Change in Athletic Media Relations/Sports Information

My father setting up for an Auburn basketball game in the late 70's.

I decided to interview my father, Mark McClellan for my beat blog. He worked in Memphis Sports Information in the early 1990’s doing the same things I now do for the basketball team. Prior to that, he was the Sports Information Director for all sports at Georgia Southern University. He got his start in Sports Information while working as a student assistant at Auburn in the late 70’s.

I thought it would be interesting in seeing how things have changed in regards to how Media Relations in college athletics.

How much did you use computers?

• We used computers but only for a few tasks. Most notably, statistics were entered into a computer program after the game. The program automatically updated the cumulative stats after entering a new game. Game notes were written on a computer – a very basic word processing system. However, it was strictly typeface – no pictures. We could bold and underline words, but that was it. At a game, all statistics were still kept by hand and then transferred to the computer after the game.
What’s the biggest difference in media relations that you’ve noticed?

What was the business like before the internet and computers existed?

• I’ve noticed two major differences. The first one is obvious – a much heavier reliance on technology to do almost everything. Secondly, communication is much different. Today, it’s done via email, text, etc. In my era, it was phone calls and personal visits.

Could you ever have imagined media relations would change as much as it has?

• Prior to computers and the internet, the business was basically the same – we provided information necessary for the media members to do their jobs and, by effect, promote the school. The only thing that has changed is the manner in which the information is delivered.

• No, I would not have guessed the massive amount of change in the business. Any business will change with the technology, but communications and public relations has undergone the biggest changes of any.

Could you be relevant in the business today or has it changed too much?

• I can always be relevant as can all of the older members of the profession. The one thing the good ones excelled at was dealing with people whether it be athletes, coaches, administrators or media members. Technology changes, people skills don’t. Anyone who knows how to connect with people on a personal and professional level will always be relevant regardless of the business.

Would you even want to be in the business today considering how much it’s changed?

• I can see myself doing that type of work even now. However, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much. There is more value placed on technological knowledge than on people skills. While I can muddle through most technology, I get less satisfaction from that than I do from communicating with people on an individual level. I made a lot of good friends in the media relations business because of the amount of time we would spend talking. I would feel considerably more disconnected from that in this modern era.

What was your favorite part about media relations?

•My favorite part was outdoing my counterparts. If we had a game on TV, I would want there to be a noticeable difference in how much of my information they used as opposed to the opponent’s. Anyone with half a brain can supply basic, simple information. I always viewed my success on two things: 1. The amount of coverage we would get outside of our immediate area, and 2. How much of my information was used in the process. Athletics is about competition. The games have scoreboards so it’s easy to know who won and who lost. In media relations, we were just as competitive. I wanted my media guides to be better, I wanted my game notes to be better, I wanted my staff to be better. It’s winning and losing. That’s what the business is all about.

What were your top priorities on the job?

The top priorities have not changed – provide needed and quality information in a timely fashion, make athletes and coaches accessible, and garner the most positive coverage possible for my employing institution. How we did that is much different than today, but the goals and priorities remain the same.


About pmccllln

21 years young. Senior PR student at the University of Memphis. Student intern for Memphis Athletic Media Relations. Follow me @p_mcclellan.

Posted on February 13, 2011, in Beat Blog, CoSIDA, J4801, Media Relations, Sports Information and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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