Smart-aleck Hanlon is the rock star of football PR

A 20-year veteran of sports PR, New York Giants communications VP Pat Hanlon has carved out a reputation for being a disconcertingly laid-back go-getter.

A 20-year veteran of sports PR, New York Giants communications VP Pat Hanlon has carved out a reputation for being a disconcertingly laid-back go-getter.

Looking back at his days as assistant sports information director at Oklahoma University, Pat Hanlon, now VP of communications with the New York Giants, recalls a media session with then-coach Barry Switzer following a football game against Miami. Switzer was peppered with questions about why the post-game locker room was closed. "I didn't close it," he insisted. When a writer responded, "That's not what Pat Hanlon said," an irate Switzer asked, "Who the hell is Pat Hanlon?" Since then, the 43-year-old Charlottesville, VA, native has parlayed his renowned reliability and star-like aura into a career that has rendered Switzer's query foolish. His understanding of the media has also been a major ally. "Pat is amazingly professional," says Phil Simms, legendary Giants quarterback and current lead analyst on CBS' NFL game coverage. "If you need five players, he'll get those five players. You can't ask for more than that. It doesn't hurt that he's entertaining either." "He's a total smart aleck and a breath of fresh air," affirms Kim Jones, NFL writer for the Newark Star-Ledger, "but he stays totally relaxed no matter what craziness surrounds him. He'd succeed no matter what business he was in." The son of an English professor, Hanlon wanted to be a sportswriter. While in high school, he wrote for his local paper in Chambersburg, PA. At the University of Pittsburgh - where he majored in English literature - he interned at the now-defunct Pittsburgh Press. "Writers don't think you get their business," says Hanlon, "but I've done what they do. If you grasp the media's mindset, you're ahead of the game." It was at the Press where Hanlon's career path took a fortuitous detour. A colleague steered him towards a post as a student assistant at the University of Pittsburgh's sports information office, even though, as Hanlon admits, "I had no idea what sports information was." After 20-plus years in the business, it's safe to say he now knows. While his current employer's major-market location might awe some, Hanlon realizes that you must do your job the same no matter the surroundings. "We live in a multimedia society," he notes. "It doesn't matter if you're in Des Moines, IA, or New York. The press is aggressive. The only difference is you have 10 people being aggressive here, whereas you may have two elsewhere." That said, Hanlon realizes that being a "PR person" - a moniker he proudly wields even if his business card reads "VP of communications" - for a flag-ship NFL franchise is an enviable gig. "For me, the coverage is a given," says Hanlon. "It's a question of managing it. My challenge is making sure that the things I can't control are right." What helps Hanlon control the uncontrollable is his attention to detail. "Pat's thoroughness is unrivaled," reports Aaron Salkin, former communications head of the Atlanta Falcons who spent eight years with Hanlon at the Patriots and Giants. "You just wait for him to miss something. I'm still waiting." Awaiting Hanlon as he entered this season was a cacophony of chaos. The Giants, coming off a brutal 4-12 campaign, have a new coach in the gruff Tom Coughlin. A heated quarterback controversy stoked the fires further. Still, Hanlon works by a consistent credo. "I work on behalf of people who are interested in every little detail concerning our team," he points out. "As long as you're honest and do everything you can for them, they'll respect you." Another aspect of Hanlon's personality that has gained widespread admiration is his proclivity to be proactive. "It's a 24-hours-a-day world," he says. "The press' deadlines are constant. As a PR pro, you must accommodate that." As part of that, Hanlon has helped nurture and grow Giants Online, an in-season weekly cable TV program that is essentially a roundtable comprising various beat reporters and Hanlon himself. "The show has become a terrific PR vehicle for us," reports Hanlon. "Here are people who know as much about our club as anyone. Why not give them an opportunity to share their insight in a forum other than their publications? "People say we're nuts for giving a venue to people who bash our team," he adds. "But they'll do it regardless. This way, we can immediately respond." Though averse to discussing his professional accomplishments - "Pat would rather you buy him a Rolling Rock than pay him a compliment," says Jones - Hanlon does take pride in his role in transforming the image of former Giants quarterback Kerry Collins. "Kerry came to New York labeled as a racist, a drunk, and a quitter," recalls Hanlon. The club received flack for signing him. "I convinced him that openness with the media was his only recourse." Upon signing with the Oakland Raiders this summer, nearly every report discussed what a class act Collins had become. "It was a tough mountain for Kerry to climb, but he did it," says Hanlon. "I'm glad I could help a little." While downplaying his own role, others are quick to laud Hanlon's efforts. "Players and coaches are so involved in Xs and Os," says Simms, "they can't focus on matters which impact perception. [Hanlon] protects the players and coaches. When you do that - and Pat does it well - it directly impacts the league as a whole." Indeed, Hanlon has impacted all those around him. Perhaps that's best illustrated by the whimsical stories all those who know him giddily tell. "Pat drove Coach Coughlin to his introductory press conference," recalls Jones. "[Giants GM] Ernie Accorsi relayed serious concern that in the time the two spent together, Coughlin would change his mind." "I remember the 2001 Super Bowl," shares Salkin. "I was meeting Pat for dinner, when I saw a sea of people asking him to autograph footballs. A rock-star comms guy. Talk about good PR." In the end, however, Hanlon still appreciates the wonderful opportunity his present job affords him. "The Giants are the Giants," he says matter-of-factly. "If you have something to sell, you can be a salesperson. I'm lucky. I have the best product in the world to promote." Many would contend that the Giants are equally fortunate to have Hanlon promoting them. Even Switzer would be hard-pressed to question that. ----- Pat Hanlon April 1993-present New York Giants. PR director (April 1993- 1996); VP of comms (1996-present) March 1991-October 1992 New England Patriots. PR director (March 1991-January 1992); VP of PR (January-October 1992) March 1987-March 1991 Pittsburgh Steelers. Asst. publicity director (March 1987-May 1990); community relations coordinator (May 1990-March 1991) August 1985-March 1987 Asst. sports information director, Oklahoma U. September 1983-August 1985 Asst. sports information director, Pittsburgh U.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.