Bill Johnston is the Director of Public Relations for the NFL's San Diego Chargers. A San Diego State alum, Bill began working for the Chargers in 1979 while a student and has been known ever since as the @ChargersPRGuy.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bill when he came to SDSU in 2011 to guest lecture a PRSSA meeting. Here's what he had to offer to me and the rest of my senior-year PR peers.
What's the toughest part of your job?
Internal communications. Getting everyone in your organization to understand why communication is so important can be a challenge. You have to constantly know how to keep people on board with what you're doing and the goals of the organization.
Name a crucial skill to have in your role.
Great people skills are essential for keeping up with the wide range of egos and personalities. Sometimes the general management wants one thing but the coaches want another, and you have to make it all work. As a PR Director, you're juggling people so they understand the position of your company.
PR professionals are always trying to prove their worth. How do you justify your job?
Put a value on everything you do, and be a revenue generator. Tell people that what you do is important. Building trust is crucial, because if they don’t trust you, they won’t listen to you. If people trust you to accurately tell them the value of your job, you can justify it.
Who do you need to push into the public eye the most?
The coach, the manager and the president are considered the icons of a sports organization. You have to get them out there and keep them visible. If the public doesn't see these figures and their qualities, they'll assume the worst when it comes to any speculation.
Who handles media training for the Chargers?
That's mostly an internal duty, but sometimes we hire outside sources to talk to the players. I give a presentation to our players in the summer on what not to do, while training for specific occasions are as-needed.
Who is the primary target audience for most of your programs?
Season ticket holders are important. We get players like Philip Rivers out there talking one-on-one with our targets, and that makes fans feel like they are a part of the team. Fan-player interaction events are important pre-training camp in helping secure season ticket holders.
Is there any conflict between the PR department and other departments?
The marketing department occasionally works with us, and we both work with sales, and that can be a good and bad thing. We all work together with one goal in mind, and that's generating revenue.
What do you make of social media as it relates to your job?
With social media, you're constantly trying to get your message out and there is always something going on that is newsworthy.
Explain the different roles of your department staff.
Where can I start if I'm a student or entry-level sports PR professional?
You have to be an intern to get in to the NFL. Get involved with a non-profit organization, do internships and most importantly show on your resume that you're working towards exactly what you want.
Bill may be a well-known and high profile sports PR professional, but he remains very accessible and plays an active role in the San Diego community. You can connect with Bill on LinkedIn, tweet him, and help him find a cure for Huntington's Disease by contributing to the Huntington's Disease Society of America.