You’ve got yourself sponsored, you’ve secured yourself on a state or national ski or snowboard team and you’re ready to start winning medals.
Now the media will start falling at your feet, right? Wrong.
Oh if only it were that simple. Being a ski or snowboard ‘pro’ means more than just being a ripping skier or boarder, it also means getting yourself in front of the media.
The pressure from sponsor contracts to either secure podiums or secure media in order to justify your cash incentive or contra product program means the onus is well and truly on the athlete.
So how do you shine? Get media savvy. Journalists also have their pick of athletes to talk to and human nature means they will go with the one that is more media savvy, simply because they are easier to deal with and make their already overworked and underpaid jobs easier.
If you’re an Australian athlete then you’re already fighting a mainstream media battle where snow sports are not front page news outside of an Olympics and the sporting pages are filled with writers who specialise in rugby, cricket and swimming. I can count on half a hand how many paid and dedicated snow sports writers there are in Australia and if they don’t know you then you want to know them.
So, how do you make the media notice you? Winning helps. But there are other ways.
Who needs who?
However you do it, communication is key, always. If a journalist rings you, emails you, texts you, tweets you, facebooks you about a potential interview or anything else then get back to them a-sap. Because if you don’t someone else will and they’ll use them.
If you are super busy then simply say “Hi, got your note, happy to chat/help/interview, can I get back to you later today/tomorrow?”
Then the journalist knows you have heard them and they will hold off on potentially contacting someone else to take the precious media space you and your paid sponsors or contra program want.
Don’t respond at all or leave it for days to bother responding and the journalist makes a note in their head that you are not quick to the draw so you are likely not to be contacted again on deadline, unless you win a medal at the Olympics.
Good media relationships are the key to getting consistent media coverage. Make friends with the media where you can on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Don’t stalk them with constant spamming but certainly regularly engage with them, tag them, reach out when you’ve got news.
If they tweet you, tweet back, if they retweet you then say thanks and for gods sake don’t just contact them when you want free stuff from the journalist’s contacts. Want a travel agent? Try Flight Centre.
Thanks also goes a long way to sustained media coverage. Dropping a journalist an email note to say thank you when they’ve mentioned or covered you in the media and you’ll be way ahead of the ‘pro’ who doesn’t respond to emails.
And always post the piece they’ve interviewed you For on your social and tag them. Always.
It’s rude not to (unless the piece is negative of course) and journalists, like elephants, never forget.
What do the media look for?
The media are looking for a number of news worthy angles every day so ask yourself some questions to find what angles you can provide.
Celebrity will always get you a place in the paper. Do you have celebrity friends or family? Do you have celebrities following you on social media? Are you a celebrity because you’ve won Gold at the Olympics?
Firsts. As in, are you the first Australian, the youngest, the oldest, the first to ever win or compete in a particular event? The first to design or create something, the first to ski a line?
Local. If you are Australian then the Aussie press will be more interested as Australian angles get coverage. Are you from Sydney? Melbourne? Brisbane? The local metropolitan press and radio will want to know you. Are you from Jindabyne, Mansfield, Bourke? There’s media there for you too.
Unique. Do you live on a commune? Are you a devout vegan? Were you home schooled? Do you only ski on sustainable skis? Have you made it in one sport and switched to snow sports?
Charity. Are you involved in a charity race? Do you donate a percentage of your winnings to a charity? Have you set up a charitable fund?
Awards. What have you won? Is it local? Is it national? International?
Images. Do you have any? Are they professional? Are they exclusive? (more on that below)
Gender. Are you the first male or female to achieve something locally, nationally or internationally?
Against the odds. Have you overcome adversity to get where you are? Do you come from a single parent with no income? Did you come back from a broken back? Did you grow up in the outback miles from the snow?
Social media. Have you done something unique with your social media accounts? Do you have a million followers? Does Obama follow you on instagram?
Video. Create a unique video on social media and it will go viral and once it does it gets featured on mainstream media. Think shit skiers say, Whistler XXS et al or the Covid ISO videos of skiers at home.
Exclusives. Is this story angle or interview going to be exclusive to the outlet you are talking to. If it is then you are more likely to get the story over the line. This means no one else gets the interview or story until after this television, radio, print or online news outlet runs it.
Let’s talk about image. Your image or rather, your photos. A low resolution pic taken on your iphone by your best mate is not a professional image worthy of sending to a print journalist. It may scrape in online for dedicated snow sports news digital sites but certainly not the paper unless you have managed to capture a polar bear in the background by mistake.
Invest in a photographer. Get them to shoot you on the snow doing what you do best and make sure you get some portrait head and shoulder or lifestyle shots at the same time. It may seem obvious but wear your sponsors’ gear.
Pics for print should be 300 dpi minimum. Make sure you have them in web size (up to 500kb) print size (1-3mb) and RAW or TIF (20mb plus) and shoot in both vertical (portrait) and horizontal (landscape). Create some in 1:1 as well.
Keep some back as ‘exclusives’, don’t waste them all on your website or your blog. If a journalist is in two minds about running a story on you if you tell them you have exclusive images then you will more often than not get it over the line.
Speaking of websites and blogs and social media. Get across it. Feature your results, your sponsors and contact details, tag the people you want to cover you. Let them know what you’re up to, stay front of mind.
Not everyone can afford a publicist so get pro-active
If you are sponsored by your home mountain then make friends with the PR team and be available for media interviews, offer them your services and support them where you can. Take journalists skiing on the mountain when they visit and you’ll get in the story they are writing.
Create an e-newsletter and put media contacts in the newsletter database. When you read a magazine article, an online post or watch a television interview about your sport make note of the journalists name. Google them and add them to your list. Send an e-newsletter out once a month or when you have some ‘news’ like winning a competition.
Attitude plays a huge part. I know some athletes that have so much attitude for days that their media coverage is lessened. They may still get the coverage simply by winning podiums but their attitude almost ensures they don’t get the extra lifestyle features they think are their due.
Of course once you’re a mega multi gold winning X Games and Olympic medalist with millions in your bank account you can afford to pick and choose which media you deal with but in the meantime humility goes a long way.
Your sponsors marketing team may be able to help get you coverage so stay in close communication with them and return their calls and emails in a timely manner so again they know you are easy to deal with. It is human nature to want to help those you like.
Sponsorship is not a one way street. If a company has agreed to support you with cash or product incentive then they want bang for their buck. You’re a ski ‘pro’ for a reason, forget your sponsors and you’ll be a ski ‘amateur’ for seasons to come.
Mention your sponsors in every media interview, it may not make the cut but it is never going to make the cut if you never mention them. Tweet your sponsors, mention them on Facebook, instagram yourself in their gear. Get creative.
Why do you want media?
If you want to be paid then there are a number of ways of attaining that. Winning competitions will give you some money and get potential sponsors to notice you.
Sponsorship will then give you more money but to keep that money you’ll need to either keep winning podiums or get media coverage. The more media coverage you get the higher your profile, the higher your profile the more sponsors will come looking.
You may end up on television commercials (again paid) and invited to speak at events (paid).
But then there’s the media training of how to perform in front of a camera interview or present on stage. But that’s a whole other post.
Rachael Oakes-Ash is a career journalist who influences, she’s a skier and the founder of PitchIt2Me PR training.
I wonder how many “ski pros” read this blog?
I bet a lot of wannabe ski pros read this blog