Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5 Tips for Collegiate Athletic Media Relations GAs...

How to Get Noticed by Senior Administrators

If you’re currently serving as a graduate assistant in a collegiate athletic media relations office, you’re on the right track toward a successful career in this industry (and you’re probably also hungry and sleep-deprived). But when you got that fateful call notifying you that you’d been selected for the position, that was the signal that you’re journey was just beginning. Landing the assistantship is never the goal. The goal is to leverage the opportunity that accompanies the assistantship into a great job upon graduation.

It’s really not much different than the training regimens carried out by the teams you work to promote: Hustle, hustle, hustle every day and focus on the process rather than the result.

An important part of the process should be finding ways to distinguish yourself in the eyes of those who run your department. Here are just a few tips to help you along the way.

1: Volunteer to assist at as many events as you can.
Working in collegiate athletic media relations often means showing up before most everyone and being among the last to leave. It can leave you yearning for a more exciting social life; but keep in mind—you’re logging all these hours with the ultimate goal of landing a good full-time gig upon graduation. The payoff will come.

Athletic departments, particularly at the “BCS level,” host several non-competition events each month. Donor receptions, corporate partner luncheons, golf tournaments and other events such as these present opportunities to assist and interact with senior-level athletic administrators. Showing ambition and providing competent and reliable assistance at these events can be a difference-maker for your future.

2: Identify a useful publication your department lacks, and produce it.
Every collegiate athletic media relations department produces publications (I use that term loosely, as fewer and fewer of these “publications” actually exist in printed form) geared toward the recruitment of prospective student-athletes. But does your athletic department have a similar publication to serve as a recruiting tool for talented coaches and/or athletic administrators?

In addition to touting your school’s traditions, championship history and facilities (which you already do for student-athletes), you could entice coaches/administrators with benefits information, apparel deals, conference and TV revenue data, etc. And best of all, who better to consult on such a project than your athletic department’s current senior administrators?

Sport-specific record books, almanacs for discontinued sports and fan’s guides are also publications you may have the expertise to generate. And if your desktop publishing software skills aren’t up to par, find a pet project along these lines and spend an hour or two each night working on your craft and making yourself a more desirable job candidate down the road.

3: Embrace new media and use it to enhance your department’s brand.
Age is a touchy subject in today’s workplace. But if you’re a GA, chances are you’ve got youth on your side. You may be more well versed in social media and digital technology than some of your superiors. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Offer to give “how to” presentations on tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Prezi to your athletic department’s full-time staff members.

Pitch ideas on ways to use social media outlets to engage your school’s fanbase. Is your ace pitcher a candidate for an award that uses online voting? Better yet, is your ace pitcher deserving of publicity that has yet to come his/her way? Use Prezi to promote him/her and make a captivating and attention-grabbing case for recognition.

Utilize Facebook and Twitter to put together a prize-packed scavenger hunt for fans. Use your imagination. Do something no other school has done yet. With social media, it’s possible.

4: Treat the secretaries and janitorial staff the same way you treat your athletic director.
Don’t be so narrow-minded in your ambition that you lose sight of how you treat people deserving of your respect. People talk.

Maybe that kid working on the stadium grounds crew who you breeze past everyday without acknowledging is an associate athletic director’s nephew or next-door neighbor. Take note of the senior level administrators who never give you the time of day—and promise yourself you won’t become that person.

5: Don’t get noticed for the wrong reasons.
To maintain the type of hours we keep in this profession, having a good sense of humor is a necessity. But there’s a time and place for jokes. You never know who may be walking through the office hallway while you’re standing on a desk teaching a fellow GA how to “dougie.”

I’ll offer a personal anecdote here—an example of how my foolishness turned into an extremely embarrassing experience (haven’t shared this story with many folks until now).

When I was a GA, I ate lunch every day at the athletic training table. And on Tuesdays during the fall, we hosted a football media day, after which media members had the option of eating free lunch at the training table as well. On that day each week, all media members and media relations staffers were required to sign in upon arrival at the dining hall.

Foolishly, I thought to myself, “I don’t understand why we need to sign in on Tuesdays. Surely nobody is actually looking at this log book each week.”

So… I started signing in as “Hulk Hogan” every Tuesday.

That lasted about a month or so, until I got a phone call from one of our associate athletic directors one afternoon asking me to come to his office. When I walked in and sat down, he held up one of the sign-in sheets and asked “Are you Hulk Hogan?”

Not my proudest moment. But, I admitted to it and apologized 10 times over.

The moral of the story is that senior level administrators have enough on their plate. The last thing they need is to spend valuable time trying to figure out why Hulkamania is runnin’ wild in the dining hall. So do them—and yourself—a favor, and spend your time figuring out ways to be a productive asset to your athletic department. Your future depends on it.