Sports PR: the game behind the game

Sports PR: the game behind the game

by RaeAnne Dutto   

For every athlete making their way into the headlines for either being arrested, using performance-enhancing drugs, caught with a mistress, or any other scandal, there is a public relations person working behind the scenes trying to protect the image of the athlete and team. Managing crises is just one of the many responsibilities of a public relations person working in the sports field. PR is an important area for any sports organization, an essential part in portraying the team’s image within the community and help them be successful. Here I will provide some very general information about the industry to help PR “rookies” have a better understanding of the role of PR in sports.

Just like any other field, the public relations team maintains and establishes positive relationships between, in this case the sports organization and its stakeholders. The department communicates the company’s message and builds relationships with its publics that include players, coaches, other employees, the media, sponsors and fans. Some of the smaller branches of within sports PR are media, player, community, donor, employee, government and investor relations. The main PR goal is to keep a positive public image of the team within the community. In order to do this, the staff disseminates important information about games, athletes, transactions, and team events and stories to local and national media outlets in order to get it out to the public.

Some responsibilities of the PR staff include assisting the media with player and coach interviews, moderating press conferences, coordinating player and coach appearances within the community, providing media training for the athletes and writing press releases and other printed and online materials to promote the organization. The PR departments of professional or intercollegiate teams also provide media guides, game day notes and updated team and game statistics for the media. If a crisis does occur, the PR staffs must take action immediately, creating a strategic plan to help address and manage the crisis. They effectively communicate their response to the public and media, trying to put it in a positive light. An important thing to remember is there are other opportunities in this industry outside of working for a team. Sports agencies, media, apparel, stadiums, events, and goods all have PR departments. In addition, there are many Public Relations & Marketing agencies focusing specifically on representing sports-related clients.

In order to succeed in this field, one must have proficient writing and communication skills as well as have a knowledge and interest in sports. One of the best ways to gain experience within the sports industry is to get involved with a sports or media related activity on campus, such as writing for the sports section of the student newspaper, working for the radio station, or volunteering at the school’s athletic department. Contacting and setting up an informational interview with a sports PR professional can also be beneficial in gaining more knowledge about the industry.

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