By Susan Fornoff
What an honor and a treat it was to attend AWSM 2013 at the Montelucia in Scottsdale. It had been nearly 20 years since my last AWSM convention — when I moved out of sports, it was no longer essential to me to attend, and frankly I had become disillusioned with sports journalism as a career option. Seeing the blossoming of what was once a small group of women looking for $25 donations into such an efficient and polished organization thrilled me.
While at the convention, I also had a chance to reconnect with OWSM — the Old Women in Sports Media, all the AWSM members from my generation. We used to hope that AWSM would someday prove obsolete, but now I think we hope it will continue to grow and thrive as a support network for the women who brave what continues to be largely a man’s world. With that, I’d like to suggest cultivating the following:
1. Numbers: Grow the membership with women in sports television, women in digital sports media, women authors, and more women in sports public relations. Although we founders had newspaper backgrounds, we envisioned AWSM to include women in all sports media — even sports media that had not yet been invented 25 years ago.
2. Relevance: Concentrate one day of the convention on workshops for specific tracks. Perhaps one is reporting/writing, one is editing/managing, another is PR/marketing, and maybe yet another is publishing/executive/entrepreneur. If there is enough interest, an on-air track could have great value for the ever-growing roster of women on TV or aspiring to be on TV or even YouTube. Organizations will be more willing to foot the bill if they see potential value for their staffer, and entrepreneurs will be more willing to come if they can see a possible return-on-investment, which is more evident with skills-based workshops than with broad panel discussions. It might even be easier to enlist sponsors for focused tracks. They don’t all need to be “gender-based” — the goal here is to advance the careers of women in sports media.
3. Marketing: Have an athletes panel at every convention. It will never become boring, it attracts media coverage, and it opens up a two-way dialogue that may lead to the unexpected. It is a good way to keep AWSM in the news without there having to be an incident, while also cultivating a respectful relationship with the people we cover.
4. Influence: Make every effort to have AWSM represented wherever there is a negotiation or discussion about media policies. APSE meets each spring in New York with all of the commissioners/PR folks, and according to Mary Byrne, AWSM would be welcome at those sessions as well. AWSM needs to be known and respected.
5. Power: AWSM has done a good job mentoring college students. Perhaps it is time we groom early or mid-career women in sports media for executive/power positions so that they will be the ones making hiring decisions in the future. We could create a six-month fellowship that includes interning/shadowing top women executives, or individual coaching, or even some business-concentrated courses.
I am giving my own business a go and am in the pivotal sink-or-swim phase with GottaGoGolf, a media company targeting women who play golf for fun. When I am swimming, I vow to pursue No. 5 and pay it forward. In any case, I did threaten at the convention to return in 25 years and see what’s up with AWSM. In that spirit, I’d like to make one more suggestion: Waikiki in 2038! Ann Miller, start planning away!