Process. Why does it matter for sports media coverage?

Modelling a communication process for a national sporting body might be considered dull or indeed unnecessary and, in some cases, not even considered at all, but process can deliver results.

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Under his guidance, Alabama won numerous championships. A crucial element of Saban’s edge is what he calls the “Process,” a simple but profound way of breaking down a difficult situation into manageable pieces”.

So, let’s consider that in the context of the difficult situation that many national governing sport bodies find themselves and an often-vocalised gripe ‘We never get any media coverage’.

How could that be broken down into small manageable pieces to achieve the objective of getting more coverage? Well let’s consider the communication process:
1. Sender: The person responsible for securing media coverage for your sport.
2. Message: The ‘story’ /media release about a performance or up and coming championships.
3. Receiver: The sports journalist

Sender: There are some key questions to consider here. Does the sender have credibility? Are they considered an expert in the sport? Do they have identified priorities in the many championships that take place annually for your sport? Do they have a bank of key information to hand, such as key dates that athletes are competing, athlete bios, athlete contact numbers? Do they have a ‘relationship’ with the media?

Message: Often sporting bodies use media releases as the method to deliver their message. But are these been packaged in the right way? Are they concise, do they include quotes and contextualise the performance? Is the story newsworthy? Is there any emotional appeal? Are they send on time to make print deadlines? For stories on key performances of an athlete, do they have a link to the athlete’s reaction on social media or a video of the performance?

The best conduit of your message is your athletes but often this is underutilised, so be brave and hold a media day before your key national and international championships, in the city centre to make it easier for media to attend.

Receiver: The media landscape continues to fragment and evolve, and each media outlet has different needs in terms of how you deliver that story to them particularly in the digital age. How well does the sender understand these changing needs? The only way you can truly understand them is to talk to the journalist, make a call or meet them for a coffee. By understanding their needs (and that of their sports editor!), you can make their job easier and increase your chances of landing that story.

And by holding those media days, journalists can build a relationship with both the sender and the athletes, they will be engaged and more likely to persuade the sports editor for some column inches for your sport!

Fall in love with the Process and the Results will Come Eric Thomas

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