By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Kurt Austin, Communications and Digital Manager for Sporting KC. A five year veteran of the sports industry specifically of the soccer side, Kurt has grown up professionally with MLS and has helped been apart of the leagues rapid rise to popularity over the last few years. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into the world of communications and digital media for an MLS team, how important digital media has become to soccer teams across the US and three things every student must remember to be successful.
You graduated from Mizzou in 2008 and two years later you find yourself working for Sporting KC, a company for which you are now the communications/digital manager. What has that journey been like for you?
This has been a dream job for me. I grew up in Kansas City and I have been a huge soccer fan my entire life. I started out in school wanting to go the journalism route; it wasn’t until grad school that I had my first experience working in sports when I had the opportunity to help out in the SID department at Mizzou. While I was working there, the Sporting KC job opened up and I jumped at the opportunity and was fortunate to get it.
Many students tend to forget that there are so many opportunities within their schools’ athletic department. You took advantage of those opportunities by working with the Women’s Soccer team. How was that experience beneficial to you?
It was definitely a great way to start in sports, especially for me because not only was I able to practice both the hard and soft writing aspects of PR, but I was able to build relationships within the athletic department. In collegiate athletics you are able to learn the ropes of how things operate and really build your knowledge from a ground up level.
Walk us through a normal game day for you during the season in your current role?
They are long days no doubt, but that is the nature of sports as a whole. It is all very enjoyable and worth it, but that is one thing that you have to remember: the hours will be long. Yesterday, for example, I got into the office at 9:30 am and didn’t leave till 12:15am the next day. We are doing everything from helping out broadcasters to setting up the press box to working with our internal production team to make sure they have everything they need. We are non-stop all the way up until kick-off and then during the game, we are making sure that we are getting all the right facts to the right people.
Hardest part of your job? Most fun aspect?
The hardest part is on the PR side and keeping up with the trends of the industry. Another problem for us is that we are understaffed right now in terms of media; this makes pitching stories and making sure we get the exposure we need quite difficult. We have to be very creative to try and get the news channels and media outlets the content they need in order for them to cover us adequately with the amount of resources they have. The most rewarding part is sharing in championships with the team, because you know that you are a small part of the overall success and popularity of the team.
Although Sporting KC is one of the most followed MLS teams, with the recent rise in popularity in soccer in the US nationwide, how has your digital strategy changed?
With soccer, your digital media efforts are extremely important because traditional media coverage historically has lagged behind as opposed to their coverage of the other professional leagues. Soccer fans have flocked to online outlets and because of that, we are very aggressive with our digital and social media coverage. We want to be on the trendy edge of social media while providing great content. Our goal is to put out the most engaging content across all social media outlets. Our game day experience is driven by the 18-30 year old age group so for us, social media is a no-brainer.
If you were hiring a student who just graduated from college this year, what skills and traits would you be looking for?
Writing is paramount. You have to be a good writer. It isn’t something you can fake. Being a good writer will make you stand out above the rest of the candidates.
You have to be professional. You are dealing with so many different types of people and so many different media members and because of this you have to always remember that you are representing the team. How they think about your team is how they think about your interactions with them.
Top 3 things every student needs to remember to be successful?
I am a huge proponent of this and doing it right. It is all about who you know, whether you meet them through internships, part time jobs, networking or clubs. The more people you know and the more relationships you can build, the better off you will be.
2. You need to have a portfolio.
You can be great in the interview process and have a flashy resume, but you need to have examples of your work. That is what we are looking for. We are looking for what you have done and what you are capable of. Having strong clips and material in your profile can make you stand out more than someone who doesn’t have one.
3. Have an understanding of the sport
You need to have an understanding of the sport you are working in. If you are working in soccer for example, you don’t have to be a super fan, but you do need to know about soccer so you are able to carry a conversation about it. Anytime you have more insight and understanding of a sport, it makes your transition to whatever position you have that much easier.
Working in sports is extremely rewarding. It is one of the best jobs in the entire world.
Never get discouraged. Just because you don’t get that dream job right away doesn’t mean you should stop working. There is such a high turnover rate in sports that there will always be new opportunities out there.
Never give up. There are plenty of opportunities out there.
We would like to thank Kurt for all of his time and insight and we wish him the best in his future endeavors!