The Cleveland Browns are looking to hire a staff writer for their New Media department. If you are interested and meet the qualifications listed below, please follow this link to apply. Good luck!
The Staff Writer is responsible for the creation of written content; Staff Writer will also assist other members of the New Media staff in creation of video and audio content.
Today is the last part of an informational interview that I had by phone with Matt Barnhart, who is the Detroit Lions Director of Media Relations. We spent nearly 45 minutes talking about public relations and the Lions so I decided to break it into multiple posts this week. In today’s post, Matt provides some career tips and suggestions for those wanting to work in the sports PR industry. If you haven’t read them already, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the informational interview.
1) What suggestions would you give someone who is hoping to find a job in the sports PR industry?
I’ll first start out with the academic part of it. You don’t necessarily have to have a specific degree to succeed or find a job, but you have to develop certain skills and they’re basically your main communications skills. One is writing and the other part is the verbal skills—the interpersonal skills that you have and the ability to build relationships and getting to know and work with people. Those two aspects are vital. I would think from a more specific standpoint, anybody working in a sport management and/or marketing program would have good opportunities, as well as sports communication. I would also think if you are in a journalism school or in a public relations program, those build good foundations. Ultimately, what it comes down to in competing for an internship in the NFL, you have to have some solid experience while you’re in college and I can’t stress that enough to students about getting experience early. Earlier than later!
It’s very difficult at times to all of a sudden graduate and want to enter this field because you think this is interesting and this is what you want to do but you don’t have any experience. It’s very difficult so what I try to emphasize with students, especially in their junior year or sophomore year, is that wherever you are at whether it’s at college during the school year or whether you go home, there is some way that you can connect to the sports world.
If you have a minor league baseball team in your area, try working for them during the summer and doing whatever you can to just get experience whether it’s from a sports management standpoint or media relations standpoint. Get your foot in the door and start working around a sports organization. Writing for a sports section or a sports department is really good because some of the writing is similar. Our interns and entry-level assistants have to deal with writing, and if they are at least around athletes and writing about athletes they get a good understanding of sports writing and the sports industry. That’s another really good, solid experience to have. And that writing follows you all the way during your career.
Not only do you need to have a pretty decent education structure, but you have to have experience and those two things work hand in hand because once you have that experience, you start networking and start building contacts who will help you down the road. Those are the two things to get people started, but the another thing that I’d like to add is to understand that every day, no matter if you’re an intern or in my position or even a student trying to find an internship, you have to prove your value and you have to make sure that you demonstrate the skills to succeed. It is about your ability to add value to the organization that you are either working for or want to work for that’s really important.
2) What type of character traits do you look for in potential hires whether it’s for an internship or a full-time position?
I want to make sure that the person has a base understanding and knowledge of sports, especially with the sport of football. If a person comes in and has writing experience but they don’t know certain things about the game, such as struggling to figure out what certain positions are, it’s very difficult for us to feel comfortable with them. Once they join us, things move fast and get going, and we don’t have a lot of time to train and teach people like the basic fundamentals of the game. That’s one, having a base knowledge of sports and football.
Second is that work ethic can’t be stressed enough. We need to make sure that they’re going to put the time in and put the effort in to help our department. As you know, this is not a 9-5 job and it’s not a job that you’re going to work a few hours a week and master. You’ve got to put the time in it. When training camp starts, we’re working seven days a week basically until we have a bye week so you have to be committed and you have to show commitment from day one.
Another trait that you need to have is the ability to be a self-starter in terms of some projects because we can’t, especially the way I manage our internship program and our department, micro-manage people. I don’t like to micromanage my employees. I don’t like to micromanage my interns so you better be able to handle projects and you must be able to say, ‘Okay, this project is done. What else can I work on? What else can I get started?’ And if you don’t have direction at that specific time than you may even want to propose something. ‘Hey this is what I’m thinking of doing.’ Because one, if you can propose a project that’s going to add value or help the department, that’s great but it’s also going to show that you are very progressive and that you are basically a go-getter in terms of what you’re doing. That’s really important.
I tell our interns when they start with us that I want to give you as much responsibility and opportunities that you can get. I don’t have problems giving you projects that are normally held for a full-time assistant because that’s ultimately going to benefit you in the long run to be able to do some of those and have that on your resume and portfolio. I’m not going to give those to you unless: one, you’ve proven the ability to do it and, two, if you’ve earned that opportunity. There might be some simple responsibilities that you have as an intern like newspaper clippings and so forth that if you don’t master those I’m not going to give you more responsibilities. It’s not right and it’s not fair for everyone involved so those are basically some character traits that I think are very important.
Today is Part 3 of an informational interview that I had by phone with Matt Barnhart, who is the Detroit Lions Director of Media Relations. We spent nearly 45 minutes talking about public relations and the Lions so I decided to break it into multiple posts this week. In today’s post, Matt addresses the Lions’ 0-16 season in 2008 and dealing with blogs and rumor websites. Tomorrow’s post, which will be the last in this four-part series, will feature Q&A with Matt about career tips for the sports PR industry. If you haven’t read them already, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the informational interview.
1) In 2008, you guys obviously had a tough season going 0-16. As a PR department, how do you deal with something like that and what were some of the obstacles that you had to overcome during that season?
Well how we dealt with it was that we didn’t focus on 0-16. Just like the team, we were focusing week-by-week. We weren’t looking at how this is going to affect us long-term or what’s going to happen three weeks down the road. Our focus was to do what we can as a PR department to help this organization prepare and get ready for the next game. So you really narrowed your focus and as much as possible and kept focus on the upcoming game. Much like the team preparing each game, you were doing the same thing and working in concert with the same message and the same mission that they were doing. Obviously things didn’t turn out anywhere where we expected and it was a disappointment, but you’ve got to have that mindset especially if the team is moving in that direction. You need to make sure that you stay on that same message.
Today is Part 2 of an informational interview that I had by phone with Matt Barnhart, who is the Detroit Lions Director of Media Relations. We spent nearly 45 minutes talking about public relations and the Lions so I decided to break it into multiple posts this week. In today’s post, Matt addresses the NFL Draft. Tomorrow’s post will feature Q&A with Matt regarding the Lions’ 0-16 season in 2008 and how he deals with blogs and rumor websites. If you haven’t read them already, be sure to check out Part 1 of the informational interview.
1) The Lions had the top pick in 2009 and obviously the draft generates so much media attention, especially of late. What types of things did you and your staff do in the weeks leading up to the draft and then actually on draft day when it comes to that overall first pick?
As the off-season kind of developed, we started to realize that there’s nothing we can do about the past and it helped us that we had a new face in terms of our head coach, Jim Schwartz, who does a tremendous job with the media. The way he handles the media positively impacts the development of this team. We quickly realized that no matter where we go, whether it’s the combine or owner’s meetings, we’re going to receive a lot of attention and there’s going to be a lot of people requesting for his time and our time because they want to know what’s going on and they want to know who we’re picking. The draft has become such a huge event – it’s one of the top events in all of sports and probably the top non-game event on the sports calendar each year. With that number one pick, all focus for the months leading up was focused on us because with the number one pick we held the key to the rest of the draft.
I had the honor of conducting an informational interview by phone with Matt Barnhart, who is the Detroit Lions Director of Media Relations. We spent nearly 45 minutes talking about public relations and the Lions so I decided to break it into multiple posts over the next few days as Matt provided me with an incredible amount of helpful information and tips in his responses and I want to make sure none of his answers get lost in the shuffle. In today’s post, Matt addresses his career with how he got his start and what his current position entails. Tomorrow’s post will feature Q&A with Matt regarding the NFL Draft.
1) You’ve been working with the Lions since 1997 and started off as an intern before making your way to your current title as Director of Media Relations. How did you go from being an intern with the team to where you are today?
I learned very early on that one of the best pieces of advice to me, given to me, is that you always want to try to work at the level above you. That means if you’re an intern, your level of work should be as an entry-level assistant. When you’re an assistant, you should try to be working your way up and working as an assistant director. Or if you’re an assistant director you should work at the level of the director. What you want to do is have people notice what you’re doing, notice your responsibilities and see how you grow. When the opportunity comes, you want to make sure that you’re the first person they think can fill that role. You want to be the first and best option.
I first want to apologize for the lengthier-than-expected hiatus SPRB took. One week, it was moving in to a new place, being without internet, and starting classes. This week, it was working 70+ hours while still juggling classes. I finally got a chance to take a breather today to post something on SPRB.
Today, I am pleased to post an interview with Joe Favorito. If you read any sports business blogs or have been involved in the sports PR industry, I’m sure you’ve heard of Joe. He runs the popular Sports Marketing & PR Roundup blog, wrote the textbook on sports public relations entitled Sports Publicity, and has worked for and with a variety of top sports brands throughout his career.
1) In your impressive 22-year career, you have worked for a variety of sport organizations ranging from NBA teams to the USTA to the WTA Tour to the IFL. How much of a challenge is it adjusting from one sport/league to another? What advice would you give to someone trying to make the jump to a different league or sport in this industry?
I don’t think it really matters. What matters are the stories, the relationships you have in the industry and the ability to do a good job and enjoy what you do. Right now I have several clients that have nothing to do with sports…one is a security and risk mitigation company called Global Options, another one is Big Apple Comic-con. The same skills can translate easily from sports to entertainment to politics to the public sector. You have to understand the client and the goals and be able to use what you know to assist them in growing their business.
2) Your book entitled “Sports Publicity” was published in 2007. When did you decide to write this book and what made you want to do so? How long did it take you to write it?
I was actually asked to write it by my friend and colleague John Genzale. I had left the Knicks and Reed Elsevier was looking for someone to do the first real book on sports publicity as a business. The decision was actually made in a day…a did the sample chapter and the outline in about a week and wrote it over two months. It really has little to do with me…its a compendium of best practices in the industry.
For the first time on SPRB, we have an interview with someone who does PR in the auto racing industry. Ramsey Potson is today’s interviewee and as NASCAR’s corporate communications managing director, he has plenty of knowledge and experience regarding the PR industry.
1) How did you get your current position as NASCAR’s Managing Director of Corporate Communications? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
In 2001 was working at the public affairs firm of Powell Tate in Washington, DC when we were hired to assist NASCAR with the crisis surrounding the death of Dale Earnhardt. In 2003 I was hired fulltime as the Managing Director of Corporate Communications. My day-to-day role is to manage all aspect of the company’s communications including the on-track competition communications for all 11 NASCAR series; business communications; lifestyle communication and the issue management. The PR department consists of 31 employees that are divided up into five teams: Competition/Print; Broadcast; PR Services (which handles new media); Business; and, strategic writing. Each team is managed by a senior manager or director.
2) You personally have a Twitter account as does NASCAR. What is the upside of using Twitter both on a personal level and a league level? On the other hand, what are some concerns that NASCAR may have about Twitter and how are those issues being addressed?
Social media is the new frontier for the 21st Century – we’re all learning everyday about the impact of online media including Twitter, Facebook and other outlets. The immediate upside is that the traditional media outlets are no longer my only hope of getting out my message. I can now communicate directly with my audience without being filtered. This is an especially great tool for athletes – look at what Shaq and Lance Armstrong are doing; with the push of a single button they can instantaneously reach a million fans each. That’s power. That’s something that the news industry has to compete against.
The concern – like all things – is responsibility. Whether someone is talking to a reporter or tweeting, what is said has to be truthful and factual – we’ll all see examples of rumors and mis-information extended through the social media sites, it’s happening now. However, the other key word in this new media world will be credibility -everyone wants it but those sources that get the facts wrong will lose credibility and won’t have the kind of influence as those who get the stories right.
While many people visiting this website hope to work in a PR capacity for a pro sports team, I want to use SPRB as a platform to open people’s minds to other positions within the sports PR field. Tim Fitzpatrick was kind enough to answer some of my questions about what he does as the VP of Communications for the Comcast Sports Group. So without further ado…
1) You currently work as the VP of Communications for Comcast Sports Group. How did you land that position and what previous work experiences helped prepare you for the job?
Before being promoted to my current position, I worked in Comcast’s corporate communications office overseeing financial and policy communications. When I began, I helped form Comcast’s corporate communications function – Comcast was a smaller organization and did not have a corporate PR department at the time. I was fortunate to rise with a rapidly growing company and my position afforded me a broad perspective across the company. I knew that programming was an area I wanted to learn more about because people enjoy interacting and being entertained. Seemed like a fun and good business.
Prior to Comcast I had a number of PR positions in politics and on Capitol Hill, including working on two national presidential conventions and a presidential and congressional campaign. Political experience is invaluable for learning to think on your toes and work collaboratively with a wide variety of people in often-intense circumstances. Politics, like sports, brings together passionate and committed people.
2) What responsibilities do you have with your current position?
My job has two principal components (plus a lot of smaller ones too). I provide communications counsel to the business and communications leaders at each of our local networks, and I promote our business in national and trade media outlets.
SPRB is pleased to post this interview with Nate Ewell, who is the Director of Media Relations for the Washington Capitals as well as founder/editor for Inside College Hockey. Not only does he get to work for an exciting hockey team and with a dynamic personality in star forward Alex Ovechkin, but Ewell and the rest of the Caps’ PR department has won the Dick Dillman Award three years in a row. The award is given to the PR staff judged to be the best in each conference as voted by the Professional Writers Hockey Association. I want to thank Ewell for taking the time to answer my many questions for SPRB. Enjoy!
1) How did you get your current position with the Capitals and how long have you held that position? What previous work experiences helped prepare you for your position?
This will be my seventh season with the Capitals, my fifth in a row. I had worked in sports information and for the student paper at Princeton and after graduating took an internship with the sports information department at Michigan State. That evolved into a full-time position and I was there for three years, working mostly with the hockey team but also other sports (football, women’s golf, etc.). After Michigan State I had a brief stint with US Lacrosse before I learned about a position with the Capitals in 2000. I spent two years as a manager in the media relations department before leaving in 2002 to work for NBC at the Salt Lake Olympics. After that I worked outside of sports, editing home and design books and magazines, while launching a web site, InsideCollegeHockey.com.
After the lockout my boss Kurt Kehl invited me back to the Capitals and I was happy to take him up on it.
I think everything I’ve done has helped me prepare for this job – even editing home plan magazines when I wasn’t working in sports – but I probably learned the most during my stints in sports info at Princeton and Michigan State.
2) Your department has created its own Twitter account, blog, and Caps Today feature on the website to keep media members (and fans) abreast of any new Caps developments. When did you decide that these would be beneficial platforms to use and what has the reception been like from the media?
We launched each of those projects independently, but in general they fit the idea of the organization providing more original content, and our department reaching fans directly rather than relying on the media to carry our message.
Caps Today started two years ago as an email to our media with two main goals: give them the next three days’ practice schedule to help with planning and give them a good, timely storyline to try to convince them to come out (or to help bring them up to speed in case they did come out). It’s been overwhelmingly positive, with a big benefit we didn’t foresee – it starts a lot of conversations with media members who will reply to the email.
We started our @capsmedia Twitter account last year simply because we had members of the media ask to get practice schedule updates via text. We did some research and that seemed like the easiest way. As Twitter has exploded, however, we’ve been able to use it in other ways as well (releases, notes during games, even audio interviews using TweetMic). Some media have been slow to convert but I think those who are on Twitter appreciate it. I also have a Twitter account (@nateeewell) as does our assistant director of media relations, Paul Rovnak (@paulrovnak).
The blog gives us a chance to write a bit and share some behind-the-scenes stories, and to alert our fans of upcoming interviews or good stories. I’m not sure we’ve found the best uses for it yet – or if it has much of a readership – but it’s something we enjoy doing and hopefully some people find it useful or entertaining.
1) You are the Managing Director for the Milwaukee United Soccer Club, which will start its inaugural season in 2010. How did you get your current position? You have had plenty of previous soccer work experience. How did that help prepare you for your current position?
Well, the position is self-created. I came up with the idea last spring to build a women’s soccer club based around urban soccer players, community service and philanthropy, and community ownership. The reasons I use Managing Director as my title as opposed to something like President or CEO or General Manager are because the title relays that they are other directors in the organization of somewhat equal stature to myself, with me “managing” the organization, and because it connotes that I have specific hands-on duties (in our case, oversight for all things soccer). My previous experience as a coach, as a front-office member of two nascent amateur soccer clubs, combined with my education in sports business I feel has given me the necessary background to take the leap and build something new for my hometown.
2) What are your day-to-day responsibilities as you get the team up and running?
I work a “normal” job on top of overseeing MUSC. A normal day can involve anything from meeting with potential sponsors, meeting or speaking with members of our organization, doing research on players, communcating with our fanbase, being at community outreach events. It’s not a 24/7 job in actuality, but mentally I am always thinking of how we can take the next step in our club’s development.
3) As you get a new team off the ground, what type of PR challenges have you faced and how have you tried to tackle these obstacles?
Getting meaningful publicity for the club has been difficult, especially in the current economic climate. We have been using Twitter and Facebook to build support and are looking at under-the-radar/soft media outlets (local alternative newspapers, daily morning shows on local over-the-air TV, the blogosphere) as the next step in making people aware of us and what we are looking to accomplish.