In her nine years at ESPN, Jennifer Cingari Christie ’08, communications manager for ESPN Films and Original Content, has worked on numerous projects including the promotion of the Oscar-winning “O.J.: Made in America” documentary, The ESPYs, the New York Marathon, the World Series of Poker, and “30 for 30” documentaries and podcasts. She is one of PR News’ 2016 Rising PR Stars 30 and Under.
When asked for advice on how to achieve her kind of success, Christie offered a few basic suggestions:
Start young. Really young. Like still-in-college young.
I was a public relations major (PR) and publicist for the Student Entertainment Committee, where I got great experience doing PR for real events. I did my research, created press lists, pitched concerts, cold-called reporters. Senior year, I was part of a group of students that started Rhody & Co., a student-run PR agency, and the Public Relations Society. We wanted to put the things we learned in the classroom into practice. Now, the student group is an official chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
Get noticed by noticing.
I had a production internship with “LIVE with Regis and Kelly.” The producers were great, but so busy. One producer would walk in every morning and ask where her New York Post was. All the interns would scatter and try to find it first. I thought, “Why don’t I just put in on her desk?” That first day she found it there, she asked the group of us who’d put it on her desk. I thought, “Oh, no!” but I told her it was me. She smiled so kindly and said thank you. It was the first time she smiled, the first time we talked, the first time she noticed the interns. I realized there was benefit in thinking and being proactive.
Tell a great story.
I love sports. In high school, I cheerleaded because it was as close as I could get to football and basketball. I was the girl in college who won her fantasy football league among a group of boys. I had ESPN on every day; I never changed the channel.
In communications, though, it’s a different kind of passion. It’s for brand storytelling. What stories do we want out there? How are we shaping those stories? Who are we going to tell these stories to? You don’t need to be an expert in sports to work in sports PR. You need to be an expert in storytelling, messaging, crisis communication. What’s important is that you believe in the product that you’re selling.
I got a job at ESPN because of the connections I made at URI. A fellow PR major’s teacher had asked her class one day, “Does anyone know someone who is graduating that wants to work in sports PR? There’s a job opening at ESPN.” The professor’s friend was high up in communications at the company and I was able to get an interview based on the referral. People say, ‘You have a job at ESPN. You’re so lucky.’ You could call it luck but I was prepared for when an opportunity came along. I networked and made connections. I met people in the sports and entertainment worlds. I volunteered. I interned. That’s when luck happens.