Russell Moore, digital communications manager for England Golf, talks to us about his start in communications through sport journalism. Read for his thoughts on why a basic understanding of marketing is crucial to effective communications.
1. Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
I’ve been in the communications industry for a long time now, but it wasn’t something that immediately sparked my interest as a teenager. In general I had always gone through school with good grades across the board but nothing that stood out, so selecting a career was difficult – where do you go with a world of possibilities in front of you?
Eventually I narrowed down my choices to combine my love for sport with my skills as a writer and embark upon a Sport Journalism course at the University of Brighton. It made sense at that stage because surely this meant I could get paid to watch sport!
While this was the case, I also learned that things don’t always work out exactly as you had envisaged them. Sport, it would appear, is often played at evenings and weekends where I too wanted to play or spectate without needing to assign my ‘spare’ time to covering. So I started to adapt my skills as a writer and turn my hand to other communication roles in more traditional organisations, allowing me to both work in the comms industry 9–5 while freeing up my weekends for my own interest in sport.
I don’t think I’ve reached my final landing spot yet as my own personal life may yet relay more changes to my professional life, but being in communications has certainly been, and will be, a worthwhile endeavour.
2. What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important for a communications role? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
You obviously need an excellent grasp of the English language (or another dialect if you are thinking of working in translated comms). This really does mark the true communicator against the amateur — if your message does not come across in clarity for all recipients then are you really doing your job at all?
You don’t need this to be in place during your school days, but I would certainly recommend taking a university course to improve and refine these skills before entering the working world.
You also need to be able to plan and strategise clearly to enable better communications. The ability to analyse your market (Who are they? What do they want? What do they need? How and when do they engage with communications?) will be important to make the most of well-produced content. You can create the best podcast ever, but if your audience is deaf your message will never connect! Always think from the customer’s point of view.
Finally, I’d say an ability to stay calm or stress-free in all environments. Communications is rarely a straightforward and predictable workplace, but if you can get through the difficult times and busy times, you’ll enjoy the highs even more.
3. What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
Sometimes there is a challenge in being able to convince your own colleagues/organisation/management that what you are planning or proposing is the best course of action. Management will always have their own opinion – some are very ingrained over years of experience, but you need to trust yourself that what you have researched and created is the best way forward and you must defend this point.
If you always allow others to decide what is communicated you will become frustrated by those elements which do not work as well, because not only did you know they would not, but that you also have to deal with the fallout from customer replies, etc.
4. How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
I think it’s a mix of incredibly useful and annoying interference — as you usually get across all organisations I’ve been involved in!
The communications team’s ‘output’ is always appreciated — sometimes the ‘input’ not so. But I think everyone appreciates the importance of getting something right with the communication and marketing of work they are doing. As long as you keep yourselves in the internal conversations you’ll always be able to plan assistance ahead of time which helps everything run smoother.
5. What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?
I would take the opportunity when you’re starting out to get a good mix of communication and marketing skills. Learn not only to communicate well but also how and why and to be able to plan the placement. It’s useful to be able to create and deliver good content but if you can also plan, strategise and analyse you will be worth so much more to the whole process and to other job prospects that may come your way.
You’re more likely to have the time when you are young and have fewer responsibilities to take part-time courses or personal development subjects, or even more work experience in freelance or volunteer roles so grab those while you can and boost your CV.
6. What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
It pays to know the whole picture and to be involved from the start. Make sure you can cut through the nonsense and get to the heart of the matter; what are we trying to communicate, when and why and to whom? Then you can decide which are the best methods and how to create and deliver content, but you must always be clear in the product or service you want to deliver as a result. Too often organisations can jump straight to the creation and delivery stage — make sure you are the one who sees the picture from A–Z (including the issues to overcome and what happens after ‘Z’).
7. We at React & Share live for helping communications teams through understanding website content sentiment and improving it off the back of feedback. How do you and your team approach content improvement?
As a digital communications team we’re always looking at the analytics of our content and in particular, what people
are looking for on our site. Either via external or internal search, if people are looking for it, then you need to be thinking if you should be delivering it! It also pays to ask people (or have colleagues do this research for you) to what people want to know about, what things they will engage with, what topics are ‘hot’ in your industry — always be guided by your customers — they know better than your own team what they want!