What Does it Take to Work in Sports Public Relations? Jeff Altstadter, Director Open Championships Public Relations for the USGA Joins the Show to Discuss That and More.
Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast.
When I first decided I wanted to work in the sports industry, my first thought was media relations. The idea of working as the conduit between the athletes and the media sounded like a dream scenario for me.
Strategic communication, dealing with crisis, building relationships and rapport, being trusted and relied upon by the professionals. Wow. Even now I hear myself saying all of that and get kind of excited.
Since I work for a sports job board – or I should say the hands down best sports job board period – every day I see jobs pop up that pique my interest. I see a media relations job with an NFL team, or a major university and I think …if only I had gone down that road where would I be now?
When I graduated I applied broadly for jobs related to media – TV networks, media relations, heck I specifically remember applying for a job as a spokesman for the Dairy Association of Greater New England.
And then one day I got a call from CNN sports and the rest is history.
A great deal of people ask me, should I wait for the perfect job or just take a good job that comes my way, and I have an instinctual answer – take the opportunity you have, kick butt, gain experience, network and then you can get more selective with your next job.
But there is a part of me that holds back and says – yeah but, what if I had held out for a job in media relations… would things be different now? Maybe. But different isn’t the same as better. I could be working in media relations for a super bowl team right now… or I could be slogging away in a field distant from the sports industry I love, never having cracked that code.
As I do these interviews week after week with experts in the sports field, I keep hearing how similar we all are. We attack opportunity when it comes our way. Relentlessly. We may not know what the opportunity is, or what team, or league, or agency it may be, but when it comes we are ready and we go at it full bore.
I made a choice – I followed my love and my passion for sports, I took the opportunity, ran after it and really pushed myself to be the best. I competed day in and day out, and as I look back, I won. I won because I took the opportunity I had and made the absolute most of it.
So yeah – while sometimes it may be fun to play the “what if game” we tend to romanticize the path not taken, while discounting the path taken.
I guess the reason I’m being a bit nostalgic is because this week I have one of the best in the sports public relations business you can find on the show, and it made me think backwards a bit, when usually I am someone totally focused on the future.
This weeks guest is Jeff Altstadter - the Director of Open Championships Public Relations for the USGA, simply put, he manages the communications and pubic relations for all of the USGA major championships 18 events per year including the US open, US Women’s open, Senior open and various major Amateur championships. He’s worked in the NHL in similar PR roles with the New Jersey Devils and the Arizona Coyotes – Jeff has a wealth of experience and it was a pleasure talking to him for this interview – here’s Jeff Altstatdter:
Questions for Jeff Altstadter:
1: You’ve worked in public relations for multiple sports teams, namely the Arizona Coyotes and the New Jersey Devils, but now you are working for a major sports association as public relations Director for the USGA – can you take us through your current role and focus?
2: How different is it now being focused on the entire association, rather than just a singular team? How has that shift changed things for you?
3: I would imagine you have multiple concurrent focuses – you have an ongoing event schedule, long-term public relations planning and the unexpected things that come up daily – how do you prioritize and manage all that goes into your role?
4: I find crisis communication to be fascinating. There is no way to see a ballistic missile warning coming during the Sony Open, or know there is going to be an e.Coli scare in the water during the U.S. Open -- since you can’t prepare for specifics of a crisis, how do you plan for the unknown?
4a: Is the approach to crisis different at each organization you’ve worked for, or is there a standard operating procedure in crisis management?
5: When I worked in TV, sometimes when a major story broke right before you went on air, it gave you extra focus and you got in the zone because you had to. Of course you don’t wish for tragedy or e.Coli scares, but are those the tough moments when you get laser focused put on your best and shine?
6: We have a private Facebook group for fans of the podcast and before each interview I ask that group if they have any questions they want me to ask of our upcoming guest… James Price, who is finishing up his masters in sports administration later this year asks: In this digital age where there is constant influx of information (some valid, some not), how much media monitoring does your organization do and how do you prioritize/analyze that information?
7: In your experience, what makes a good public relations/strategic communication employee in sports?
8: Every good director or executive needs a team they work with to help execute the over-arching strategy of the department - when you form a team, what do you look for?
9: So if you were hiring, what are the “must haves” both in tactical ability and soft skills that you’d want to look for?
10: Do you ever get tired of the constant edge of your seat life experience? Events, drama, media asks, crisis, rinse, wash, repeat – do you get burned out and if so how do you recharge?hh
1: If you could get a golf lesson tomorrow from anyone on tour…who would you choose?
2: Who are your three favorite hockey players of all-time?
3: You’ve been in New Jersey since 2001 – many people have a bad impression of the state, tell us something that will make everyone want to visit the Garden State.
4: The game of golf went through a huge growth period coinciding with Tiger Woods emergence – how does golf continue to grow into the next decade plus?
5: Sustainability and environmentalism is gaining steam in the sports industry, do you think golf will take a leading role in green sports initiatives?