How to present yourself

Image by Billy Alexander from

After Rollercon several new sites appeared on Facebook.  One is Roller Derby PR which is a needed meeting place of representatives of leagues who are trying to present their organizations to media, fans, potential sponsors, and the communities as a whole.

You have quite a story to tell and the willingness of the PR and other directors to help the new, the confused or whomever is extremely impressive.  But how to do it on the best basis appears to be quite an issue.

I have to admit, the name Roller Derby is a blessing and a curse.  Modern Roller Derby, although basically the same game from which the old one is derived, is a much different animal.  And as there are more and more stories, TV and web features, there appears to be a couple of patterns in which the current leagues are shown.

There are two recent videos from BBC and ITV television in Britain.  To show the lack of awareness, BBC either ignored or didn’t know that there are some 70 leagues in the UK, and their reporter in South Florida did a pleasant feature on a great league in the Sunshine state.  And the opening footage was of 50’s Roller Derby and then had two girls fighting.  And the focus was how Roller Derby is back in the US (no mention of the 1015 leagues at this moment worldwide).  The ITV was a longer piece and featured a “presenter” as they are called on that side of the pond visiting an English league and “skating’ with them (a man, by the way).  Again, very pleasant.

So it seems there are two variances of when a league is able to get TV coverage (which everyone should strive for):  Rock ’em sock ’em Roller Derby is back, or a housewife, school teacher, psychologist has a full-time life and also skates in this current women’s hobby thing, Roller Derby.

Nothing wrong with that, but as one comment mentioned, why do all these cute pieces have to be the same?

What is TV looking for?  fillers, personality pieces, oddball features, etc.  How can you change that or do you even want to?

One of the benefits of having the 400 plus joining Roller Derby PR is creating a unified POV that can change as is required.  What if instead of sending out the usual press release or newsletter or posting on your site that gives the next game, the score of the last game, who scored, etc, you create a semi-standard paragraph that most can use.  For example, modern Roller Derby was started in 2002, and has spread from a few leagues in a few states to well over 1000 today in 36 countries encompassing some 40,000 participants.

All leagues are amateur, no skaters are paid, they volunteer for community activities, etc, etc,…….And build some stars, with photos and bios so people will be intrigues to see Battling Betty Page, the skating Brain surgeon and mother of three, etc.  And if you are a WFTDA league or some other that has a championship tourney, stress how the upcoming match may determine your qualification to get into the regional tourney and maybe make it to the finals in Denver or whatever……many of your fans have no idea what meaning your games have.

Stress the seriousness of the sport, the national championship, the different types of leagues, the upcoming World Cup, teams and players involved (big story!) and of course your league is a part of this worldwide association…..And check out Derby over 40 on Facebook:  almost 500 have signed on and many are over 50 who are skating…..that is a story in itself, and you will find many others within your league.

Take it outside your local story, although that is obviously a big part of it.  Make certain you distribute to all media to expand your base; sometimes it may seem all you get is friends and families to your games.  And you want to send on a consistent basis, not just when there are games.

It seems like too many stories because someone suddenly discovers “Roller Derby is Back”.  It is really up to you to let them know this is a serious sport far more over ground than even any of you realize, and you want to be treated with respect and admiration.  Not all will want to get away from the pat on the head features as that is at least some coverage, but everyone within your organization must be prepped on what to say and feature if they are interviewed;  and that is why I suggest you create your own version of what I state above so it becomes your continuing mantra.

4 comments on “How to present yourself

  1. Very good points all around, Jerry. I’ve had marketing tips on Roller Derby Worldwide for years now, and recently added it to our Facebook page as well:

    I think it is imperative that league founders do their homework in terms of presentation and PR BEFORE laying the groundwork for a league. All too often, in the excitement of creating a new league, the basic foundation and structure of the league is the last piece to be put into place. Each league’s reputation is going to be judged in a few seconds as soon as someone lands on their website or comes across a poster for a league event.

    The tips I presented on the site were born of the frustrations of me and other collaborators who struggled to figure out information about leagues exclusively from their websites. I don’t think leagues are doing ourselves any favors in being taken seriously when the information presented about their league and their sport is not done as professionally as possible.

    Unfortunately, we are also still working out the kinks in roller derby lingo. Do we play a game or have a bout? Are we derby girls or rollergirls or roller girls or skaters? Is a league of one team a league or an independent team? I would like to see the lingo and sport definitions more clearly defined.

    I agree that the story of modern roller derby could use refinement (and we need to take out the images on our posters and websites that represent derby of a bygone era). What could also use refinement are terms and definitions within the sport, the structure of the sport as it exists today in terms of league structure and team structure, and how leagues represent themselves on their own advertising media.

    ❤ Cat O'Ninetails

  2. Always be prepared to have information that you want to come out in any interview on a fact sheet that you give the reporter or TV producer: your league, some background, Roller Derby worldwide, growth, etc, your next game, location, time, ticket info….families welcome. and how people can join your league…..And make sure the skaters who are being interviewed have a copy of this info so they can stay on point (it is nice if you have a cat, but how does that help the league).

  3. Speaking of confusing terms, is it roller derby or Roller Derby? 🙂

    Anyway, I agree that it’s a good idea to attempt to steer journalists away from misconceptions about your league and about the sport in general. But if the press is dead-set on churning out nothing but derby-as-novelty features saying that roller derby is back and is happening in your area, and here’s what roller derby is, complete with by-day/by-night clichés, then just helping them write better versions of those kinds of articles is ultimately perpetuating the problem. You’ll only ever be written about very infrequently, and always in the same tone (“look at what those wacky locals are doing! hey it’s a sport now, or so we’re told!”), and never moving beyond that. I believe that to make progress, those themes need to be implicit and not the literal focus of your message.

    For example, always pair an explanation of an aspect of gameplay with an explanation of a related strategy and a related penalty. Explanations need to be not just “what they’re trying to do” but “what exciting/interesting things to watch for”. Instead of saying the next bout will be exciting and that you need sponsors and that you’re focused on athletics, say you say you had a great game against another league last week (and the score was 138-98 and the fan feedback was awesome), and that there’s a rivalry building, and that traveling to represent your city in competition is getting so expensive that one of your valued players couldn’t make it last time, and that your home teams are trying out some new strategies that the fans should watch for (give an example), and everyone’s excited about how skater Jane “Insert Sexy Pun Here” Doe is no longer on injury leave after that one rough practice and she’s gonna be one to watch, and that you’re concerned about a certain player’s propensity to accrue penalties in the 2nd period, and that one of your refs wasn’t able to get certified in time for the next bout so he’s going to be on a special assignment (and he’s a great guy you should talk to next), and that you’re looking for a way to deal with an issue with the gameplay (be specific) that came up in a previous bout, and that the 5 new league members who started last month are making tremendous progress and have interesting stories to tell about their experience so far, and that although you’re sympathetic to the fan who complained that your color commentator was disrespectful when he wore nothing but a diaper and a bonnet when he introduced the national anthem, you feel he is just as valuable as your deadpan play-by-play announcer and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Of course these are just made-up examples, but hopefully you get the point: you want to try to get the press to write about things that 1. build anticipation for the next bout, 2. reveal, between the lines, how awesome/serious/legit/fun/whatever your league is and what issues you contend with, 3. reveal that fan feedback is vibrant and important, and 4. have an element of incompleteness that invites follow-up reports. Even if they only get one or two of these things in as an aside in an otherwise run-of-the-mill, one-time feature, it’s progress.

    Now, having said that, I must admit that I’m just a fan and haven’t tested this PR theory. It’s just my reaction to the situation and an attempt to be constructive.

    • Oliver – I’ve always referred to it as Roller Derby to show the sport the respect it deserves. I’m an old-school fan who prefers using the term GAME over the term BOUT. I understand that the girl in Texas who came up with the term was a boxing promoter and that would make sense to me but why not just call it a game? It’s a simple little thing but one of my pet peeves.

      As the publicity director of OSDAPRO, I am always concerned with how the skaters present themselves but I must admit that I really have nothing to worry about with the great bunch of talented skaters we have. They are TOPS in my book.

      For me, the most important thing is the quality of the game. Roller Derby is a sum of all parts. Fast offense, strong, power defense, smart strategy and natural color. What do I mean by “natural color”. Well, there are skaters who are great at playing to the crowd. Whether it be with an arm in the air to garner applause, a power block to knock his or her opponent into the infield or into the crowd (flat track) or into the rail (banked track), it can be done and it gets the crowd excited and involved.

      Jerry – you have my utmost respect and admiration. I do hope and pray more and more leagues will listen to your intelligent advise (that you KNOW works) and make the necessary changes that will make this sport more exciting and longer lasting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s