There is a sports talk host in San Diego who I love listening to because I know he is connected with the local teams. When he shares opinions, especially about the Padres, I love to read between the lines, knowing there is a good chance that what he is passing off as opinion or observation is actually information he got from an inside source.
Most hosts don’t have such insight because most hosts don’t make the effort to develop inside contacts. It’s hard to do because it takes time that many hosts aren’t willing to invest.
Here are four top tips for building insider relationships with the teams that you cover:
1. Be seen
Of course you should attend the games more often than not. But also attend practices, be in the locker room, and attend press conferences. Doing so reflects well on your professionalism and credibility. Some talk show hosts stay high up in the ivory tower, spewing opinion on the athletes, coaches and executives below without ever going into the locker room to be held accountable for their comments. You’ll never build inside relationships that way.
Talk one-on-one to the people you cover, before practice, after practice, in the locker room or whenever else you have opportunity. Get to know them and let them get to know you.
3. Be interested
When talking to athletes, coaches and executives in private environments, get to know them as people and not just as professionals. Be genuinely interested in their background, their interests and what makes them tick.
4. Be trustworthy
When given insider information, be discreet. Never reveal a source and never even hint close enough to the identity of your source that your audience can reasonably figure it out.
Executives and coaches (athletes not so much) will often use the media to “leak” information that will benefit them – maybe a trade that is being discussed or a contract that is not going to be renewed. This is the kind of news and information that you can “break” on your show and earn insider credibility. However, executives and coaches are discerning about the folks with whom they will share such information. Work hard to develop the relationships so that you can be “that guy” in your local market.