We love working with athletes and helping them to find ways of raising their profile without raising their workload of commitments so our role as publicist for sportspeople is one we genuinely relish. The pursuit of excellence in professional sport is a gruelling and time-consuming business, where time for media and sponsors has to eked out from a packed schedule of training and competition.
Maximising media exposure while minimising impact on performance takes planning, imagination, experience and a lot of lateral thinking. Above all, it has to start with the athlete.
We begin with working on a strategy based on what the athlete wants to achieve. Sport is all about setting goals and working towards them, and that's at the core of our approach. The goal could be to attract more sponsors, or to target sponsors in a particular business sector; it could be for the athlete to lay a foundation for a future career as a pundit or presenter. Whatever the goal, every bit of media the athlete does should be helping them reach it. Their time is too precious for media for media's sake.
Take a day we recently organised for tennis player Elena Baltacha. It was built around an appearance on BBC panel show Question of Sport. Our goal for Elena is to raise her profile and for her to improve her confidence and skills in front of camera, so appearances on programmes like that are very much part of the media strategy. It did, though, involve the loss of a training day and a round trip from her base in Ipswich to the BBC's MediaCityUK in Salford, so we wanted to make sure that every part of her day was maximised.
As well as filming Question of Sport, we also set up an interview for Elena with BBC Radio 5Live and a video chat with BBC Sport online with whom she has a regular column. In a gap between appointments she talked to the widely read Sporting Life website, and we filmed two short informal Christmas messages, one for her sponsor and another for her social media channels. We also made sure that photos of her at MediaCityUK appeared on her Facebook Page and via Twitter. In two hours Elena reached millions of people across multiple media platforms, polished her media skills even further and got several key messages across. Her sponsors appreciate that kind of exposure too.
Elena wants us to be proactive about raising her profile. Other athletes, on the other hand, might already have a very high profile and might need help managing a high volume of media coverage. This can often be the case if they have recently achieved a big result and suddenly find themselves inundated with requests. Should they yes to everyone; say no to everyone or, worse of all, hide themselves away in panic. Too much media and they become exhausted and over-exposed but hiding away might mean huge commercial opportunities pass them by because they have failed to make the most of the spotlight.
Agents, family members, partners, friends might all try to offer advice but while they probably have the athlete's best interest at heart, they are unlikely to have the specialised experience or expertise to manage media effectively. That's where publicists like us come in. Faye and I have worked in sports media for most of our working lives and I was a sports journalist and broadcaster for fifteen years, so we know what we're doing.
Step one is to talk to the athlete and discuss with them how much time they have and what they feel comfortable with. We might also talk to the agents about what the sponsorship goals are. From this we form a strategy and, once that's in place, we advise on what requests to say yes or not to based on time available and whether it makes strategic sense for time to be spent on this or that media opportunity.
Setting goals and making decisions based on those goals is part of an athlete's professional life. It should be part of their publicist's way of doing business too.