Category Archives: Sports PR

#PRSSANC: Sports Public Relations with Nikki Barjon Recap

By Hope Salyer



The amount of sessions at PRSSA National Conference can be overwhelming when trying to decide your schedule for the conference. This year’s sessions ranged from Sports Public Relations to Celebrity PR. I’ve decided to write a recap of the Sports Public Relations session with Nikki Barjon of The Barjon Group in Atlanta. Be sure to keep an eye on the EMU PRSSA blog for more session recaps from my fellow e-board members.

Barjon started the session with the energy of a walk-off home run in the final game of the World Series. Right from the start Barjon gave an honest, straight to the point presentation.

In the beginning of the session, Barjon told the audience that landing a job in sports is high-stakes, intense and not for the weak or fake. The industry is very cut-throat in today’s world, and it is easy to pick out those who can’t handle the stakes. As Barjon pointed out, you are working with multi-million dollar deals, and your client’s livelihood is at stake if you screw up.

Barjon said because of this, as a practitioner, it is your job to be your client’s coach. You have to constantly be thinking about the big picture: offense and defense. Barjon stated she can’t risk focusing only on offense because you never know when the other shoe is going to drop.

In the world of sports PR, practitioners also have to remember that they are working with a sort of celebrity PR as well. Practitioners have to always be nonjudgmental. You can’t risk or take the time to judge your client. You just need to figure out how to solve whatever problems you are presented with.

You also have to always remember to ask, “Is this what happened?” With celebrity PR, the old saying there are three sides to every story rings truer than ever. Barjon stated that she is always either one of two phone calls in a crisis situation: the first or the last. Ideally, Barjon says she should be the first; however, more times than not she is the last. In these types of situations, Barjon has to always ask if she is going to get the real story, or a dwindled down version. It is critical to ask this questions because as a practitioner, you can’t do your job to solve the problem and minimize the impact if you don’t have the whole story.

Barjon ended the session by stressing the importance of getting your own playbook. She said she is always surprised by the number of people who come up to her and tell her they want to be just like her. Barjon said no one is ever going to be her because every individual has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and passions and goals. What worked for Barjon to get where she is today is not going to work for someone else who doesn’t have her same skillsets or interests.

For this reason, Barjon says you need to get your own playbook. Find what you are interested in and what you are good at, and work your way up from there. What works for the Broncos is not going to work for the Lions, and the same goes for practitioners. Once you figure out what your passions are, don’t stop until you get what you want.

Barjon ended the session with one final piece of advise, and it stuck with me so well I wanted to end my blog with it as well. “Do what you need to do to win because losing sucks!”

Hope Salyer is a senior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Vice President of Special Events and Programming of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s second year serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency or local nonprofit in Michigan. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email

And the pick is…

By: Jordan Ross

On April 28, 2016, 253 men had their names called and became members of an NFL team in the 2016 NFL Draft. It’s an exciting moment for eligible players, NFL teams, and fans of the sport all across the world. You may ask, “What does any of this have to do with public relations?” The answer to that question is quite a bit actually.

Before a team actually submits their pick in the draft, there is a great deal of research that every organization does on each player that they are interested in. Of course, talent is one of the major factors that all teams are looking for in a player. At the end of the day, the NFL is a way for teams to improve their talent pool in order to win more games. However, talent is not the only factor that organizations consider when they evaluate potential players they may want to draft.

Jordan's Blog Pic 3

Source: Fox Sports

The character of each player is also evaluated and can be just as important as the talent level each player has. When a team drafts a player, they become part of the entire team. This means the player must be able to work with everyone in the organization, and even if he is the most talented player in the word, it can all go to waste if he is unable to work well with others.

A player’s character is important in the evaluation process as well because once a player is drafted, they become a representative of that franchise. This is where the public relations aspect of the entire process comes into play. Once a player’s name is called and drafted to a team, their name will then be associated with that given franchise for at least the foreseeable future, if not forever. That applies to whatever the player does both on and off of the field. Franchises want to draft the most talented player available when their pick comes around, but they also want to draft a player who will be a good representative of their franchise.

Drafting a player with lots of talent, but with a character issue, could pay off for a team, but it could also turn into a PR disaster if those issues are not addressed or completely ignored. Even if a player makes a mistake in their personal life, what they did will automatically be associated with the team they play for.

Jordan's Blog Pic 4

Ray Rice (right) apologizes in a press conference following a domestic violence incident with his wife, Janay (left). Source:

The NFL Draft can be a crapshoot, both in terms of whether the talent of each player can live up to the expectations, or if their character is what a team thought it was. In school, you can study day and night, but still do poorly when it comes time to actually take the test. The same applies when teams do their homework on players they are thinking about drafting. A player could be the ideal player before they are drafted, and then turn out to have character issues, which leads to bad press for the entire team.

The fact of the matter is that on this night, nobody knows exactly what the future holds. The future of all 32 franchises can be determined by the decisions that will be made over the course of this three-day process. That applies to the future of each team both on and off of the field.

Jordan Ross is a senior at Eastern Michigan University majoring in public relations and minoring in communications. Jordan is in his first semester serving as the Vice President of Professional Development for EMU’s Eleanor Wright chapter of PRSSA. Jordan is also a member of EMU’s Honors College and serves as the President of the EMU Student Center Student Employee Advisory Committee. You can find Jordan on Twitter @__JordanRoss.



Public relations tactics in sports

By: Irene Pool

When you attend a sporting event like a Detroit Tigers game or even a Michigan State basketball game, you aren’t thinking about the meaning behind every little detail. When it comes to sports, public relations is huge because you are constantly dealing with a crowd. Here are a few things that PR focuses on within sports.



1. Crisis

With fame comes a lot of pressure; players or even coaches are constantly being watched by the media. One slip-up and it could be on the news within the day. Just like any regular business, a sports team needs to know when the right time is to take the offensive or defensive during a crisis.

2. Promotions

What better way to catch your audience’s attention than to make them feel important? The Tigers and Pistons regularly give out merchandise to the first 10,000 fans in the stadium before games. During games they advertise discounted tickets, kids clubs and even entertainment. Even players are willing to take time to take pictures with fans or give autographs. Anytime someone leaves with an item with the team’s name or logo on, it is dealt with promotions. We also see an increase in sales for articles of clothing. Stores all over sell sporting gears for professional, college and even their local high school teams.

3. Advertising

Advertising has become popular over the years. There are ads on cups, clothing, billboards, scoreboards, social media, courts/fields and so much more. Companies want to get their name out in front of the consumers, and what better way to do that than at a packed sporting arena?

I just recently attended a Tigers baseball game and I couldn’t keep track of all the different types of advertising that was thrown at me. At times it was exhausting to keep up with. But the way companies advertised at the stadium was smart because I remembered it when I left.

4. Social Media

Teams love doing social media giveaways for free tickets. They either ask for you to share content or create a contest for the most creative ideas. Social media can be huge for sport teams because it allows the audience to share their experience with everyone else. They can post comments or even pictures of their experiences for others to see.

Irene Pool
Vice President of Public Relations

PRSSA takes in a Pistons game

EMU PRSSA recently went to a Detroit Piston’s game and, before the game we participated in a sports communication panel.


The panelists included:

  • Keith Lanlois – website editor & official beat writer
  • Naomi Patton – Palace Sports & Entertainment senior director of public relations
  • Shannon Hogan – Fox Sports Detroit reporter for the Pistons, Tigers, Red Wings and college hockey
  • Lauren Harper – Palace Sports & Entertainment website coordinato
  • Rick Mahorn – Former Detroit Pistons player

The panelists gave students great advice, but the majority of the advice was directed to the women in the audience from the women on the panel. They wanted the ladies to know what it was like to work in a predominately male work environment.

At first, everything the panelists told us seemed like common sense, but they took it much further than just scraping the surface of an issue.


Here is some of their advice.

  •  If you act like a joke, people will treat you like a joke. Watch what you say and do and be careful about how you act and how you dress. Sometimes, as a woman, you might feel cheated, but remember it is much deeper than that. You want to be THE BEST out of everyone, not the best woman on the team. Treat everything like a learning experience.
  • Social media is important, and if you don’t think a future employer won’t check your Twitter or Facebook, you’re wrong. You could lose a job because of your social media accounts.  A lot of the panelists emphasized that it can be a weak spot for an individual or organization if not used properly. Keep it clean, know the rules and the trends. Use social media to your advantage!

Overall, EMU PRSSA had a great time at the game! Plus, the Piston’s won – which is always nice. At the end of the game, we got to go down onto the court and shoot hoops and pretend to be (W)NBA players.


Go Pistons!

Gabrielle Burgess-Smith
Vice President of Public Relations
Ramone Williams

Learning How the Detroit Lions Use PR

Detroit Lions Director of Media Relations Matt Barnhart (courtesy of Twitter)

Detroit Lions Director of Media Relations Matt Barnhart (courtesy of Twitter)

The sports industry is an intense and busy industry to work in, especially if you’re doing sports PR.

Last week, a few of our members attended the PRSA Detroit “PR in the NFL” lecture held in Southfield, Mich. and we saw just how intense sports PR can be.

Matt Barnhart, director of media relations for the Detroit Lions, led the lecture. He offered insight to working with players, administration, the media, and, of course, fans.

A lot of his insight and tips can be transferred to more than just football. You can use them for working in other professional sports, too – like hockey, baseball or basketball. (And, you can probably take a lot of his advice and use it in other industries, too!)

(courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

(courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Here’s a bit of what we learned.

When working with athletes, remind them…

  • Cooperating with the media is part of their job.
  • The local media is the most consistent connection to the fans.
  • Be straightforward, honest and develop relationships.
  • Nothing is off the record.
  • They are global ambassadors of the sport, the NFL, the team and their city.
  • They aren’t in control of the questions, but they are in control of their answers.

PR in the NFL

  • PR should touch every aspect of an organization.
  • Successful PR pros truly understand.
  • The top PR person in any organization should be the president or CEO.
  • The role of PR in the NFL: football communications, corporate communications and crisis communications.
  • The goal is to get as many eyes and ears as possible to tune in on Sundays. All stories, reports, interviews and events ultimately lead to this, even during the off-season.

Football Communications

  • The #1 goal for the Lions: WIN!
  • You must grow publicity and brand.
  • Manage media obligations and opportunities
  • Oversee media schedules.
  • Train players to handle obligations, stories and interviews.
  • Keep football the #1 priority.
  • Fans want to connect. Make the connections and make it positive.
  • Goal: to compete, contribute and succeed.
  • Vision: to be a valuable piece to a winning team.
  • Mission: to put forth effort it takes to win.

Corporate Communications

  • You are communicating to your key publics: business sponsorships and sponsors, season ticket holders, and fans.

Crisis Communications

  • Examples: front office changes, fan protests, sick or hurt players, arrests (for DUIs, abuse…etc…), fired general manager, missing players or coaches, star player eject from game on national television, collective bargaining agreements, off season program violations, coach or player death.
  • Every strategy starts with a plan.

How PR proves itself

  • Successful PR pros continually prove their value to the organization.
  • Information is power.
  • “Make every day a strategy session.”
  • Promote positive relationships.
  • Understand and consider primary and secondary publics.
Emily Vontom
Vice President

Project Social Media: My Current Adventure in Creating a Web Presence

Me, a few years back, at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

As I’ve worked my way towards my degree in Public Relations at Eastern Michigan University, I made a decision around the first of this year to take on a side project (not school related) that would take skills I learned in class to the next level.  I learned the basics of WordPress the semester prior in my Intro to PR class, and absolutely loved the workability of the site, how it visually displayed my writing and gave it life on the Internet.  As I was taking a shower the day before New Year’s Eve, I had an idea.  I was going to create a site dedicated to my love for Detroit sports.  The next day, the Detroit Sports Network was born.

Since I created the site, doors have started to open.  My blog articles got noticed and I was picked up by an up-and-coming online sports magazine called Get Real.  My first articles for the site were written about the Detroit Red Wings on the portion of their network.  I am now writing for various parts of their site on a regular basis as an intern and have been working with the creators to expand and grow the site.

While creating my baby, the Detroit Sports Network (affectionately dubbed the DSN) I knew that creating adjacent Facebook and Twitter accounts was a necessity.  With the creation of the social media aids, my blogs began to get more hits.  Only about six months in, I have well over 100 followers on Twitter, and my site has thousands of visits.  This isn’t anything that huge, but I’m on the right track and creating a huge resume piece in the process.

Although this type of thing may seem a bit overwhelming for some students to fit into their free time, my advise is that every PR student should create a blog about something that interests them.  Here are some tips that I’ve learned so far in my current adventure in blogging:

  • Be Specific.  When you start your blog, pick a topic and stick to it.  Obviously, it should be something you know a little something about and enjoy discussing.  If you blog about to many different topics the blog will become unorganized and won’t get followed.
  • Learn How To Tag Effectively. Although I won’t get into detail on how to tag on your blog (it’s a process you have to play with on your own blog to learn), I will give you advice on how to do it effectively.  When you write about a topic, you need to think about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  For your blog, this means discovering what types of titles, tags and keywords will be the most effective to get your blog towards the top of search engine results.  In some ways, it’s a bit of an art form that I haven’t completely mastered.  But I’ve had success tagging by using creative word combinations.  Think about when you Google something.  Don’t tag using full names, and long drawn out explanations.  Use abbreviations, nicknames, and word combinations that other sites and people haven’t already used to get towards the top of searches. (for example at the time of writing this, my blog is the fifth from the top when you Google “what’s wrong with the Tigers”)
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media.  Using social media to share your work is essential to getting seen.  Although I’ve struggled with getting a big following on Facebook, Twitter has been a wonderful tool.  My Twitter (@DSportsnetwork) is followed by some of the area’s biggest journalists and radio personalities.  I have recently started to look to sharing my blog on Reddit and have been exploring some other sites to grow readership as well.
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Your Mind.  My most viewed posts have been some of the more controversial posts I’ve made when I’ve been the most angry.  Now don’t go posting slanderous venom, that will get you into trouble. But what I have realized is that I do some of my best writing when I’m in my more emotional states.  My trick is to wait an hour or so after writing an emotionally charged blog and then go back and edit it before I actually post it.

Even though I’m giving you tips about starting a blog, in no way do I consider myself and expert quite yet.  In fact, I’m still learning.  But these tips will give you a few tools to get seen, and maximizing your potential for enjoying the experience.  If you are a PR student, a Journalism student, or plan on being involved in any kind of communication-type business, starting a blog is one of the best ways to sharpen your writing ability.  I highly recommend it!

Sam Plymale


Using PR Concepts In Fantasy Sports

(courtesy of Yahoo!)

As the first ever Triple Crown Winner of the NEW JERSEY Leagues of Yahoo Fantasy Sports, I have seen my share of what’s right and wrong with Fantasy Sports. Using what I learned in PR, I will discuss the good, the bad, and the creative when it comes to running a “dynasty”.

The Good

Win or lose, always congratulate your fellow players after a Championship is won. If you lose, you’ll show grace in losing by doing so. If you win, your actions will show class.

It’s okay to compliment people for snagging up free agents you had an eye on. It will also show your opponents that you have an eye out for them and that should hopefully strike fear in them.

Scott Mullin

The best part about fantasy sports is the conversations. Post often and post relevant stories and comments about weekly matchups and current MLB news. You never know, one conversation about how much respect you have for Yu Darvish may lead into you going a game with a fellow league member who also is a Yu Darvish fan.

Tweeting about your team is always good. You could have hashtag conversations with people from different leagues and get the scoop on who will be the hottest rookie next month.

When talking on the phone, always be polite. I would rather trade Derek Jeter to a nice guy than a jerk.

The Bad

The worst thing anyone can do is badmouth another GM on the league page. It’s low class, it makes the league uncomfortable, it can divide a league and can ruin friendships.

When dealing with trades, accept or decline ASAP. You never want to keep a trade on the back-burner for more than three days because it can become really stressful for fellow GMs looking to make a move. Also, when rejecting a trade, never write an insult back like insults with swearwords or accusations of being “low-balled.”

If you enter a league, play it out, even if you don’t have time. All you have to do is set your line-up. It’s unfair and unethical to be in a league and not set your line-up, especially towards the end of the season when people are vying for a playoff spot.

Only post stuff in your league about that league specifically or that sport specifically. I don’t want to hear about Nicklas Lidstrom in my hoops league, I want to hear about Serge Ibaka, Kobe, LePippen, Z-Bo, and Greg Monroe, not hockey players. Also, I don’t need to hear about your families financial woes. Not in a happy league page. Speaking of money, PAY YOUR DUES!

The Creative

Design your own team logo using Indesign. It is a fun way to create your own art and make your own brand. Not computer savvy like me, just use markers and scan it. Have fun turning your team into its own brand. I even created jerseys NBA jerseys one year for one of my teams. They were black with light blue numbers and words with purple stripes.

Host “press conferences.” This is code for, invite your friends over for a game. It’s a press conference in a sense that you will be asking and answering questions about your team, because while you watch the game with your pals, those questions will surely come up.

Create a hashtag for your league and team on Twitter. For example, if you were in a Chase Bank Fantasy League, you can create the hashtag, #YpsiChaseFB for Ypsi Chase Fantasy Baseball or #RFAs which is my team, Rollie Fingers A’s.

Have each team owner each create their own team sponsored event during the season. You could get one GM to host a trip to Comerica Park, one have a Baseball themed BBQ, and another one can have a Whiffle ball game in the streets. As a PR person, you can create fliers for these.

Finally, just have fun. Always think. Jot down ideas. Check out real MLB baseball team’s promotional ideas and see what you can create for your league. Also, save your work in a portfolio. When making a portfolio, every bit counts, have fun and make it work for you.

-Scotty Mullin