Photo: Preston McClellan (far right) stands alongside Xander Schauffele of the United States, who poses with his gold medal during the final round of the Men’s Individual Stroke Play event on Day 12 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 1, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. In the summer of 2021, McClellan served as the press rep for USA GOLF and got to experience winning a gold medal with the PGA team, creating all the content for USA GOLF social media, and leading the gold medalist through his interviews on the night of his win. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR/IGF)
As Director of Player Content with PGA TOUR Communications, Preston McClellan (BFA Journalism – Public Relations, 2012) uses the social media savvy he picked up from the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media on a daily basis.
McClellan, 31, new, shared the story behind his career path from the state-of-the-art PGA TOUR Global Home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“I was in college from 2008 to 2012, and that was right around the time social media was really starting to take hold,” says McClellan.
At the University of Memphis, McClellan took courses dedicated to studying social media through the lens of journalism and public relations. He was among a class of students who joined Instagram as a form of coursework when the platform was still in its early days. Being an early adopter had its perks, namely when it came time to choose a moniker for the fledgling social media platform.
“My username on there is just Preston because I joined the platform so early,” he says. “By 2013-2014, social media was no longer being viewed as just a fad. It was something that was being integrated into every business.”
After graduating from the University of Memphis, McClellan attended grad school at Ohio University, earning masters degrees in business administration and sports administration.
“I understood how to write and deal with people, but emerging technology was something I was really eager to pursue,” he says. “At that point, I was really learning how to take all the journalism stuff that I learned in Memphis and apply it to the sports and business world.”
In 2015, McClellan was hired by the PGA Tour in 2015 as manager of digital communications to help athletes improve their social media presence. The job proved to be a natural fit, thanks in part to an understanding of the game and the social space that comes along with it.
“Since I played competitive golf in high school and also worked with the golf team at the University of Memphis, it was easy to get used to things,” he says.
His second week on the job, McClellan was tasked with learning how the other sports leagues approached social media, which led him to Silicon Valley, where he met with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
“It was great to learn how the NBA, NFL and MLB in particular had activated its athletes in the social media world,” McClellan says. “It was really a listening tour, of sorts, which led to me building a proposal regarding social media guidelines and what we allow athletes to post about themselves. This eventually resulted in a much less restrictive plan, which is something we had just started to see happen within the other leagues.”
With social media becoming an increasingly integral part of both sports and public relations campaigns over the years, McClellan saw his division grow to a team of six content specialists that work directly with athletes to carefully craft a social media presence. Several promotions and title changes later, he is now the Director of Player Content. Among other responsibilities, McClellan’s team handles a range of creative production, in addition to consulting with players on things like sponsorship deals.
“My job these days is to set the table for my team, be the face that these players and agents know, which clears a path for my team to be able to get out there and make cool stuff,” he says.