Athletic Management 8.3 May 1996

One Voice On

Public Relations

Spreading the News

By Keith Manos

Keith Manos is Athletic Director at Richmond Heights (Ohio) High School. He is the school's former head wrestling coach, earning Ohio Wrestling Coach of the Year honors in 1988, and author of the forthcoming book Winning at Wrestling: A Survival Guide for Wrestling Coaches currently being published by Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Parents tend to cringe when an envelope from the school district appears in the mailbox. But when they discover that it contains an athletic department newsletter, they'll open it with pleasure. While it's true that every athlete likes being praised for his or her efforts, it is the parents who really enjoy reading about their children's achievements. You can satisfy both these needs by creating and distributing an athletic department newsletter.

This type of correspondence is the most effective way for any athletic department to advertise its achievements and communicate with parents, athletes, faculty, and the community. Newsletters can be a very powerful tool for low-cost public relations enabling you to promote your program and create enthusiasm. I have found newsletters very effective for:

1. Building a sense of family within the athletic department.

2. Improving athletes' performances by identifying their individual statistics (which they, in turn, will want to improve).

3. Updating parents, fans, administration, and community members on individual and team results.

4. Increasing athletes' and parents' loyalty and morale.

5. Updating administrators and parents on new rules, procedures, and/or techniques associated with any specific sport.

6. Conveying any special promotional or motivational messages.

7. Reducing potential complaints from parents or school personnel.

8. Building the athletic director's credibility and professional standing.

9. Maintaining fan interest in the school's athletic programs.

10. Creating a positive image of the athletic department.

Formats and styles of newsletters can vary greatly, but successful ones share some common characteristics:

1. An introduction that grabs the readers' attention on the first page and keeps them reading. Example: Have our hearts recovered? Those nail-biting victories over Aurora and Newbury certainly caused the adrenaline to flow and the cheers to erupt. Your kids--our kids--were psyched and relentless. They demanded the victory and they got it! To be sure, your presence and support really helped make it happen.

2. Game and tournament results.

3. A schedule of upcoming games and matches.

4. Updates or announcements about important events and honors that involve a team or an individual athlete. Example 1: The News Herald currently ranks our girls' basketball team number one in the area. Example 2: Tickets for the upcoming state wrestling tournament are $21.00/packet and can be purchased from Coach Manos.

5. In-season and end-of-season team and individual statistics.

6. Comments from coaches and/or administrators. Example : "I'm enjoying the opportunity to coach these young student-athletes, encouraging them to be 'doers' and not 'talkers.' We continue to strive toward becoming the best we can be." - Head Girls' Basketball Coach Mary Brown.

7. Trivia questions. Example : What football player holds the record for most career tackles at our school?

8. Important reminders such as: dates and times of upcoming special events or collection deadlines for equipment and uniforms.

9. Public "Thank you's" to administrators and/or parents. Example: Thanks to Ms. Irene Beville, principal, and Mr. Steve Franko, superintendent, for their support. They remain constantly attentive to the needs of the coaching staff and show a special understanding of our athletes. We owe a great deal of our success to them.

An elaborate design is not needed for such a newsletter. However, it is a good idea to create a memorable logo or masthead for your newsletter. Recruit one of your more artistic athletes to assist you, or contact the school's art department for help.

If such resources are available, colorful graphics, high-quality illustrations, and vivid photographs can make the newsletter extra special. However, it is actually most important to be sure the print is clear and easy to read.

A newsletter can be published once a month, twice each season (my preference), or on any regular interval. Student aides can be recruited to address and stuff envelopes.

After distributing the first issue, ask parents for feedback: What did they find most appealing? What would they add? What was unclear? Such feedback can be used to improve following issues.

A newsletter produced by the athletic department creates needed publicity and enhances school pride. The administration will appreciate this positive form of communication, and, more importantly, parents won't have to fear the school envelope in the mailbox.