By Evan Colborne | December 12, 2016

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Perhaps more so than any other function in running a sports team or organization, the area that has changed the most since the turn of the century is media and PR. Gone are the days when sports organizations could sit back and expect media outlets to cover them just because. Where each town and city used it have their standard media outlets, now there seems to be a dedicated media for every possible interest out there.

Interested in hot air ballooning? There’s a blog for that. Keen on learning how to juggle? There’s a Youtube series that can teach you.

While there has been a lot more specialization in media, in sports, often we are still competing for the mainstream media impressions to reach the average consumer. So in this new fragmented media universe, how can a team or organization cut through the clutter to get media coverage?

Well, the first step is understanding the three basic types of media: Earned, Owned, and Paid.


Understanding that it’s a faux pas to use the word in it’s definition, earned media are the impressions and placement that you’ve earned. Through simply existing, and diligently producing your own content, you begin to earn some word-of-mouth credit (both verbal & digital). The impressions generated through this are earned media.

For a sports team, this could mean getting media mentions, or positive reviews (on sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor).

Earned media is often synonymous with “someone else is producing the content on your behalf.” However, this is not necessarily the case. To earn media, you may still be producing the content yourself, the difference is who is distributing it. For example, through strong relationship building with the local radio station, perhaps your head coach could be invited to be a regular on a weekly segment.  

Earned media impressions are great for introducing new people to your team, as this avenue likely gives you the best opportunity for placement in media you normally wouldn’t be in.


Owned media is the media that you are in full control of such as your team website, and social media channels.

There are several benefits to committing to producing regular, consistent, and high quality owned media. For one, you get to control the message and the story. Second, it’s now easier and less expensive than ever to produce high-quality content yourself. And third, it helps build credibility with other media outlets, who then may want to cover your team (earned media).

In sports, this media is typically used to engage those who are at the very least aware you exist. For example, most teams share results & scores from their most recent games on their social media channels. If I’m someone who has never heard of your team, it’s unlikely that I’ll care that you won last night. But as someone who is aware of your team, or already a fan, I’d be very interested to know, and will likely continue to tune in to get this type of information delivered to me.  


While in many ways the changing media landscape has made it harder to break through the clutter, it has also brought with it the ability to promote yourself. Sort of a pay to play model.

By this point, most of us are aware that outlets such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. all have paid advertising components to them. Where this is becoming particularly relevant nowadays is the emphasis that these outlets are placing on the paid advertising business.

Facebook’s algorithm is designed to limit the organic reach your content will get, even if people have liked your page already. Facebook is not alone in this either. More and more, to break through the clutter either requires something truly remarkable (doesn’t happen every day) or a budget to amplify your content (doesn’t come free).

The key difference between owned and Paid media is that paid media requires directly spending dollars while owned and earned requires spending time.

Paid media is best used to amplify your content to reach new people and make them aware of your team. However, in order for it to be most effective, it should be combined with a strong owned media program.

In this case, we’re talking about earned media (we’ll save owned & paid for another post). So in today’s hyper-competitive media landscape, how can you go about earning media impressions.


If you have an event coming up that you think is media coverage worthy, send them a media advisory ahead of time to let them know about it. Typically media outlets will have multiple events that they may want to cover on a specified day. By letting them know ahead of time about yours, you stand a better chance that they will choose yours as one of those events.


Try to put yourself in the shoes of the reporter, and the publication’s readers. Is this story going to be providing enough value to the readers?

Instead of getting upset that the newspaper isn’t covering your games, try to think of storylines and angles that are unique and offer value to their readers.


We all like to get praise for our work, and writers and media professionals are no different. If you reach out to them asking for them to cover you, the outreach is really all about you. Instead, take the time to read some of the writers last articles. Share some praise or thoughts. This shows that you care about their work, which will help them see why they should care about yours.


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Instead of mass emailing every media outlet in the city and hoping that they’ll pick up the story, target specific media outlets or writers that you feel fit best with your target audience, or fit well with a particular angle/storyline you came up with.

Just as we in the sports business are competing against various other forms of entertainment, so to is the writer competing for the attention of readers. The last thing they want to is to write something that none of their readers will care about. They want to offer something unique to their readers that they can’t get anywhere else. Help them do that.


You can probably tell this a bit of a theme, but media relations and earning media impressions is really no different than sales. In Sales, you are trying to build relationships with decision makers because you genuinely feel that you have something that can help solve their problem or maximize their opportunity.

In media relations, media members have the problem of having to come up with remarkable and entertaining content on a regular basis. Often they are continuously looking to grown their audience, and keep the audience that they’ve acquired.

By building a relationship with them, and genuinely caring about their problems and trying to offer help, you will find that your media requests are responded to more often.