Job Profile: Public Relations

With our society’s explosion of media outlets and ever-growing interest in athletes’ lives, there’s an increasing number of public relations specialists working exclusively in sports. Public relations specialists in the thriving sports industry focus on creating and maintaining a positive image for the athletes or sports clubs they represent. PR specialists are given the hefty task of coordinating the seamless flow of favorable information from sports teams to the press. Not only do they feed our nation’s hunger for sports data, but public relations specialists also play an important role in promoting a team’s profitability. After all, fans are more likely to buy tickets, purchase merchandise, and fill stadium seats when there’s public interest. Sports public relations is extremely valuable for sharing team news in the brightest light possible.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 208,030 total public relations specialists crafting good public media images in the United States earn an average annual salary of $64,050, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $30.79. In particular, PR specialists who are working in the spectator sports industry make slightly less with a mean wage of $54,870 yearly.

Beginning Salary

When just entering the sports PR world, individuals can expect to land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with an annual income around $31,190. However, it’s important to note that public relations specialists with years of experience and gigs with high-flying sports clubs can eventually bring home a healthy six-figure salary over $105,720 each year.

Key Responsibilities

Public relations specialists working in sports have the primary responsibility of drafting positive media releases to shape public perception and increase awareness for an athlete or team. PR specialists have a network of connections with the media to spread favorable information on their sports-related organization via radio, television, newspaper, magazine, social media, or the Internet. On a typical day, PR specialists will likely be involved in writing press releases, preparing media reports, responding to requests from journalists, drafting speeches, arranging news interviews, and creating promotional campaigns. Sports public relations experts will play a part in any activity that maintains the superior image and identity of their team’s franchise.

Necessary Skills

In order to be successful in sports PR, you’ll need to be a skilled communicator with excellent interpersonal skills to deal with the media regularly. Public speaking skills are essential because PR specialists often speak on behalf of their sports organization. Public relations specialists should have good written communication abilities to create well-organized, clear messages that grab the attention of sports fans. Being detail-oriented with good organizational skills is helpful for PR specialists to multi-task in arranging several media events at once. When scandals or other sensitive team issues arise, sports PR experts also need to have the quick critical thinking and problem-solving skills to handle the media emergency with good judgment.

Degree and Education Requirements

Before you can leap into a sports public relations career, you’ll typically need to hold at least a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited higher learning institution. Most employers will prefer PR candidates who have studied public relations, communications, marketing, journalism, English, or business administration. Having a degree in sports management can also be helpful for aspiring sports PR specialists to learn the ins and outs of the athletic field. Be sure to take courses specifically related to social media, event planning, media relations, publicity, promotions, advertising, public speaking, and writing for good career preparation. In some cases, PR specialists earn master’s degrees in public relations, communications, and sports management or an MBA for executive roles.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Like other sports-related professions, public relations will come with its fair share of rewards and challenges that you should know upfront. On the positive side, PR specialists have a decent average salary potential with room for advancement into manager or executive positions. PR specialists can focus in the sports industry for turning their passion for the game into a media savvy career. There are many acceptable degree backgrounds, which means public relations specialists have freedom of choice. On the other hand, competition for sports PR positions is very heated due to the career’s popularity. Nearly one-third of PR specialists report working beyond the traditional 40-hour week with odd evening and weekend hours. CareerCast has ranked public relations as the nation’s seventh most stressful job because of its highly visible, tight deadlines. PR specialists also often interact with hostile members of the media.

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Getting Started

Earning an appropriate degree may be primary, but having relevant work experience comes in as a close second. Employers prefer to hire PR candidates with a portfolio of work that shows their professional ability to handle media chaos with charm. It’s advised that you jump on every internship opportunity in public relations firms to develop practical skills. Covering sports news for your school newspaper or working in your college’s athletic department can also be great resume boosters. From there, you can apply for entry-level PR jobs. Although you’ll focus mostly on collecting material that can be used for press releases and speeches, entry-level work will turn into promotions. As you become more experienced, you may want to consider receiving the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). You’ll need to have at least five years of full-time practice and pass an examination.

Future Outlook

Projected to grow $145.3 billion in the next five years, the sports industry is flourishing with opportunities, especially in sports media. Sports clubs will be hiring PR specialists to enhance their reputation and draw in fans from their competitors. Sports PR experts will be in high demand to quickly respond to news developments and keep their athletes looking good. According to the BLS, employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow slightly faster than average by 12 percent, thus creating 27,400 new jobs by 2022. PR specialists looking to work in sports can find jobs at public relations firms, advertising companies, sports organizations, universities, consulting agencies, and more. PR specialists working in digital and social media will have the best job prospects.

Overall, public relations is a specialized niche of the communications field that focuses on shaping an individual or organization in the eyes of the public. PR specialists in sports work hard to generate positive publicity surrounding sporting events, athletes, and team news. If you choose to follow your sports passion into public relations, you’ll have the rewarding chance to use your astute knowledge of the media to identify favorable news angles and create positive team exposure.

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