We are here to make it easier for everyone
Public relations advisers must sit at the decision makers’ desk, be involved in the work processes, and co-create them, too; they of course have to earn it with their education, skills, general knowledge and abilities. Sports is no exception. There is nothing strange when a business organisation establishes a PR representative job position. So why should it be any different in sports? It is very much needed there, and there are many examples confirming that.
Maybe I’m a bit too sharp, and I certainly don’t want to generalize it, but I can’t get rid of the feeling that in Slovenia, we often don’t really understand public relations in sports. The first matter being wrong is the belief that public relations are only about working with the media. It is true that this kind of work represents a big part of PR. However, there are also sponsors, endorsers, various organizations (branch associations in the case of individuals) and, last but not least, fans.
We often face a situation where a PR representative is perceived as an obstacle in accessing an individual athlete or a team. I accept the fact that this is partly true. It is sometimes necessary to protect an athlete or a team. However, the goal is always to achieve the best result. In any case, it is necessary to clear up one thing – especially an individual athlete, but teams as well, are in the service of the sport. Training and playing at the highest possible level and entertaining viewers is their job. In most cases, an athlete is not obliged in any way to make statements, give interviews, stand in front of the camera before, during or after training or a game. Just to be clear – the media exposure is certainly useful as he / she gains recognition, becomes visible, an interest in him / her is increasing in all possible areas, and consequently becomes attractive for sponsors, which in Slovenia brings a much needed financial contribution. Again, this applies to both individuals and teams.
However, the interests of both sides – an athlete or a team on the one side and the media / sponsors / others on the other – must be coordinated and harmonized. If I generalize it, all parties must work hand in hand. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to understand the activities of both sides. The expectations and desires of a television, radio, print / web journalists are different. Duties and obligations in various types of sponsorships are different. So what are the public relations representatives doing?
We strive to ensure that the interests and expectations of all stakeholders are met. For an athlete to concentrate on his / her profession – training, resting, competing – and for all other stakeholders to get what they need to do their job well. Establishing, continuously building and maintaining all mutually beneficial and fair relations between stakeholders and organizations, long-term and proactive management of these relations. Only by doing so can we protect institutions and persons, anticipate situations, and respond and manage the course of events if a conflict and crisis situations occur. This requires professional and extensive knowledge, continuous work, communication planning and a seat at the decision makers’ desk, too.
Looking into it in a more practical way – planning and coordinating activities with a training plan and competitions in mind; establishing mutually beneficial relations with the media representatives and sponsors; understanding their work; managing a public image of an athlete or a team if you wish. And most importantly – achieving and meeting the expectations of all parties, both athletes / teams and other stakeholders affected by athletes and affecting athletes. This is what the PR representative does.
This by no means applies only to sports – it applies to sports as well. However, in sports, we are not well aware of it. Both athletes who believe that they can do everything themselves and that public pressure doesn’t affect their performances, as well as the general public. Public relations representatives are the bridge connecting athletes or teams and various groups of the public. Anyone who understands our role knows that this is the way to make it easier for all parties involved. If this is not the case, it is necessary to arrange it and make it right. And here we are back to where we started – planning, building relationships and understanding different areas. The purpose is never to hinder, but to enable the work of all stakeholders.