Preparing for the draft: An NBA workout for sports communicators

Nzinga Shaw and Rebecca Timms speak during at the 2015 PRSSA National Conerence (Brooke Tait)

Nzinga Shaw and Rebecca Timms speak at the 2015 PRSSA National Conference. (Brooke Tait)

Every year players from around the nation come to the pre-draft NBA workout, showing off their shot, aggression, hard work and love for the game.

Working for the NBA communications department is no different. Top professionals in NBA sport communications need to have better than average skills in things other than bank shots and free throws. They must be able to stand out in the world of sports and PR.

Nzinga Shaw, chief diversity and inclusion officer for the Atlanta Hawks, and Rebecca Timms, former public relations coordinator for the Philadelphia 76ers, spoke at the 2015 PRSSA National Conference about their path and advice for future sports communicators.

Be you and play true

“Be authentic,” Shaw said. “Focus on becoming an expert at what you do and your career will work itself out.”

In the sports world it is important to show who you are. Shaw is unique because she’s the first diversity and inclusion officer in the NBA. Her role includes leadership in alleviating tension with the team through deeper cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Like Shaw, be open to new opportunities and be flexible. You may be the right person for a job that doesn’t exist yet.

Put away the foam finger

Students at the PRSSA national conference live tweet their favorite quotes from Shaw and Timms' session. (Brooke Tait)

Students at the PRSSA national conference live tweet their favorite quotes from Shaw and Timms’ session. (Brooke Tait)

When launching into a sports public relations career, don’t obsess about working for your favorite team. Remember it’s about the job, not the players.

From Rebecca Timms’ time working for the 76ers, she learned to, “focus on the task at hand. Not the fandom.”

Timms launched the 76er’s new mascot and helped update the team’s brand identity.

When hiring interns, Timms said she doesn’t care if you love the team.

“I don’t want to know any of that. On your resume, talk about past experience, PRSSA, and include writing samples,” she said. “It’s not about fandom. Do the job first, be a fan second.”

Don’t pass the passion

Landing a PR job in the NBA is a bitter battle. Since there are only 30 teams and an average of four public relations representatives per team, there are only about 450 PR and sports marketing jobs in the NBA.

“You have a better chance of playing in the NBA than working in sports PR,” Timms said. “You need passion; you need to want it hard.”

Both Timms and Shaw explained the long hours of game day: handling the media, preparing the players for interviews and staying up all night. Despite the outlook of the game, you have to maintain passion and drive.

“When the team is losing, you learn to be a better communicator,” Timms said. “You learn to be innovative, and you learn to work harder.”

Sports public relations is a lifestyle. There is a need for authenticity, dedication and passion for your team. Just like players prepare jump shots and quick feet skills, these simple PR principles will amp your game up and prepare you for the next NBA pre-draft workout.

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