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Intern Chronicles: Inside SEC Media Days

ESPN Communications Intern Alexis Mack shares what she learned working during the four-day kickoff of "talking season"

(Illustration: Amanda Brooks/ESPN)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again this summer, Front Row’s Intern Chronicles series showcases some of ESPN’s summer interns. For more information on ESPN Internships, visit the ESPN Careers site. In this installment, ESPN Communications Summer Intern – and former Oregon and Alabama softball star – Alexis Mack relates her experiences working during SEC Media Days July 19-22.

HOOVER, Ala. – When my car didn’t start two hours before I needed to be at SEC Media Days, I knew two things. I knew that I wouldn’t be late for one of the most important events in sports PR of the year at all costs. I also knew that it felt fitting that the quick thinking and craziness of the day was only just beginning.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS


The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hoover, Ala., was home to the 2021 SEC Media Days. (Alexis Mack/ESPN)

This year the event was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hoover. This was my first experience at SEC Media Days, so when I pulled up to the hotel and saw the giant SEC logo and trademarked “It Just Means More,” I got my first taste of the true enormity of the event.

Radio Row was front and center. Reporters lined the hallways and talked to coaches and talent members I had only ever seen on TV. Everyone seemed to be doing something different, but all were on the same page with the same energetic excitement for the upcoming football season.


MORNING MAYHEM

I was lucky enough to get to work under and learn from Amanda Brooks, Manager of College Sports PR at ESPN, and Bill Hofheimer, Senior Director of Communications at ESPN. They are two of the best in sports PR, and from the moment I began working with them — I could very much see why.

RADIO ROW

The four-day conference media day kickoff featured lots of interviews on Radio Row. (Alexis Mack/ESPN)

I quickly learned that Radio Row was a major component of SEC Media Days. The event staple allows radio shows around the conference to interview ESPN’s talent on the upcoming football college football season.

I was thrown right into the fast-paced, chaotic environment within the first hour I was there. The first day I got to do Radio Row with SEC Network’s Ryan McGee – co-host with Marty Smith of Marty and McGee – and college football analyst Chris Doering.

The second day on Radio Row, I oversaw ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy. I was handed each of these talent member’s schedules, and my job was to manage their interview schedules, make sure they got to each one at the right time, and ensure they were at each booth for the right amount of time.

I was surprised how quickly things moved and that despite being handed a schedule at the beginning, it changed several times. In between interviews, I was able to pick the brain of and talk with McGee, Doering, and McElroy on all things college football.


PROGRAMMING PRESENTATION

Marty Smith (L) and Ryan McGee moderated the presentation of SEC Network’s fall programming. (Alexis Mack/ESPN)

One of the most interesting things I got to partake in was the presentation to everyone at SEC Media Days about some of the new and upcoming shows on SEC Network.

Amanda got both Smith and McGee to give the presentation to draw more engagement to it. It was a creative and successful strategy, and I learned from Amanda how considering even the smallest details can make a big difference when communicating a message.



ACTION-PACKED AFTERNOONS

MARTY & MCGEE

(L-R) Alexis Mack; Amanda Brooks; Bill Hofheimer (Alexis Mack/ESPN)

Mornings at SEC Media Days were fast-paced and flew by.

During lunch on both days, I met different employees from all different parts of ESPN. I learned all about their journeys to ESPN and got a lot of advice on succeeding in sports media.

One of my favorite things I got to do was go on the set of Marty and McGee and watch a live production of their show. They interviewed Kentucky football player Josh Paschal on his journey overcoming cancer and the upcoming season.

I got an inside look at what goes into a production, and I got to watch Smith and McGee’s ability to tell the athlete’s story in a way that really made it come to life. The true value of the behind-the-scenes experience was getting to take note of the little things that the talent and production team do to tell the stories of athletes in an incredible way.


“MIC’D UP”

(L-R) Darrell Dapprich, Alexis Mack and Doug Amos (Alexis Mack/ESPN)

On the second day of Radio Row, I got to be in the shoes of the talent members I had been working with; ESPN The Ticket-WTXK interviewed me.

I was “mic’d up” and got to talk about my journey to ESPN, my role at SEC Media Days and my softball career at Alabama. It was a surreal experience to be interviewed at SEC Media Days and I loved every second of getting to share my story.


UNEXPECTED TWISTS AND TURNS


These SEC Media Days were unlike any other. There was major breaking news in sports media in my two days there that I got to watch ESPN PR navigate. I saw first-hand how the PR team efficiently communicated and their processes when dealing with breaking news. Amanda and her team allowed me to ask lots of questions, see every step of the process, and ultimately learn best practices in sports media PR.

BIG TAKEAWAYS

1. SPORTS PR MOVES FAST
Much like sports, the sports media world moves fast, and to be successful as a PR professional, you need to move even faster. Amanda showed me first-hand how you have to be adaptable, adjust, think quickly, and problem-solve better than anyone else. You never want to be trying to catch up and always want to stay a few steps ahead of everyone and everything.

2. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER
It helps to be an excellent writer, strategic communicator and excel at all the necessary skills to be a successful sports PR professional. But, working alongside Amanda, I also saw that what sets her apart is her relationship with every person she encountered. It didn’t matter if they were in production, programming, a talent member, event staff, marketing, a third-party reporter, or an intern. Amanda seems to have an established relationship with everyone. I saw how important this was because it allowed others to want to help when they didn’t need to, but more importantly, everyone trusted the decisions she made.

3. BE ABLE TO WEAR MANY HATS
I quickly found out that when you work in PR, you do much more than what is written in the job description.
Amanda and Bill would often have many people come to them with different things that weren’t a PR coordinator’s responsibility. However, I learned that in that role, you are a problem solver.Since relationships matter most, you try to help everyone with anything they need. Of course, it requires a lot of adaptability and multi-tasking. However, unlike some jobs, it makes for no day ever being the same.

4. ESPN IS FAMILY
Being onsite allowed me to see that everyone at ESPN wants to help everyone succeed. Amanda and Bill showed me exactly what that looked like through the way they worked. Although working at ESPN can be chaotic, they love what they do. More importantly, they appreciate others. The whole ESPN family is talented, but more importantly, it is a family.

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