There’s no denying that as PR professionals, controlling multiple media outlets is no walk in the park. Imagine if it was your job to handle hundreds of reporters who all want to interview NFL superstar Ray Lewis during Super Bowl week. Kevin Byrne, senior vice president, Public and Community Relations for the Baltimore Ravens spoke at a special PRSA-NCC luncheon on March 26, accompanied by the Lombardi Trophy.
Byrne discussed the public relations management style of the Baltimore Ravens as a team, as well as with the individual players. Internal communication was highlighted as one of the most important fundamentals of media relations. “If your company believes in you, the media will,” says Byrne, “you have to understand your roots.” Internal communication entails articulating your communication plan and the specific points to upper management and your department. For Byrne, this means meeting with head coaches and managers to coordinate the framework and formulate a strategy for media week before the Super Bowl Sunday kickoff.
With so many reporters hounding the players for interviews and comments, Byrne said it’s not always easy controlling what the players say, but he does ask them daily what their plans are. The Ravens provide annual media training and evaluations for the players and even focus on certain individuals. If some players are weaker than others when speaking to the media, they will divert them away from the public eye. He explains that players have a right to say what they like as freedom of speech, but not as a Baltimore Raven, “It’s conduct detrimental, we are a football team first.”
During Super Bowl week, Byrne emphasized how easy it is to take things for granted. He explained it’s better to address a situation before the media is able to take advantage of it. The lineup of Super Bowl media totals around 5,000 members from 20 different foreign countries. Byrne explains how easy it is to get caught up in the media frenzy, and it’s hard to remember to have fun and don’t get too intimidated.
Byrne also discussed how important is it to for the Ravens to produce their own content. Any media professional knows how crucial company generated content is, and with the NFL is it is no different. For the Ravens, it’s about humanizing who they are because if they don’t have the creditability, people won’t be attracted to them. When Byrne produces content, he acknowledges his first targeted audience is the media.
As with any sports team season, losing is usually inevitable. Not only do the players face scrutiny, but so do the coaches. For the Ravens, losing is more internal than external as head and assistant coaches are often fired. Byrne disclosed that when players are traded and coaches are fired, they are talked to positively before the media reaches them, and in return, they are hopeful they will talk positively about the Ravens when they do encounter the media.
Whether an attendee asked a question about winning the Super Bowl, dealing with the latest scandal or simply prepping for the media on a daily basis, Byrne spoke candidly to PR professionals at PRSA-NCC luncheon. He explained the ups and downs of being a top PR executive and the communication plans and outcomes of such a large sports franchise. “The power of the NFL amazes everyone,” he said, “even us.”