PR Niblets

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Home-run for PRSA-NY

Nothing screams perfect summer nights more than a ball game at Yankee Stadium.  With perfect weather, a buffet of burgers, hot dogs, and popcorn and great seats right along the first-base line, PRSA-NY’s annual summer social held this year on July 22 was a huge success.  But the hot dog buffet wasn’t even the most exciting part of the night.  Lucky PRSA-NY members had the exclusive opportunity to attend a briefing and meet Jason Zillo, the executive director of media for the New York Yankees.
PRSA-NY recognized on the scoreboard
The entire press room went silent as Mr. Zillo took the stand because in a room full of public relations professionals, this guy is truly a PR superstar.  Mr. Zillo shared some personal insight into the beginning of his PR career, how he ended up working with the Yankees and what rising PR professionals should know.

So how exactly did this seasoned PR veteran get to where he is today?  After graduating from Ohio University in the mid ‘90s, he held two internships with the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons before joining the Yankees as an intern in 1996.  He worked extremely hard for 11 years in the communications department before he was named to his current position in 2007.  There were (and still are) early mornings, late nights and work on the weekends.  It’s nonstop work, but very rewarding.

Without giving away too many of the Yankee’s trade secrets, Mr. Zillo gave some great insight on what it’s like to work in sports PR.
  • Media training is not only a PR best practice but essential to ensuring that every player knows how to interact with the media at all times (e.g., national crises, game wins, game losses, etc..) and that they have a cohesive message that is in-line with the brand
  •   There is a big difference in proactive vs. reactive media outreach, but they’re both important.  The Yankees communications team is constantly bombarded with media requests and sometimes it can be challenging to pitch media interesting and impactful stories that mean more than just the latest athlete gossip.
Jason Zillo takes the stand
On the other hand, he also gave us the cold, hard truth about the reality of getting to and being in the position he is in today.  “With just $140 in my bank account,” Mr. Zillo said jokingly, he made his way down to the Orlando Magic for the first of his two unpaid internships with sports franchises.  He knew no one, had nowhere to live and was about to make no money but he had a passion for the industry.  Even to this day, he loves what he does and never looks at the clock.

His best advice to those of us starting out was that internships are essential.  He made it clear that he wouldn’t consider anyone that hasn’t interned for him in the past.

Mr. Zillo took the stage for about an hour but it seemed he only scraped the top of his responsibilities
as director of media.  He is a busy, busy man and PRSA-NY appreciates and thanks Mr. Zillo for taking the time out of his schedule to give us a look into the sports PR world.  And to round out the night, the Yankees defeated the Orioles 4-3!  

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