Written by Garry Dix

‘Less is more’ is not a new line of thinking. I just wish someone would let those in charge of comms and PR at football clubs know.

Clubs are now using social media – in particular Twitter – as a focal point of engagement. Fixture information, live match commentary, snapshots of training and ‘behind the scenes’ footage are all standard practice for teams throughout the professional leagues.

But recently, there is a spiralling trend in professional football to cultivate as much buzz as possible for new signings. Forget the way that fees and wages have climbed to new heights – clubs’ social media presence around signings has mirrored this in its extravagance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this as it’s never been more important to drive engagement in an online space. But strategy is key for online engagement. You’re creating content and taking it out into the public sphere, so it’s crucial that you’ve thought of all eventualities.

Manchester United got the strategy right last year with the ‘Pogback’ video (featuring Paul Pogba and Stormzy):

But that worked due to the sheer production value available to Manchester United, and two genuinely talented and charismatic professionals who knew each other before the video.

Alas, they don’t all turn out this way. Here are some toe-curling examples of enthusiasm over strategy:

Liverpool – Mohammad Salah and Twitter

Football mega-fans on Twitter are a pretty noxious bunch (just read the replies to any of Gary Lineker’s tweets). So, what better way to announce a £25 million international than by having him scrolling through a bizarre account called @AnnounceSalah?

Stoke City – Josh Tymon and even stranger Twitter

Taking a leaf out of Liverpool’s book, young fullback Tymon was seemingly locked in a dimly lit office, made to tweet from the Stoke City Twitter account and then give the most worried thumbs up you’ll ever see. Unsettling – and guaranteed meme material:

Aston Villa – John Terry and WhatsApp

The worst example of ‘down with the kids’ syndrome I can remember. I’d be concerned if the millionaire chairman of the club’s only way of communicating with its staff was through a WhatsApp group stocked with both current and former players:

Chelsea – Antonio Rudiger and shirt printing

Not too much wrong here; a fairly predictable video with decent enough production. Until a (still unexplained) ‘zoom in’ on Rudiger at the end, who proceeds to give you a look equal parts lothario and narcoleptic. Our second piece of guaranteed meme material:

So kudos to those working for clubs who have understood how daft this is. In particular, a great example of social media strategy comes from Southampton, who pulled together this gem for their third-choice keeper Stuart Taylor receiving his one-year extension deal:

By taking a meta approach to the trend, the publicity and positive feedback they’ve received from the video has proven it a worthwhile investment – while simultaneously poking fun at other clubs’ serious attempts at bombast.

So what have we learned?

For any social media campaign, you must ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Is this going to reach that target audience?
  • What message am I trying to get across?
  • Is my production standard high enough?
  • This is the internet. Is there any way my content be hijacked or misconstrued?
  • Is the tone of voice correct?

This template will ensure you have identified any potential issues and are prepared to deal with them accordingly. Remember, it can often be tempting to follow others and aim for bigger and better things and many agencies will push for the more elaborate activity, and the larger associated fee. But the real skill of communications is pushing back. It’s saying no. It’s giving the real advice, not just the advice that the client wants to hear. That’s what we pride ourselves on – not being ‘yes-men’.

Sure, a client’s latest launch may work well with a huge event. But it could be best suited to a release, some pre-interviews with key media and a focused, smaller-scale project. Just ask Oxford United, and grab yourself a burger while you’re at it.

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