How to use Bleacher Report to further your career
I’m turning over this post to Collin McCollough, Bleacher Report’s associate NFL editor, who this week sent an email to B/R’s pro football writers with some good advice about how to use Bleacher Report as they search for jobs in the sportswriting biz.
What follows is a very slightly edited version of that email .
Take it away, Collin:
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I want to talk about how you can use Bleacher Report as a valuable resource in building a portfolio and both establishing and maintaining connections. That is, once you’ve used B/R as a platform, what can you do with your published work?
A quick aside: Some B/R writers simply contribute as a hobby, and that’s great! I don’t mean to make anyone in that crowd feel left out.
For those who are seriously considering pursuing a career in writing or sportswriting, though, it’s important to think about how you can use your work on B/R to best situate yourself.
Before I offer any advice, I’d like to share the thoughts of New England Patriots featured columnist Erik Frenz, who kindly provided his insight on the subject of portfolio-building and utilizing B/R in a multi-pronged approach to advance a sportswriting career:
For over a year, all I did was write. I wrote and I wrote, and my portfolio grew and grew, but it grew laterally, meaning I only had shown one thing I was capable of doing.
To show that I’m capable of more, I began doing a podcast (“Pats Propaganda & Frenz”) with a friend of mine who also blogs for the New England Patriots (Mike Dussault, of PatsPropaganda.com). The podcast has grown in popularity, and we have hosted guests from major media outlets such as WEEI and even ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss. I also began recording player interviews and asking for an mp3 every time I appear on a radio show.
Most of us want to be writers (myself included), but the harsh reality is that there are only so many writing jobs out there. You may have to do something else while you wait to get your first big break.
Thus, one aspect you want in a portfolio, regardless of what the portfolio is for, is diversity. If you’re applying for a job, the best thing you can do is show your versatility. Being good at one or two things won’t get you very far in this industry. You have to be prolific and eclectic in your coverage.
Standard articles and slideshows are great, but the direction of all news outlets is multimedia. This includes interviews, radio appearances, podcasts and more. If you look at many of the popular sports websites, the writers don’t just write. They do radio shows, they make videos after games, they do interviews, and so much more. For these reasons, it’s important to show the multiple things you’re capable of doing, and doing at a high level.
With all that in mind, the best advice I have for you is to constantly update your portfolio with your strongest selections on each platform. Packaging all your best articles together may be fun for personal reasons, but chances are pretty good that when you send your portfolio to someone or show them at an interview, they’re only going to read a couple of your articles.
Put it this way: I have never had a potential employer ask me for more than three samples of my writing. That’s usually more than enough for them to discern your skill level as a writer. I don’t want to put exact numbers on it, because I don’t know what every company is going to ask for, but I would suggest compiling your four best articles, and a couple each of your radio shows, interviews and videos.
It’s not the amount you give them, but how much you show them about yourself in what you give. Diversity and your best quality work are the best things you can focus on to build a strong portfolio.
Erik is correct: It’s a multimedia world. Writers need to face it with a multi-pronged attack. Your writing still needs to be your bread and butter. You need to be able to fall back on the quality. But still, to best situate yourself, you’re going to want to show your capabilities across multiple media platforms.
I would also like to discuss the subject of networking a bit. B/R is an extremely useful platform for meeting fellow sportswriters and helping to promote each other’s work. If you’re serious about writing, read other writers’ articles. Comment. Follow them on Twitter. If something they wrote is relevant to something you’re writing, link to it.
Contact each other to set up a podcast, and link that (appropriately and relevantly!) in your articles. It’s not impossible to succeed on your lonesome, but it sure helps having friends, and what better support network than an entire community devoted to the same aspirations as you are?
Take advantage of that community. More than anything, I challenge writers to do that. You’d be surprised how someone you initially thought of as inconsequential could be a monumentally important contact for you down the road.
That said, the last thing you want to do when promoting your work or trying to interest others in your work is spam people. Build a community and reach out to writers, but do so realistically. Peter King probably isn’t going to go out of his way to help you if you tweet him every link to every article you’ve ever written.
People probably aren’t going to click through to your articles if you spam message boards, flood forums or generally take an obnoxious approach to linking your work. You want to promote yourself, certainly, but you want to do so strategically.
Remember, your image extends beyond your actual article content. You’re judged, as a writer, in every way in which you choose to conduct yourself in cyberspace. If you aspire to be a professional, don’t give anyone reason to call you an amateur!