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3 Tips for Breaking into Sports PR

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Sunday’s Super Bowl was the most-watched event in the history of live television. After all the hype and chatter settles down, one fact remains: behind every team, brand, player and celebrity involved in the day’s events was a group of highly skilled (and well-paid) public relations experts.

In case you missed it, we recently spoke to three industry veterans who recounted their own experience and offered tips on how to score a great internship and launch a career in the big-stakes world of sports PR.

Here are three of the most important lessons we learned in the process.

1. Create a great portfolio

We all know that great PRs should also be great writers, but it’s easy to forget just how important one’s writing skills can be.

Mike Soltys, SVP of communications at ESPN, says “Writing samples are a big differentiator. A very small percentage of applicants have good writing samples to present beyond history term papers.”

Sandra Carreon-John, SVP at M&C Saatchi and former sports publicist, started her career as an intern for the National Hockey League. She ”did anything and everything I could to show them I could write” before her first interview; she even wrote a report on the game she’d watched the night before.

2. Score an internship that matches your goals

Everyone would love to work for the industry’s leading brands, but Arthur Triche, former PR director for the Atlanta Falcons, tells us that the biggest names aren’t always the best: “You might…take a position with a company that wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice in order to get your foot in the door.”

Soltys adds, “Getting quality work experience with a smaller company can be just as beneficial for some. [I've heard] lots of stories about people going to high-profile internships that don’t serve them well.”

He knows of what he speaks: when he started at ESPN, the company was less than a year old and many predicted that it wouldn’t last. Imagine that!

3. Network, network, network

Starters in any field spend time doing “grunt work” and going on coffee runs—it’s just part of the job. But the key to future success lies in making sure that everyone knows both who you are and how hard you’re willing to work.

This point applies both inside and outside the organization that hired you. Triche elaborates: “Get to know any other PR guys who come through town by making sure to introduce yourself and doing whatever you can to help.”

Soltys says, “Those [interns] who stand out are the ones who make a point of getting around and saying hello.”

Beyond the introductions, a few extra hours each week can pay off in the long run. Soltys says, “My boss said I should find time to come down in the spring and work more hours after the internship officially ended, and I was able to get an entry-level position when I graduated.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

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