Conclusion: Sport Communicators need to address Social Media abuse – Part 7

We are now on the seventh and last part of the research into sportstars’ use of social media and issues surrounding reputation management. The response received surpassed all expectations. Thank you to everyone who’s stayed loyal and read all seven parts. If you’ve missed one – or a few – they are attached at the bottom. Hopefully you’ll keep sharing and spread the word..
 
Otherwise, I will need to rely on a sports club to bid seven figures for me/the blog. 
Many thanks,
@StevenWoodgate

Conclusion

This seven-part series has considered whether sport PR needs the introduction of a bigger and a more detailed social media policy to prevent reputation damage and conflict arising between the individual and the organisation they represent.

The hypothesis set out for the research sought to prove how  ‘Social Media policies in sports organisations need to address abuse by individuals to avoid negative effects on corporate reputation and control corporate image’. PR theory was considered to understand the demands of corporate reputation and how they are affected by the use of social media, and found wanting when it came to understanding the unique relationship between sportspeople and their organisations, as well as between clubs and their fans.

Secondary research laid the foundation to illustrate what kinds of stories are published via social media. Content analysis revealed the extent and nature of the problem, with three different categories of twitter traffic identified – tweeters, who help a corporate reputation, twits who are relatively harmless but not helpful and twats, who can be positively destructive.

The content analysis conducted on eleven sportspeople demonstrated, overwhelmingly, that inappropriate social media use is common throughout sport. That is not to say this use is always a negative, rather it includes missing opportunities to enhance the corporate reputation of one’s team. Footballers are the obvious target considering their global impact, but it is up to their corporate communicators to set policy and lead by example. Football already has a somewhat tarnished reputation and the fact it does not apply social media guidelines to common practice inevitably makes reputation management even more difficult.

The coexistence of social media and the traditional mass media will not be as easy to achieve in the arena of sports, as it might be in many corporate environments. Sportspeople have to be careful and review their own use of social media reconsidering the use of communications experts to guide them.

After all, a sportsperson is not a communication professional, and some help will be required to understand the risk to reputation.  Self-regulation or self-censorship by sportspeople of their use of social media is an acquired skill, and needs corporate guidance. Quite simply, sportspeople need to be shown what ‘good’ looks like.

In a world where sport is increasingly commercial, global and driven by business principles, risk and reputation management may well prove to be the driving force behind a new approach to social media. The desired integration and alignment within companies of sportspeople and management require that a reputation must be built both ‘inside out’ and ‘outside in’.

Corporate Communicators may well be the initiator and driver of implementing a social media reputation approach, building a leading coalition with sportspeople and management. Bringing valuable insights on stakeholder opinion and potential risks to reputation to the boardroom and to the sportspeople’s minds, corporate reputation should be given the attention it deserves and earn corporate communicators a standing invitation to overall reputation strategy discussions. Introducing a social media policy should be the first big step in addressing online reputation management.

Corporate communicators should therefore be prepared to take the next steps. This research believes that the below list of recommendations are essential in making the best use of social media:

–       Introduce the purpose of social media

–       Be responsible for what you write

–       Be authentic

–       Consider your audience

–       Exercise good judgment

–       Understand the concept of community

–       Remember to protect confidential information

–       Bring value

–       Productivity matters

–       Prepare to face consequences and possibly expulsion

Further research needed to confirm the findings and draw greater validity and authority should include the following:

–       Widen the analysis by looking at the explicit relationship between corporate reputation and twitter traffic over a much longer period, across a broader range of sportspeople, and involving more than just the UK,

–       Deepen the research, by applying the above framework to one specific club in which several different sports people are tweeting, to quantify the actual impact on corporate reputation of tweets, twits and twats.

–       Break down the elements of corporate reputation and the role of power that resides with investors, rather than fans, and see whether social media has any impact

As this research and blog posts have proven, doing nothing about the use of social media is no longer an option.  Corporate communicators and senior managers need to act now before more of its sportspeople become ‘Twats’ and before it has significant effect on corporate reputation.

Please read and share the others in this series: 
Sport and corporate reputation is a tough mix: Part 1
Corporate communicators need to control their employees: Part 2
Sportstars do not understand corporate reputation: Part 3
Why do fans follow sportstars on social media: Part 4
The Social Media battle between Corporate Communicators, Journalists & Sportstars: Part 5
Discussion and Analysis: A better Social Media policy is needed in Sport: Part 6
 
 Hope to hear from you soon – @StevenWoodgate
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Discussion and Analysis: A better Social Media policy is needed in Sport – Part 6

 
We are now on part 6 of this seven-part series about why the sporting industry needs a better and a tougher social media policy to handle its star employees. The others in the series are listed below. 

Discussion and Analysis

After collecting the primary data to provide the basis of this research, an in-depth look into how the sportspeople researched in the content analysis are categorised into ‘tweeters’, ‘twits’ and ‘twats’ to provide the context for the need of social media policy. Sport corporate communicators can identify which sportspeople have the biggest influence and impact on reputation. Using the formula to analysis each tweet, corporate communicators can categorise each post from the individual who has used social media. The graphic below shows the sportspeople who were analysed, and based on their score, they were placed in one of the three categories. However it is worth pointing out that the ‘Twit’ category is still of massive concern to corporate communicators, despite these sportspeople using social media well, they still have posts that will be seen as negative to corporate reputation.

Figure 1: Tweeters, Twits and Twats Model

Whilst using the graphic to identify those who are influential, corporate communicators can go on identify strategic business objectives to target inappropriate social media use. This research, as well as the formula used before can be used to justify the awareness, knowledge, interest and support of using and implement a tougher social media policy. Knowledge and research is key and with these measurements, corporate communicators will be able to set clear, achievable business objectives to tackle social media abuse.

Tweeters 

The first of these categories, Tweeters, consists of those that use social media, at all times appropriately and in line with corporate standards, knowing full well their messages can be used to attract attention and be created as stories. Not only will a good ‘Tweeter’ do this, he or she will identify the number of times they have tweeted, how good they are at re-tweeting other people’s messages and the number of times their post were re-tweeted by other people reflects positively on corporate reputation.

A good Tweet is like a good book or a good film – different people have different tastes. Nevertheless, most people consider ‘Saving Private Ryan’ superior to ‘Saturday Night Fever’. Most people find that the experience of reading ‘Great Expectations’ enriches them more than ‘First Among Equals’. In the same way, there is an emerging consensus about what makes a good Tweet, and, more importantly, a good Tweeter.

This was completed by detailed content analysis that was evident in the secondary research. It appeared that many sportspersons, overall, are using it appropriately. They are engaging with fans, using posts to promote the organisation and in the meantime providing some personality to make their social media accounts interesting.  Characters like Michael Owen, Jenson Button and Stuart Broad all show great traits at being good ‘tweeters’. All of them engage openly with their audiences, inform followers of deep insight in their lives and will always speak favorably of the team they represent.

These accounts appear more corporate and acceptable than others. Some social media users are accustomed to all sorts of corporate speak, but they know using the corporate tongue can be severely off putting. These use social media to share information, ask questions of followers, offer personal thoughts and insights into their sport, and, most importantly, appear to have a conciseness.

This tends to mean that these sportspeople become influential with their followers, because their tweets are interesting. Each tweets offers reason and something for their audience to engage in. Even tweeting in a ‘work’ capacity, they are communicating to the world at large. The ultimate goal maybe to become more popular after a relatively short career span sport gives you, or they may be targeting stakeholders, fans, supporters, possible employers, sponsors, or more influential individuals. Michael Owen, for instance, often engages with fellow footballers and journalists to provide context and make his tweets interesting. He understands, more than most sportspeople, that Twitter is ultimately about engaging and broadcasting.

If sportspeople are engaging with stakeholders on a regular basis, it is up to corporate communicators to ensure messages surrounding the organisation remain professional to prevent any possible individual and corporate conflict. At the very least, sportspeople will be educated on how to make the most twitter and engagement. A policy will certainly come in handy for those who do not understand Twitter and use it simply to ‘banter’. These people will be known as ‘twits’. To really prove this point, you would need to ask followers and supporters whether they respected the club better because of what i.e. Michael Owen tweeted. This would be a great area for some further research.

 Twits

On a greater scale ‘Twits’ do not use social media inappropriately, but bordering on it. At best neutral, their tweets are not aimed at enhancing the corporate reputation of their clubs. These accounts do not use Twitter to provide great insight into their lives, nor do they use it to engage their followers. It appears, from the content analysis that they use Twitter as either a form of broadcasting, to banter with mates/colleagues or to spit out what they are feeling as individuals, irrespective of what effect it has on the club or their teammates these can either enhance or damage reputation or corporate image.

Most commonly with the rugby players in this content analysis, the majority of their tweets are aimed at colleagues or fellow rugby players to ‘banter’. They cannot be so naïve as to think that the public is not listening, but even if they are, corporate communicators would still want to nullify the majority of these tweets as they can be used as the basis of news stories and speculation. Thankfully, rugby is not as popular as other mainstream sports so the size of the audience may not be as detrimental, but it can hugely influential even in a smaller community of fans. Despite that sounding like a good comprise, with not too many picking up on their tweets, it means that these ‘Twits” are not using social media to its full potential and not in tune with corporate reputation. This will ultimately cause conflict between the individual and the organisation, especially if there is no procedure or guidelines put in place to prevent harmless tweets become harmful.

Many of these sportspeople tend to ‘blow their own trumpet’. These are a few that happen to be in desired professions of many, but those who use twitter bordering on inappropriately will ‘re-tweet’ praise about themselves, and will use self-promotion to promote external business ventures and friends’ Twitter accounts. A few sportspeople, like Graeme Swann and James Haskell use Twitter almost exclusively for ‘bantering’ purpose or purely making it about their thoughts and actions. They may think this is good tweeting; however, these sportspeople can come across as egotistical and self-serving. They may have many followers, but it may be because of their performances on the pitch rather than their ability to communicate. Corporate communicators will need to teach and encourage these ‘egos’ to use social media appropriately. These accounts, with a little and guidance, can be used to great benefit by both the individual and the organisation and with a social media policy being used as a guidance, conflicts will be avoided. However, some social media accounts go far beyond this and use social media very inappropriately. These are known as ‘Twats’; i.e., those who use social media in a manner that is destructive of corporate reputation.

Twats 

The English colloquial term ‘Twat’ speaks volumes about some individuals that use social media inappropriately, resulting in heavy reputation damage of the organisation and to the individual as well. With football being global and the players’ appealing across a broad spectrum of social media users, their posts are constantly analysed for any possible slip. Footballers Rio Ferdinand and Joey Barton are two excellent examples.  Both are footballers of certain stature and both tend to constantly be in trouble with the governing bodies or their club about their social media use. Even though that are not in the ‘Twat’ category, they are both heavy social media users and when they publish a negative tweet, it has an incredible response.

Ferdinand, for instance, with over 3m followers, has been found guilty of improper conduct and was subsequently fined £45,000 by The FA for comments on Twitter (source: www.bbc.com, August 12 2012). An independent Regulatory Commission found the Manchester United defender had brought the game in disrepute after referencing to colour of skin in a tweet. Ferdinand denied he was being racist after responding to a tweet describing his England colleague Ashley Cole as a “choc ice”. As Ferdinand’s content analysis will show, this brought out a surge of reaction and the footballer subsequently tried to defend himself and deleted the tweet. The damage had been done. Manchester United’s hands-off approach (They are the only club not to operate a club Twitter account) showed Ferdinand by himself against his followers. Plenty of news stories were created, and it made back pages in the media. This act of foolishness gave Ferdinand’s reputation as big hit, and because his name is associated with Manchester United, it received bad publicity too.

Rio Ferdinand’s tweet: “I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic. Hahahahahaha!!”

 

He later deleted the tweet and claimed on Twitter that it was slang for someone being “fake”, but the FA charged him with making improper comments that included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race. In the aftermath, he soon defended the use Twitter claiming:

I treat it as fun. I don’t take it too seriously to be honest.”

Referring back to the research, Ferdinand’s comment above suggests everything why a social media policy is needed in sport. Treating a major communication tool as “fun” shows no clear consideration for corporate reputation and the impact of his organisation. His manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, adds on the Ferdinand’s fine: “Twitter, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you’d bother.” Clearly, he was upset with the fine and how one of his leading employees managed to get into trouble. This blatant lack of understanding needs urgent addressing and it is up to corporate communicators to take the initiative and lay out set guidelines for all employees to follow.

More frustrating for corporate communicators, Ferdinand, who has over three millions followers, all with a considered interest in the football and the club he represents, does not take social media “too seriously” and this is one sportsman that is clearly visible to the wider public. Not only his inappropriate use of social media will land him in trouble, as already previously stated, his club will have plenty of negative publicity being associated with him. Images of the footballer in the organisation’s colors will be on every leading news website and every back page of the written press. While the use of sanctions, fines and public rebukes are a way of restraining misuse of social media; it would have been far more effective to avoid the problem in the first place.

Let me know what you think? @StevenWoodgate

Please read and share the others in this series: 

Sport and corporate reputation is a tough mix: Part 1

Corporate communicators need to control their employees: Part 2

Sportstars do not understand corporate reputation: Part 3

Why do fans follow sportstars on social media: Part 4

The Social Media battle between Corporate Communicators, Journalists & Sportstars: Part 5

10 Steps to Leadership Success

Leadership can be a tough ask. Here are some tips that should help you manage your business more successfully.

1.      Communicate openly and often – Set the tone as people need to know what is expected of them. Give a sense of optimism, and ensure communication is a two-way process. Communication flow is key, supply by giving enthusiastic examples.

2.      Be a team, not a collection of individuals – You are only as good as the people you work with, don’t produce a ‘winners’ culture but provide balanced teams, whether that is with clients, customers or internally.

3.      Match people’s talents to their role – Work should be challenging, interesting and fun, otherwise employees would become bored and dissatisfied. Understand their strengths, and motivate by allocating tasks, clients and challenges to will suit them.

4.      Guide, don’t direct – Give people autonomy and responsibility. Trust them. Speak of vision and desire. Let others learn by experience, and provide opportunity to develop skills. Don’t take them for granted.

5.      Recognise and reward good performance – Praising people generates enthusiasm and builds loyalty, both between work-relationships and client-relationships. However, it’s important to provide coaching for those who needs to improve.

6.      Make your meetings upbeat and inspirational – Speak openly and communicate well. Set and agree clear goals and energise people to hold onto your business visions and values. Stay flexible and respond to any opportunities that may arise.

7.      Find ways to say yes – It’s easy to say no. Even the wildest ideas will get resentment, so say ‘why not’ and explore the idea first.

8.      Learn from any mistakes – It’s impossible for businesses to get everything right all the time. Mistakes are evitable, but treat them as learning opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take risks, as smart mistakes will provide the experience to achieve something worthwhile.

9.      Trust your instincts and believe in yourself – Dealing with ambiguity and stress can be emotionally draining. Stay focused, and trust your judgement. There will be tough times, but it’s how you react to those is the key in progression.

10.   Manage your time – Don’t confuse activity with progress. We spend a lot of time being busy. Make what you do count.

 

The Social Media battle between Corporate Communicators, Journalists & Sportstars

The fifth part of this series looking at sportstars, social media and issues surrounding reputation management comes from qualitative interviews with those in the industry. The other four parts can be found at the bottom of this post.

Interviews

To understand and investigate the data extracted from the questionnaires further (Corporate communicators, Sports Stars and Sports Fans), a series of interviews were undertaken from a broad spectrum of the industry. Not only professional and semi-professional sportspeople were interviewed but those within industry ranging from journalists, corporate communicators and PR professionals.

This was an important step to add context to the current data and provide a qualitative angle to progress and investigate further.  Do experts concur that the conflicts between sportspeople and their organisations over social media need to be controlled through a management policy?

This blogger was able to obtain interviews with six in-house sporting corporate communicators, including: Trevor Braitwait, Director of Communications at Sheffield Wednesday FC; Simon Williams, Communications Officer at Southampton FC; Max Fitzgerald, Communications Executive at AFC Bournemouth; Mike McGreary, Website Manager at Middlesbrough FC; Ian Cotton, Ex-Director of Communications at Liverpool and Tom Tainton, Media Officer at Bristol Rugby. Each quote has been disguised to keep views confidential.

From the interviews undertaken, there was a resounding difference between the thought of reputation and social media, and the constant battle between the individual and the organisation.

“Protecting and promoting our brand is a key part of my role. There is no specific strategy as this unfolds on an ongoing basis.” 

Worryingly, and quite unnaturally, senior management at sports clubs has made the conscious effort not to introduce a strategic strategy to deal with reputation. Across other business sectors, plans are put into place but this shows the immaturity of the sports communication industry. The younger professionals coming into the industry sees their roles slightly differently:

“Reputation management is a critical element of my role – we try to boost our reputation and ‘culture’ created by the boss and the coaching staff through positive reinforcement on our social media channels.”

This shows the willingness and eagerness to use social media more actively within the whole communication and PR strategy. As it shows in the corporate communication questionnaire, younger people are using social media to get their messages across and they are more aware of the importance of it.

“This (Using players’ social media account to boost reputation) can backfire, as two high profile football clubs recently discovered to their cost… The reputation of the club is and always will be greater than that of any individual.”

This shows two things: a clear age gap in thinking about social media, and potential differences between team sports. Some policy is for the players to express themselves and rely more on media curation to measure and keep an eye on any bad publicity.

I think it’s important that players are given the chance to show their character on these platforms. It can however, be useful when promoting club offers due to their wider reaching fanbase.”

Again, it appears from these interviews that the younger corporate communicators are keener to use individual social media accounts to promote engagement and building and maintaining reputation.

“Every player receives social media training as well, as well as guidelines for social media use. We highlight the risks that social media can carry, particularly within the framework of media and public responsibility. Players directly represent the club and, as a result, are expected to portray themselves and their teammates in a positive manner at all times.”

Younger communicators also know the consequences and potential “pitfalls” of social media and have quickly asserted his influence to give the club a shining light for the players to use.

“By showing a personable side to the Club and creating open access to our players, we hope that supporters have a positive view of *club* and thus will be encouraged to invest time and money into our product.”

Despite the apparent differences across the three interviews, all agree that an in-depth social media policy would help to clarify current “grey areas”. Some know that they “are speaking to the media every time they tweet” and this view, from a media relations point, will help to identify potential areas for a reputation hit. Sport is highly speculative and the media can use these ‘posts’ as content to attract headlines and unnecessary, avoidable issues.

Not only it is imperative to understand the in-house corporate communicators view, it is also imperative to understand how these stories are sourced and used. After consulting journalists ranging from online, print and radio, further understanding can be taken to influence policy.

Older journalists are still adapting to sportspeople using things like social media with many believing the journalism industry is becoming more of a ‘Soap Opera’ rather than its primary objective to deliver high quality news content. One senior journalist sees social media and publicity in a different light.

“An agent’s sole raison d’etre is to get publicity for their clients in order to raise their profile and subsequently their earnings. It’s a murky and cynical business and cricketer’s, once largely removed from it, have smelt the money and are moving centre stage. “

The nation’s appetite for celebrity culture and speculative stories are ever increasing, and this senior journalist sees social media as a publicity tool for sportspeople to attract more attention. In this example, cricketers are becoming centre stage and the likes of Kevin Pietersen are becoming household names.

Their social media accounts are heavily watched in case a potential story appears. This seems to be a case of trying to build and maintain of the individuals as opposed to other collaborating with the individual’s organisations. These players are building context to market themselves and the speculation stories being produced

Interviews with sportspeople

Sportspeople sometimes create their downfall. Speculation and stories are a react to ill-informed tweets, used by those that do not appear to be educated on the consequences and understanding of social media. The data gathered from the questionnaires show clear indication that more guidance is needed to prevent future inappropriate use. As questions arose about their inappropriate social media use, many were unaware that those images and posts were made public, even when talking directly to someone.

This is an education corporate communicators need to have with their employees to prevent avoidable reputation damage. After interviewing eight sportspeople about their use of social media, many interesting points came across. As Figure 1 will show, many sportspeople enjoy using social media as fan engagement and ‘banter’ with fellow professionals.

More needs to be done to boost understanding and the consequences from using social media inappropriately as sportspeople do not understand the extent of social media and its potential impact.

Through clear guidelines and with the help of a communication specialist, their education about how to use social media could be significantly improved. To show this understanding, a focus group took place to understand how online journalists see social media use and what they think of it.

Selected Quotes

‘Well, to be honest, Social Media is there for banter purposes. Me and the lads often joke about it and use it to wind each other up. I often keep in touch with friends and that on it but the sole purpose of it is to joke about.’

‘They shouldn’t be bothered. It is not theirs to use. It’s mine and I wish to use it the way I wish.’

‘The social media account is mine and I can use it as freely as possible.’

‘I was drunk at the time and hugely regret it. My family sees what I put and I wasn’t proud. It was embarrassing. The lads at the club took the piss even the management got involved.‘

‘I was annoyed that I was left out and vented my frustration. It was silly but I felt like I wasn’t treated as well as I could have been and posted it just out of anger. Obviously the manager, and some of the fans, saw it and it ended up me having to make a public apology.’

‘I was annoyed that I was left out and vented my frustration. It was silly but I felt like I wasn’t treated as well as I could have been and posted it just out of anger. Obviously the manager, and some of the fans, saw it and it ended up me having to make a public apology.’

Figure 1: Selected quotes from Sportspeople Interviews

Focus group with online journalists and corporate communicators

Projecting reputation is hugely important in sport. Sport is speculative and can easily be attacked by the media who are looking for ‘easy’ stories. As mentioned before in the sportspeople questionnaire, the players seem indifferent to those journalists using their posts as stories, but their understanding of corporate reputation need to be improved.

Online journalists, Nick Howson and Vanessa Keller, who work exclusively in news gathering and content creation, know the true value of the usefulness of social media and in the interviews for this dissertation, they believe it “breaking down barriers” that were previously there.

Not only is it making their jobs easier, but also they believe they are getting more truthful responses rather than the “spin” they receive when trying to obtain quotes through their agents.

Not is social media clearly changing how journalism is practiced, but it shows the potential pitfalls that corporate communicators need to correct to ensure the barriers between the organisation and its consumers stays together.

“Traffic-wise, social media is great at getting more hits and impressions on our page. It’s an original source not the spin that clubs try to put out. In ways, it is even better than a press conference, as players are always under the watchful eye, they used social media more carefree and aren’t restricted in what they say.”

“There is becoming less need for PR, social media is becoming the number one source for journalists to go to.”

These were just some of main finding resulting from the focus group. Journalists are actively using social media as the main source for potential stories and speculation. It needs urgent addressing by clubs’ communications department, as this is a way where important can be leaked to the public. A clear social media policy outlining the consequences of such actions would provide a base a better place to prevent sportspeople people ‘twats’.

Even more so, the LinkedIn discussion with corporate communicators discovered that introducing social media policy can be rather tricky regardless of its usefulness.

Corporate Communicators Focus Group Highlights

“I suspect the nuance between rules and guidance is probably crucial. However, there can’t be a one size fits all solution. A Premier League football club is very different from the Met Police, disability charity or a small funeral company…

“Many organisations just don’t know what to do about social media. They put policies in place that are a bit of a sop but what else can they do?”

The problem with social media is that once it’s in the public domain there’s little you can do to get it back. Staff are entitled to have a private life but if they post their misdemeanour’s on a social platform it’s no longer private. It’s up to the employer what they do about this but the dilemma is that they don’t own the employee.”

“As a freelance press officer working in different organisations’ press offices I agree that some Press Offices don’t see social media as their responsibility…. But equally a lot do! Monitoring it is the challenge!”

Figure 2: Selected quotes from Corporate Communicators’ Focus Group

From the primary data gathered, the case studies need be sorted out to determine who are the ‘tweeters’, ‘twits’ or ‘twats’ (Next post) – and how social media policy should be framed to handle each in a way that enhances corporate reputation.

Please read and share the others in this series: 
Sport and corporate reputation is a tough mix: Part 1
Corporate communicators need to control their employees: Part 2
Sportstars do not understand corporate reputation: Part 3
Why do fans follow sportstars on social media: Part 4
 
Thanks for reading, Steve – @StevenWoodgate

How to become an Online Influencer

Being an online influencer is not usually the goal of anyone, not initially in the early stage of a career, but in this modern, social media-heavy world, becoming an influencer, or indeed, popular on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn is becoming ever so more important.

There is much thrown around online about how to approach and attract influencers, and how to become an influencer. When achieving such status, it’s important to been seen an industry equal and a resource. Then, when achieved, you would no longer be seen as a nuisance constantly broadcasting your own agenda and business, but hoping others will relay your messages.

However, those who want to be an online influencer, will have to understand that it won’t happen overnight, the truth is that it doesn’t happen easily. It takes hard work. The difference between the people who make it and those who don’t, is dedication and wisely targeted efforts.

Being an influencer yourself is often overlooked as a way to engage with other influences. As mentioned, it takes time. But it is worth it. There is also financial benefit to becoming an influencer, as people with increased value can charge more for services. It’s ultimately a win-win if you, and your business, have the dedication.

You can become a source of knowledge, a trend-setter, and valuable to your peers. You don’t have to settle for the role of squeaky agenda-pushing wheel.

Building strong relationships and trust with your peers is essential in influencing their decisions. Also having a centric attitude towards those that you work with can be as beneficial.

It is vital to listen more and talk less. Don’t talk yourself out of a ‘sales’. By listening to peers, managers, those in the industry, you can create a better formula to make recommendations that will have a larger impact on both of personal perception and of your goals.

Being aware when your peers are struggling, and the need help is the perfect opportunity to offer help. Offering assistance on a fairly consistent basis will show you are invested in making your industry a success, you are not simply looking to pull ahead of the pack.

To challenge yourself too, make sure you work outside your comfort zone. Create something new and try it. Become a leader, and providing adaptability and quick problem solving skills will increase perception that you are an innovator.

Plus, and this blog can’t stress this enough, suggest collaboration. Putting a collective head together to create ideas and new ways of working with help open brainstorming with you at the lead. You will end up of having better vision, and who the other influencers are, too.

Research on why fans follow sports stars on social media and what it means for corporate reputation: Part 4

Part four of this blog and research series sees a questionnaire put to sports fans about why they follow sportstars on social media and whether that has any bearing on corporate reputation.

Questionnaire to Sports Fans

Not only was this questionnaire key to finding some valuable data, but also based on the other two questionnaires (corporate communicators  and sportspeople), it provided some clear strategic direction to underpin the need for better understanding of social media corporate reputation in sport. The fans keep sporting clubs afloat and are the reason why sportspeople can command such high salaries and benefits.

This questionnaire was sent out on online through social media channels and there were 80 respondents. It was hardly surprising that the biggest age bracket was between 18-24 (61%, n=80) and because of its sports connection mostly males (76.8%, n=80) filled it out. With spectator sport, males dominate the likes of football and cricket therefore it does not make these results any more invalid. It can be classed as a fair representation of the sport and through social media in sport.

Figure 1 shows a break down of some of key findings from the questionnaire. Interestingly, over three-quarters of respondents (76.9% agree, n=80) follow a sportsperson’s account because of the club they are associated with. This strengthens the case dispelling some stakeholder theory as it is made abundantly clear that personal social media accounts contribute to the overall reputation of the club. If the “talent” is brought in, then his or her association with the club is blatantly obvious.

Worryingly for sporting organisations is that almost half of respondents (46.4%, n=80) would change their attitudes towards the organisation because of a selected social media post, backing the hypothesis that social media abuse will result in issues involving reputation.  A similar figure (46.3%, n=80) also believes that many of the sporting employees use social media to damage the organisation’s reputation. This will come more apparent with the case studies highlighted in later chapters.

Fans and supporters of professional sports look to up to the “talent” as role models and inspiration and interesting two-third (65.8% agree, n=80) believe that the personal social media accounts of sportspeople make the clubs they represent reputation stronger as a result. This is despite of the worries resulting from purposely damaging reputation or potential attitude changes.

Figure 1: Data Highlights from Sports Fan Questionnaire

  Strongly   Disagree Slightly   Disagree Slightly   Agree Strongly   Agree
I follow my team on Social Media because of the sport   star’s use of Social Media 25.6% 24.4% 39.0% 8.5%
I follow sport star’s Social Media accounts because they   are associated with the team I support 12.2% 9.8% 41.5% 35.4%
Sport stars’ Social   Media messages would change my attitude on the way I portray the team they   are associated with 23.3% 29.3% 35.4% 11.0%
If sports stars’   Social Media accounts were managed, I would stop following them 8.5% 18.3% 36.6% 35.4%
Certain sports stars   have bigger influence than others 1.2% 4.9% 22.0% 70.7%
Some sports star use   Social Media to damage their team’s reputation 14.6% 36.6% 40.2% 6.1%
Some Sport stars’   reputations make the team they play for stronger 9.8% 12.2% 41.5% 35.4%
Some sport stars’   reputations make the team they play for reputation stronger 7.3% 25.6% 45.1% 20.7%
Sport Stars should   face disciplinary measures if they use SM incorrectly 19.5% 14.6% 29.3% 35.4%
A strict SM policy   will help build the reputation of both 15.9% 20.7% 30.5% 31.7%

 

Questionnaire Summary 

To understand the individual versus organisation battle that is evident throughout this research, this questionnaire targeted sports fans that use social media for their sporting consumption. Under half (47.5% agree, n=80) follow their sports team first and more than three-quarters (76.9% agree, n=80) only follow personal sportspersons accounts because they are associated with the team they support. This emphasises the need to manage the “talent” as fans and supporters will follow these personal accounts out of loyalty.

Despite corporate communicators and sportspeople clear urgency to provide guidelines for social media, sports fans were clearly less enthused with more two-third (72.0% agree, n=80) claiming they would ‘unfollow’ social media accounts if they became “managed” and just over three-fifths (62.2% agree, n=80) believing a social media policy would help the organisation and the individual.

This number is still relatively high, but is not as high as the other two questionnaires (corporate communicators  and sportspeople). This, however, is slightly expected with fans wanting to know anything about their club and the players they follow. As mentioned before barriers are thinning between business and consumers and some strategic guidelines would help to maintain those barriers.

This is a challenge for sport PR.

Organisations rely heavily on fans and supporters for income and maintaining reputation, therefore social media accounts need to seen as personal but the content produced needs to be under a watchful eye. Media curation seems like a possibility but sport is very speculative and under the media spotlight, and for that reason it would be too much to handle. Content analysis showed some examples of certain sport stars’ use of social media and it shows clear indication and backs up the data the questionnaires have produced.

Please read and share the others in this series: 
Sport and corporate reputation is a tough mix: Part 1
Corporate communicators need to control their employees: Part 2
Sportstars do not understand corporate reputation: Part 3
Why do fans follow sportstars on social media: Part 4

Understanding corporate reputation from sportspeople: Part 3

Following the first two parts of this series (listed below), the blog moves on to focus on sportspeoples’ view of social media and its impact on corporate reputation. A small survey was produced and provided some interesting results and conclusions that are listed at the bottom of this post. 
Sport Corporate Communicators need to control their employees: Part 1
Corporate Communicators need to control their employees: Part 2

Questionnaire to Sportspeople

To influence the individuals’ understanding of social media and its output, you will need to understand their point of view. The second questionnaire targeted sportspeople through Twitter. Despite over 200 leading professionals being asked to complete the questionnaire across a range of sports, there were only 13 responses. Despite the relatively modest number, however, many interesting insights were evident in how the respondent sportspeople’s understanding of social media can help corporate communicators.

Figure 1 shows how their initial feedback on how they currently see social media and how they react to the media’s and fans’ feedback. From the data extracted, it appears that many of the sportspeople who completed the questionnaire are ‘indifferent’ for much of the speculation and stories.

A particular interesting statistic taken from this table is that almost half of the responses find ‘The press using my social media posts as stories’, ‘The press using my social media posts as speculation’ and ‘Fans replying to my posts’ sections ‘Somewhat Interesting’. This, in some ways, shows that the sportspeople are oblivious to corporate reputation and the consequences of their posts. Not only they use the accounts personally (92.7 agree, n=13), they pursue their own interests and appear have no interest or, more likely, knowledge about the impacts of corporate reputation or are they are encouraged to promotion the club they represent (92.3 % agree that they are under obligation to promote they club they represent, n=13).

Figure 1: Sportspeople’s Views of Social Media and how people react to them

Despite not being too concerned about corporate reputation, Figure 21 shows sportspeople believing that their personal reputation makes the clubs they represent reputation stronger (84.7% agree, n=13). This can speak volumes about the self-loathing of professional athletes, however, as they are the “talent”, swapped and traded for seven figure sums, they can have the opinion about being concerned only for themselves.

 Figure 2: Key Data Highlights from Sportspeople Questionnaire

  Strongly Disagree Slightly Disagree Slightly Agree Strongly Agree
I use my Social Media accounts personally 7.7% 0% 15.4% 69.2%
I use my agent/agency to send out mediated messages 61.5% 7.7% 23.1% 0%
My organisation/ team provides strict Social Media policies 38.5% 15.4% 30.0% 7.7%
I use Social Media as and when I want 7.7% 30.8% 53.8% 0%
I’m under no obligation to promote the team I represent 7.7% 23.1% 69.2% 0%
What I post on Social Media will reflect the team I represent 7.7% 23.1% 38.5% 23.1%
I would be punished if I was to post something negative about the team I represent 30.8% 7.7% 15.4% 38.5%
Certain sport stars have bigger influence than others 0% 7.7% 0% 84.6%
Some sport stars use Social Media to damage their team’s reputation 38.5% 23.1% 23.1% 15.4%
Some sport stars’ reputations make the team they play for reputation stronger 7.7% 7.7% 38.5% 46.2%
Sport stars should face disciplinary measures if they use Social Media incorrectly 7.7% 53.8% 30.8% 0%
A strict Social Media policy will help build the reputation of both, the sport star and the team they represent 0% 0% 53.8% 38.5%
 

The most significant number to take out of the questionnaire is that 84.7% (n=13) of the sportspeople believe that the sports stars’ reputations actually make the team they play for reputation stronger (Figure 3). This shows clear indication that a social media policy needs to be introduced. If the sports stars of an organisation believe they are bigger than that of the organisation, matters need to be addressed and corporate communicators need to manage this.

Figure 3: Some Sport stars’ reputations make the team they play for reputation stronger

Comparisons between Corporate Communicators and their ‘Employees’

After analysing the data from the two initial questionnaires targeting sportspeople and corporate communicators, clear individual versus organisation friction is taking place. One of them includes the use of current Social Media guidelines. Corporate communicators (87.7% agree, n=59) believe that their organisations provide social media polices whereas only a few sportspeople (37.7% agree, n=13) believe that is the case.

Discipline is also a key theme that both parties disagree on. Almost two-thirds of corporate communicators (59.3%, n=59) believe that disciplinary measures should be in place for the irresponsible use of social media, whereas under a third of sportspeople (30.8%, n=13) believe the same.

This is not too surprising considering the sportspeople’s popularity and influence in social media. Nevertheless, the two most interesting and intriguing figures to come out of these questionnaires are that both corporate communicators (95% agree, n=59) and sportspeople (84.7% agree, n=13) agree that some employees’ reputations are bigger than that of the organisation.

If this were the case, social media policy should have been drawn up and be in circulation to take effect. Those corporate communicators in sport seem to be reluctant create and implement an internal policy to deal with any potential reputation issues. This, again, would help maintain the status and professionalism between the individual and the organisation.

Even more surprisingly, corporate communicators (71.2% agree, n=59) agree that a strict social media policy would help both the organisation and the individual, with the sportspeople, the overwhelming majority (92.3% agree, n=13) believe the same thing. Sportspeople clearly saw the value of a social media policy with a list of guidelines to help prevent discipline and misconduct charges. However, the importance of the organisation’s and the individual’s interaction with its consumers (fans) is vital.

Taking the statistics and understanding from these two questionnaires are from sportspeople and corporate communicators; it is vital to understand how the fan stakeholders feel towards the use of social media and how they react to it. The first step in doing this was to produce and disseminate a third and final questionnaire (Part 4).

Sport Corporate Communicators need to control their employees: Part 1
Corporate Communicators need to control their employees: Part 2
 
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