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Your keys to entering the field of sport media and communication

This is an excerpt from Strategic Sport Communication 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Paul M. Pedersen,Pamela C. Laucella,Edward (Ted) M. Kian & Andrea Nicole Geurin.

The preceding sections of this chapter examine numerous career opportunities available to sport communication students. However, to fully prepare for and eventually enter one of these professions, you need not only to understand the nature and scope of the available options but also to take certain key steps. Therefore, this section details key elements of career preparation (i.e., skill development, knowledge, experience, and distinction) that will help you enter and succeed in this competitive field (see figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 Keys to successful entry into a sport communication career.
Figure 2.2 Keys to successful entry into a sport communication career.

Self-Evaluation

The first step in career preparation is evaluation. If you are considering a career in sport communication, assess your potential by examining your skill set and your passion for the field. Self-assessment involves exploring and evaluating one’s needs, interests, personality, skills, values, work style, and expectations. This process can be accomplished through a variety of means (e.g., personal reflection, reading, consulting with a friend), but they are most often carried out through career counseling. This counseling may include completing surveys, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, Knowdell Career Values Card Sort, Campbell Interest and Skill Survey, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—all of which can be taken online. Individuals preparing to enter sport communication should know their interests and determine which sectors of the field appeal most to them.

As discussed earlier, many career options are available in management, mass media, and support services, and entry into many of these careers is detailed in this chapter and throughout this text. However, people who have a passion for any of the career options in sport communication may reveal this passion in actions that go unseen by others and cannot be included in a résumé. For example, when college students and young professionals attend sporting events today, they often perform mock broadcasts as a way to develop their craft. In one particularly striking example, NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. essentially launched the entire phenomenon of media coverage of the Draft when he produced his first prospect guide as a high school senior. Before then, the Draft had never even been televised. At first, Kiper sent his guide off to NFL teams, but he soon began selling copies to other people by mail order (Peter, 2014). Such endeavors originate from a passion for communication and reveal a deep interest in a career in sport communication.

Because of the diverse career options available in sport communication, professionals in this field require varied abilities and skill sets—for example, attention to detail, openness to change, strategic thinking, goal setting, and self-motivation. Above all, as noted by the authors of Profiles of Sport Industry Professionals, “Whereas excellent oral and written communication skills are important in most segments of the [sport] industry, they are the foundation of communications in sport. . . . [Professionals also need] skills in computer and electronic technologies, news and feature reporting and writing, the ability to work well with diverse populations, statistical expertise, creativity in a variety of publications, and a thorough knowledge of a wide range of sports” (Robinson et al., 2001, p. 241). After you perform a self-assessment and evaluate your knowledge, skills, interests, and abilities, you can begin strengthening yourself in the areas that need improvement by refining certain skills, developing needed abilities, and increasing your knowledge.

Education

Individuals who pursue full-time employment in sport communication usually need a college degree of some sort. Most positions also require professional preparation, which can be achieved in part by earning a college degree specifically in sport communication, sport management, sport studies, communication, journalism, broadcasting, public relations, advertising, telecommunication, or another closely related discipline. As discussed in chapter 1, the field of sport communication has seen considerable growth in academic offerings over the past two decades. Even so, your education should not be limited to the classroom. Regularly read sport communication publications. Observe best practices by sport communication professionals. Volunteer in sport communication activities with sport organizations and media outlets. Such activities enable you to network and gain experience, which are essential to becoming a successful professional in sport communication.

Networking

To advance in sport communication, professionals must be willing to build relationships and network with colleagues, both within the field and in separate but related fields. As noted by University of Miami sport management professor Warren Whisenant, “Working in the sport industry requires an individual to establish a web of intersecting relationships that reach across industries and business segments (operations, marketing, sales, finance) within both the public and the private sector. Although an individual’s career path will influence his or her level of position power in the sport industry, a continually evolving and growing network of personal relationships will enable the individual to amass a significant level of personal power and loyalty, which can ensure a successful and fulfilling career in sport” (personal communication).

The adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” is true in sport communication. “Meet people,” ESPN SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn told Oklahoma State sport media students in a guest lecture on campus, when asked to provide advice for aspiring sport media professionals. “Do not be afraid to walk up to those in the industry and ask for a business card, and then send them an email afterward.” Indeed, top-level positions often go unadvertised because the people who fill them are recruited through existing relationships. Moreover, the field of sport communication is highly competitive, and building a sound network of relationships can help you advance your career. Be persistent in meeting colleagues and individuals who hold decision-making positions in various organizations. Remember the names of people you meet, and maintain enough communication with them to establish a favorable relationship, which may generate positive word of mouth for you.

More generally, be flexible and remain open minded, especially before you land your first full-time job. Do not discount any potential employment in sport communication. Being versatile increases your chances of finding opportunities. Be willing to conduct informational interviews, attend conferences and meetings of professional associations, and read articles and publications pertinent to the field. In addition, becoming a student member of a professional association allows you to make contacts and build a solid knowledge base in the field. Consider the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), College Sports Information Directors of America Communicators, Sport Marketing Association, National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, Sportscasters Talent Agency of America, and other organizations listed in chapter 1.

Experiential Learning

Anyone desiring a career in sport communication should make every effort to cultivate opportunities to volunteer or work in the field in an applied capacity. Real-world experience enhances your chance of landing that all-important first job and gives you the opportunity to acquire new skills. Indeed, the amount and quality of your practical experience help determine the quality of your first position in the field, which in turn can set up opportunities throughout the remainder of your career. There are many ways to get involved. Because sporting events rely heavily on volunteers, they provide excellent opportunities to gain valuable practical experience that complements your educational training. Sport franchises and event managers need volunteers to assist in all aspects of operations, including sport communication. Volunteers may help with media relations and public relations for professional teams, event managers, and school media (e.g., campus newspapers). Other opportunities exist in sport radio and television broadcasting and in web-based aspects of a team or media organization’s operations.

Another way to advance your career in sport communication is to do an internship. John Koluder, formerly the senior director of communication and marketing for the Indy Eleven professional soccer team, has described the value of internships as follows:

An internship truly is the best way to get a foot in the door, because it allows you to trumpet your work ethic and skills in a professional setting. Make friends with your academic and internship advisors as soon as you can. Whether students are seeking a job with a professional team or in the media, my advice would be to take an internship as an undergraduate as early as possible. Although networking with professors and guest lecturers at classes can prove valuable, I don’t think they can match the contacts that can be made during a successful internship in your chosen field. I also highly advise students looking to break into the media to seek opportunities with as many media outlets on campus as possible, whether it be in television, radio, or print. (Personal communication)

An internship may be paid or unpaid, and college credit may also be granted, either in lieu of or in addition to any monetary compensation. Interns typically perform a variety of tasks for an agreed-upon period of time. Because the field of sport communication is quite broad, an internship can help a student determine which aspect of the field to pursue. Competition for sport communication internships is quite fierce—possibly even more so than for full-time jobs in the same field. Therefore, you should approach the process as you would approach a full-scale job search, complete with résumé and interview preparation.

More Excerpts From Strategic Sport Communication 4th Edition With HKPropel Access

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