How to Land a Sports PR Job

With this week’s focus on sports PR jobs, I enlisted Chris McKinney, a 20-year  sports veteran who has worked with the NFL, NBC Sports and the Dallas Mavericks, to provide his advice on how to land a sports PR job.  As you can see from his Sports Career News magazine and his blog, Chris is committed to helping college students and career changers to launch sports careers.   This is the first of two guest posts by Chris. 

  Chris McKinney: The Sports Career Coach™

(Warning to the Reader: The strategy I’m about to layout for you is highly controversial. It may even offend some of you. It goes against everything you thought you knew about landing a job and launching a career. But I know one thing for certain: you won’t find a more effective strategy anywhere. It’s designed for the individual who has no industry contacts or inside connections, yet wants to work for the most elite teams and leagues like the NFL and the NBA. Or maybe even a top-flight Sports PR firm. Not everyone can execute this plan. But those who can, deserve a Sports PR job. And those who can’t, probably don’t.)

There are many ways to land a Sports PR job.  About 16, from what I’ve discovered.   But of those, there’s one way that beats them all.  The best way to land a job, according to Richard Bolles, author of the No. 1 job-hunting book of all-time, What Color is Your Parachute?, is to go directly to the hiring manager of the companies you want to work for.  “This method has an 86% success rate,” says Bolles.  I agree.  As someone who ran a sports marketing company for nearly 10 years, I learned early on that for me to survive (and ultimately thrive), I had to contact the hiring managers directly.  And in my case, the “hiring manager” was actually the Sports Marketing Director.  That’s the person who had the power to “hire” my company.  The basic principles that work for acquiring clients are the same principles that work for landing a sports PR job.

SPORTS PR EMPLOYERS.  There are thousands of employers that hire Sports PR executives.  Every professional sports league, sports team, and sports property–worldwide–has a PR department.  So do all the major colleges.  And in today’s high-stakes world of pro sports, PR firms have become more important than ever.  There’s now a segment of PR firms totally dedicated to serving the sports industry.  And more are popping up all over the United States.  (If you want to know how to find them, shoot me an email:

GETTING STARTED.  Start by making a list of the top 10-20 companies or agencies you’d like to work for.  (Keep in mind that 90% of all jobs are not advertised–probably higher in sports–so base your list on desire).  The first two things to consider when making your list is geographical location and specific sport.  Which is more important to you:  the part of the country where you work, or to work within your favorite sport?  (Why not both?)  Also, make sure the companies you’re targeting share the same values as you.  Some companies publish their Mission and Values Statements on their websites.  Here’s a good example:

NEXT STEPS.  After identifying–and listing–the targeted companies, take the following steps: 

  • Find out who hires the PR positions (first name, last name, job title)

  • Do homework on the company and the hiring manager (Google)

  • Craft a powerful pitch (about a 15-second pitch)

  • Practice your pitch until it’s natural (and convincing!)

Part 2 — “Who to Pitch” and “Why Your Pitch is More Important Than Your Resume” — will appear here tomorrow. 

3 thoughts on “How to Land a Sports PR Job

  1. After helping more than 500 individuals in the last few years gain full-time sports jobs (not internships, but year-round, full-time, benefits included sports jobs), the one thing that we’ve learned here at Game Face, Inc. about the hiring process is that it is much simpler than many people make it out to be.

    Despite the heavy, seemingly overwhelming competition that is out there for jobs in sports, particularly in jobs where there is not a lot of turnover like PR, getting hired is really all about what you can do.

    There are no “tricks” to get hired. It’s not about “who you know.” It’s about what you can do.

    Sports has become a big business for a reason, because owners and operators run them like businesses. They’re concerned about the bottom line and the worth of the company as a whole.

    To gain a job in professional sports, whether it’s in PR, marketing, media relations, sales, management, customer service, coaching, scouting, player agency, etc., you must possess skills and abilities that will ultimately generate more revenue and/or minimize more expenses for the organization than the next best candidate. And you must be able to articulate and demonstrate that ability to the right person at the right time within the organization you want to work for to be hired.

    So as you plan your career, consider how part-time jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, college classes, conferences and seminars will develop the skill sets required for the type of position you are looking for. Be very careful about spending time and money in any type of “career development” that doesn’t teach or help develop skills and abilities that will set you apart from the competition for sports jobs.

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  3. Hi!
    What a great post! I stumbled across this actually because I was trying to figure out how, as a student, could prep for getting a job in sports public relations. I found this post to be incredibly insightful and surprising.

    In my journalism school I have heard that you oftentimes have to be aggressive if you really want a particular job. This seems to be true in sports public relations, as well.

    I appreciate the inspiring post because it gives me a lot to think about before going off on my own. If you have any other tips I’d happily take them.


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