Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged learning for WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast…
Community relations is food for the soul of an organization.
Still one of my favorite quotes. It’s from an anonymous CEO, I’d give credit if I could.
And it’s a true statement. When most departments of an organization are focused on internally beneficial revenue creation, it is the community relations department that is focused on more outwardly impactful projects.
They are literally giving, with no intention to receive anything but joy and fulfillment.
But, even though the quote hits the mark on the spirit of community relations, it’s purpose and mission, it doesn’t take into account the actual scope of the job.
What we see from the outside are hundreds of events each year utilizing the reach and power of a team brand and its athletes to make a difference in the local community. Support for education, the military, cancer survivors, blood drives, coaching -- that what we see, and are moved by as human beings.
But when we talk about the job, when we talk about Community Relations as a career, yes it starts with caring about the people and the causes -- but it also requires elite skills. Event management, marketing, promotions, budgeting, staffing, leadership skills, and more are required to impact and change the local community.
It starts with heart, but it requires skill.
Today’s guest is a shining example of that mix, a combination of elite skill and unrivaled passion and enthusiasm for making a positive change the world.
Kevin Brown is the Director of Community Relations for the Detroit Red Wings and the Director of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation -- it’s my pleasure to have him as our guest
Here we go -- let’s dive into the world of community relations with Kevin Brown…
1: Let’s start with an easy one – in your opinion why is community relations such an important part of the sports industry?
2: Early in your career you worked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and like most sports focused people, you filled various early career roles – Game Day Supervisor, Training Camp Assistant, Team Services Assistant – how did you eventually figure out Community Relations was your path?
3: You earned your degree in marketing, and now find yourself in community relations – do you find there to be valuable links between the two fields?
4: Most people understand what community relations is, but I don’t think they full appreciate the depth of the role – how would you describe the main skill sets necessary to thrive in community relations?
5: During your years with the Bucs, you were also the Super Bowl Community Relations rep from 2010- 2016. Every player I’ve interviewed over my career just shakes their head when they talk about the playoffs or super bowl, as if to say “it’s a whole different world”
Did you feel the same about your super bowl experience, like this just ramped everything up?
6: What do you remember most about your first Super Bowl event?
7: After 14 years with the Bucs and the NFL you jumped to the NHL in a newly developed Director of Community Relations role with the Detroit Red Wings. Initially were there any ah-ha moments as you became accustomed to how things operated in the NFL vs. NHL?
8: With many jobs we talk about measurable metrics, attempting to quantify impact, how are you able to do that in Community Relations?
9: With the Bucs and Red Wings you have been a team spokesperson, managed huge events, built partnerships in the community, handled huge budgets, developed the long term strategy and more – what did you view as the hardest part to get used to, or master, was there a certain aspect that was out of your natural comfort zone?
10: Management of people is a big jump in someone’s career – as we mentioned you started out at the bottom with the Bucs and built your way up – how did you learn to be a manager and how big of a jump was that for you in your career?
11: What about hiring staff – you have many part-time, full-time and volunteer staff underneath you in your various roles -- when you hire staff, what do you look for, what makes someone stand out for the right reasons?
12: I read on your HockeyTown Cares Community Impact Report that the Red Wings organization, including players and staff, dedicated 42,000 hours in the community with over 50,000 youth impacted in 2018-2019.
When you read these numbers and really put them in perspective – are you sometimes in awe of the positive influence your group can have?
13: There are so many causes – education, poverty, cancer, bike safety, women’s rights, social justice – how do you determine where to put your weight and influence? Do you align with the players to understand their passions, or is there another way you figure out your direction and goals?
14: Some of my favorite pictures in your community impact report were from Take a Red Wing to School day. This made me long to be a 3rd grader, walking down the halls with Luke Witkowski.
I’m sure you love then all, but do you have a favorite event each year?
15: We’ll finish up with this – I’ve already taken enough of your time – so many people in our audience have a spirit and passion for community relations. In your view, what skills should they focus on developing, and how can they really get started?
Listen in to this episode with Kevin Brown, Detroit Red Wings Director of Community Relations and Director of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation to learn more about the business of community relations!