Last night, the wife and I went by a public event at the LSU Manship School of Journalism which was billed a discussion of sports and public finance. The presenters and panel discussions around the economic and community aspects of having sports teams was quite interesting, and something I’ll probably be thinking about and writing about over the next few days, but there was one bit of career advice that I really wanted to point out in this post.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Charles Steinberg, current President of the Pawtucket Red Sox, and former head of public affairs and PR for the Boston Red Sox and a few other teams. He had a number of really interesting stories about the way baseball had touched the lives of various people in Boston, and was really quite passionate about those things. During a quick Q&A session one of the journalism students asked him if he had any advice for someone looking to get into sports PR, and his response was immediate, “learn to write”. He went on to talk about how important it is in that industry, and I would add ANY industry, that you can write accurately and correctly. He talked about how if you want to work for him, he needs to be able to trust your writing so that it can be shared with the public and the people he reports to. If he can’t. and he has to pull out a red pen every time you write something to protect you from being embarrassed, you’re not a good employee.
I would totally agree with that, if you can’t spell correctly, and use grammar correctly, you can’t be trusted to communicate directly with people, and that’s not useful. It’s also a skill he sees lacking constantly based on what he gets in cover letters and resumes. (Spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc.) All the STEM education in the world is great, but it’s useless to an organization if you can’t communicate what you know correctly and effectively.
He went on to add that when he was working in Baltimore for the Orioles and hiring interns, he got one particularly well-written cover letter and resume from a kid in Massachusetts. He called the kid up, asked why he wanted to come work for the Orioles (The Red Sox wouldn’t return his calls it turns out) He wound up bringing him in to work with the Orioles, kept him on staff when he moved to San Diego, he and other management encouraged him to go to law school, and eventually when the group, including Dr. Steinberg, were running the Red Sox, they brought Theo Epstein in there too.
The rest, in his words is “not history as much as Theo making history.”
Dr. Steinberg then reached into his pocket, and placed three rings on his fingers as he proclaimed, “I have three World Series rings because a young Theo Epstein could write.”
That’s pretty powerful stuff.