Brenna Webb is a public relations coordinator for the NFL Network and NFL.com. In this role, she is responsible for promoting and pitching NFL Network and NFL.com programming, content, on-air and online personalities and executives to national media outlets.
Webb, based in Los Angeles, has been at this position for nearly three years and has a B.S. in Sports Management from the University of Illinois (2003) and previously worked as the assistant athletic public relations director (2005-2006) and an NFL Network bureau producer (2006-2007) before moving into her current position.
SCF caught up with Webb who just completed a long weekend working the 2010 NFL Draft. Here is what she had to say about life working in pro sports and in the National Football League.
What is a typical day like in your position?
Webb: A typical day first involves catching up on the latest news in the sports, media, television and online industries. This is done best through reading Sports Business Daily, CableFax, Variety, Multichannel News and additional trade publications. In addition, noting the latest NFL headlines of the day by listening to sports radio in the morning on the way into the office and perusing through online newspaper sites to get an idea of the NFL headlines that NFL Network will be watching and reporting on.
Secondly, I check my email. By the time I get in the office I probably have about 35-40 emails each morning, which range from internal production memos and requests to external media requests. If there is something that I make conscious effort to do each day, it’s read every email. Sometimes it can get overwhelming, but it’s important to in order to ensure that I have all information available to me in order to get the best results.
What career path did you take to get to this position and your current job?
Webb: I got into this position following my college graduation when I became a full-time intern with the University of Illinois athletic department. I started out in marketing, but after the first year I became more interested in athletic public relations and switched over to intern within the Sports Information Department (SID) at Illinois. That year within the SID office at Illinois was what told me that this was the career for me. Not only did I get the opportunity to work as a PR contact for successful Olympic sports teams such as women’s soccer and men’s gymnastics, I was able to assist with Illinois’ men’s basketball team that advanced to the NCAA National Championship game and was the most-winningest team in Illinois men’s basketball history.
While I gained most of my experience through my intern years at Illinois and a year spent as a full-time SID, I made the most valuable contacts within the NFL by volunteering at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL for three straight years for the week of practice leading up to the game. It was there at the Senior Bowl that I met NFL Network producer whom I stayed in contact with and ultimately led to my position within the NFL Network/NFL.com PR department.
What is the coolest thing about your job?
Webb: I’d say it’s watching an idea or ideas for a show grow from a group of people talking in a conference room to it actually being on air. Seeing the hard work and brainstorming that goes on to put a show on the air from an editorial and technological aspect materialize makes me want to work as hard as possible to promote it to the media and the public so that people actually watch it.
At the same time, working in pro sports is hard work, can you talk about what is about this job that people don’t understand that they should know?
Webb: A lot of people think that the job just consists of hanging out with former and current athletes, traveling, standing on the sidelines of big games like the Super Bowl and particularly in my position, saying ‘no comment’ to the media. None of those things make up what this job is about. The hours are long and more than that is what you give up. My job requires that I am always reachable, which can sometimes wreck havoc on vacation time. I schedule everything around the football season, which is becoming more of a year-round sport with every passing season. It’s often hard to balance your work time with free time, especially in a job that requires you work on weekends.
What are 5 misconceptions of what it’s like to work in pro sports that people need to understand?
Do you get asked a lot if you meet the players and things like that? What do you have to say about that and what do you say to people who want to get into working in pro sports to meet the athletes. What’s the reality of all of that?
Webb: Yes, I do get asked if I get to meet players or former players, which occasionally I do at different events such as Super Bowl, the Scouting Combine and NFL Draft. In addition, many of our analysts are former players, whom I worked closely with. When I meet them, I meet them in a working capacity and that’s how they know me. I’m not looking to make any friends and neither are they. In addition, when they meet me, the last thing they should think of me as is a ‘fan.’ That does little for me when it comes to gaining their respect and ultimately getting my objective accomplished. That being said, after establishing a professional rapport with our analysts, you realize they are just normal people working the same long hours as you and friendships a built with them just the same as any other co-worker or teammate.
You work with former NFL standouts. How do you tell people to overcome being "star struck" and still do your job?
Webb: Yes. We have a some very successful former NFL players on our analyst roster including Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin and Rod Woodson to name a few. As I mentioned in previously, you are there to do a job as are they. Throughout their playing career and even after, they meet fans every day. It’s very easy not to be ‘star struck.’ Ultimately, they are there to do a job just as you are. They are just regular people who really are outside of the element that made them ‘famous.’
What type of education/skills do you think you are needed to succeed in your job and in pro sports in general?
Webb: When it comes to education, the best education is experience and on-the-job training. At the University of Illinois, it was required that I complete a semester-long internship before I received my degree in sports management, which I think is the right step to get you going in the right direction.
Most people who want to get into the sports industry generally have this idea of what it’s like that more resembles fantasy than reality, especially if you’re just starting out. I think that the biggest key to success is patience and the ability to see the big picture. Once a person has earned a job in the sports industry, it’s easy to become impatient and want to go from 0-60 in an unrealistic amount of time. You need to be patient, focus on your task and doing the best you can at it. That’s the best way to get noticed. It may not be the most glamorous job or maybe you’re just doing it for free as a volunteer, but showing dedication and focus in those positions will go a long way.
What is one thing you didn’t know before taking this job that you know now that surprises you?
Webb: Pretty much everything about the television production and the cable industry. I had never really thought about what goes into publicity of a cable network, but my position requires that not only am I aware of the latest news within the NFL that NFL Network may be reporting, but I’m also conscious of issues relating to the cable, satellite and telecommunications industry.
What would you say is the greatest reward in this job? What are you most proud of or what motivated you on this job?
Webb: The greatest reward in my job is probably when our production staff has just wrapped coverage on a big event like Super Bowl, NFL Combine or NFL Draft. Weeks and months of preparation go into putting a show on the air that millions of people will watch and when it’s finally over, it’s extremely rewarding to think about the amount of teamwork it takes to put a show on the air and how ‘we’ were able to get it done. And from a publicity standpoint, it makes you want to work as hard as possible to make sure the show gets as much credit as possible, in terms of ratings and reviews from writers and viewers, in newspapers, blogs, radio, Twitter – everywhere.
You hear about how pro sports jobs are so competitive, is that true and if so, how does one continually stand out?
Webb: I don’t really buy into the idea that pro sports jobs are so competitive, especially after getting to know people who work in the television and film industry. I believe that industry is much more competitive. However when it comes to standing out, I’m a strong believer in focusing on you and your work. Don’t get wrapped up in what others are doing; don’t try to ‘out-work, out-think or just out-perform’ others. If you care about your job and your performance, it should come as second-nature to try to improve each year and set new goals for yourself. Asking questions, offering suggestions and brainstorming ideas shows people that you care about what you’re doing if you want to improve it. If you’re doing that, people will notice.