Guest post – written by Tom Hines, Digital Media Editor at the RFU
We recently launched a fairly un-corporate corporate blog at the RFU (Rugby Football Union). Dubbed RFU Labs it’s a place for the RFU’s digital team and agency (Aqueduct) to give an insight into upcoming digital projects, and more importantly garner input from rugby fans and digital professionals.
Corporate blogs are of course nothing new, but when we started kicking the idea around with Aqueduct it brought up some interesting questions for me about how obliged sports clubs and governing bodies are to use this kind of platform to communicate with fans, members and participants.
The benefits to us as a digital team and to the organisation were clear, we could gain some user insight at the build stage of digital projects. As a piece of PR it helps to chip away at the long-standing and false perception that the RFU is full of walnut panelling, flannel suits and blazers.
Beyond this though, do clubs, teams and governing bodies actually have a duty to virtually open the doors of their headquarters? To use social media platforms to improve their transparency and give members more of a say?
The case is strong for governing bodies, who are custodians of a sport, not owners of it. The RFU has been criticised in the past for Twickenham being too detached from the grassroots game around the country. Social and digital channels give an excellent way of closing that gap and letting members and players see more of what’s going on, and have a voice in reaction.
For top-class clubs it’s less well defined, but I’d argue that they have an obligation to their consumers that other brands do not. If Pepsi change their recipe without consulting their consumers I can go and buy Coke instead, but if Spurs make large scale changes without consulting fans the choice to switch brand to another club is not an option for most. This is a huge benefit for top flight clubs, but a benefit that brings with it big responsibilities. An active presence in social is now one of those responsibilities.