Find your stars
Lancashire County Cricket Club has played a blinder by having its star players call up customers and help them renew their memberships.
It sounded novel but familiar at the same time – and it quickly became apparent that while it’s unusual for the sports world, it’s what the public sector does every day.
Councils, police forces and fire and rescue services are fortunate in that their stars – the representatives of the organisation that the public identify most with – are usually their largest staff body, whose work naturally connects them directly to the communities they serve.
It must be more difficult for high-profile sports clubs because the small number of stars compared with the large number of fans it needs to connect with makes reaching out a hard task.
But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try and many sports clubs and players have seen the benefits (and pitfalls!) of talking directly with their supporters and detractors via social media.
Whether it was achievements made through social media or looking across at their public sector counterparts, or even just a concerted effort to try something new, it’s a great idea.
It is great because it says to the fans, the customers, the people whose hard-earned money supports the team that everyone at the club, including the sportspeople at the top, know what really matters: the people who put them there.
While it was contrived in the sense it was planned because they’d arranged to do it in advance, it wasn’t awkward or cheesy because there was legitimacy in the energy and efforts the players put in.
It made me think of the public service stars, like Dave Throup from the Environment Agency who kept communities informed during the 2014 floods.
He was there to do a job of work that didn’t necessarily need him to pick up the phone and start using to Twitter to tell people about what he was doing. But he did and his informative posts about the work he was doing soon got those affected interested along with a much wider audience (he now has 10,000 Twitter followers).
Our job as communicators and public relations practitioners isn’t to force these things to happen – the public, communities or members can spot something that’s staged or fake from a mile off. However, it is our role to spot opportunities for those we work with to connect with the people they need to, via methods or in places they might not have imagined they would, and we can help build their skills and confidence to use these new tools properly while still being true to themselves.