A Positive Image
Starts With Media Training
By John McCaslin
It's been an amazing journey for former Capitol Hill staffer Kevin Long, for 10 years press secretary to Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, who later became senior staff member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which was responsible for oversight of the federal counternarcotics effort.
Mr. Long was among those who made recommendations on aid packages for the Colombian National Police, including drug-fighting BlackHawk helicopters. Soon, he was an independent contractor working at the Pentagon, in Afghanistan and Colombia.
It was while in Colombia, Mr. Long tells Inside the Beltway, that he heard comments by then-Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Garnett about having guns and ammunition at home and being ready to go to war -- the player's attempt to describe being ready for the NBA Playoffs.
"That's how it began -- watching Sportscenter in a bar in Bogota," says Mr.Long, who no sooner returned from his latest trip and started up MVP Sports Media Training, a niche public relations firm that helps athletes improve their interview skills with the press.
Two years ago, George Mason men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga brought in Mr. Long to work with his team, and Mr. Long was just as surprised as everyone else when they made their magical run to the NCAA Final Four.
"They were noted for their play on the court and their wit and charm in the media room, which led some national sports reporters to dub them 'media darlings,'" Mr. Long notes. "When we did the training most of the team had never even spoken to a reporter. Credit goes to Coach Larranaga for realizing he wanted to prepare his team for the glare of the national media. They exceeded all expectations on the court and in the press."
Recently, Mr. Larranaga brought back Mr. Long to preach to his new players. this week -- wouldn't you know? -- the Patriots qualified for the upcoming NCAA tournament by beating William & Mary. Since opening four years ago, MVP has trained dozens of professional, collegiate and Olympic sports teams, as well as Indy Car and NASCAR Drivers.
"This year two dozen of our clients will have played in either the men's or women's NCAA or NIT basketball tournaments, played in a Bowl game, won the College Baseball World Series, competed in the Beijing Olympics, or made it to the MLS playoffs," he says. "While we can't take credit for their performance on the field, we give them once less thing to worry about off the field by getting them ready for the media spotlight."
And how does this job compare to working on Capitol Hill?
"I have the best job in the world. I have to watch Sportscenter every night," Mr. Long answers, "Can it get any better than that?"