Marketing and public relations are paramount in many aspects of planning sports events including building awareness and interest to gain sponsors, maximize participation, fill the seats and grow the fan base. If you're involved with producing sports events at any level, you need to continue to level-up your marketing and PR game.
At a recent Oregon Sports Summit Series hosted by the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission, sports event planners and organizers, athletic directors, coaches and local sports team members gathered at the Bob Keefer Center for Sports and Recreation in Springfield, Oregon to learn about public relations, writing press releases, working with television, radio and print media and leveraging social media channels—all from industry professionals—all in one afternoon workshop. Here are some key takeaways from the event.
Public Relations Best Practices
The first keynote speaker was Dean Mundy, Public Relations Area Director with the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. Dr. Mundy began by emphasizing that public relations is an ongoing process of building relationships and networking, telling your unique story and serving as the organization’s eyes and ears—all while thinking long term.
Mundy stressed that you need to think holistically and creatively about building networks. Consider your target audience and then think through how they’re connected, what is trending with them, what are they responding to and what is getting engagement in similar groups.
He also discussed the importance of staying in touch and keeping in front of your target audience and networking consistently throughout the year and not just right before and immediately after events.
Telling your unique story, beyond simply communicating the details of the event, in places where your target audience will see and read it is of utmost importance, Mundy emphasized. If your sports events are with kids, put it where their parents will see and read it.
Mundy said to be successful, messages must clear six hurdles: Exposure, attention, comprehension, belief/acceptance, remembering and acting. When telling your unique story, think about what the end goal is and make sure that your messaging is crafted with the intent to bring action towards the goal.
Press Release Nuts and Bolts
Next up was Jessi Gabriel, Director of Strategic Communications with TrackTown USA, who discussed how to write effective press releases.
First, Gabriel discussed the headline and said it should be only one line, include last names only and be punchy and focused on the main highlight.
She talked about the lede next. The lede is the opening sentence or paragraph summarizing the most important aspects of the story. Gabriel said to ask yourself if they only read the first few sentences, would they know what they need to know? She said to make sure to include details like location and times and ensure they follow the AP Stylebook.
Like Mundy, Gabriel stressed that it was important to have a story to tell and to focus only on that story. She said it’s important to be thorough, but not verbose and to aim for a single page of content. Following a formula works well when you have something that occurs regularly. It's critically important to include a brief standard description of your organization and any other organizations that are mentioned in the release.
Lastly, she went through the mechanics. She said to make sure that someone else proofreads the press release prior to sending, to send the press release as a PDF file and copy the text into the email that’s sent to the news outlet. If you have a website, make sure to post the release.
Gabriel said it was important that you don’t include hyperlinks or filenames and don’t blind copy (BCC) anybody. Follow up with a media advisory, if needed. She discussed the importance of having and maintaining a good media list and making sure to send the press release to the appropriate members of the media.
Connecting with the Media
A panel of local media professionals including Kathie Dougherty, Station Manager at NBC16 KMTR-TV, Jeff Gaulton, Market Manager at Bicoastal Media Radio, and Noel Nash, Publisher at the Creswell Chronicle newspaper took questions from the group.
Telling a unique story seemed to be of utmost importance to every member of the panel. Dougherty reported that KMTR receives around 4,500 press releases a day! In order to stand out, ask yourself if your story will make the reader feel something. Is it important? How important is it? Your story must stand out and grab attention.
The panel members discussed different ways they could work with the planners, even if their budgets couldn’t support buying advertising. They encouraged the planners to connect with them to find out what options might exist and suggested that they could be creative with their offerings.
Social Media Strategies
From the University of Oregon, Jimmy Stanton, Senior Associate Athletic Director – Communications, and Josh Phillips, Assistant Athletic Director – Creative and Digital Media, gave an exciting presentation on how the athletic department uses social media.
They discussed branding guidelines and said even small organizations could benefit from outlining how they wanted to be perceived online. It’s imperative to know who your target audience is in order to develop an appropriate online voice. Being consistent with your brand and online voice is also important.
Phillips said social media channels should be used for more than just promoting your event. Make sure to keep accounts active by posting regularly and engaging with your audience. The most well-received content is often timely and planned, but the most engaging content is frequently spontaneous.