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I try to put myself in the perspective of what fans will enjoy or appreciate and be creative in how we’re telling that story. Being inquisitive and unafraid to throw even the craziest ideas out really help with that creativity.

Sara Campbell

Coordinator, In-Game Communications

National Hockey League (NHL)

× The interview with Sara Campbell was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Coordinator of In-Game Communications for the National Hockey League (NHL). What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for us is actually a night unless it’s a weekend or holiday.

In our in-game role, we start two hours before puck drop – the focus is on doing what we can to prepare for the game(s) ahead. On any given night we have between one to 15 games, so we do as much prep work ahead of time to help us react to what we can’t prepare for.

Our role is broken up into three different segments:

  • Deliver real-time explanations of video reviews and coach’s challenges to teams and broadcasting networks
  • Use statistics to drive storylines through to all 31 clubs, media outlets and fans
  • Maintain the @PR_NHL social feeds through the in-game window

Our night ends when we can put a final bow on all the games contested that day.

There is a team of us who work together every night. We bounce ideas around ideas and build off each other to make sure we don’t miss any angles or leave any stone unturned on goals/assists/points/shutouts that happen. A communicative and team atmosphere is so important. I think High School Musical wrote a song about it – we’re all in this together.

2I’d imagine working at the NHL is different than previous organizations you’ve worked for such as the London Knights and Sudbury Wolves – how does it differ from those other environments?

I spent a lot of time working within junior teams, so they truly do hold a special place in my heart. Most operate with very limited resources in comparison to professional teams/leagues – functional areas that are broken up into multiple different departments in the NHL can be just a part of someone’s job in the CHL.

Working in an environment like that with the Wolves and Knights allowed me the opportunity to get experience in a lot of different areas.

For someone starting out, it’s an amazing playground to get your feet wet and figure out what you like to do. It was a place where I could take on the projects I wanted, to help build the skills needed for a role in communications at the professional sports level.

The environment in the NHL is so much bigger. The stakes become a lot higher – the size and scope of what you’re doing increases substantially.

Early on in my internship with the Canucks, I learned just how many eyes are on the product being delivered and how important attention to detail is. It’s also an incredible environment to learn in – you are surrounded by such talented individuals every day. 

3In your role, you’re tasked with identifying storylines across the League. What is your preferred approach to creating stories and why does that work for you?

The best storylines are the ones that write themselves. The ones we just get to share with fans or provide context around.

For me, I find being as immersed as possible is when I’m at my best. When I’ve worked 40-50 games in a week and am in tune with how players/teams are playing is when things flow a lot smoother. Sometimes even a day or two away consecutively can throw that off.

I like to do as much research as possible beforehand. As games progress, the unexpected always happens, so this way we can easily react because our tracks are covered in other areas.

I try to put myself in the perspective of what fans will enjoy or appreciate and be creative in how we’re telling that story. Being inquisitive and unafraid to throw even the craziest ideas out really help with that creativity.

4Now, in the social media world, the focus is perhaps “how can I get something to go viral?” However, I believe people will enjoy stories if they’re told well and the focus is on the product rather than the result. In your experience, what makes a good and engaging story for @pr_nhl?

Unlike when I was working for a team, we’re focused on all the games instead of just one. The content to pull from grows, but the importance to hit all stories regardless of whether they will go viral is important.

The best or most engaging stories are the ones capitalized on in the moment. Social media moves so fast, so being timely and relevant is important.

Listening and learning from what fans are asking for or reacting to is also an important part of developing good content. The comment section can be a scary place, but it’s also one where you can learn what fans want.

5Working for the NHL, I’m sure you’ve built strong relationships with PR personnel of each NHL team as well as made connections outside of the NHL. So, tell me, what makes a good communications/digital media employee in sports?

Sports communications is such a fast-moving landscape – I had one PR director describe it as organized chaos, so I think it’s important to be able to be adaptable and ready to pivot or shift to handle whatever comes your way.

Working well with others and being able to develop strong relationships with those around you – whether it’s within your organization, with media, or other external stakeholders is integral. The better those relationships are the easier it is to be able to effectively do your job.

With an environment that is always changing, I think you have to be ready to change yourself. To be open and always learning.

6Hockey can be a male-dominated sport. How did you land a career with the NHL? What advice can you offer women looking to break into male-dominated fields and the sports industry in general?

It takes a lot of networking, hours of hard work, failed attempts, and doing everything you can to build your skillset/resume. I wrote a blog post about it called One Hundred and Twenty, talking about the 119 failed attempts it took before landing my current position. 

For young women looking to break into the sport industry, my advice is that there is room for you exactly how you are. To stay authentic. To not to blend into a mold of what you think a woman in sport should be. Being unafraid to use your voice, to find a community of people that will champion you, and to do the same for other women.

I hope to leave things better than I found them – and my hope is to do that with all facets of my life, in sport and beyond.

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