Sports Jobs Q&A : Working in Media Relations

media relations jobs in sports

Milwaukee Brewers Media Relations Manager John Steinmiller Jr.

While in college I had a three pronged debate going on in my head.

I knew I wanted to work in sports, primarily because I believe you are only good at things you are passionate about, but I wasn’t clear on what I would actually do in the industry. The way I saw it, my options were three: Sports Broadcasting, Media Relations or Physical Therapy.

I began college as a double major, Biology and Chemistry, which was the predetermined path to a career in Physical Therapy.

After a year, I switched majors to Communication so I could decide between my other two options. Physical Therapy felt loosely connected to sports, while the other two options seemed more in my wheelhouse…well, that and Biology and Chemistry are stinking hard.

My road traveled to Sports Broadcasting, but at points of my career I always looked back and thought, “Media Relations for a team or collegiate athletic department sure would have been fun and challenging.” Which leads us to this weeks Sports Jobs Q&A column:

The Q:

Hey Brian – my undergrad degree is in English, which means I’ve taken many writing classes and debated far too many Classic novels (I love you Herman Melville). Alas, I don’t aspire to write the Great American Novel, or pursue my PhD to become a professor. High school English teacher seems like a maddening career choice and I fear I’ll end up like Walter White in Breaking Bad, the kingpin of an under-reported black market novella empire.  I’ve set my sites on Public or Media Relations and have a two part question… how, and what’s the difference (if there is one)?

Trent C. – Indiana

Sports Jobs Q&A: What does it take to get a job in media relations for a sports team?… Click To Tweet

The A:

Trent, I too have always feared becoming the kingpin of a black market novella empire, we should start a support group and if we aren’t led astray by our own dark tendencies we just may be able to make a true difference in the world.

That was fun – let’s move on.

Public Relations vs. Media Relations

media relations jobs in sports mets new york

New York Mets VP of Media Relations Jay Horwitz was recently named one of the 50 most influential people in New York sports

The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Which is exactly how you would expect any “…Society of America” to speak – technically proficient, while still making you wonder, “So…what does that mean?”

Let’s translate.

The key word in the description is “publics” which refers broadly to anyone touched by an organization including customers, competitors, stockholders, employees, community members and you guessed it, the media. Public Relations is the communication between the corporation and everyone else impacted by the corporation in order to achieve mutual benefit.

Media Relations is a piece of the Public Relations action, a singular focus of strategic communication with the plethora of former journalism majors who bombard your organization with requests and questions.

Let’s relate this to sports, because that is what we do.

The public relations group for a professional sports team will undoubtedly be charged with crafting internal and external organizational communication such as:

  • A press release to announce a new Fan Festival
  • In internal document from the President to the staff
  • Media guides full of statistics and information
  • Team magazines (and much more)

Part of the Public Relations group will be a few members dedicated solely to Media Relations. Their task will be dedicated to dealing with the Media, without a real concern for customers, community members, stockholders etc. 

Let’s check out a few job descriptions for Media Relations  and run through their basic requirements, the first one is for a Division 1 athletic department:

media relations jobs

A: Design, edit and layout media guides for various sports. As a member of the media, one of my prized possessions was the mass of media guides located directly behind my desk. They are the hands-on tool of the journalist and before you snarkily remind me of the glory of the internet, media guides are better. They have all of the information you need easy to find and already verified. Stats, contact information for executive staff, pictures and biographies of all players, historical information …you name it, and it’s all built by the media relations staff.

What does this mean for you? Media relations is more than making friends with influential media members and rubbing elbows with the athletes, it requires great writing, publishing and even design skills.

B: Responsible for management of the MSU Athletics web site, including content and configuration of the site: Digital responsibilities! Again publishing and writing come to the forefront, even a knack for reporting and content creation.

What does this mean for you? Learn and understand the differences in creating digital content. Things like SEO, title tags and HTML aren’t relevant coursework for english or communication majors, but are vital in the ever evolving world of digital messaging.

C: Write and/or edit media relations materials such as press releases, media guides, player/coach information and other documentation. Reporters often are allowed to use their personality or style in story-telling, but in Media Relations oftentimes the tools of the trade are press releases which are not a mode of personal expression. Instead they are technical writing masterpieces, set to get a point across with clarity. It’s a different type of skill compared to the shoot-from-the-hip commentary style so many of us gravitate toward. (Hello!)

What does it mean for you? You’ll need to remind yourself that Media Relations jobs are “just the facts” roles. Being able to debate last night’s big game doesn’t exactly help you in this position. Being able to clearly communicate and disseminate facts is what will help you most.

Job Description #2 delves into the other side of Media Relations, the relations with the media part:

media relations jobs

A: …coordination of communication, publicity and athletic information to the news media and public…: Any first year journalism student is familiar with the terms agenda-setting and gate-keeping, both extremely relevant in media relations jobs.

Gate-keeping is just as it sounds, in a media relations job you are the gate that sits between internal information and public knowledge, deciding what gets out and what stays in. That’s what they mean by “coordination of communication to the news media”. It’s not always “if” you decide to share or comment on information, but when and how it will be shared.

Agenda-setting in the world of journalism is more a responsibility than a task. A journalist attached to a mass media outlet has a powerful voice, their words and the way they share information informs their listening, reading or watching public what is important. They set the audiences agenda.

In media relations, you play a role in this by promoting stories you want told, developing contacts in the media to get your messaging out and being able to work with the media on story angles and helping craft public perception.

What does it means for you? Judgement is vitally important.

  • Deciding what to share and what to hold back on
  • Identifying stories the media may be likely to pick up on that tell a positive story about your employer
  • Building relationships with media members
  • Being a skilled communicator

…are all necessary traits.

B: Ensure the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics receives adequate coverage: Beyond all the writing, content creation and press releases, media relations jobs are often about identifying and promoting the attributes that make your employer unique and newsworthy. Media members are always looking for a good story to tell, the better you are at becoming their eyes and ears in the organization the better the chances are your employer will get positive press.

What does this mean for you? Building relationships with the media is only part of the job, you also need to be able to identify what makes a good story. If you are always pitching stories to the media that aren’t worthy, no matter how nice you are you will start to get tuned out. If you lose the trust or faith of a media contact it sure is going to be hard to ensure adequate media coverage.

Final Thought

Media Relations jobs have a high-ceiling, often growing within a team or organization into Director of Public Relations or VP of Communication roles. Writing skills are essential, but remember it’s a special type of writing where personality doesn’t usually play. It’s also a job where charisma and relationship building is important, so it challenges both sides of your brain.

For all of our jobs in Media Relations click here and Public Relations click here!

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. Brian,
    I have been in Sales much of my career and now is looking into a career change, I have a degree in Business Administration. I am inspired to moved into the sports analyst area, because I loved sports. Particularly football, basketball and baseball. I received a basketball scholarship to play in college but my true love is football. I watch NFL game every Sunday! What path should I take to find this job?

  2. Claire Schmitt says:

    Your article on Athletic Media Relations is spot on but as a professional in Athletic Media Relations for over 10 years, it is also essential to have solid working relationships with those who will assist you in game/event management (facility operations/stat crew/table crew, marketing, etc.). The working relationships with the media is critical to the success of your program/sport but how you follow through with the pregame prep, in-game activity, and post-game events with all those who have a hand in the event is essential, too. Thanking them for their help (or acknowledging the media who do show up at your events and making sure that all of their working needs are met) goes a long way…

    Unfortunately, there was no room for growth or promotion in the athletic department that I was associated with. This is a thankless job with the great potential for self-satisfaction and personal pride.

  3. Bernell Hooket says:

    Great article and insightful. I’m an Owner of a Womens’s Professional Basketball team in Milwaukee needing to fill these positions but want to fill it with colkege interns. Is there a right or wrong way of using students?

    • Bernell – I think using college students is a great idea as long as you, or someone in your organization, are able to provide them guidance and set them up to succeed rather than fail. Interns aren’t just cheap labor, they are sponges who need to be taught and led down the right path. Hiring interns is a big responsibility, but when done right, both sides win! – Best of luck Bernell!

  4. Alan Silva says:

    I’m an executive search consultant working with a close friend assisting him with the management of his outstanding career. We are looking for a challenging and upwardly mobile opportunity in Media Relations, Community Relations and Business Development…preferably within the sports arena. Currently he’s a local (Sarasota, Florida) TV News personality and wishes to remain anonymous with his career change and goals for obvious reasons. For the right opportunity, he would be willing to relocate preferring a compensation package in the 6 digit range.

    I am working on a fee basis to the hiring organization and am prepared to share detailed information regarding his excellent credentials and my fee arrangement with a seriously interested company. All inquiries are welcomed.

    Alan Silva

Trackbacks

  1. […] Public relations is another aspect of professional sports that can give you your big break with a potential employer, like NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who started his career by working in public relations for the Los Angeles Rams. There are many entry-level jobs and volunteer positions available in public relations, where you can gain experience with media guides or press releases for sports leagues, organizations and clubs. […]

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