Working in Sports PR: Advice from the Pros

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The thirst for knowledge from students and young professionals who want to work in the sports PR  industry is endless. Often your passion for the work is undoubtedly there, a college degree is in hand, and maybe even a few internships have come and gone. But still, there is the question of how to get your foot in the door and what are the skills necessary to get a job in sports PR. We decided to ask some of the pros we know for their advice on how to break into the industry and be successful…and we offer some advice of our own:

Tim Tessalone Sports Information Director, USC

  • Be able to write like a sportswriter, not an English major, and be proficient in everything from an AP style recap to a “Sports Illustrated” feature. If you don’t know how, read, read, read and learn through osmosis.
  • Speak the lingo…if your client is into tennis and you can’t talk game-set-match, you’ll be exposed quickly.
  • Media contacts are everything. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Be able to call up a member of the media and, one, they’ll take your call and, two, they’ll listen to what you have to say. My first boss asked me to cold call one media person a day (someone I didn’t already know), introduce myself and get to know that person. I found that awkward, but now I understand the value of that exercise and appreciate that he made me do it.
  • When job hunting, ask everyone for three leads on potential jobs or even names of industry contacts. Pretty soon, three becomes 33 becomes 333 and then it’s on you to follow up on all of them.
  • If you want to get into the world of sports PR, don’t just think team sports. Everybody wants to work for the Lakers or Dodgers, but those jobs are somewhat limited in their availability. There are many other ways to get in, there are PR agencies that specialize in sport s , there are sports agents and marketers, there are single sports events (i.e. LA marathon, Long Beach Grand Prix, etc.) and non-traditional sports (MLS, minor league baseball, X-Games, etc.), there are local/national sports TV networks, stadiums and other sports facilities — all of them need PR people. I tell folks that when they go to a sporting event, look at all the signage; all of those companies that advertise or sponsor events have somebody internally doing sports PR/marketing…go after them.

Zack Smith  Sports Media Relations Specialist

  • Spend the first and last hour of the day reading sports-specific news.  Information is a sports PR pro’s currency; know who’s who (journalist-wise) and industry trends so you can suggest to potential employers how they can tie back their clients to stories.
  • Use Twitter to make friends — and be a valuable resource — to thought leaders in the industry.  Post  links to stories, create intelligent one-on-one conversation.  PR yourself.
  • Want to work in sports?  As much as you can, be that consumer…participate, go to retail, ask questions, follow and understand technology behind products.  You can then speak to that position and know what stories will resonate with that end buyer.

Lauren Novo  PR Account Executive and blogger 

  • If you want to work in sports PR, you’ve got to be more than a big football or basketball fan. Start every day by reading and watching sports news and get to know the industry trends and issues. Sports reporters are never going to run out of things to cover — so if you want your company or product in the news, you need to understand how it ties to the bigger picture. As you prepare for your job interview, research the firm’s clients and be prepared to share specific ideas on how you can help garner coverage for them.

LaTonya Story  Sports Publicist

  • My advice to PR students and to those looking to get into the PR field is to learn the basics and know the field you are looking to work. The basics as far as writing press releases, pitches, communications and being relevant. Most importantly, it is imperative to have a working knowledge of your chosen PR field. If you want to be a sports publicist and don’t know the difference between a touchdown and a free throw, that’s a problem. Don’t just choose a career path because it looks “fun.” Choose one you can make an impact for both your clients and the industry.

Martine Charles  Co-founder of PRO Sports Communications 

  • Public relations is about getting through the clutter and getting the right message about your client to their key audiences or publics. Learn how to effectively use the PR tools at your disposal, but also be willing to take risk, be creative and think outside the box.

Melinda Travis  Co-founder of PRO Sports Communications 

  • Know who the major players in the industry are and pay attention to them. Follow them on Twitter, visit their websites, read their blogs consistently and learn from what they do on a daily basis.
  • Take advantage of the hundreds of free learning resources offered across the web.  On any given week, there are dozens of webinars, panel discussions and twitter chats happening, led by the top people in the field, on PR topics from A-Z.  YouTube is also full of PR and social media “how-to” videos as well as taped speaking engagements from PR experts. Participate, absorb and continue to educate yourself every day.  Passionate learners are valuable employees.

For me, it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was looking for my own first job in PR (although I didn’t have social media to help connect me with people so it might have been longer than I care to admit!). My advice is to get involved in your local PRSA  orPRSSA  chapter. If there are other PR or sports industry organizations in your city, like WISE (Women in the Sports & Events) , join them too. And when I say get involved, I don’t just mean show up to meetings. Volunteer to help plan events or anything else you can do to learn. Get to know people, offer to help them any way you can and let them know what kind of career you’re looking for and how they can help you.

In addition to networking online via Twitter as Zack Smith suggested, you can also raise your profile by blogging about relevant news and issues. If you don’t have time to create your own blog, pitch yourself as a guest contributor to sports and/or PR industry blogs. At PRO Sports Communications we are always looking for students and young professionals with a voice.



  1. […] came across an extremely helpful blog called “Working in Sports PR: Advice from the Pros” by Womeninpr. Here, men and women in this particular field conveyed their ideas about what you […]

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