Media Officers play a crucial role as people that bridge the gap between athletes and the media. Thus they play a crucial role in our bid to raise the profile of female footballers and their clubs.
Communication Managers, as they are sometimes known as, facilitate the conversation between media practitioners, while ensuring they manage the public image of the club. Importantly, the communication and synergy between players – to journalists should be seamless because as a media officer, you don’t want your club or players misrepresented.
The role goes beyond press releases, it’s important to create relationships with media personnel because they are key in telling the stories but also giving players a platform through interviews and coverage on media platforms, TV and Radio.
“Players look for positive exposure and to be recognised for their accolades. To understand who they are as players but also as human beings, there are people behind the athletes. We facilitate this by ensuring that the journalists understand the capacity at which the athletes are mentally and emotionally in their careers.JVW FC Media Officer, Sadie Niekerk
“We do our part as media officers to be the ground zero between the media and players, to prepare and ensure that they are prepared for interviews, appearances, and articles.”
How an individual athlete or sports team is viewed by the public can impact ticket sales and other forms of revenue. The proliferation of social media has placed even greater emphasis on public perception since fans now have an always-on outlet to praise or criticise sports organisations via online public platforms.
Media Officers sometimes double up as PR Specialists who also manage crises by drafting and disseminating unified public statements that represent the best interests of a sports organisation.
Niekerk has more on the importance of synergy between players and media facilitated by the Media Liaison. “It’s important for there to be synergy between all those as stated above to ensure that healthy relationships are built, to create clear lines of communication between the media and the athletes also with the clubs involved. A clear line of communication and understanding between all parties could forge for a good relationship between the journalists and athletes.”
Pearl Mosoane, a Media Officer for AmaTuks, has mastered the art of this intimidating position as she heads up not just the first team at the University of Pretoria side but the whole club. Mosoane emphasises the importance of the exposure of women’s clubs and players. She also raises a highly important point as South Africa was known for the killing of homosexual women and what role exposure has played in educating the masses.
“The more we see women’s matches talked about, the easier it is for teams to invite people to matches. But also stories around the teams and players make them more relatable to people in the community. Not to say that they must be made into celebrities, but for the sport itself to be more acceptable especially in townships and rural areas.”AmaTuks Media Officer, Pearl Mosoane
“That reduces the negativity around the sport when you talk about sexual orientation, and players being subjected to corrective rape. It sounds like I’m talking in the clouds but we have a satellite in Mamelodi and we have seen that sort of change.
“Those stories change the minds of people around players and they become a support structure for the player and the team. That’s what players need from the media.”
While headway has been made over the years, there’s a lot that can improve in advancing women’s sport by making sure there’s a smooth relationship between all parties involved.
Mosoane has more: “Where lies the gap, yes it is in the facilitation of communication. A general problem in our football in general but more pronounced in women’s football is that communication and the role of the media officer is not taken as seriously in some clubs as it is in others, which makes accessibility cumbersome for the media.
“My role then is to make sure it is as easy as possible for media to access information about the club and players. Also to send stories out about the club and players and forge relations with the media to constantly have my team brand and name constantly in the media.”
Players and athletes at the end of the day are brilliant at what they do, play sport. Talent in playing with a ball doesn’t necessarily equate to public speaking and knowing when and what to say when. Especially when the media demands answers in controversial matters.
That’s why there’s another pillar of media training where the Communication Officer trains players on how to conduct themselves in public and what to say for the greater good of themselves as an athlete and the team they represent.
“I also have a responsibility to train the players on how to carry themselves publicly and how to speak in public so that we maximise that interaction with the media and keep them wanting to speak to us,” adds Mosoane.
Although this role has been around for decades, greater collaboration between the sometimes very demanding media and the media officer is needed.
For the player, a great media manager will grow the profile of not only the team, but the player too. So journalists get the content and the athlete gets the platform to communicate a message to community. When done right, this is a win-win situation.
In our bid to grow women’s sport from strength to strength, greater understanding of all our roles as stakeholder can lend a hand in facilitating the growth of women’s sport. Athletes, are like precious cargo in this context, they have to enjoy support and protection while at the same time the media doesn’t feel short-changed by the teams.
Photo Caption: Media Officers are unsung heroes. They facilitate the conversation between the media and players while managing the public image of the club. JVW’s Sadie Niekerk and Pearl Mosoane from AmaTuks speak on the importance of this role and its dynamics. All photos: Supplied