Ravens' PR Staff Wins Annual Rozelle Award
RECOGNIZED AS NFL'S BEST
By Joe Platania
The Baltimore Ravens' public relations staff has been lauded for the team's entire 15-year tenure in Charm City for providing one of the most media-friendly climates in the league.
During the team's early days, that could have been construed as simply a way to ingratiate itself to the local press, given the ambivalence many fans felt about the hauntingly familiar way the franchise was acquired: a move pulled off by an owner villified in the team's former city.
It became clear that it wasn't just a superficial ploy. It was the way the Ravens meant to do business.
Recognizing that Baltimore is a football-savvy town full of knowledgeable fans hungry for any and all information they can get on the team, the Ravens' staff has been as accommodating as it can possibly be as far as providing enough media opportunities for its players, coaches and executives to tell their various stories in the press.
But as the years dragged on, it was a bit surprising that the team's PR department had not yet pulled in the ultimate award for such work, despite letters written on its behalf by many media outlets, including Ravens Report.
But that award came Monday afternoon when the Pro Football Writers Association of America -- of which Ravens Report is a longtime member -- voted to give the Pete Rozelle Award to the Baltimore PR staff.
The award is named after late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, who first became involved with the league while working in the Los Angeles Rams' PR room. That experience helped him grow the league by leaps and bounds by being a television and entertainment pioneer through the 1960s and '70s.
Currently, the Ravens' PR and community relations staff is comprised of:
Public and community relations senior vice-president Kevin Byrne, media relations director Chad Steele, PR manager Patrick Gleason, publications and PR specialist Marisol Renner, media services coordinator Karen McGee, Web site coordinator Mike Duffy, team historian Francine Lubera, community relations director Melanie LeGrande and community relations manager Andi Goodwin.
Byrne, with 32 years of NFL experience, has long been recognized as one of the league's most tenured and efficient at his job.
A former Marquette University sports information director while colorful men's basketball coach Al McGuire was there, Byrne became the NFL's youngest PR director at age 27 when the St. Louis Cardinals hired him in 1978. After a stint as TWA Airlines' public affairs director, he returned to the league with the Cleveland Browns in 1981.
During his time in Cleveland, Byrne oversaw the league's first PR staff to produce weekly television shows for its team, as well as its own preseason game production team.
While in Baltimore, Byrne has been a guest speaker in front of many local groups and has given league-wide lectures to coaches and other PR staffs. He also writes a weekly blog for the team's Web site, "The Byrne Identity."
Not only that, during his time in the league, Byrne has assisted with PR duties at two Pro Bowls and 24 Super Bowls, even though the teams that have employed him have played in just one (Super Bowl XXXV, which the Ravens won).
Steele started in the Ravens' PR department as an intern during the 1998 season before working for the San Francisco 49ers' PR staff, returning to Baltimore several years later. Gleason also began as a Ravens intern before being asked to stay on full-time.
Renner had been employed by the Baltimore Orioles before moving to the Ravens in 1999, while McGee, LeGrande and Goodwin have all been added to the staff within the last eight years.
As with Byrne, Lubera is one of the many Ravens employees who worked in Cleveland with the team while it was still known as the Browns, assisting the staff in many different capacities, including publications and credential coordinator.
Posted May 3, 2011