Last weekend saw the opening matches of the 2012/13 Aviva Premiership season with Wasps kicking things off at Twickenham as they took on Harlequins. It had earlier been announced by the kit supplier Kukri that the club will be sporting their Twitter handle (@WaspsRugby) on the collar of their shirts for the full season.
We have seen a trend in recent months for teams to show Twitter handles on shirts but this tends to be for one off PR stunts rather than a commitment to build up a follower base over a period of time. Clubs have many off-line assets that can be use to help in promoting online activities, with the kit being the visible of them.
More and more you can see posters, pitch boards and the like being used to promote Facebook and Twitter to fans on match days. There is so much opportunity to communicate with a dedicated base that the potential is enormous.
The club also went one step further. Their players warmed up with kits that showed off their own Twitter handles, a nice way for the club to help boost the players profile on the micro blogging platform. Rugby at the moment, both Union and League, appear to be embracing the new mediums at an ever increasing rate. Football is certainly being left behind by the UK’s other sports in the adoption of social media. Can they catch up or do they even want to?
Here are pics of Tom Varndell and Tom Lindsay sporting his warm up kit prior to the 42-40 defeat to Harleqins. A game in which Wasps lead 40-13 at one stage before the South London club came back from the brink to take the win in what was one of the most exciting games you’ll see this season. Not bad for week 1!
After two days of travelling, with visits to Switzerland and Scotland speaking about social media, one area has made me think more than most. It is an area that causes great consternation to those who have yet to embrace it and is celebrated by those that do. What I talking about is Blogger (Influencer) Outreach.
Arsenal have been highlighted in this last week as a club that is prepared to embrace bloggers though it couldn’t be described as a major programme to bring these super fans closer to the club. What they did was, after criticism of the clubs medical/training practices due to regular player injuries. They invited a group of fans, some of whom are bloggers into meet the Head Physio and Club Doctor whilst touring the latest facilities the club has to offer.
Arsenal is probably the most open and transparent club in the country. Their annual meeting with board members and the manager is something to be admired. They don’t shirk issues and Arsene Wenger has always done his best to answer even the trickiest question.
Did the approach they took work? Well in terms of numbers it did ok with 957 social mentions, five dedicated fan blog articles, 7,600 glowing words written on the subject, 300+ Facebook Likes, 496 tweets, and an estimated 120,000 reads and almost 100% positive fan sentiment around the globe.
Though not a huge response it did the job intended in gaining positive PR from fans blogs, and then by other digital blogs like this one. But it is a one-off PR exercise rather than an ongoing blogger outreach programme. I sense that the fear would still be there in terms of ongoing engagement.
For many companies the issue with letting go of some control and working with people that may not write good things about you is a scary one especially in sport. But is that not the case with mainstream media who they have to deal with daily?
One thing that everyone needs to be aware of now is the IAB rules on blogger outreach and the paying for posts to be added to a page. This is seen as advertising and has to be fully disclosed. For more info, there is a quick video below with Robin Grant who helped put the guidelines together (and yes, he is also my boss!).
To help those who are thinking about setting up their own outreach programme, here is a quick guide which I hope will help you get the basics and begin to get the most vocal and passionate fans involved.
1. Set out what you want to gain from the programme
Before undergoing any PR or marketing campaign or ongoing programme you have a clear idea of what it is you want to get out of it. Ask yourself the question “What does success look like to you?”. This will help shape who you approach, what you do with them and how you measure its effectiveness.
2. What’s in it for the blogger?
This is an important question you have to ask yourself. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what you would want if a club/brand approached you and wanted to invite you to an event or asked you to post an article onto your site. If you struggle to answer this then they will be having the same problems. If there is no obvious benefit then chances are you wont get what you want out of it, as they wont be interested.
You want to be creating a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship at the end of the day. Reaching out once and then going back to them again, the proverbial picking someone up and dropping them back down again, is not the best approach. It can cause resentment and make bloggers feel they are being used only when it’s of benefit to the club. Thus there is no mutually beneficial relationship.
A first step on this may be to acknowledge that the fans blog is there. Manchester City have taken the lead on this by linking out to all club blogs on their website. Its a great touch that doesn’t immediately benefit the club but provides a lot of good feeling towards them from the writers of those blogs.
3. Research the blogs
It is important to do your research. Take a look and find the top blogs that cover either your club or your subject. For a club you will have a fair idea of who writes about the club and how big they are. There are tools out there to help with this search, we have our own bespoke one at We Are Social that saves lots of time, but having a look using Google Search, Alexa, Technorati, Twitter, Social Mention is a start. Find out who is writing about you and where.
Actually have a look at the blogs and see what they write about, the style the use, the type of content they cover (is it breaking news, is it opinion, is it about equipment or concentrated on players), who is their main audience. This will help you understand what will work for them and why.
4. Personalise your approach
This is probably the most important area when it comes to gaining favour with influencers. As a blogger there is nothing worse than getting a bog standard press release from a PR/Marketing Exec saying that you should be adding this to your site. They may get your name right but that is about as personalised as it gets. To top it off 95% of the time the content is totally inappropriate for my audience and shows they have even looked at what I write about.
If you can show that you have taken some time to read their articles, have some knowledge about their audience and are offering something that is relevant/useful then you have increased your chances of starting a relationship with them by a huge amount.
5. Be honest….always!
People will find out and see through your efforts to pull the wool over their eyes. Be honest in your approach and dealings with them, it is very much about developing a relationship – as you would with mainstream media – to bring about a situation where they write favourable things about you and you provide them with access/content. If you are dishonest and found out then they already have a sizeable audience to tell and they will do very quickly. Then you have an all new PR issue to deal with.
6. Consider bloggers time
If you are going to invite them to events on a regular basis or send them lots of content then do consider that many bloggers have full-time jobs and sometimes families to look after too. Blogging is a way of showing their passion for a subject and is done out of love usually and not profit. If you can take this into account when planning, understand the issues they face and take to them about them and even pay expenses for them to come to events if they have to travel far. This will carry great favour and go a long way in creating a lasting relationship.
7. Give great content and experiences
In sport we are lucky in that there is so much passion around the topics and plenty of content that can be used. Every sport and club in the country will have someone who is so passionate about it that they will write and are readily known as an influencer/expert in that field. If you can help them to continue grow through access to content that is really interesting then you will gain regular coverage.
As well as sending videos and content, having a great experience with a club/brand is still the best thing. We speak regularly to our bloggers and know who the best football writers are. Part of this is keeping in touch and inviting them to events when appropriate so we can meet them – you cant beat face to face time to really cement a relationship – and find out more about them. This could be at a boot launch, visit to the headquarters, opportunities to interview employees, taken to the corporate box for a match, meeting players. There is so much that you can do.
We invited a few club bloggers to join the big football bloggers for a Champions League match the other month. This was the first time they had been engaged in such a way and they absolutely loved it. This showed in their tweets during the night and their blog posts over the following days. If a brand can do this then why not a club?
8. Say thank you
This may sound quite an obvious one but just being nice and saying thank you for putting an article up or for coming to an event is a nice touch. One word I keep mentioning throughout this piece is ‘relationship’. It is about bringing them closer to you, having on-going chats with them, answering their questions and dealing with them in a really good account management way.
9. Listen and learn
Once you have done an event or been speaking to bloggers for a little while it is always useful to put together a quick report to find out how successful it has been. As we saw earlier with the stats from the Arsenal outreach they have the numbers to go back to those above with and show them what effect it can have. It is good for PR and good for internal buy-in to keep records. It is also great to speak to the bloggers; find out what they liked about the event, what you could be doing better, what kind of content they would find interesting. If they are writing about your club, sport or brand then they are already showing they are passionate about it. They want to write good things and be proud of those they follow.
Many are scared that all this can backfire, isn’t worth the time/effort and that it doesn’t work. Having spoken to clubs and governing bodies recently on this subject it is one that is going to take some time, effort and persuading to become the norm. The fear is that you open yourself up and are asked questions or written about on subjects you don’t want to talk about or have control over the message.
What having these relationships in place and having goodwill from the influencers is that they are going to be on your side. If something breaks they may come to you first to find out if it is true or what the response is from the club. They want to protect, not attack but if they are just fed information from rumours, other fans and media speculation plus if they are feeling distant from the club (a regular source of frustration from fans) then chances are they will be negative.
If something happens then give some exclusive access to the biggest/best influencer(s) to help get the message of what is actually going on. These relationships can help calm the fire before it ever gets too big. If there is no relationship they will only help fan the flames.
Remember, when it comes to influencers we are not just talking bloggers (though I have concentrated on them on here) but those who are important on Twitter, YouTube and even your Facebook Page. You can use the same approach with them when it comes to events. Having a ‘Tweet-Up’ or Facebook Super Fan Day can be great ways in which to engage fans. You may even have some celebrity fans who are on Twitter or Facebook, find out who they are and engage with them.
There are so many opportunities but it is baby steps that are needed to start. Arsenal have made that start through the open fan/blogger event at the training ground, hopefully more will follow.
I hope you have found this useful. Fire any questions at me and I’ll do my best to answer them.
For anyone who enjoys English football and is on twitter you will have seen that Wayne Rooney is the latest EPL superstar to enter the world of social networking. It has been splashed all over the papers and will make journalists life a lot easier when it comes to getting snippets for quotes.
Much has been made of the speed in which he has built a substantial following (it’s all about the numbers right?!) with it being splashed all over the tabloids since he started on 24th April. Just for the record he gained 100,000 in one day, over 170,000 be the end of the weekend is now on 460,000 taking him into third behind Rio Ferdinand and Cesc Fabregas.
But there is more to this than just numbers and that he is on twitter. To get the full story you have to rewind to October 2010 and an announcement that sent shockwaves through Old Trafford. This was the moment when it was announced that Wayne Rooney wanted to leave Manchester United with arch city rival Manchester City being touted as his next destination.
With this one announcement he became a hate figure to supporters from around the world. No matter how great a player he has been, though he had been having a shocker since April with injury and loss of form, this was a smack in the face to every United fan.
Then in an equally amazing U-turn a couple of days later it came out he had signed a new 5 year contract at the club and was now vowed to win back the trust of United fans. To many this was seen as a play by Rooney and his management to get more money out of the club and force United’s hand when it came to contract negotiations. He said;
“I’m sure the fans over the last week have felt let down by what they’ve read and seen,” Rooney said. “The fans have been upset but my message to them is that I care for the club. I just want it to continue to be successful. My position [not signing a new contract] was always from concern over the future.
“Some fans may not take to me again very quickly. It may take time. But I will give everything. I will give 100% and try to build that relationship back. The fans have been brilliant with me since I arrived and it’s up to me through my performances to win them over again.”
Fast forward to the present day…. Rooney has come back into form at the right time and United have all but sealed their 19th Premier league title after beating nearest rivals Chelsea 2-1. Rooney has become a fans hero again and part of that has come this opening up of what happens away from the pitch with this global star.
Many people were expecting him to confirm the preconceptions that most held with his tweets. But he has come across well with a dry sense of humour, exchanging banter with Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Michael Owen. Yes his spelling may not be perfect but whose is on twitter?
From a figure of hate 6 months ago to an Old Trafford legend, Wayne Rooney is rising from the ashes both on and off the pitch. There is no doubt that Twitter has helped open him up directly to the fans and he is sticking around even when people are abusing him, his wife or son (something that his team mate Darren Gibson couldn’t take, famously lasting 4 hours on twitter before pulling the plug.)
It is not just about altering his image amongst the fans, what about the sponsors. The player has long been dogged by controversy and thus his appeal amongst those who can top up his weekly wage is not as high as it could be. If he can successfully use this new medium to him then his value can only go up. This is where numbers do become important to a degree – a large digital following is becoming more and more important for sponsors whilst athletes are at their peak as well as for a career after those days have come to a close .
It is early days in Rooney twitter career but if he learns from his teammate Rio then he has a very good chance of being a success. Equally there could be a big fall around the corner but I hope not. What are your impressions of Wayne Rooney and other footballers on twitter?
Last year I did some work for a client who declared the press release to be dead. Instead I found myself working on an ‘e-newsletter’, which to my mind was a press release by any other name.
Marketing professionals have to change their approach to suit the tools of the moment, and certainly the likes of Twitter and Facebook are very ‘now’. But is the press release really dead? Has the need for it gone away? Probably not; it’s merely become unfashionable. And, crucially, you already know how to do one properly (or at least – you may think you know). It has no mystique, no magic. You won’t find features in marketing magazines on “5 Essential Tips For A Great Press Release” or have digital agencies banging on your door to offer consultancy services in Press Release Optimisation. It’s, like, so done.
I wonder, though, if in our eagerness to embrace new channels we’re forgetting how to service the essential existing ones; and that the press release can play an important (if unsexy) role in an integrated marketing strategy.
When I work with motorsport clients I dread the arrival of the word “lifestyle”. It signifies a conviction that the core audience is too geeky by half, and that it is already aware of the sponsors’ branding. We don’t need to speak to them, do we? No, we need the lifestyle audience. We need to shake it up a bit. We need to do something… different.
In the run-up to last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, my inbox filled with communications of varying quality. Some of the teams had clearly fallen prey to reinvention syndrome. Red Bull’s race preview release was just a load of flim-flam about where to go for a good meal and a fun night out in Manama; quirky and on-brand, maybe, but not very useful to anyone outside the cloistered environment of the F1 paddock. Or perhaps they hoped the Sunday Times magazine might think, “Wow! What a great destination! Clear six pages in next week’s issue! Is Michael Winner available? Does he drink Red Bull? I know he’s got a dicky ticker but will he do a bungee jump?”
Above all, a press release has to be useful. It doesn’t have to be sexy. The Cosworth pre-Bahrain release (produced by UKSN contributor Chris Hughes) broke no new ground in the art of the press release but it was packed with concise, timely, useful and relevant information. That’s all you need to ensure that the media use it.
In fact, I’d argue that in the present media climate – where there’s a proliferation of new media outlets, often one-man bands or other shoestring outfits – a tightly written press release is going to be used pretty much word-for-word. I certainly read more about Cosworth last week than I did about where to eat in Bahrain…