Senior Director, Communications – College Sports at ESPN
An Atlanta transplant hailing from New York, Keri Potts was a volleyball player at Syracuse University where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years. Always a sports lover and an athlete, it made sense that Potts would work in a field related to her passion. Now a Grant Park resident working for ESPN, Potts has handled publicity for the films and entertainment divisions, including “30 for 30,” the ESPY Awards and the World Series of Poker. She was also a member of the team that launched espnW (the network’s first women’s brand), as well as Longhorn Network, SEC Network and, soon, the ACC Network. When she’s not working for the World Wide Leader, she’s an advocate for sexual assault victims at the Gwinnett Sexual Assault and Children’s Advocacy Center.
Why did you go into sports PR?
It was entirely accidental. My B.S. was in magazine journalism, and my M.S. was in public relations. After my editor/writer job at the NCAA, I decided to try my hand at PR and saw an opening at ESPN. I’ve been an athlete and around sports my entire life; it was a natural fit.
What does a typical day on the job look like?
I set the strategic communications direction for all of our college sports properties, from college football and basketball, to NCAA sports and championships, SEC Network, ESPNU and the College Football Playoff, among others. My team comprises five people, and we work with media and use social platforms to publicize our shows, features, game schedules, on-air teams, behind the scenes people and stories. And we manage [crises and other issues], of which there are many when you air 450 football games and 1,450 basketball games, have almost 800 announcers and engage partners across the industry. In addition, I assist with other events, such as film premieres and red carpet events, when possible.
What’s the best part of your job?
Shining a light on the good work my coworkers do across the company as well as giving students the opportunity to learn about live production through the ESPN Ambassadors program, a dedicated program I started for Atlanta college students.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had on the job?
I have two favorites: Watching Green Day and U2 rehearse “The Saints are Coming” for their halftime show at the re-opening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after [Hurricane] Katrina— a Monday Night Football game on ESPN. Also, Yogi Berra giving me a personal tour of his museum in New Jersey is such a sweet memory.
What’s the most stressful part of the job?
The most stressful part is combating misinformation in the social media/ digital age. The speed with which information—correct or incorrect— travels often makes the truth irrelevant, and it defies the journalistic standards we were taught.
Biggest career highlight to date?
Launching the ESPN Films division and our “30 for 30” film series holds a special place in my heart. I don’t know that I’ve worked harder than trying to learn the film industry and publicizing 30 amazing films in 14 months.
What’s it like behind the scenes of “College Game Day?”
Organized chaos. It’s loud and a bit messy with wires, cameras and people shouting, but we love it. Which women at work inspire you, and why? I’m inspired by women who stay true to who they are instead of conforming to what others would have them become. Our senior vice president for all of production, Stephanie Druley, worked her way up steadily and confidently in a male space (NFL) and is always guided by what is the right thing to do versus what is easiest.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to do what you do?
Develop a thick skin and to embrace conflict. Being out in front for your company is not for the timid. Which teams do you cheer for? Syracuse, Yankees and any teams that hate the Red Sox or the Patriots.
Who is your favorite athlete?
I grew up with great admiration for Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She battled asthma like I did and is still the best all-around athlete we’ve ever had.
Have you ever been star struck at work?
I was star struck by the former head volleyball coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I was enamored with the entire program. When I met him while working at the NCAA, I was a sweaty, nervous mess. Celebrities don’t make me nervous because I’ve never idolized them.
Tell me about your website, afightbackwoman?
I began afightbackwoman.com to educate others on overseas prosecution of sexual assault. I was attacked in 2008 by an Italian citizen in Rome and [pressed charges against him]. I did that all on my own, with no information about how to proceed, and found it very stressful; I never wanted anyone else to go through that. Since then, I’ve become a victims’ advocate/rape crisis counselor in Connecticut, then at Grady Hospital and now at Gwinnett Sexual Assault and Children’s Advocacy Center, and a national speaker on the topic of sexual and interpersonal violence. Currently, I am on the board of Pathways to Safety International— the only org to help Americans sexually assaulted abroad.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
This entire city is fun: the BeltLine, new restaurants and festivals. If I’m not bouncing around those things, I’m in a yoga class or in Grant Park walking my pup.
Where’s your favorite spot to unwind in Atlanta?
Barcelona in Inman Park, Superica at Krog and Cypress in Midtown.
STORY: Lia Picard
Photos: Nathan Bolster