Twyman is tasked with managing the information that goes out to the media and the public.
By Jason Lewis
Artis Twyman grew up a big sports fan in Gary, Indiana. He played basketball and baseball as a child, and he was always a football fan. But when he started working on his bachelor’s degree in speech communications at Tennessee State University, and his master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, sports wasn’t in his future plans.
“In college, my long-term goal was to be a speechwriter for the President of the United States,” he said.
One of Twyman’s undergraduate professors encouraged him to take an internship in the university’s public relations department, because it would help him with his writing. He would later be hired to be the university’s public information officer, which launched his career in PR.
Twyman was initiated into Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., he had just completed his master’s degree, and he had a really good job. All was going smoothly for him, and then the NFL came to Tennessee.
The Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997. The team began playing at the Adelphia Coliseum, now known as Nissan Stadium, in 1999, and they changed their name to the Titans. Tennessee State University’s football team also played at the Adelphia Coliseum.
“I worked closely with the Titans PR department,” Twyman said. “The guy who was the Director of PR of the Titans, Tony Wyllie, became the vice president of communications for the Houston Texans. I told him that I would love to work in the NFL, and he said that he had an internship. Well at that time, I had a masters’ degree, and I had worked in PR for almost five years. I didn’t want to be an intern. I said, ‘Man, look at my stuff, I shouldn’t be an intern.’ And he said, ‘Listen, everybody who started out in communications in the National Football League started out as an intern.”
Twyman felt that he could get another job like the one that he had at Tennessee State University, but there would not be many chances to work in the NFL. He had some money saved up, and he sold all of his belongings so that he could move to Houston to take a job that did not pay anything.
“My parents were furious,” he said. “But to get an opportunity to work in sports, it was a dream job.”
Twyman’s journey into the NFL quickly paid off. After six months as a public relations intern with the Texans, he was hired as a public relations assistant with the Seattle Seahawks. After two years there, he was hired by Duane Lewis, who was the director of new media for the St. Louis Rams, to be an assistant director of football media. Five years later he was the team’s director of media relations, and his current position with the team is senior director of communications. In his role with the Rams, he manages several different tasks to ensure that information and news is disseminated properly.
“Our department, we’re the liaison between the organization and the media,” he said. “Not only are we here to help the media get interviews with our coaches, players, and staff, on the flip side of that, we’re also here to prepare our coaches, players, and staff for these interviews. We’re helping them with their answers, what the messaging should be.”
Twyman’s department maintains the team’s stats, historical information, and grants media credentials. They write news releases, feature articles, create the media guides, and write the player bios. He worked closely with the producers of HBO’s Hard Knocks when the Rams were featured on the program. He pointed out that this is a 24-hour a day job because of the way news is shared today.
“I’m old enough to remember that the only way you got your information was from the newspaper, radio, or the television,” he said. “If something happened at 11 o’clock p.m., you had all night to prepare for what you were going to say the next morning. Because you didn’t have to worry about the story coming out on the Internet. But now, people consume information in so many different ways with the Internet. So everybody has an opinion on what should be happening with your team. Which is exciting, because you want people talking about your team. But at the same time, you have a lot of different messages that are coming across.”
Many people would think that the most exciting part of Twyman’s job is covering the team on game day, but he takes a greater value out of his position.
“Don’t get me wrong, game day is very exciting,” he said. “But for me, the best thing is the relationships that you make. Some of my best friends are people that I’ve worked with in the NFL. You get a chance to meet a lot of players and coaches that you’ll have relationships with for the rest of your life. The relationships that you make are one of the more gratifying parts of this job.”
For people who are interested in breaking into this field, Twyman recommends that they take on internships, and encourages people to network as much as possible to break into sports media.
“Exhaust all possibilities,” he said. “Reach out to every single football team, or basketball team, or baseball team. Let them know that you are available and that you want to be an intern, and that you’re ready to start from the ground up.”