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Patriots Broadcaster Giving Play-by-Play of Sports PR This Spring

Bob Socci with headphones in a skybox overlooking a football field
New England Patriots play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci

New England Patriots fans may recognize a familiar voice in the Emerson College classroom this semester: The team’s play-by-play broadcaster, Bob Socci, is co-teaching Sports Public Relations.

Socci is teaching the first half of the semester, and affiliated faculty member Keith Mercuri is helming the latter half.

Socci kicked off the semester by laying the history and evolution of sports PR. He stressed the importance of forming relationships in the industry, and while technology has changed the face of sports public relations, the same principles that applied to the industry 100 years ago are still relevant today.

“The main thing for me is to provide the class with a practical understanding of sports public relations. Both on the giving and receiving end of message, and the importance of communication, trust, and ethics,” said Socci, who announces games on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “News is going to be made and reported. Your main objective is to facilitate positive stories that reflect well on the team, athlete, or organization. If a story is not flattering, your job is to mitigate any collateral damage to your brand, or change the narrative and direct it into a positive.”

One discussion topic, Socci said, has been the role of team publicists and their countless duties. He talked about his own role as a team broadcaster, and that while he can be critical of the team, there are limitations on what he can report and say.

Bob Socci uses binoculars to look at a football game from his broadcast box
Bob Socci utilizes binoculars to get a better view of a game from the broadcast booth.

“I’m not in the business of coming up with a news scoop,” said Socci, who’s had experience at different levels of sports leagues, including Dayton University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and minor league baseball.

This is Socci’s first time teaching at any college, and it’s something he’s wanted to do for some time. Socci was able to get connect with Emerson thanks to James Foley, an affiliated faculty member in Journalism .

As a child, Socci said he used to pretend to be a radio broadcaster calling games. Every week he prepares for a game, and very much like someone playing fantasy football, he studies the Patriots and their opponents. Of course, he gets paid to do it.

He has a weekly routine of researching the Pats’ opponents, their possible storylines, stats, history, and other relevant minutiae. He also goes to press conferences and open interview sessions with players and coaches. Before the game starts, he identifies players so he doesn’t need to rely on his team depth chart in the course of the game. He also talks to other network broadcasters, because they may provide a little nugget of info, and it’s good to talk shop.

Broadcast team Bob Socci and Scott Zolak pose for a photo from the broadcast booth overlooking a football field
Bob Socci, left, with his broadcast partner Scott Zolak.

“I do all my homework for the broadcast, and then I go to the stadium and watch what I love. I try to communicate to the listener what’s happening,” said Socci, who does broadcasts with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak. “I get great enjoyment from it, and I hope that’s conveyed to the listener. It’s one thing to tell you that the quarterback is dropping back. It’s the use of your voice, tone, inflection, excitement, and authenticity. Your voice plays a big role.”

Socci said he enjoys trying to expand the lexicon and not resort to using sports clichés.

He’s also had times when people have recognized his voice, and recently, one such occasion turned into a learning opportunity for him.

“I was at a dance studio with my daughter while she was taking lessons. A grandfather of a boy heard me talking to my daughter and he looked at me and asked, ‘Are you Bob Socci?’” said Socci. “And he’s a professor at Bryant University. I sought his advice for teaching, and it happened because he recognized my voice.”

As for advice for students looking to go into public relations, he stressed the importance of humility.

“With rare exceptions, a PR director is almost exclusively in the background,” said Socci. “They have to set their ego aside. They are not the story. They are the facilitator between the person who tells the story and the subjects of the story. They are literally and figuratively in the shadows if they are very good at what they do.”

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