Public Relations Tactics

The Chicago Blackhawks director of media relations reflects on the storied NHL franchise

September 30, 2011

“I was born in Ohio, so naturally, I grew up as a huge football fan,” says Brandon Faber. “After moving to Indiana at age 10, the game of basketball also became a big part of my life through college and into my professional career. I was not a hockey fan until 2008, when I began working for the Chicago Blackhawks, and since then, I have really grown to enjoy the sport. Hockey players are some of the most talented and fascinating athletes.”

Faber has been director of media relations for the Blackhawks NHL franchise since May of 2008. He got his start in public relations by working in the sports information office when he was a student at Indiana University.  After graduating from college in 2002, Faber spent six years as a member of the public and media relations department for the Chicago Bulls basketball club.

The Blackhawks, who start their season on Oct. 7, compete in the Central Division of the NHL and were the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup champions.  The team, founded in 1926, is one of the oldest in the league. 

What is a regular workday like for you?

My job encompasses all parts of public relations for the Blackhawks — both on the hockey side and the business side of the organization. On a day-to-day basis, I continually work on the media needs surrounding games, practices and events, as well as strategizing how to continually build the brand of the Blackhawks. It is a constant balance between being proactive and reactive.

What’s the best way to keep Blackhawks fans engaged today?

Social media is critical to messaging to fans today.  With the appetite for news and information on-the-go and in real-time, it is a great tool to reach today’s consumers.

How are the Blackhawks using social media to get the facts to the fans?

Our social media team is continually setting the bar higher and higher for itself, and for other teams or organizations. Using social media to report news, promote team functions, help with ticket sales and promote appearances is a great way to keep Blackhawks fans in the know about our team 24/7.

Does the team have a social media policy for the players and for others in the organization?

Like a lot of organizations, we do have a social media policy for all front-office staff with the Blackhawks. Separate from that, the NHL and the players’ association recently announced a set of guidelines for social media for all players. We support those guidelines.

What advice do you have for young professionals who may be looking to get into sports public relations?

Sports public relations is a small group and good opportunities are often hard to come by. However, if it is really what you want to do, [then] put in the hard work and you will get your break. You have to do something to set yourself apart in the competitive job market, so the earlier you get started with internships or part-time work at school, the better off you will be.

What trends do you see on the horizon for the sports sector specifically and also for public relations in general?

We are trending toward a better way to measure public relations, how we can engage an audience and [how we can] build brand awareness through the help of social media, phone apps, etc.

How has the media landscape changed in terms of coverage during the past few years, and how do you decide who is credible and what type of access they get?

Competition in today’s media is at an all-time high and that has changed the landscape. Everyone wants to be the first to break a story and they can no longer hold a breaking story for tomorrow’s newspaper or tonight’s newscast.

Deciding who is credible is a case-by-case process determined by things such as the outlet’s reach and track record.  We want to know the media before we credential them and we want them to know us.

Did you see an increase in media coverage or special requests after the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup win?

Each year, there is an increase in requests surrounding the Blackhawks — not just in Chicago but throughout the United States, Canada and beyond.

Winning the Stanley Cup was obviously a tremendous boost for our exposure, but the brand continues to grow and we recognize how fortunate we are.

How does winning the Stanley Cup make a difference to the team — and also channel down through the organization and permeate the culture? How do you communicate internally about that pride?

Winning the Stanley Cup was very surreal. For this organization, it was an accomplishment that was 49 years in the making, but it has not changed the culture except for making us even hungrier to do it again.

Internally, our communication is about approaching every day, game and event as though it is our last and [as if] we are the heavy underdog.

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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