Posted At: January 1, 2008 10:12 AM
by Betsy Beam
A work environment where tickets flow freely, closets are stocked with the latest sports gear and relationships with star coaches and athletes are part of a day’s work sounds like a dream, but for University of Alabama assistant sports information director Corey Hoodjer and Hank Hager, assistant director of athletic communications at Oregon State University, it’s a reality. These are just a few of the perks that come with a job in collegiate sports media relations.
“There are so many wonderful people in sports and being around them day-to-day is an inspirational thing,” Hoodjer says. “Almost all coaches at this level are highly successful individuals, so being around them and learning how they go about their business does help you become better, too.”
Hoodjer works primarily with the UA football team handling all player media requests but also with the nationally ranked UA softball team. Hager works with the OSU women’s basketball team, baseball team and swim team. Both men agree that describing a typical day in the media relations office is difficult because every day is different. The ability to multi-task is vital because there are always several sports in-season and numerous events requiring the ability to work on a variety of projects simultaneously.
“There is no typical day, which is why this is such a great job,” Hager says. “You’re always doing different things, whether that’s working on press releases, media guides or game notes. Game days always bring a new element, from spending time on the field to actually running the game.”
Effective Media Relations
Characteristics of efficient media relations practitioners include the ability to work under deadlines and high-pressure environments. “Reporters, players and coaches all operate under tight deadlines, requiring you to be able to work accurately but quickly,” Hoodjer explains. “Games can be stressful, and players and coaches are often in emotional situations that require us to be even-tempered and be able to work efficiently under pressure. That is one of the biggest aspects of our job.”
Hager stresses the importance of certain skills he acquired while in school, such as being organized, budgeting time and prioritizing tasks. He explains that while there are always things to be done, big and small, it is imperative to know what needs to be done now and what can be done later. “Deadlines are important in school and they are absolutely essential in media relations.”
In the fast-paced world of collegiate public relations, practitioners have to be able to write while under tight deadlines. The ability to determine what is important and what is not is vital. In addition, the ability to develop personal relationships with coaches, players and media is key. “Better relationships help get your team recognized more easily,” Hager says.
Weekly tasks include holding press conferences with the main sports, maintaining the university web site, updating statistics for all athletic teams, and promoting each sport, its coach, and its players. “We send stat reports to the SEC and nominate our athletes for awards and honors quite regularly,” Hoodjer says.
Writing releases to recap games and highlight awards won by athletes requires daily attention. “I always like to stay abreast of team news, whether that’s reading the newspaper when I get in in the morning, or talking to my coaches and players,” says Hager. “Part of this job is trying to get to know your coaches and players better than they know themselves.” Additionally, handling all of the media requests from local, regional and national media outlets takes precedence in the daily schedule.
Some media relations tasks prove to be more difficult than others. Working to accommodate the media while also keeping in mind the best interest for both coaches and athletes sometimes presents conflicts. “Trying to serve the media professionally when they want information on sensitive topics is difficult,” Hoodjer admits. “Drawing the line on what information to give out, what interviews to grant and trying always to project a positive image when controversial things happen is also very difficult.”
Hager believes that the most difficult aspect of the job is the constant battle of balancing so many tasks at once. “You always have something going on, and trying to decide what needs to be done and what needs to be done later can be hard sometimes,” Hager says. “But the longer you work in the business, the easier it is to make that determination.”
Working within collegiate sports media relations is not a “9-to-5” job with games falling on weekends and holidays; therefore, the time commitment can be very daunting. Balancing family needs with work is challenging when work includes late nights throughout the year. “Sometimes, it seems like you spend more time in the office than at home,” admits Hager. “But when you have the chance to be on the field during pre-game or on the scorer’s table at tip-off, you realize it’s worth it.”
Hoodjer believes the time commitment and hard work pay off when an athlete has a positive experience while attending college. Hoodjer says, “Helping student-athletes become the best they can be and helping them have a positive experience at our university is something that I will always remember as the most important part of our job, and the most rewarding.”
How to Pursue a Sports Media Career
For those with an interest in collegiate sports PR, Hoodjer’s advice is to volunteer. Although it is not easy from a financial standpoint, working hard and proving yourself are very important when starting. Networking is also an important factor. Getting to know people in the business will go a long way toward getting jobs in the future. “Above all things,” Hoodjer says, “being willing to work hard and learn new things will distinguish you and help make yourself a viable candidate when job interviews come around.”
“As with any profession, knowing this is something you want to do is important,” Hager says. “If you want to do it, you will enjoy it.” Collegiate sports public relations is a highly impacted profession where there always seems to be more people than there are jobs. Those interested in a career in media relations must find a way to stand out. “Developing a healthy work ethic and a good sense of deadlines is important,” Hager advises. “If you don’t, PR can get over your head.”
How does collegiate sports media relations differ from professional sports media relations? Is there a big difference?