual to act as moderator for the press conference to do a brief introduction of participating individuals, open it to questions and close out the presser. They’ll also want to make sure media know to raise their hand if they have a question and wait for a microphone before asking a question (or whatever your procedure may be to ask a question).
- Double check that the moderator has the correct titles for the individuals participating in the press conference.
- If a jersey or some kind of merchandise item is needed for press conference, do a rush request/order on the necessary materials.
- Make sure your audio guy has the right equipment and set-up for the press conference.
- Make sure you have people to handle the microphones for questions and that they know what they’re doing — having two reporters start asking a question at once is a big embarrassment.
- Put someone on recorder duty to record the press conference and transcribe it if necessary.
- Make sure you have the correct backdrop for the presser.
- If it looks like the turnout isn’t going to be what you expected, invite colleagues to attend to help fill up the room. If the presser is going to be packed, set up another room where colleagues can watch the presser so they aren’t trying to crowd into the actual room where the press conference will take place.
- If the announcement involves a retirement, make sure his/her teammates are aware of the press conference to attend, if possible, but do not tell them if the player is retiring because word will get out and the player wants to be the one to make the announcement. You don’t want a teammate essentially making the player’s retirement announcement for him.
- Make sure the front row or two are reserved for the special guests (i.e. player and his/her family, owners, company president, hockey ops personnel and former players).
- Assign members of the PR department to these special guests to help with any one-on-one interview requests after the announcement has been made. For example, I was assigned to shadow Red Wings great Ted Lindsay following the NHL’s 2013 Winter Classic announcement.
- Make sure building security knows what’s going on — that a large number of media and other visitors are anticipated that day. They want to keep out fans trying to weasel their way in if the presser is strictly for media and special guests.
- Communicate times to important individuals internally (i.e. company president, owner’s family, etc.). Obviously the sport operations side will know what’s going on if it’s a presser to announce a signing or retirement, but you need to keep the business side in the loop without letting too many people know and risk having it leak.
- If needed, put together press kits and/or media gift items to be distributed at the press conference. If you’re doing a press kit, keep in mind the quality of paper and know that a lot of high-profile individuals may be flipping through it.
- Ensure everyone in the PR department arrives early and has a clear schedule to handle last-minute problems. It’s important that they understand the rundown of the day so they can handle any inquiries from other departments. They will also want to wear darker suits to blend in so if they get caught on a camera, they’re not a distraction visually.
- Make sure the PR department has fully charged phones or whatever you are using to keep in touch on the day of the press conference.
- Above all, secrecy is key so in all that you do, so keep it to need-to-know personnel only and emphasize the importance that they cannot share the information with anyone outside the small group of individuals necessary to pull off the press conference.
For those of you who have not been involved in the planning of a press conference, hopefully you learned something new. For those of you who have, please add your suggestions in the comment section because I know I didn’t cover everything!
Back in mid-January, I had the pleasure to volunteer at the Grand Kids Foundation Celebrity Shoot-out. Grand Kids Foundation is the foundation of Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson and was created in an effort to enforce educational initiatives to youth and to help bring the sport of baseball back to the nation’s inner cities. The Celebrity Shoot-out event featured some fantastic athletes and entertainers as they competed in a charity basketball game to raise money for Granderson’s foundation. While assisting John Fuller during the event, I got to observe him in action as he did everything from helping the media to dealing with the participants to putting up signs for the event sponsors. He agreed to answer five questions about what he does for this blog so here it goes:
1) You founded Full Athlete Marketing in 2005. What made you want to start F.A.M. and how did your prior work experiences help prepare you to do so?
I’ve always had a passion for sports, but in a different way. I played football and wrestled growing up, but coming through high school I had a dream of being a sports broadcaster. My career evolved from a journalist at InterMatWrestle.com to a Media Relations and Public Relations Coordinator under the U.S. Olympic Committee. It was in working with amateur athletes that don’t always receive the recognition they deserve, at least year-round, that my passion for publicizing their stories grew.
Following the 2004 Olympic Games, I began to look into different directions my career would follow, and professional sports was the next progression. I was not always sure if I wanted to work with a team or with individual athletes. I began working with a few NFL players here and there on different initiatives, including Terrell Owens and Cato June. The natural step for me was to branch off on my own, so in late 2005, I did just that.
2) F.A.M. works to create a strategic integrated PR and marketing plan to generate strong publicity for its clients. Positive publicity can obviously lead to endorsement deals and help in contract negotiations. What types of activities have proven to be an effective way of boosting an athlete’s brand and image?
I think the key in boosting an athlete’s brand and image is to not only ensure positive publicity, but to also not force positive publicity. The American public as a whole doesn’t always respond to the “good guy” stories, especially when it is covering the same person. If you overexpose it, then some people feel it comes off as fake. I require every client of mine to be involved with their community in some way. Some have been more involved than others, but it is important for them to know that helping their community is a responsibility as a professional athlete, whether they want it or not.
Obviously outside of community work, exposure then has to come based on that individual athlete’s potential. When I first met Curtis Granderson, I felt as though he would be a great broadcaster. Unfortunately, the Tigers did not make the playoffs in 2007, so that was an avenue I explored with Curtis.
Some clients I’ve had in the past were not great public speakers. That is not a knock on them. They were never taught the rights and wrongs of that profession. But it doesn’t mean they can’t still speak to business leaders, schools at all levels, etc… You just have to cater it to their style to make everyone feel more comfortable.
It is important to remember also that each athlete is different. Cookie cutter PR plans don’t exist in my world. I want to meet that client, meet their family, know the things that make that person tick. Some athletes prefer a bad-boy image and some prefer the All-American image. People in general have different tastes in all realms of life. You must find the right avenue for that individual athlete to maximize their brand and exposure opportunities.
3) Obviously not every athlete should run their own charitable foundation. What makes athlete foundations like Curtis Granderson’s so effective both within the community and as a brand builder for Granderson?
It is effective because it has never been used as a brand builder for Curtis. Many athletes start their own foundations, but not all of them have a passion for running it. I think sports fans and businesses in general can sense when the athlete’s heart isn’t behind the foundation.
Right now, there also seem to be trends in professional sports about foundations. The vast majority of them seem to center around diseases of some kind. Don’t get me wrong, these are great causes. For example, Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner has an amazing charity called the Cool Kids Campaign (www.coolkidscampaign.org) that assists patients in children’s oncology units. But I do think that with so many out there, the public has trouble figuring out which one is right for them to work with and where they can trust that their money will be best utilized.
Curtis went with his passion – education. Both of his parents are educators. His sister is a college professor at Jackson State University. Only a handful of MLB players have a college degree. And with him playing in possibly the nation’s hardest-hit state economically, it is a no-brainer for him to try to work with the schools not only in Detroit, but in all of Michigan’s inner cities. Education is something that is often overlooked, especially for elementary and middle school students. Not only is their knowledge shaped at this age, but so are their values. Unfortunately, the need existed for him to start his own foundation so he could ensure that the funds he is bringing in to help these children are going to the right place.
4) I know you have reached out to bloggers covering the Detroit Tigers with an opportunity to interview Granderson for their blogs before a Grand Kids Foundation event. Why do you think it’s important to reach out to bloggers as well as your traditional print and TV media? Do you have any suggestions regarding blogger relations?
Well, regardless of what many print and TV media members think, there are a large number of bloggers with valuable insight and journalistic values. The perception exists among traditional journalists that a blogger isn’t in the locker room as much as they are, so they can not possibly offer any valuable information. I look at bloggers as ombudsmen. They are now in place to keep the traditional journalists honest.
When I wake up in the morning, I check four web pages first – my e-mail, Yahoo!, The Big Lead and Deadspin. I usually have a pretty good idea of what is happening in the world once I do that. The blogger is in a sense the voice of the people. If my job is to grow Curtis’ fan base (which he does a good enough job of doing on his own), then why wouldn’t I bring him closer to the people?
Sports fans over generations have only truly asked for one thing – to be able to relate to the players they root for on some level. If a fan reads in Curtis’ blog, or in one of his blogger interviews, that he loves McDonald’s Dollar Menu, or that he shops at Meijer and Wal-Mart regularly, that makes them feel a lot closer to him as a person. It helps them to realize that even though he makes a lot more money than the rest of us and has a job many of us dream about, he is still just a regular guy with regular responsibilities.
I would advise representatives to proceed with caution, though. Just because someone has a blog doesn’t mean they are a journalist. It’s not a black and white profession. Many exist just to destroy images. I would simply recommend doing your homework before agreeing to work with blogs. There is a network of blogs that I have established great relationships with. Like any other relationship, you must build that sense of trust when working with them. Unlike print or TV journalists, the odds are that you will never meet in person the blogger.
5) What advice would you give to individuals hoping to work in the field of sports public relations?
This is easy – intern, intern, intern! I never was an intern, but I’ve had many work under me. This is experience that is invaluable. Not only do you learn the tricks of the trade, but you also develop key relationships that will guide you throughout your life.
I want to make an effort to post upcoming events that may be worthwhile for those considering a career in sports PR or for those who already have a job there. To start it off, I want to pass along information about the Indiana Pacers Career Day that will be held on February 17th. The deadline to register is February 13th so if you’re interested, go over to their website and register!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
2:00 pm- 4:00 pm
The Pacers Sports & Entertainment Sports Career Fair provides an opportunity for individuals to find information regarding internships, full and part-time positions and volunteer opportunities with local and regional organizations that have strong ties to the sports and entertainment industry. Participants will meet with representatives ranging from player personnel, public relations, marketing, sales and business development, advertising and more. Bringing multiple copies of your resume is strongly recommended.
The cost of the event is $30, includes admission to the Career Fair, a ticket to the Pacers vs. Sixers game the night of February 17th and an Indiana Fever ticket.
For more information please contact Alyssa Greco at (317) 917-2834 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schedule of Events:
Registration Begins: 1:00 p.m. Entry Pavilion Career Fair 2:00-4:00 pm Main Concourse Pacers vs. 76ers tips off: 7:00 pm Conseco Fieldhouse