We’re speaking to Queens Park Rangers FC’s Social Media Manager, Andy Watkins on the latest edition of Industry Insider!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Andy Watkins and I’m the Social Media Manager at Queens Park Rangers FC. I’ve been here since November 2012 (starting the same week as a certain Harry Redknapp) where I was initially Club Journalist before being promoted to my current role in the summer of 2015.
Prior to joining QPR I was lucky enough to be a Football Reporter for the Olympic News Service at London 2012 having built up previous experience in media and PR at Macmillan Cancer Support and work experience with FourFourTwo after graduating from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2009.
What do you do in your current role?
I manage QPR’s social media channels on a day-to-day basis which effectively means 24 hours a day, seven days a week! Most of my time is spent producing, delivering and overseeing content across a range of social media channels, primarily Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
I also assist with various other media duties including interviewing players, writing articles and assisting with media coverage for other areas of the club such as the Academy, Community Trust and Women’s team.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Like a lot of people’s, a normal week right now looks very different to how they used to! Before COVID-19, my days would either be spent at our Harlington training ground or at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, where our offices are based, planning and executing content alongside my colleagues in the media team.
Right now, most of my time is spent working from home but I am still able to visit the training ground as and when I need to capture content which can’t be done remotely.
Every Monday begins with a content call when the five of us discuss the upcoming week and what content ideas we have in mind. Given the relentless nature of the Championship this often revolves around games so a lot of our content is match-focused – but especially during lockdown and when football was suspended it was key to have those meetings to brainstorm and come up with new ideas.
The rest of the week is then largely dictated by what content we have planned, what events are taking place and what games we have.
Matchdays are unsurprisingly the busiest day of the week and often what everything is billed towards. I get as much planned as possible the day before, scheduling in content for the morning, before arriving at the stadium usually three or so hours before kick-off. Providing behind the scenes content is my main role and, with games behind-closed-doors, it’s been even more important to give supporters that insight into a matchday.
Depending on the result my work often continues at home (or in the car/train when we’re away) on a Saturday night, if things have gone well, I’ll spend most of my Sunday cropping photos, uploading footage and identifying what content from the game supporters will most likely want to see.
It can be a busy week, and even busier weekend, but a win on the Saturday makes it all worthwhile especially when you see the positive reaction your content receives on social media.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
From a young age, writing about football was something I always enjoyed doing and, as much as I loved playing it too, once the dream of becoming a professional footballer had inevitably faded, my next goal was to work in football.
The first main step I took was studying Sport Journalism at university. The three years I had at the University of Brighton gave me a great education and only fuelled my appetite to work in the industry.
Given how popular the sport is, I knew it would be an incredibly competitive industry so I endeavoured to gain as much experience as possible after graduating to give myself the best possible chance of getting my foot in the door. This began with several months’ work experience at FourFourTwo writing content for their magazine and website.
While finding full-time paid work was difficult to find, I branched out to working in communications for the NHS before joining Macmillan Cancer Support as part of their media and PR team in London. As well as promoting the brilliant work the charity does, I worked on a fundraiser called ‘Fashion Kicks’. This culminated in a star-studded event headlined by the entire Manchester City squad – days before they went on to win their first Premier League title after THAT game with QPR of all teams – which only reaffirmed my ambition of getting into football full-time.
All the while I spent many nights up late writing copy for a football betting website to bolster my portfolio and keep my eye in, all in the hope that day one day it would pay off.
Thankfully that day came when I was approached by the Olympic News Service to work at London 2012 as a football reporter on the recommendation, they’d received from FourFourTwo. It led to working out of Stratford for a few weeks prior to the Games starting, before being relocated to Coventry – living inside the hotel at the Ricoh Arena, covering both men’s and women’s games, including Team GB women’s quarter-final with Canada. This gave me my first taste of working in a high-pressure environment, interviewing high profile athletes and meeting tight deadlines, plus a new-found appreciation for women’s football.
The experience at the Olympics proved invaluable as, shortly after, I was successful in my application to become QPR’s new Club Journalist.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
After the year we’ve had it has to be the return of fans. Going to work and watching football simply hasn’t been the same without them.
It took a while to adjust to covering games behind closed doors, and seeing players walk out to silence and celebrate in front of empty stadiums has never felt right. Players and fans alike live for football in front of packed stadiums and I can’t wait to see that again.
Social media has played a crucial part in keeping the fans connected and, while I’ve been honoured to play that role, wins have always been tinged with sadness that there weren’t supporters in the stadium to celebrate with the team.
This season we’ve pulled off some memorable comebacks and scored some late winners (Albert Adomah’s at Watford and Jordy de Wijs’ against Millwall spring to mind) and, as enjoyable as they were, part of me couldn’t help but think how much greater they would have been with fans behind the goal celebrating.
We’ve worked incredibly hard to make the fans feel as close as possible to the club but we know ultimately nothing can replicate that feeling of going to watch your team on a Saturday. I can’t wait for us to all hopefully be back together next season.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
My number one priority is to produce engaging content that will get people talking about it, content our followers will enjoy consuming and make them want to come back for more. People follow our social media channels presumably because they want to see what we do, and I’m always keen to make sure we give them the best possible experience.
This season especially we’ve tried to be even more creative to make fans feel as close as possible to the team. This included regular videos from training and our ‘Alternative Angle’ videos of matches which have proved really popular. Towards the end of the season, we also introduced ‘Admin Cam’ where we try to give supporters a snapshot of what matchday looks like from our point of view and has subsequently become one of our most engaging pieces of content.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
It has to be the abuse which is still rife on social media. We’ve seen plenty said when footballers have been subjected to it, but I think everyone would agree not enough action or change has come about as a result of it.
Unfortunately, we had our own example when one of our players, Bright Osayi-Samuel, was racially abused on Instagram after a game in December. We immediately reported this to Instagram and, while they assured us this would be looked into, we never received a final outcome. Hopefully the recent social media boycott from across English football will make the social media companies take notice because, as long as people are able to abuse others with no accountability, it will continue.
— QPR FC (@QPR) December 30, 2020
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
All I would say is to get as much as experience as you can and to try to make an impression. It’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into so the more experience you get the better and, as a consequence, the more contacts you’ll make who could prove invaluable. If you make a positive impression, then there’s more chance you’ll be rewarded further down the line.
How to connect with Andy Watkins on social…
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