By: Natalie Mikolich, @npmikolich
We recently caught up with Brian Berger, President/Founder of BBPR Inc. He shared with us what it is like to work in sports public relations, how the Sports PR Summit came to be and his advice for those who want to work in sports.
How did you get started in sports public relations and what was your first internship? What was your first career position?
I got my start in PR working for the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA). I interned with the team in their broadcasting department and then parlayed that position into a job as an event coordinator running events at the Memorial Coliseum. When the Trail Blazers decided to move from Memorial Coliseum to the Rose Garden arena (now the Moda Center), I moved into a PR/Marketing role. Part of my job was doing PR for the new arena during construction, traveling to other arenas to gather information for our arena and serving on the Grand Opening committee. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I worked with athletes, rock stars and senior executives and it prepared me for when I started my own companies.
Where do you currently work and what is your position? What does this consist of?
I am currently the President/Founder of BBPR Inc. (Brian Berger Public Relations Inc), a boutique strategic and crisis communications firm. In addition, I am the President/Founder of the Sports PR Summit (NYC) and Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop (San Francisco) — www.sportsprsummit.com. I am also a co-founder of the media & social media training company Everything is on the Record — www.everythingisontherecord.com. I am headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
Can share with us what are some of the different tasks and activities you tackle on a weekly basis?
I love working with a variety of clients and colleagues as no two days are the same. One day I may be planning the programming for one of the Sports PR Summit events, another day I may be sitting in a locker or board room conducting a media/social media training and then there are days I am working on communications strategies with my PR firm’s clients.
How did you first develop the concept for Sports PR Summit and how did it come to be?
I developed the concept for the Sports PR Summit New York City in 2013. When I worked in the NBA, I always enjoyed networking and exchanging ideas with my colleagues at the NBA League Meetings. But I yearned for interaction with executives from other leagues, brands and agencies. So out of this need, I came up with the concept for the Sports PR Summit.
We know that PR people spend a lot of time in hotels, so we make it a goal to always hold our events at unique venues — so far we’ve been to the MLB Fan Cave, Sports Illustrated, The Players’ Tribune (our current home in NYC) and Twitter (location of our recent event in San Francisco).
Our Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop in San Francisco grew out of the need to expand the conversation around social media at our New York City event. We saw the need for an entire day of discussion around social media versus a singular panel discussion, which wasn’t enough. Having our recent San Francisco event hosted at Twitter headquarters was fantastic.
Can you share more with us about the Sports PR Summit that takes place annually and now the Twitter summit?
The Sports PR Summit in New York City takes place each May and the Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop in San Francisco takes place each July.
Our invite-only events bring together senior PR and social media executives, national media members and athletes for panel discussions, featured conversations and networking. PR people, reporters and athletes have a natural distrust for each other and our event helps bring those groups together so we all have a better understanding of the other’s world. PR and social media executives all face similar challenges as well so bringing the entire sports world together for discussions helps us come up with solutions together.
We work in the communications industry, but we don’t get together face to face enough in my opinion. Once you meet someone face to face, the dynamic of the relationship changes and a closer bond is usually formed.
Anyone who attends one of our event returns as long as their schedule allows. We bring together so many bright and talented people, which makes me very proud.
The Sports PR Summit has an amazing Steering Committee and our members bought into the concept for our events from day one and they have been an important part of spreading the word about our event to colleagues in the PR industry.
What advice do you have for those looking to break into sports business and particularly the public relations profession?
The best nuggets of advise I can offer are these:
– Don’t be afraid to work hard and don’t ever expect that something will be handed to you. I started as an intern making $500 per month with the Portland Trail Blazers. I got people coffee, did grunt work and attended any meeting they’d let me sit in on. People who are hiring want hard workers and proactive thinkers.
– Writing is a vital skill. Whether it’s a press release, a social media post or an event recap, writing is a very important skill in our profession.
– Think like a journalist. When I am not wearing my PR hat, I host Sports Business Radio (www.sportsbusinessradio.com). I receive 20–30 story pitches per day from PR people who are trying to book guests on my show. If I receive a pitch that is catered specifically for me and my show, I am more likely to respond versus a pitch that has little or nothing to do with the topics we discuss on Sports Business Radio. Offer an exclusive experience for each reporter you pitch.
– Have a deep understanding of how to best tell a story and which tools work best to tell that story.
– Be an authentic networker. Don’t just reach out when you need something. Bring something to the table….even if it is volunteering at an event or delivering on a pitch. Once you’ve established a solid connection with a contact, keep in touch with that person and get together in person or via phone every so often.
– Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, follow through and do it. You’d be surprised how many people find career success just from doing this one simple thing.
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