Trading Passion for Pleasure

Businessman Crossing Finish Line

Choosing a profession is one of those things in life that everyone does, some taking longer than others, for one reason or another. The journey from point A to B is what makes us stand out from every other mammal standing in line at the coffee shop. Most PR folks I’ve spoken with have jumped into the field after college or transferred from a marketing or journalistic role. I took a different route and fell into the field during my sophomore year in college.

That year I landed a spot as a marketing intern with the Jersey Devils.  Next, I interviewed with the New York Knicks, where the hiring manager let me know that I was a great communicator and that the skill would be wasted in marketing. So the next year, without knowing what a public relations person was – I was it for NY’s basketball team. After a year-plus of loathing basketball – losing sucks after all – I wound up in Baltimore competing for a year gig with the Baltimore Ravens that wound up being a two-year stint. My fascination with sports public and media relations came to an end after working for a minor league baseball team for two years on Long Island (more on that here).

While my route to becoming a corporate flack is different than most, it has given me a unique perspective on the PR industry as a whole. Plant your tongue in your cheek for a grass is greener lesson.

Don’t complain about clip books – Don’t lie, you hate making clip books. Even though the ruler says 3” and blows the shorts off your client, it’s the first task to get delegated. Please don’t complain about it, though. There were days when the daily clips were hitting a few inches at a time. These were also hand cuts from the paper and taped page by page (coaches liked seeing the actual press clipping) god forbid they were ever crooked. Score – PR 1, Sports 0

Prepare for the unexpected – Working with reporters and executives can be challenging. They all have egos and want things done on their terms, not yours, but you get the job done. Add muscle and multiply the ego by Donald Trump, mix and roll tape. Unlike pestering assistants for the executive, getting an athlete to an interview can be an intricate and time consuming game of cat and mouse. For example, to do an interview with Sports Illustrated Ed Reed told me I had to catch him in a footrace in the Ravens’ facility. After being embarrassed by the All-Pro, he did the interview, but it was a Rodney Dangerfield moment. Sometimes the pranks weren’t as innocent – can we say cold tub? So think about the cold water next time you bitch about the executive or reporter pushing the interview back 30 minutes to three months. PR 2, Sports 0

Working your passion – We have all heard Gary Vaynerchuck talk about how now is the time to Crush It and work our passion. Now unless your name is Danny Brown or Michael Dolan (or you own your own firm) you are probably working for a company(s) internally or as their agency. The question is: are you working for a company or industry that you are passionate about? While in sports, I was working living and breathing the thing that I am most passionate about – sports. So for the time, I didn’t mind the pay, hours or seeing my family. I was in my glory and living the dream. Score that PR 2, Sports 1

Working for the weekend? – Do you complain when you have to come in early or stay late for an interview or to get a project done? Please don’t – your coworkers will loathe you for it and no one wants to hear it. It sucks, but it is something that comes with the territory. Sports taught me that to have success, you need to put in the hours. Also if you think that working a long week Monday thru Friday is tough; imagine living with your coworkers in tight quarters and no off-days in a hick town. That my friends, is an annual rite of passage called football training camp. There were also stretches with the baseball team where we were on for 80 hours a week, so forget weekends. Hell, weekends are what I live for now. Score PR 3, Sports 1

Now while the score might seem like an NHL blowout, it’s really just a matter of circumstances that led me to being a flack out of water and adapting to a new role in PR. The unconventional approach to getting from A to B also gives me a unique way of getting things done. It might be different from book learning, but hey it works for me. If you want to learn more about sports PR or the industry in general, shoot me a line or swing by Mike Schaffer’s  #sportsprchat.

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  • keithtrivitt

    Oh the memories this post brought back! Jeff, thanks for the great insight here, particularly for those who always would come up to us working in the sports world and say, “Man, you have the best job ever!” Yeah, it's definitely cool from the outside, but when you're working in it, and that means 6-7 days per week at 12-15 hours per day, it doesn't become so cool anymore. Then, it's just a job, like most other things.

    I really believe that the unconventional approach that you and I took to get into PR (full disclosure for everyone: I worked in collegiate and professional sports – both in PR and marketing – for about 5 years prior to going to agency PR) has allowed me to provide my current employer and our clients with a unique perspective on things that I honestly believe is different from others. That may be one of the reasons why I'm not really a big fan of traditional PR educations. And why I'm such a big proponent and backer of strong media relations, because I have worked in jobs before where you HAVE to have extremely strong relationships with certain reporters, largely because they follow your team every single day, and often, you room with them, or eat with them, or whatever else it is.

  • jeffespo

    Couldn't have said it better myself Keith. My eye-opener was when the media wouldn't just come to me.

    If only that were the case now. But then again I am sure the Fords and Microsofts of the world have that luxury.

  • mikeschaffer

    Very much appreciate the shout-out, Jeff! (For those who don't know, Jeff is a member of the #SportsPRChat community and a substitute moderator when I'm not able to host.)

    This is an incredible discussion of the thought process sports PR pros go through.

    People talk about the sacrifices athletes make. And don't get me wrong, they are enormous. There is no value you can put on cutting your lifespan almost in half by playing football or living in a different city every year while trying to raise a family.

    Imagine getting 1/1,000,000th of the salary, working around the clock AND having to deal with wild, unpredictable personalities? That's sports PR.

    There is NOTHING like it, that's for sure. And the stories are phenomenal. It's a lifestyle, not a job, and you did an excellent job here of pointing that out!

  • jeffespo

    Mike – we will have to discuss over suds one day my friend. But in all seriousness I am not trying to dissuade anyone from the field. I loved it and have a lot of great friends there still.

    However it does take a toll on you mentally and physically. There is also zero chance of maintaining a regular social life either.

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  • Jeff,

    Loved your Ed Reed story. I once arranged for Delonte West to do an in-studio appearance on a local Boston TV channel. I reminded him several times during the week about it and before practice the day of. Of course, after practice, with a car waiting outside, he says he can't go because he has to pick up his mom at the airport.

    I give him a pass and reschedule for the next Saturday. A week full of reminders passes. A week later I approach him after practice to leave for the appearance and what does he say? That's right, he has to pick up his mom at the airport. Did even change the excuse!

    Long story short, I made him go this time, of course we were having a blizzard in Boston that day, and the entire car ride he just stared at me fuming and accusing me of trying to kill him by making him ride in the car in a blizzard.

    After the appearance he said he had fun, thanked me and offered to do it again!

    Sorry for the long post, but it brought back memories!

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