Alex Riethmiller, Vice-President of Communications for the NFL Media[slideshow_deploy id=’12005′]
On a Friday afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia, Ryan Catherwood, Director of Engagement Strategy at the University of Virginia, and I sat down and placed a phone call to Alex Riethmiller, Vice-President of Communications for NFL Media.
Getting to Know Alex: Alex Riethmiller is a Lexington, Virginia native and has been living in Los Angeles since 2012. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He is currently serving as Vice President of Communications for NFL Media. Alex is in charge of all strategic media and public communications for the media business at the National Football League, including the NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NFL.com, and NFL Mobile. Before his time with the NFL, Alex spent twelve years working for CBS, first as a Manager of Communications & Investor Relations for CBS SportsLine then as the Vice President of Communications and Media Relations of CBS Interactive. While describing his journey to the NFL, Alex frequently recalls that he found himself in wonder of his new experiences, due to being a “kid from a small town like Lexington.” The key to his success seems to be determination to rise through the ranks, hard work, flexibility and the sharpened skill of networking.
Q & A with Alex:
Q. Can you describe a “day in the life” of your job as the VP of Communications for the NFL?
A. Well, that really depends on the time of the year. During the football season it can get a little hectic. Right now, we’re gearing up for the start of the new season. My mission is to promote the assets of the company across all of our media platforms. A lot of what I do is talking to reporters and interviewer requests for our talent via multiple platforms. I also help handle the PR when someone on the network is in trouble, for example, yes, Darren Sharper.
Q. Alex, you have one of the coolest jobs in the world. It’s almost like you carved out the path to lead you to your profession. Did you have a desire from way back when to work for the NFL, or even a Professional Sports League?
A. I don’t think that I can say that when I got out of school I was trying to carve a path to the NFL. I didn’t have much direction coming out of college in terms of what I wanted to do. You know, some people want to work on Wall Street and some people want to be a doctor or a lawyer, but I didn’t have any of that. I knew that I liked sports and I’d done an internship when I was in school that had given me a peek into one of the ways to work in the world of sports. I decided to pursue that. I had to bounce around a lot of places to get experience. I worked really hard and I’m proud of that.
Q.Could you tell us about the internships that you completed as a new graduate? Were they unpaid or paid minimally?
A. I went down to Atlanta in between my 3rd and 4th year and interned at Sports South at the CNN center, which, for a kid from Lexington to go down and work in Atlanta and work at CNN center was a cool experience. I didn’t do a tremendous amount work there, just answering phones and mailing things, but it was a great experience to see a business that thrived in the world of sports and gave me a taste of something that might be worth pursing in my career. That was my first internship. After school, I moved up to NYC and worked for a small Sports Marketing agency with some contacts that I’d made from that summer in Atlanta. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but the job that they had for me was in PR, which is how I got started in PR. That was the door that was open to me. I tried to network as much as possible and that is a constant thread throughout my career: networking and making connections in order to open doors. It was through one of those connections that I got my next internship with Jacksonville Jaguars. After that one thing led to another, I worked for the Atlanta Hawks and the Baltimore Ravens. These internships were paid, but there were no benefits and they were season-long internships. The point was to build experience, build your contacts and update your resume for fulltime jobs. In between jobs I actually caddied at a golf course to make money. That was the first time that I was immersed in team PR and felt that was a good fit for me.
Q. As a communications pro, you are a professional storyteller. Can you link some of your passion for storytelling to your degree in English here at U.Va.?
A. Being a communicator is of upmost importance in my business, the verbal and the written. In terms of the press releases that I have to write or the communications I have to email to the media members, a lot of those skills were sharpened at U.Va. The joke about English majors is that it qualifies you for nothing and everything and I use those skills on a day-to-day basis and they are a key part in my success.
Q. In 2011 you earned your MBA from Florida Atlanta University with a concentration in Sports Management. Why did decide to earn these credentials 15 years after graduating from college?
A. My desire to get an MBA was something that developed over time and it was more of a matter of convenience for me. It just so happened there was a school nearby that had a MBA and Sports Management program interwoven. I’d go to work from 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.then go to class from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. My employer, CBS, was generous to contribute to payment of the cost of the degree. I wasn’t sure that I’d need that MBA, but it’s made me a little more well-rounded as a person who works in business. I can speak PR, of course, but I can sit in on meetings for other departments and those things give me the versatility that I need in order to experiment if I so choose.
Q. What are the best and worst parts about living in Los Angeles?
A. It’s different. It took me quite a while to get comfortable, it’s pretty far away, and I’m from a small town in Virginia. While dealing with a big city, there are a lot of good parts and bad parts… I could take the traffic away! But it’s a good spot for now.
Q. Who is the coolest sports celebrity you’ve had the chance to meet and work with?
A. I’ve been fortunate to meet quite a few. But one that I’ve had a chance to work for is Deion Sanders. He works on NFL Network and I deal with him primarily during the season, promoting the network and requests that we get about him. He’s certainly one of the brightest stars in the sports world, being a tremendous football and baseball player. He was a huge name coming out of college. Deion is one of those former athletes that have transcended sports and has a big brand name out there.