Sportswomen receive a fraction of the media coverage of their male counterparts. We all know that.
But did you know that most journalists would actually like to see that change?
I put a call out to my media contacts asking them: What would be your #1 tip to sportswomen on pitching their story or building relationships with journalists? The response was overwhelming.
Below are just a few of the tips from journalists to female athletes on building relationships with the media, getting that interview and what to say once you’re there.
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Mark BerettaSunrise Sports Presenter
Follow journalists on twitter and stay in touch. Journalists follow athletes back and twitter helps to keep you top of mind.
Debbie SpillaneSports journalist, ABC Grandstand
Journalists who don’t get a chance to cover women’s sport very often will usually feel a bit out of place and uninformed if they find themselves at a women’s sporting event or function.
Make the effort to introduce yourself, don’t make them feel stupid for not knowing who you are. If they do know who you are you’ll just come across as humble and down-to-earth and that won’t do you any harm at all anyway.
Kathryn WicksSydney Morning Herald
Tell the reporter something that they are not going to find out by googling you, for example: the first game you goalkept for Rozelle under sevens, 14 goals went past you. It’s a good anecdotal way into a readable story.
Justin ChadwickAustralian Associated Press (AAP)
Whether you’re involved in an obscure sport that most people don’t care about, or a world No.259 in a mainstream sport, if you have a really strong story to tell, then journos will be more willing to squeeze it into their busy schedule.
But it has to be a pretty special story to tell, like overcoming a traumatic life event, or something else quite extraordinary that makes it a good human interest piece (and that way, the ranking of the player, or the sport they’re involved in, won’t matter as much).
Fleta PageCanberra Times
Don’t wait until it’s too late to tell the media about what you’re doing – tell them if you have an event or competition of significance coming up – it could result in double or triple your coverage; a preview story, then a report on the result, and a follow up once you’ve arrived home with gold for example. If you tell us you won something days after the fact, it’s old news, even if it hasn’t been covered anywhere else.
Do research on the media, so you can find the right outlet for your story. Journalists and producers will take you much more seriously if you sound like you know how their program/paper works, what stories they’ve published or produced in the past, and why you think your story would be a good fit. Be considered about who and where you aim for, even if you’re just starting out on building a media profile.
Aidan OrmondFour Four Two
Take journo out for a 10 min coffee/tea and chat. Doesn’t have to be about you. Just a get to know. Understand that your story simply may not be what they’re looking for right now. But maybe in the future.
Jon TuxworthCanberra Times
Feel free to touch base with a journo, even if not about a story. “Did you see that cricket match last night?”, etc. Makes interviews more relaxed when they happen. Also jogs their memory you’re around.
Say thanks if you particularly like a story about you. Most times feedback is only when something is wrong is in the story, or something they don’t like. Journos remember it and enhances chances of follow up stories later.
David ZdrilicThe World Game, SBS
Always be prepared. Think about what may be asked, especially difficult questions or topics and have an answer ready. So practice if you need to.
You don’t have to answer a question you don’t like. Or answer it in your own way.
Tom AnderbergProducer, SBS Sport
Look to show your personality; ultimately that’s what we’re trying to illuminate.
Cliches will get you through an interview but they’ll also ensure what you say is quickly forgotten. (That’s probably a cliche in itself!)
Contact media organisations and say you’re looking for experience at being interviewed and you’d love some practice – your old school magazine, local street press, the roar website, journalism courses at Universities etc.
Melanie DinjaskiSports Producer Yahoo 7
If they’re attached to a brand – e.g. Nike, Adidas, Red Bull – athletes should communicate to their PR manager that they are EAGER to talk to media. Some are completely unaware of how much of a boost it is to have backing, besides the financial bonuses. Their worth is also determined on how well known they are, and journalists can help make that happen.
Jamila RizviEditor in Chief at Mamamia and iVillageAus
Help me understand your story and achievements as a layperson. As journalists, our job is to genuinely engage the audience with your message. The best way to do this is by finding that crucial emotional entry point into your story, for someone who may never have met you or even watched you play before. If you lead with that, rather than the basic factual and achievement information, you’ll have us interested quickly.
Paula WardFounder & Director, Know The Game
Ring, don’t email. Have an email providing more detail ready to go if the journalist/publisher is interested but pick up the phone first. It is easier to get their attention via phone.
Danielle SellwoodCo-Founder, Sportsister
For me, the most interesting sportspeople are those who have a real passion for their sport and that can be anyone at any level, not necessarily those who get the big bucks or have a gold medal round their neck. The best stories are those with a real heart – not the ones that have been created or funded by a big brand. So aside from being friendly and open, don’t hold back on what your sport means to you.
Do some preparation, dig deep into yourself and really think about why you love sport, what are it’s benefits; think back to some nice little stories you can use as anecdotes. All the background information is what makes a good story and will endear you to the journalist.
Don’t be afraid either and don’t feel you have to answer a question if you are not happy with it – just politely decline to answer. Good journalists will respect you and bad ones aren’t worth worrying about.
7 times World Champion Surfer
My #1 tip is to prepare a message that you want to convey before you are even asked a question! the reason journalists interview you is to report a story but if you have a story to tell them then it makes their job and your job a lot easier. Journo’s love it when you come to them with an angle that is different but still relevant and entertaining. You don’t have to answer their questions if you don’t feel comfortable with the direction they are heading, plus when you have a message to share, people learn more about you, ultimately developing rapport with the journo and the audience.
For assistance with grants, check out Layne’s Aim for the Stars Foundation.
Kerri Pottharst OAMOlympic Gold Medalist
My number one strategy for increasing media exposure: ask for it!
Start with your local newspaper and radio station. These media outlets need stories. It’s an area where my success rate was almost 100%. I simply picked up the phone or sent out a media release with a strong angle, making it impossible for the media to ignore.
When you approach the media, you need an ‘angle’. You need a reason for them to be writing the story on you. If you just emailed the media with: “Hi, I’m Joe and I’d like you to write a story on me…” chances are, they won’t bother.
Make it easy for them, and come up with something interesting yourself. Read the sports section and watch the sports news in your area to see the kinds of angles that are used to write stories about other athletes and their teams. Could yours be a ‘human interest’ story?
Kerri’s book, The Business of Being an Athlete has a whole chapter on the media. I recommend buying the book, it’s full of advice that will help you on and off the field.
Get the Full Version: Public Relations Guide for Sportswomen
With tips from Mark Beretta, Debbie Spillane, Kathryn Wicks, Ashley Morrison, Justin Chadwick, Ash Hashim, Fleta Page, Brett Klucznik, Brandi Ortega, Davidde Corran, Naomi Woodley, Aidan Ormond, Rachael Oaks-Ash, Jon Tuxworth, David Zdrilic, Tom Anderberg, Joe Novella, Adam Spencer, Eamonn Flanagan, Kieran Theivam, Ian Kerr, Melanie Dinjaski, David Basheer, Jamila Rizvi, Paula Ward, Peter Wilkins, Simon Hill, Paul Oliver, Caterina Polistina, Nat Harrision and Kerri Pottharst OAM from an athlete’s perspective.
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