As the DC Old Glory prepared for the 2021 Major League Rugby season, they received some off-the-pitch help from Emerson College students who had ideas for promoting the diversity of both the team and the league.
Students in Assistant Professor Maria Scott’s Media Relations course planned and coordinated an April press conference—in recognition of Diversity Month— for the Washington, D.C.-based Old Glory, featuring three members of the team and Brianna Kim, host of The Road to Glory podcast and a decorated rugby veteran herself.
“Old Glory recognizes and celebrates diversity within our team,” said Kim as she opened up the event. “Without it, we would not be as strong, as fast, or as able. It’s our view that rugby empowers and uplifts people no matter the body size and shape, no matter the age, ethnicity, race, sexuality, or gender. We believe that rugby is a sport for all who have the passion and resilience, and we are committed to these values.”
The diversity-focused press conference was one of three concepts proposed by teams within the class—each requiring detailed research of topics, logistical planning, and media outreach. The Old Glory management initially selected a proposal to highlight the team’s move to its new home pitch, Segra Field, in Northern Virginia. However, when training and game schedules sidelined that idea, the class quickly produced plans for the discussion of diversity.
The Old Glory marketing manager, Hope Allen, helped the students plan the event.
“I talked to one of the players about an interview he did with a group of students,” Allen recalled. “He mentioned the professionalism and quality of the interviewing. Their 15-minute conversation turned into this hour-long, in-depth discussion on rugby in the United States and his pathway to professionalism. These students really went above and beyond to bring this player to life on paper. Additionally, this got some attention from Major League Rugby. They liked that we were giving work experience to students, and the league PR team had praise for the press conference the students organized.”
Public Relations major Jaclyn Galvin ’21 led the students’ efforts to conceive and conduct the event.
“It was really exciting to put on this press conference because it allowed me to get real-world experience, working with a real client, interacting with real media, just like I will when I graduate this December,” Galvin said. “I learned a lot about how to do media training with the athletes, and I got to run the media training which was really exciting for me as that is a career path I am interested in. Also, I want to work in sports public relations so the client we had was just the icing on the cake for me!”
The connection with DC Old Glory grew from Scott’s work with Scottish Rugby Union, which holds an ownership stake in the two-year-old organization. In February, Scott led a workshop on “out-of-the-box media thinking” for the marketing officers and general managers of all professional teams in Scotland. When one of the union officials learned about Scott’s Media Relations class, he saw an opportunity to leverage Emerson student talent for the DC Old Glory.
“This was an incredible opportunity that college students rarely get,” said Scott, who worked in public relations before receiving her doctorate and arriving at Emerson, where she developed and now directs the Public Relations program.
“Most colleges do not have really good media relations classes, and one of the biggest problems of PR students entering the workforce is that they’ve never seen press conferences. At Emerson, we make it a priority to teach using real-world experiences, and to learn the nitty-gritty nuances of everyone and everything involved in the work.”