Our Larkhall Journey
Our project began at the end of October, 2014, when Mimi Thebo introduced us to the rest of our class, and began explaining the purpose of the module, suggesting possible leads to exciting projects she had already touched base with. One of these projects was a journalistic relationship with a local lower league football club; Larkhall Athletic F.C. Mimi explained that this local team had just been promoted to a new division, and that their team Admin, Tracey Hill, was looking for support with the public relations of the club, primarily writing press releases and match reviews for the Non-League Paper and their club website.
We both have a keen interest in football, and were both intrigued by the brief sent in by Tracey. Upon a quick discussion with Mimi, we deduced that the current brief didn’t have enough of a workload for two students to receive a worthwhile mark. Having worked together before, and knowing that we could both bring different skills to the table, we asked Mimi to put us in contact with Tracey, in order to see if we could increase the scope of the original brief.
An early season game the following weekend was a great opportunity for us to broach our early ideas with Tracey. Both of us have experience in creating visual and online media content as well as writing, and wondered how Tracey felt this would fit in with the club ethos, and if she thought there was a demand for it in the community. We explained how, as part of a younger generation of football fans, match highlights and segments of interest were no longer restricted to television shows like Match of the Day, and that we thought making some online content for the club would be a good way of boosting interactivity and attract more supporters from the local community. The response was positive, and Tracey was happy to let us include match recorded videos, along with the originally agreed press releases and match reports.
Upon agreeing to take on the project, the first hurdle we encountered was working out the logistics of recording games and getting them to the already existing Larkhall fan base. This lead to the majority of November – December being an experimental period, where we tried and tested different methods and equipment.
Not having experience with sports recording before, we were unsure on the type of equipment and conditions we would need in order to create good quality online content. Upon the advice of the equipment library, we tried and tested 3 different cameras, with a variety of additional equipment including zoom lenses, tripods, beach mics and camera mounts. We found this made the early few weeks working at Larkhall difficult. Each new set up took some getting used to, and we also had to be taking match notes for the report afterwards. We also wanted to try tweeting to Tracey suggested tweets by us for the pre-existing club account we had no access to. We liked the idea of getting more than one camera angle for the match highlights videos, but it was fast becoming apparent that it was physically impossible to do so without falling short on the original purpose of the brief, which was writing for the club. A division in labour was decided, and to our surprise it wasn’t how we originally planned it. Despite his Creative Writing background, Hywel found he could adapt to the varying equipment better than Marcus, and soon acquired a real skill for recording the games. Additionally, Marcus’ creative media background found itself overshadowed by the flare he had for the sports journalism. This meant that we could work in all areas of the project confidently, and found that the project became more efficient because of it. This was evident when Tracey then asked us to start writing full match reports for the Larkhall website, on top of the match reports for the Non League Paper. On a few occasions however, due to human error from the client and third parties, we sometimes did not get credited, or got credited incorrectly. This was frustrating, however it was out of our control, and had to learn to take in our professional stride.
Despite adapting successfully to the logistical requirements, there were some mistakes made early on that we learnt from. An example of this was the ‘Welcome to Plain Ham’ feature we made, as a debut to the community. We weren’t aware of the stringent licensing laws involved with using music and YouTube, and consequently the video got flagged for copyright issues. Before it got flagged however, in terms of views the video was a great success gaining many positive reviews, and helped us break the ice with the tight knit community.
Working with a client
One of the most important factors in our project was the aspect of working with a client for the first time. This dynamic affected the way we had to work throughout the project, meaning we had to adapt our approach in order to make the relationship work at several different points over the course of the year.
A moment we felt was an immense turning point in the project in relation to some early teething problems we were experiencing with our client was when a series of meetings were called, bringing together both us, the client and Mimi. The problems were in relation to communication levels, and also there was yet to be a solid agreement set in place for what the client should expect from us in terms of work content produced per week for them. During our experimental phase between November and December, we were engrossed with figuring out the best way in which to tackle the filming of the project,, and consequently the dialogue with our client became sparse. This lead to frustration from both parties and it was important that everyone sat down and discussed the issues if we were going to continue to work together. The meetings were approached in a professional manor and very much had the intention of making the relationship work and taking positive steps. The most important thing to come out of the meetings was a contract/ timeline stating which games we would attend what content we would produce (Video highlights, match report etc.) and by when in the week following a match we would release them
Following these meetings and the contract/timeline agreement, things ran far more smoothly. Learning to keep the client in the loop and aware of our own ideas and thoughts was an important step to keep them re assured that we were making progress, as it was important they had trust in us in order to build mutual respect. This differed to how we had worked in the past where, communication was not such a key factor and we had been able to get on with work privately. Despite some minor issues with the client later on again in the project, we’d developed our client relation skills greatly, and could deal with any issues in a reasonable and professional manor.
Our work with the club and especially our new twitter account posts attracted the attention of free-lance sports journalist, Mark Tanner who approached us and arranged to meet with us at a future home game at the club to discuss possible collaboration. It was interesting to speak with him as he had more experience and was able to offer helpful pointers for us to consider, especially on the writing of match reports. Tanner who has his own sports journalism website featured our highlight video of a game alongside his own match report which was a great complement and gave us a lot of confidence in the work we were doing.
Working within the sports community
When we began working with Larkhall Athletic .F.C, there was an already existing twitter account, in which the club posted final scores, as well as information on match cancellations and away game travel.
We were keen to upgrade this service, as we felt it was a good platform to expand the rest of our project from. However, Tracey was wary about giving us access to this account, and at first we had to resort to tweeting her from personal accounts so she could retweet them. This arduous process defeated the quick and direct purpose of Twitter, and so we decided on founding our own twitter account for the club, naming ourselves the “Larkhall Fans HQ”. This gave us creative control, enabling us to promote our content freely with separation from the official Larkhall board. Making a Gmail account to use for the Twitter also gave us the perfect opportunity to set up our YouTube channel. The two platforms work perfectly together, enabling us to embed the videos in the twitter timeline, as well as encourage viewers to click the links to our twitter account under the video descriptions.
The challenge for us when we first started creating material was getting an understanding of what the current fans wanted to see, and what would entice other people to the channel. An early video by us was a light-hearted video, showing the Larks flailing in a goal mouth scramble unable to score, accompanied by humorous sound effects.
Although many of the fans found it entertaining, through talking with the diehard locals around the grounds and at the club house, a change of tone was in order to make this project a viable one. We found that a lot of the local fan base was of the older generation, and that they found using the more serious content, like match highlights, the most rewarding and worthwhile. We therefore shied away from the more comedy based videos, opting for the post match analysis with the manager after games instead. This proved an instant success, and gave the account more credibility as a standalone source of news from the existing Larkhall social media.
Towards the end of our time at Larkhall, we gave out a questionnaire (which can be found in the appendix), asking the local fans if and how they accessed our content, and whether they found it entertaining. We believe this was the best way of gauging our success, as these were the people all our content was aimed towards. We believe we achieved a great amount of success, inspiring a number of fans to take to the clubs twitter and viewing the online content, rather than just the original match reports. Also, all expressed strong interest for the service to continue next season, which we believe is the biggest success of all.
This is an example of our Match Highlight videos
An example of the post match interview with the manager
Here is a list of Larkhall feature Match Reports, the home games we wrote, which got posted on the Larkhall website, from November up until April the 25th:
We also wrote the match press releases for the Non League Paper, which are written by the home teams every week and e-mailed in:
Here is an example of our match notes for all the games, both on paper and our phones. You will also find here team sheets and any business cards we acquired:
Here is the questionnaires that got filled out:
Here is some statistics from the YouTube channel:
Click here to see our Twitter statistics:
Click here to see our interactions via e-mail with Tracey. Note that most have a back and forth of 3-4 e-mails:
Here is some extra admin we did for Tracey Hill:
Here is a visual representation of all the media files we had for Larkhall, as uplading them would take weeks: