In the Philippines it can be difficult to find decent media coverage of sports and leagues that fall outside of the main pillars of Philippine sport, PBA, Boxing, UAAP Men’s Basketball, and UAAP Women’s Volleyball. And even within the top leagues there’s a disparity between the coverage of the top teams and everyone else.
In the past two years of doing sports photography in the Philippines I’ve seen athletes of smaller leagues and lesser known teams make the following complaints fairly often:
I wish the media covered our sport more.
I wish the media covered our league more.
I wish the media covered our team more.
I wish the media posted more photos of us/me.
But I don’t often see these same athletes take steps towards turning these wishes into reality. I suspect this mostly has to do with the athletes not knowing how much potential there is for them to effect the media if they take certain actions.
Here’s a brief outline of a few of the things that I think athletes can do in order to be more effective at getting media attention.
1) Talk to reporters/photographers
2) Message reporters/photographers to thank them for their coverage
3) Tag photographers when you post their photos
4) Share media coverage on your social media accounts, your best audience already follows you
I’ll get to the secret last.
I’m a photographer first and foremost, so I’ll mostly focus on the photographer perspective and what athletes can do to get more pictures.
1) Talk to Reporters/Photographers
Want more photos of you playing your sport? Talk to photographers!
If you have friendly chats with reporters and photographers that show up to the games, they’re going to remember your face and be way more interested in covering your games and taking pictures of you in the future. You don’t have to have big long talks with them, just little chats.
I’ve spent a lot of time around the photographers here. A lot of them are bored for most of the games they work at. This is why they often travel in packs, because they want to talk to people. A lot of the photographers that I know will go out of their way to take extra photos of the players that chat with them. I’ve seen photographers literally run around the arena trying to get better angles when one of their athlete friends gets subbed into the game.
Be friendly when chatting of course. Photographers have told me about players that have been rude to them in the past. Being a jerk is a fast way to get a photographer to not want to take your picture. And obviously, not all photographers will become friends with you or give you extra photos just because you talked to them. But most of the photographers that I know do take extra photos of athletes that are friendly to them.
2) Message Reporters/Photographers to Thank Them
Want more media coverage and more photos? Message reporters/photographers and thank them!
Thanking reporters and photographers for the coverage they did is a great way to make them feel appreciated and wanting to come back to cover your games in the future.
Of course, talking to people in person is always more effective than messages online, thanking reporters and photographers in person can have a major impact, but not all of us are bold enough to walk up to a complete stranger and talk to them. Messages are a quick and easy way for those of us that are more shy or introverted to communicate and still get a lot of the benefits that you could get from talking in person to reporters/photographers. A friendly thank you message for a photo or an article can go a long way towards media people remembering you and wanting to cover your games again when they get the chance.
A fair amount of photographers (not all) will even message photos directly to players that are on a friendly basis with them. But I would be careful about just asking a photographer directly for photos if you’ve never communicated with each other before. Be polite. Quite a few athletes have been rather blunt towards me about it in the past “Pic” “Send photos” “You have pics?” Maybe don’t be so blunt towards someone if you’re asking a favor from them. At least put in the effort of writing a complete sentence. A little bit of politeness and friendliness will get you a long way.
3) Tag Photographers in Social Media Posts
Want more photos? Tag photographers in your posts!
You might be thinking “But Day, it’s a photo of me, why should I tag someone that isn’t even in the picture? It’s their job to take pictures of me anyway right?” and I would ask you, do you want photographers to take more photos of you and even better photos of you in the future? Or do you want photographers to not pay as much attention to you?
Photographers are just as vain as anyone else, we love getting recognition. Getting tagged by a player in a photo that we took grabs our interest and we pay more attention to that player the next time we see them play and we take more pictures of them. It’s shallow, but that’s how it works.
Additionally, if you crop out the copyright/watermark symbols, you’ll likely end up annoying most photographers. That’s why a lot of photographers plaster their names right next to the player’s face in the photo even though it looks kind of ugly to do that, because photographers generally hate for their work to be presented without their watermark.
Personally, it doesn’t bother me when an athlete doesn’t tag me in a photo or when they crop out the copyright/watermark. I even try to keep taking good photos of athletes that have been rude or entitled towards me in the past. But I’m kind of a weirdo, I would expect for most photographers to get more bothered by those things than me.
4) Share Media Coverage on Social Media, Your Best Fans Already Follow You
Want more media coverage? Share the present media coverage on your Facebook/Twitter!
Most athletes are already fairly good at this. But it’s important enough to be listed along with some explanation as to why it’s important.
I can always tell when an athlete has shared an interview that I did with them on their Facebook, because the view count on their interview page will jump up by hundreds or thousands of views. When athletes don’t share my interview with them on social media, their interview page gets less than a hundred views on my website.
One of the best things you can do as an athlete is directly share articles. Media websites and Facebook pages judge the value of their content by how many views/likes their post receives. The amount of views and likes can make the difference between how many games that publication will cover for the rest of the season, or whether they send a photographer to the next game, or whether they even cover your sport at all next season. It’s shallow, but it’s the reality of the media industry.
The biggest fans of your sport, the biggest fans of your league, and the biggest fans of you and your team already follow you on social media. If you don’t share the media coverage to your biggest fans, then the websites and Facebook pages that provided the media coverage will be losing hundreds or thousands of views that they could have gotten otherwise. That can make a difference.
Side note: you don’t have to wait for the media in order to talk to your biggest fans. You can share your experiences to them directly. You don’t need to wait for reporters to ask you questions. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give you the power to share your thoughts about a game or about the athlete lifestyle directly to the fans. Smaller sports and leagues grow via word of mouth and by people getting inspired by the athletes that play the sport. People can’t discover the joy of a sport or the passion of a team if you don’t tell them about it. Hearing the passion directly from an athlete nearly always carries more weight than the words of a reporter describing the passion third hand. The most fun athletes to follow on social media are the ones that open up and share their experiences.
The secret of this article is that the only thing I’ve done is outline a few basic communication and networking principles. Everything I’ve written above is applicable to the business world and even to your personal life. Good communication skills and good networking skills will be valuable for anything you do.
1) Talk to people, take an interest in what they do, be friendly. They’ll remember you and take interest in you.
2) Message people directly to thank them for work they did for you, be friendly, appreciate them. They’ll remember you and take interest in you.
3) Tag people in social media posts when they did work for you, appreciate them. They’ll remember you and take interest in you.
4) People can’t see what you’re doing if you don’t share it. If you show people what your passion is or what your skills are, it gives them a reason to remember you when related opportunities appear.
You might decide that this is all too much of a hassle or too much work. Maybe you’re a student athlete and you think it takes too much time out of your studies or too much time out of your personal life to thank a random reporter for writing an article about your team. Or maybe you think this all pretty shallow, “appreciate us media people and we’ll like you more!” But if you’re serious about wanting more coverage of your sport or more photos of yourself on the court, I would consider trying out some of these suggestions. If nothing else, it will help develop your communication and networking skills, and make people appreciate you more. I think that’s a pretty good trade-off for a few minutes of your time.
You don’t have to try out all of these suggestions.
You can try just one and see what happens.