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Spring 2013 Newsletter

In This Edition

Letter From the Chair


Dear Entertainment and Sports Colleagues,

As your newly designated Section chair, I would like to express how excited I am to serve you. The Entertainment and Sports Section was created to be a resource for practitioners who work in the high-profile worlds of sports and entertainment, and are facing unique challenges. The Executive Committee and I will work to deliver relevant and engaging professional development opportunities to help enrich your membership experience.

While I look forward to hopefully meeting some of you at future events or via e-correspondence, here’s a little background about me. I joined Miami-based rbb Public Relations in November 2009, and currently serve as account director for a diverse group of the agency’s clients, including AMResorts, Florida Blue, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Kaplan University and the Orange Bowl Committee. Past relevant sports experience at rbb includes leading accounts, such as the Miami Marlins and GolTV.  

I started my career at New York-based M. Silver Associates. In my five years there, I worked with clients, including American Express Travel, Emirates airline, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and VIA Rail Canada.

I am a graduate of the University of Florida and a current member of the PRSA Miami Chapter. I also sit on the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s sports committee, which is currently undertaking a new effort to enhance Miami’s reputation as a global sports capital. I am an avid golfer, a passionate fan of Miami and New York sports teams, and my two greatest bucket list moments involve sports — attending the Masters and being an honorary bat boy for the New York Mets.

I really hope you get a lot out of this Section. If there is a topic you want us to cover, or if you’re interested in writing an article or volunteering for any specific task, don’t hesitate to contact me! We are always looking for members to share their experiences, lessons and expertise. I look forward to hearing from you.


Shawn Warmstein
PRSA 2013 Entertainment and Sports Section Chair

Save the Date: Upcoming Section Brown Bag Discussion

"Stunning Award Ceremonies: Top Entertainment and Sports Awards Show Insiders Share Their Secrets!"
Wednesday, June 5, 3–4 p.m. EDT

As a public relations professional, you are at some point likely to be involved in an awards ceremony, event or show for your company, organization, client or PRSA Chapter. Join the PRSA Entertainment and Sports Section for a discussion with PR executives from some of the top entertainment and sports industry award shows, who will share their tips towards having a stunning awards event. Register Today!  

Thinking About Boston

By Doug Dull

It was only a matter of time before terrorism found sports. I remember thinking at one of our countless meetings immediately after 9/11— before postponing our next football game at Kansas State — that hitting a sporting event might be a prime “soft target” for those meaning to do shocking harm.

That’s why I was a welcomed participant a few years ago in a half-day simulation exercise at the University of Maryland to practice disaster response. Thankfully — and I’m guessing this doesn’t happen often enough — the organizers included a media and communications component to the exercise.

The notion was that a bomb went off in a packed basketball arena before a national televised audience, and the facility was to be evacuated. Although we had a copy of our arena emergency plan handy, we’d never actually “lived” it in real time.

Members of our media relations staff portrayed reporters, and they did so wonderfully. They were real enough to actually aggravate one of the professional spokespeople who were expecting “softballs” from the faux-reporters in the exercise.

The experience brought up more questions than answers:

  • Where do the players go and gather? Where does the media go? They’ll be starved for information and sports reporters will instantly become inexperienced and panicky for a while.
  • Who speaks on behalf of the university, the athletics department and the team? How do we coordinate public information messages between police, fire, university communications and athletics spokespersons? Do we make players, coaches and staff available?
  • How often and where do we handle briefings? Where does the media go between briefings? Will they try to fill air time and gather their own information?
  • What about the live television broadcast? You’ll have an over-active producer seeking answers quickly.

Most facility emergency plans don’t have these answers. At best, they likely include only directions for where to stage the media. I’d guess most athletics media relations people haven’t really thought about how they’d react, even if they’ve read that plan. Most departments’ crisis communications plans don’t have all those answers either, unfortunately.

Boston should make us all think about how we’d personally react as PR professionals.

If you haven’t thought about your media-response plan, now is a good time to pull it out of that bottom desk drawer. If you haven’t taken the time to drill or practice it in real time, talk to some people on your campus about trying a “table-top” exercise. Your public safety folks could greatly help in the process. They do these kinds of drills more often than we do.

Athletics media relations pros are a huge part of handling this type of crisis situation — which sadly, may happen again. All of the blogs and tweets over the 48 hours immediately following the Boston bombing noted that we should never think it won’t happen to others.

Take your university spokesperson to lunch. Talk about this issue. Set up meetings with the public information officers at both local and state law enforcement. Talk to them about how they would handle this type of crisis and, more importantly, what they’d expect from you.

Don’t wait until the worst possible time to have these discussions. In the midst of a crisis is the wrong time to be introducing yourself to the people you’ll be standing behind when the national television cameras come on.

Please think about this one, especially with the summer coming up. It’s the perfect time to answer these questions and, if possible, walk through the drill.

Perhaps the best way to look at the Boston tragedy is to be prepared to professionally handle the worst that can happen to us — learning how best to serve our fans, teams, coaches, departments, universities and communities in the worst of times.

Entertainment and Sports 2013/2014 Calendar of Events

The Entertainment and Sports Executive Committee has created a calendar outlining all of the major upcoming events to help our members plan throughout the year. If you’d like to include your upcoming events, contact Dave Rashford.

Foul Ball: MLB has a Drinking Problem

By Shawn Warmstein

In the words of Charles Barkley, “athletes are not paid to be role models.” However, what happens when their behavior begins to hurt not just their image, but the entire sport?

The 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) season began last month, but one of the biggest story lines isn’t taking place on the field; it’s one that is creating a disturbing trend off the field — several high profile players have been arrested on charges of DUI. The numbers are mounting and so is MLB’s problem: not permitted to discipline players for this crime per the union’s negotiated collective bargaining agreement, the perception is that MLB is endorsing this behavior. Drink, drive, get arrested; and go pitch two days later.

However, regardless of MLB’s hands being technically tied, this is a black eye for baseball.

As a fan, do you want to cheer for a team and sport that doesn’t care about DUI? As a sponsor or advertiser, are you too endorsing this horrible behavior? The very nature of professional sports places those who support the team (either in spirit or financially) in a position that, at its most base level, says, “I stand by my team and root them on through thick and thin.” However, good luck getting fans to say they support drunk driving.   Right now the issue is making waves on the back page, but what happens if it starts to take a toll on the bottom line?

Baseball is a sport that is slipping in popularity and has recently been victim to slow, cautious change. Can its image afford another period of inactivity that it saw during the steroid era? 

Rallying against drunk driving should ban an easy play. MLB should take a stand and do something most sports are not: place greater accountability on its players, with real financial consequences. 

There certainly is a lot of brand equity in standing up for what is right. While players might not be paid to be role models, they are paid to positively represent the sport, and, if MLB receives pushback from the union during the next negotiation, perhaps they should just channel another quote from a famous athlete, “Image is everything.”

Preserving a Living Legend’s Legacy After Death

Nashville-based Webster & Associates has guided the publicity and marketing campaigns for such legendary artists as Hank Williams Jr., Dolly Parton and George Jones, as well as artists as diverse as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sam Moore and Kid Rock. They are known for being at the forefront of creating innovative campaigns, not only on behalf of established heritage artists, but also for launching new careers. Keeping their artists front and center with the public is what they do, but what happens when an artist dies?  How should PR professionals assist the artist and his or family during declining health and death and what can we do to ensure the last coverage is positive and memorable.

We sat down with Kirt Webster, president of Webster & Associates, to understand how his firm managed the coverage surrounding the recent death of country music legend George Jones.

How long has Webster PR represented country music legend George Jones?
I have known George Jones for 20 years since attending his shows, and have actually worked with and represented him for more than eight years.

It is our understanding that you worked closely with the family to keep the extent of his medical condition quiet. What are some of the challenges involved with protecting the privacy of celebrities and public officials?
With social media, it has become very difficult to control messaging for any client, let alone a client with a medical condition. George Jones was in and out of the hospital for the past 18 months. Some visits became public, while others were very private. The biggest issue is getting the medical staff and medical interns to not tell their associates and friends that your client is having some issues. In George’s case, we only had five people on the internal team that knew what was really going on, so we kept it very quiet and contained. Had it leaked, it would have been because of one of the five people who knew. The hospital staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were very cooperative and worked with me on making an alias for George so nobody would even know he was at that particular hospital. Then, when I was asked about where he was, I started a rumor about him being at another hospital. 

When the news broke of his death, there was an outpouring of support and coverage of his life and contributions to the world of music. That type of coverage does not just happen. What types of plans were developed to help preserve his memory?
To be frank, we really didn’t pre-plan anything. Nobody ever felt that George was going to leave us.  

When I got that call, I went into an overprotective mode; I literally put the hospital room on lockdown and started making the execution plan for family, the announcement, as well as the media plan. First thing we did was to contact a few select entertainer friends of George’s to inform them of his passing. We didn’t want them to hear about the news on the television or radio. We then contacted a few key family members. We were doing all of this while also crafting the obituary and getting the facts approved. It was decided to release the obituary and death notice around 9 a.m. Once that was issued, the phones starting to ring and the whirlwind began.

In the past, our office handled the funeral and passing of four other music icons — Carl Perkins, June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash and Merle Kilgore — so since this was our fifth celebrity funeral, we knew how to execute. All of these memorials were of highly respected and loved entertainers, so the outpouring of love and adoration from fellow entertainers became overwhelming.

How did you make facts, video and still images available to the media?
On our website, we offered up the latest photos of George, since we wanted people to use the most current images that we had approved. With YouTube and the Internet, you really cannot control what people pull and use. We also wanted to offer up what we had so we could help control the image the best we possibly could. We had a DVD of a recent tour that we made available to outlets needing video footage.

What can other PR professionals who work with celebrities or public officials learn from how you handled end-of-life coverage?
Know your messaging. Know your client. Know what the family would want exposed and what they wouldn’t. In times like this, family members are very emotional and are sometimes not thinking about the decisions that need to be made. At times, they are so volatile that they will say “yes” to everyone. 

We need to be the ”thinkers” in the group and help manage everyone’s expectations, as well as manage the grieving process. In George’s case, having worked for them so long, I was able to help arrange the memorial services, make the media plans and know that everything I did would be approved by Nancy Jones, George’s widow. The “trust” factor must be there!

Webster PR also represents corporate brands, including Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Wrangler and Blaster Music. For more information, visit the company website

Spotlight on Section Member: Mark Miller

Mark Miller is currently a freelance writer, editor and public relations specialist living in Flower Mound, Texas, about 10 miles north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He is the public relations/historical consultant for the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, and writes for several bowling publications, plus others outside the industry. He is a former newspaper sportswriter in Arkansas and Illinois.

Mark spent more than 24 years in publications, public relations and corporate communications for the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) and its predecessor organizations in Wisconsin and Texas. He has been a PRSA member since 2001.

Mark has recently published a book titled, "Bowling: America's Greatest Indoor Pastime." It examines the 5,000-year history of bowling, from the perspective of how its history and America's history are related. For example, most American bowlers came here during the big immigration booms of Europe in the 1800s and 1900s. When there was discrimination against women and minorities in America, there was the same in bowling. When technology changed in the country, it changed in bowling, and so forth. 

Mark became involved with this project when the England-based publishing company, Shire Books — which has been doing historical books for years — wanted to move into the U.S. market in 2012. They hired an editor from Chicago who contacted the Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, and put them in contact about two years ago. Since Mark has been the USBC's historian for many years, it was a good fit.

We asked Mark what the biggest obstacle was that he faced when publishing the book, and he told us that marketing the book was the biggest challenge since the book company has a limited marketing budget. Mark had to do a lot of the marketing and sales, but he feels that all of his hard work has paid off so far:

“I do my best when I'm personally at events, talking directly to bowlers and bowling center management. I started with the lowest denominator: friends, family, neighbors and former co-workers at the International Bowling Campus. Then, I signed up for a trade show in Atlantic City and emailed as many people I knew who were going. The next month, I did a driving tour of my former home areas of Wisconsin, Illinois and Arkansas (and points in between), again letting as many people as I could know in advance of my arrival. I've done the same for other places, and have visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the weekend tournaments. The key people are those who bowl regularly. Youth, seniors, bowling center owners and local bowling officials have been the best targets. Being a PR professional has definitely helped because the knowledge I've obtained has made it easier to develop and execute my marketing plans.”

Entertainment and Sports Industry News Articles 

NCAA PR Fail/Image Rehabilitation

Digging Into the Past of NCAA President Mark Emmert

NCAA Faces a Crisis of Confidence From Its Own Membership
The Kansas City Star

Tumultuous Days for N.C.A.A.’s President as the Calls for Reform Grow Louder
The New York Times

Tiger Woods Nike Ad Controversy

"An Ad Doesn't Take Care of Everything"

"Nike's Tiger Woods Ad Criticized by Some for Controversial Slogan"
Los Angeles Times Sports

"Nike's New Tiger Ad Creates Social Media Controversy"
The Associated Press

Rutgers Coach Scandal — Personnel Moves Under Public Pressure

"Rutgers Fires Coach Mike Rice After Video Release"
The Associated Press

"Firing Isn't the End of Rutgers Scandal"

Follow us on Twitter for the latest Entertainment and Sports PR news. 

Welcome New Members

The following members joined or rejoined the Entertainment and Sports Section between Nov. 1 and April 31. We are glad to have you on board! To view the entire Section member roster, visit the PRSA Member Directory.

Judianne Atencio, Owner, ProLink Sports LLC, Littleton, Colo.
Martin Bater, Manager of Publicity and Talent, Telemundo, Hialeah, Fla.
Charles R. Bloom, Senior Associate Athletics Director, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
David W. Casey, Marketing Communications Manager, The Ammerman Experience, Stafford, Texas
Stefan Celuch, Partner, Heartthrob Management, Madison, Ala.
Allison Coombs, Owner, Pit Road Press Box, Farmingdale, Maine
April Crockett, Los Angeles, Calif.
Adrienne D'Amato, Director, Public Relations, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, New York, N.Y.
Duane DeVorak, PR Coordinator, Wounded Warrior Project, Jacksonville, Fla.
Gislaine Edwards, New York, N.Y.
Doug Eldridge, Managing Partner, DLE Agency, Washington, D.C.
Jovette Gadson, Ashburn, Va.
Kathryn Goetzke, President, Mood-factory, Oak Park, Ill.
Jenny Grigsby, Director of Public Relations and Integrated Media, Oklahoma State Fair, Inc., Oklahoma City, Okla.
Angela Hayes, Director, Communications Planning, American Cancer Society, Glen Allen, Va.
Dale Ray Heller, Founder, President, Heller Highwater LLC, New York, N.Y.
J. Latrice Hill, Public Relations & Outreach Specialist, The 3P Agency, Alexandria, Va.
Terri Hines, VP, Global PR & Communications, Converse, Inc., New York, N.Y.
Boyd Calhoun Hipp, III, Director of Communications, Southland Conference, Dallas, Texas
Jeff Hoffman, Sports Information Director, Biola University, Renton, Wash.
Ryan Joy, Esq., Executive, RefineryPR, Washington, D.C.
Soojin Kim, Assistant Professor, Kutztown University, Allentown, Pa.
Danny Knaub, Publicist, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Charlotte, N.C.
Marissa Lorenzo, Laguna Hills, Calif.
Michelle Martin, Missouri City, Texas
Jennifer McKell, Marketing Manager & Public Relations Manager, Wildhorse Saloon, Nashville, Tenn.
Kimberly T. Miller, APR, President, Ink Link Marketing, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Mandy N. Murphy, Senior Manager, Media & PR, Special Olympics, Washington, D.C.
Lauren Nolan, Junior Account Executive, Hunter Public Relations, New York, N.Y.
Kathleen Olchawa, Student Bachelors, Governor's State University, Palos Heights, Ill.
Joseph John Opager, Communications Specialist, FLW, Milaca, Minn.
Stacey Lynn Osburn, Director for Public and Media Relations, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Ind.
Ty Pittman, Los Gatos, Calif.
Aire B. Plichta, Fashion Press Specialist,, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Sandy Reed, Writer, Freelance, Naples, Fla.
Mariesha Dawn Richard, MBA, Business Partner, Quantum Leap Entertainment, Duarte, Calif.
Lauren Shield, Communications Director, Red Frog Events, Chicago, Ill.
Stephanie Sones, Associate Account Executive, IMRE, Los Angeles, Calif.
Tari Hartman Squire, President & CEO, EIN SOF Communications, Inc., Los Angeles, Calif.
Alicia Vargas-Pharis, Sports Public Relations & Marketing, Anaheim Hills, Calif.
David H. Verbraska, J.D., APR, Vice President, Pfizer, Inc., Hillsdale, N.J.
Tiffanie A. Wagner, Founder, Esinahs, Inc., Pasadena, Md.
Krystin Ashley Wiggs, PR Rep, GRand Solutions, Speedway, Ind.

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