Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flyers' PR Chief Zack Hill: "Accuracy is Top Priority."

A big part of Zack Hill's job as senior director of communications for the Flyers is putting out fires. Like the time reporters said that Eric Lindros bit an opposing player's ear (even though he didn't). Or the time a Flyers player was accused of using a racial slur ... except that he didn't. Or the time when Charles Barkley said, "This is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids." Except that Charles was joking.

"Check your sources," Zack said in class yesterday, noting that he's always reachable for verification. "Accuracy is top priority. If there is a bad lead, I'll track that down."

After graduating from West Virginia University, he was an elementary school teacher. He decided to pursue a masters degree in journalism but got sidetracked while serving as an intern for the Sixers. They asked him to stay, and he eventually elevated to become the Sixers' director of public relations. In 1993, he moved over to a similar position with the Flyers, where he has been ever since.

Among his duties: attending practices and games, and facilitating media requests along the way; lining up press credentials; prepping game notes; generally making sure the public keep the Flyers in their minds all year 'round. And he's always on the phone.

"I go through several phones per year," he said - while holding a cracked iPhone in his hand.

Here are a few other things he said that stood out for me:

• Interning is the key to success. And when you intern, volunteer for everything.
• When he was interning for the Sixers, he arrived at work on a really bad snow day when everyone except the GM bailed. And that scored him massive points.

• When he was hired by the Sixers, and later when he joined the Flyers, he had to develop trust from the players. Building relationships, he said, is key - in PR, journalism and just about any profession.

• He believes in "behavioral consistency," meaning you don't freak out all the time. "I haven't lost my temper since the mid-80s," he said.

• He said he never has problems with people being honest, even when it's Flyers players speaking to the media. "Sometimes they can be a little more tactful," he added. "But I like openness."

• Part of his job is anticipating the needs of the journalists, many of whom he also has very close relationships with.
• His team, which includes three other staffers, won the 2012 Dillman Award, which recognizes the top media relations departments from the two NHL conferences.

• Zack said that newspapers are dying (though he later said that he didn't think newspapers would ever go away). And while the team credentials some bloggers, he said, "I don't trust a whole lot that I read on the Internet."

• He can't talk about the NHL lockout. The Red Wings' senior VP recently made a comment about the lockout and the team was fined a reported $250,000.

• Oh, and his brother is named Bunker. No kidding.

What stood out for you?

40 comments:

Jamie Gray said...

I thought he was a lot better then our previous speaker, although he did not directly relate to journalism, he seemed to make a connection with everyone as he spoke, he really seemed like he knew what he was talking about when encouraging students to find an internship for the future. He seems to be the person that journalists will have to get to know very well if they ever cover a sports team, so the experience in a different field is key to what journalists hope to accomplish when covering a team.

Michael Zahn said...

As someone who is an aspiring broadcast journalist, specifically hockey announcer, having him as a guest speaker was marvelous. He brought vast insight to achieving a job in the sports field by encouraging us to become more proactive and apply for internships as soon as possible. I am currently the play-by-play announcer for the Temple Ice Hockey team and it's guys like him that make me want to stay with this business more. I think his stories came off funny and genuine, and he seemed like a guy who really knew his stuff.

Overall, a great speaker with a great stage presence and a lot to offer!

Eric Newby said...

I really felt that Zach Hill was a much better choice for a guest speaker than Eric Newton. Instead of relaying information and personal stories to us as a superior, he acted as more of a mentor. I though this made him much more interesting and realistic. He was much more hopeful for our future.

His advice on interning was spot on. One of the best ways to learn how to do something is to DO it, and do it well. I would much rather trade places with Hill and have "The Greatest Job in the World" than with Newton.

I also thought it was hilarious when Hill stated, "Newspapers are a dying industry," paused a moment, realized he was in a Journalism class, and revised his statement. Everyone in the room gave him a look saying, "Yeah...we've heard that before."

Kaitlin Manion said...

I was really impressed with Zach Hill. Not going to lie, I went in with a bias because I'm a Penguins fan and any member of the Flyers organization has had a bad rep with us Pens fans but Zach definitely proved me wrong. I thought he was a great speaker because he shared his personal stories with us. I took something away from what he shared with us because one of my goals is to work for the NHL (any team)and he made it seem like it was possible.

I also really liked that he shared about the accuracy issue. I went to a high school where I spent three hours a day studying writing and we were always pressed to stick to facts and the idea that, "Don't think it is true, know it is true." I think writers, especially bloggers, leave this behind. Accuracy is the best service you can give to your audience. The more accurate you are, the more credible you are, the more credible you are, the better the reputation you will hold. I'm glad Zach expressed this to a mostly freshman journalism class because before we start writing, we have to go into it with the best intentions.

Tsega Tesfaye said...

I felt that Zach Miller was a very good choice as guest speaker for our class. He had a great sense of humor.Zach gave a lot of good advice and insight on what we should do to better prepare ourselves in the future. It was very easy for us to connect with him and that is usually hard especially with a classroom full of 250 college students! He was really encouraging like a mentor. I felt he made the class feel really comfortable to approach him and ask questions.

Andrew Sifari said...

I thought Zack was a great guest speaker. He is a model case of how to get ahead in this industry, by making the most of your opportunities and doing the little things to get ahead. He was the complete opposite of Eric Newton; he was humble, positive, seemed to like his job, and just more of a normal, relatable person.

Carly Brooke said...

Zack was very inviting and had a lot to say regarding what being a PR director entails. His stories were intriguing and kept me interested the entire time. Even though I've never looked into doing PR work he made me realize that his job has a huge impact (in particular) to the flyers. I hope we get more speakers like him, who actually want to be here to talk to us!

Jenna Meissner said...

I thought yesterday's guest speaker, Zack Hill, was both interesting and exciting. It was very cool to see what he deals with on a daily basis, and hearing his stories kept me both interested and entertained the entire time. I never really knew that much about PR, and after hearing him talk I was fascinated by the aspects of it. I hope that one day I can say I love my job and every day is something new and exciting, just like Zach had pointed out. He was an inspiration to work hard, volunteer, and intern. It was nice to hear him confirm that everyone needs to start at the bottom and eventually work their way up! I hope we get the chance to have more exciting speakers just like him!

Bob Stewart said...

That class was great. I'm 38 years old and a hockey fan so I remember each and every one of those situations that Zack elaborated on.

From the journalistic point, I got a better feel for how it is to relate to the company representative. Yeah, they want their side of the story out there, but that is motivation for them to get you the concrete source to prove their point. That can obviously be used advantageously.

I think the only thing he could have added was something about a negative situation that was substantiated. We heard what happened with the Trenton writer who blasted Ovechkin on his blog, but I'd like to know how a writer who pursued a true negative story is regarded. Yes, Lindros did not sleep with Brind'amour's wife and Gratton did not use a racial slur with Worrell, but these guys aren't all angels.

All in all, I learned a ton and Zack is clearly an all-star.

Rene Cosides said...

This was definitely my favorite guest speaker we have had so far! I really enjoyed the detailed view we got about his life and his career. I appreciated the tips about interning because I think they were extremely helpful. I believe that his statement about making relationships is extremely true and essential in any career. I like how he has such a close relationship to journalists because I truly believe that if you have his position, you need to work with journalists. The fact that truth and accuracy are extremely important to him as well made me respect him and his profession much more.

Luke Harrington said...

I really enjoyed his presentation. I thought he was entertaining and engaging. He showed us how exciting and energetic a job in the media can be. Obviously it might not always be fun as he said, but it seems that working in the media or in PR means never having a dull moment at work.

Luke Harrington said...

I really enjoyed his presentation. I thought he was entertaining and engaging. He showed us how exciting and energetic a job in the media can be. Obviously it might not always be fun as he said, but it seems that working in the media or in PR means never having a dull moment at work.

Robert Dieckmann said...

Being a big Flyers fan, Mister Hill's speech was an amazing thing to witness. It's rare that someone on the outside can get the perspective and insight of a person who's so heavily involved with the daily operations of the team. Zack is a very entertaining story teller and his passion for his "hobby" is easy to see. He's a solid example of hard work and commitment paying off professionally.

Katie Leva said...

I thought that Mr. Hill's advice and stories about internships was invaluable. It's pretty incredible to know he started as an intern and worked all the way up to his position as senior director of communications. He was a great speaker and I really enjoyed his insight on working in communications and PR.

Jonathan Eisenman said...

I thought Zack Hills was great. His presentation was both Interesting and exciting. I enjoyed the stories he had shared with the class, and could remember a few of them myself. He gave great advice, such as; working hard, suggesting we intern and volunteer. He does have one of the "greatest jobs in the world."

Ed LeFurge said...

This was amazing! Zack really related everything to us and I think it was awesome! He kept the class entertained!

Amy Shirk said...

I really enjoyed Zack's presentation. The fact that he was so happy and loved his job so much, gave me a boost of confidence that I am in the right field. One thing that really stuck with me was when he mentioned that every single day, at work, was different. That's the kind of information that I like to hear and I am so happy to hear it from someone who actually experiences it.

Zoƫ Dean said...

What stood out to me, was how similar Zack's "typical day" was to that of some professional journalists I have spoken to. Zack seems to, first and foremost, check the news and see if anything sticks out to him that he could use to the advantage of his organization. Not only does he have to be aware of what's going on, but he needs to think outside of the box in a sense, and come up with an angle. Much like a journalist. If we were transcribing word-for-word Zack's presentation on Tuesday morning, he did tell a story about a car accident leading to an opportunity and ultimately a picture in the paper, and added how sometimes you just get "lucky"...but as journalism students, we knew what he meant!!! I really appreciate people like Zack taking time out to come and talk to us, clearly he is a people's person, (which is a lesson about success in and of itself,) and clearly he gives a damn. Awesome to see.

Mariel Coughlin said...

I loved his presentation. He is such an inspirational speaker and really gets your attention. I liked how personable he was, and how positive he is about life. It really is true, don't sweat the small stuff, have fun! Zack seems like the type of guy to always have a smile on. His advice was really helpful, for instance when he talked about being accurate and responsible. That is so true. Overall, I'm really happy he came in and talked to us all. It was a really good time.

Kevin Troilo said...

I enjoyed hearing all the stories he had to tell. Sometimes when people who are more prominent than the average person come to guest speak they make it very evident that they realize they're bigger than you. He didn't do that whatsoever. I'd rather hear about someones job experiences than have them up there preaching about this and that. You can tell he really loves his job which is something I respect (then again who wouldn't love that).

Aja Espinosa said...

I really enjoyed Zach. Initially I didn't know what I could learn from a PR rep but I learned so much. After class that day I immediately went to look up internships and I'm only a freshman, but I got so excited I could not help myself. I liked most that he valued honesty because I am the type of person who is always honest and not necessarily very tactful. It would be awesome to have a boss like him to understand that. I thought he was a great person to come in and speak to us. He was so personal and he's stories were hilarious. Good choice, George!

Catherine Palmer said...

I thought Zack was a very good speaker. He didn't read word for word off of any index cards and didn't sound like he was giving a speech. He sounded like he was telling a story, and I feel like that is a great example for student journalists, because journalists are story tellers. He was animated and you could tell that the stories he was telling meant alot to him. He seemed deeply connested to his job and very happy about it, which I feel is very important. He wasn't boring at all and was a very friendly, real and genuine speaker and person.

Colleen McGuigan said...

I thought Zach was a great guest speaker. He seemed like he was a very genuine guy who truly loves what he does. I really enjoyed hearing his stories and experiences rather then hearing a lecture, that can sometimes be boring. The two things that stuck out most to me were two pieces of advice he gave. The first piece of advice is to "stick out" from everyone else. He went to work when he was an intern during a blizzard, this really got on the boss' good side. The second piece of advice that I really like is when he said he believes in "behavioral consistency". He reffered to this as not letting your highs get you too high and not let your lows get you too low. This is a great motto not just for journalism, but for everyday life!

Baloo said...

Zack Hill was an excellent speaker. He engaged the audience, didn't ramble on about personal job or life philosophies and needless advice like something your mother would say, like most public speakers. He engaged the audience, and best of all he told great stories that you simply can't hear elsewhere or read in a book or online that explained exactly what his job did. Great stuff.

Baloo said...

Oh, and this great point by George must also be documented for all on the blog to see.

http://www.rankopedia.com/CandidatePix/60369.gif

~Christian Matozzo

Mark Valeriano said...

You pretty much nailed it with what you wrote. I enjoyed all the stories he told us in relation to his job, and what really stood out to me was his internship story. I am hearing more and more that interns are truly important and his story I guess made me see how. Another thing that really stood out was that I could see he loved his job and all the things he has to do. There are some hard times but in the end he really enjoys what he does.

Adam Wrigley said...

What stood out for me was Zack's approach to his in-class presentation and his stance on the magnitude of working-world relationships. Toward the beginning of class, Zack told us that he doesn't "give speeches" - he tells stories instead. I enjoyed that story telling technique because it kept my attention and allowed for me to extract knowledge from his stories. It was also interesting to learn about the importance of accuracy in journalism from someone who isn't a journalist. Moreover, he offered a different perspective which gave me a better grasp on the internal workings of journalism and the sources from which information is attained.

Gina Everett said...

I thought Zack Hill was really engaging. You could tell that he loves his job, and enjoys helping others find their way in the business. The fact that he told personal stories and brought prizes didn't hurt either.

Melonee Rembert said...

I enjoyed Zach's presentation very much. He was full of energy and really personable. I liked his stories and tips and even wrote some of them down! He was a prime example of someone loving what they do and doing what they love.




I always comment via my phone but then when I look back my comments are never there? hmmm.

Susan Dong said...

His brother's name is Bunker! Bunker Hill is a champion.

Dan Snyder said...

This guy was real, I can truly appreciate that. Also appreciate the thing about honesty. I'm all about honesty.

Danielle Alvarez said...

I thought Zack Hill was really great. Although he seemed a little nervous at times, I felt we were having a conversation one on one. He told personal stories from his career and college experience.

Logan Krum said...

There is something very likable about Zack. He seems eager to please. I agree with Geo - I thought his views on internships stuck out the most. His anecdote made me realize how important internships can be. I knew they were essential before, but now I feel more prepared for when I (hopefully) one day get one. Very helpful speaker.

Coleen O'Hara said...

I extremely liked Zack Hill as a person and a speaker. Although he isn't a journalist he works with them all the time. During his talk, Zack pointed out how being accurate and truthful is the most important attribute you can have at a job in general but especially as a journalist. I really liked how Zack was very down to earth and to the point. He was also much more interactive than our last guest. He kept my attention the entire time and all of his stories gave more substance to what he was saying. What I found most interesting and most helpful was Zack's advice to always keep your cool. Especially in the area of journalism and news where it seems to be stressful and hectic at times, this advice was the most real for me.

Jamie Papappas said...

I loved this presentation. I strongly believe that we can only learn from experience. His stories were just proof of his experience and quality of his background. I felt like he became a reliable source and an interesting speaker when his stories surrounded events and people we knew about. It was exciting to hear a different side of the story than what we hear from the news. Hearing the person behind the coverups and stories was very interesting and an exciting new perspective.

Jamie Pappas* said...

Wellllll just spelled my last name wrong..... Awkward


Jamie Pappas*

Meredith Thomas said...

I loved Zack Hill's presentation! Even though he is not working in the field of Journalism, he is working with journalists from a different angle. What really stood out to me was that he put a major emphasis on getting internships. Not just one, but as many as possible. And once you get that internship, work your ass off and make an impression on your boss. Zack's stories were interesting, entertaining, and kept the audience engaged. In comparison to the previous speaker, who gave a quite negative and arrogant presentation, Zack was positive, upbeat, and open-minded. Overall, his presentation was motivational, humorous, and informational.

Chelsea Elizabeth said...

The thing that stood out to me the most was his honesty and how I felt like all of the students in the room would be able to relate to him. His stories made me realize that it's okay to start on the bottom and that's how you get to the top.

-Chelsea Finn

Melissa Ly said...

Zack Hill's presentation was great because he interacted with us instead of reading straight off his papers. His passion for his job was what stood out for me the best. When I get a job one day i want to make sure i am 100% completely passion about it. So that was very inspirational to me. His dedication and extra efforts really helped him in the long run and it showed in his stories. I thought he was a great communicator and also businessman. Along with being a public relations chief, I thought learning about the relationship between journalists and public relations people was very interesting. I never really thought about there ever being a relationship till he discussed it. Overall, i thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.

Moumita Ghosh said...

I love how Zack said that he loves 'honesty' and people's openness. He told us to start as interns, he himself started as an intern for the Sixers before he joined the Flyers. And I like how he said that being accurate is very important and that accuracy is top priority for him.