Amanda Shirka DeCastro (’06) is a master social media communicator. She had a Facebook account the second it became available to Capital students. Today, she tweets, blogs, produces video and develops social media strategy for popular radio programs at ESPN.
When Amanda Shirka DeCastro (‘06) worked at The Capital Center all four years of college – checking badges, giving tours to athletic recruits, trading jokey barbs with the coaches – the radio was always tuned to ESPN’s Mike & Mike morning show. She sometimes wondered how two people could be so consumed by sports and have so much to say about it day after day. Six years later, she not only learned how they do it – she became an active part of their team.
As a communication manager for sports media giant ESPN, DeCastro supports some of the company’s highest-profile national radio shows (including Mike & Mike, The Herd with Colin Cowherd and SVP & Russillo), as well as espnW (a digital brand geared toward women), and the company’s Remote Operations and Emerging Technology teams. In other words, she’s squarely in the center of the controlled chaos of ESPN’s 24/7 sports coverage. She does a little bit of everything – public relations, internal communication, blogging, social media, and more – and divides her time between the offices where things are planned, and the studios and remote locations where they’re produced.
“If a reporter calls and wants to talk to Greeny (Mike Greenberg, co-host of Mike & Mike), I make that happen,” DeCastro says. She also travels with the personalities when they broadcast from special events, where she handles local media attention and other activity. Her job is to help make everything look (deceptively) easy.
A Good Start
A Central Ohio native, DeCastro chose Capital because it simply felt right. She was interested in broadcasting, but credits Dr. John Ledingham, a public relations
professor, now retired, for showing her specific options within the communication field.
“I didn’t even know what public relations was,” she recalls. “But we would chat after class … I think he recognized my interest and really encouraged me.” After taking a few PR classes, she knew she’d found her career and never looked back.
Two internships, one with the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL hockey team and another at Fahlgren Mortine, a Columbus-based marketing and communication agency, gave her real-world experience quickly. Fahlgren offered her a job before she graduated, and she spent the next four years there as an account executive, juggling a wide range of client needs, from budgets and billing to speech writing, strategic planning, and social media.
In 2010, she moved to Time Warner Cable as a communications manager — which opened yet another door for her.
A Lucky Break
At Time Warner Cable, DeCastro applied for a mentorship program through the Association of Cable Communicators. She was admittedly late in turning in her application; after some scrambling and apologizing, she was partnered with Rosa Gatti, a senior vice president with ESPN. DeCastro couldn’t believe her good fortune.
“She’s such a great advocate for developing young women in the industry,” DeCastro says of Gatti, who has since retired. They engaged in biweekly calls and occasional emails, until Gatti uttered the words any eager young professional longs to hear from a respected mentor: “We think you’d be a great fit for our team.” She was happy with her job at the time, but when ESPN comes calling, DeCastro says, “you don’t say no.” Even if it makes life a little complicated.
The cable sports network is headquartered in Bristol, Conn., and as she and husband Matt DeCastro (’06) prepared to move (along with their dog Zig, named after the Zig Haus, a popular hangout near campus), Matt received a great job offer of his own, as the principal of Sedalia Elementary School in Groveport, where he’d been teaching. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so he stayed. “We’re young and we don’t have kids,” says Matt. “We agreed that if there was ever a time to do something like this, it has to be now.”
Making Meaningful Contact
DeCastro describes ESPN’s on-air talent as “incredibly down-to-earth guys,” likening her experience to the network’s famously funny This is SportsCenter commercials. One of her jobs is to use Twitter and other social platforms to give fans a look behind the scenes. She often accompanies the vice president of espnW on her speaking engagements, including the annual espnW summit in California, where she juggles various PR duties.
Social media is a constant in DeCastro’s job, and she considers herself an early adopter. “The minute Facebook became available to Capital students, I had an account,” she says. When Twitter came along, she fell in love. The beginning of DeCastro’s career coincided with the rise of social media use, which made for interesting times as she saw companies both eager to reach their customers and hesitant to make themselves vulnerable.
It became her responsibility to determine how to use social media to best serve her clients.
“You have to have a strategy,” she explains. “[Organizations] can’t just open an account and not know what they’re going to do. It’s not about how many followers you have, but how you interact with them.”
In 2012, DeCastro was asked to join a panel during a Capital University young alumni event where she shared her experiences with an eager audience of students. She remembers the advice and opportunities she gained through her many mentors at Capital, and looks forward to giving back.
“Choosing Capital was the best decision I ever made,” she says. “It led me to an incredible career, my husband, and friends I’ll have for the rest of my life.”