Class Chats with Big-League PR Professionals
School of Communication professor Judith Keyserling lets her students learn from the pros. In April, she welcomed two big-league Washington public relations pros to her Entertainment Communication class.
Joe Dupriest, senior director of marketing for the Washington Capitals, chatted with the class about branding and the unique characteristics of sports marketing. As students turned the discussion to star player Alexander Ovechkin, Dupriest said that even though Ovechkin’s popularity brings in fans, "you can't center your entire brand around a player. Your brand has to be bigger than the player."
Keyserling’s second guest, Steve Winter, '77, is principal at the Washington-area sports marketing firm Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications. Although Winter graduated from American University before SOC created its Public Communication program, he says, "AU really did prepare me well. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to be in PR, and AU helped me achieve that."
Keyserling knows first-hand that getting into the world of public communication can be daunting. As principal of the public relations firm Keyserling+associates, she has over 25 years of experience in the field. She has a realistic approach to teaching classes like Entertainment Communication. She invites guests like Dupriest and Winter to speak to her class because "the real world is so much more important than the textbook," she said.
Winter talked about some marketing techniques that are coming to the forefront of the professional PR community. "A critical element," Winter said, "is grassroots. It's about getting out to the community and building the experience." Part of Dupriest’s job is building that experience for Capitals fans, and Winter acknowledged the work he's done. "As ticket prices go up, fans demand a bigger experience," Winter said.
The two also discussed social media, which is "the wave of the future in PR," according to Winter. Both Winter and Dupriest emphasized the necessity of networking in the media industry. "The key word is 'network'," Dupriest said. "That will get you anywhere you need to go."
"Cultivating media relationships is gold," added Winter. "Once you're an intern, you start to make connections and contacts. It's kind of hard to get into the field, but once you get in, you're in," he said.
Dupriest had some advice for students with a desire to get into the field of sports marketing. "You can’t go into an interview and be a superfan. You have to understand we're a business. We're a mom-and-pop billion dollar company," Dupriest said.
Sports marketing is just one of the areas Keyserling's guests work in. Other speakers this semester included Howard Gantman, vice president of corporate communication at the Motion Picture Association of America, and Donna Westmoreland, chief operating officer at IMP Inc., a Washington, D.C. concert promotion and production company which owns the 9:30 Club and operates Merriweather Post Pavilion. The class also visited the NBC4 studios, where they spoke to Ede Jermin, news planning manager & intern supervisor; Lindsay Czarniak, sports anchor and reporter; and Charlie Bragale, news assignment manager.
Keyserling chose to invite speakers from multiple disciplines to her Entertainment Communication class so that her students would have diverse perspectives on the industry. But, she says, there is just one common denominator.
"You always have to be entertaining when you teach," Keyserling said.