Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport! We’re speaking to Head of Digital and Communications at Motherwell Football Club, Grant Russell.

Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?

My name is Grant Russell. I am the head of digital and communications at Motherwell Football Club, a role I’ve been in since October 2017.

Prior to this, I spent eight years at Scottish Television. Initially I worked on the digital sport side of things there, before spending three years as an on-screen sports correspondent, tackling the big issues of the day and doing live broadcasts to the nation every evening.

Grant Russell in his previous role on Scottish TV
My previous role on Scottish Television.

 

What do you do in your current role?

A lot. It’s a really varied role that the job title doesn’t completely cover. But that is the beauty of being somewhere like Motherwell FC. You get to be hands on in many different areas, learn new skills and truly influence the business.

One of my two primary roles lies in digital. That encompasses many things, from strategy to analytics to creation to marketing to branding and anything else in between.

One of the major projects we worked on early last year was making sure the club’s brand was clearly defined, that we all understood it and then we could take forward its principles across the business. In our content, that’s also reflected through the strategy we’ve put in place.

We also operate a player branding programme to help shape our squad’s personal images and benefit them in their careers. We impress upon them the need to establish what their story is, and then the need to tell it in the right way whether it’s through social or traditional media.

So my role is also about trying to craft what those individual images are, and how those stories are told. Ultimately it helps them control others’ perceptions about themselves, and helps the club have strong characters to help tell stories.

I am also the communications point for external media organisations, handling press queries, organising press conferences, setting up interviews, briefing the management and players and the like.

Player branding example
An example of our player branding work.

 

What does a normal week look like for you?

There’s only really one certainty in normal times – and that’s the match on Saturday.

The week itself can be massively varied. We are a team of three covering all aspects of what goes out on our digital channels, right through from the concept of ideas to execution.

We work within defined content pillars to help shape what we’re doing, and from then it’s about what’s in the planner and what stories need to be told.

We’ll be building up to the match by taking our fans through the match just past with dressing room access, on pitch sounds and the tale of where we go after the result. We’ll be doing a video with a player in their non-football pursuits to build up their character. We’ll be telling the great stories of the people of our local area and highlighting important local causes. And much, much more.

We’re fortunate to have that time between matches here, with not too many midweeks, so there’s time to work on other things – although the schedule is still intense.

A montage of a normal week
A montage of whats included in a normal week.

 

How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?

I was pretty set in high school that I wanted to work in sports journalism, and it all went from there. After university and various jobs getting experience in broadcasting, and misspent teenage years before that learning how to design websites and being online as every trend came and went, I eventually got in at Livingston FC in 2008. Scottish Television followed a year after that, and then Motherwell.

 

What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?

The opportunity to build anything you want, in the style you want, and get people hooked on it. Clubs who have modest resources and modest catchment in their local area can attract fans from all over the world and get them hooked on what’s going on. There’s so many emerging ways to tell stories. Players are getting more conscious of building the right images for themselves and becoming creators. And the talent. The amount of talented people making content or sharing their insights seems to be multiplying all the time.

Obviously we are in a period now where knowing what things look like six months down the line isn’t easy to predict. And it’s scary. But it’s also an opportunity to try and react to the challenges coming and find creative ways to overcome them and benefit from them – both for your business and yourself.

Another player branding example
Another example of our player branding work. This one was for a birthday post.

 

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?

You’re no longer reliant on someone giving you a chance to get experience in writing, publishing, editing, social media or any of the things geared towards what you want to do for a job.

You’ve got the tools at hand through free internet publishing sites and social media to do it for yourself and get noticed. Whatever you’re passionate about, however polished or not it is, just start. You’ll get feedback from viewers, and people in the industry, and learn as you go. Then when it comes to the crunch, you’ll have a body of work and experience in your pocket. Or you might make a living going alone.

 

Here’s how you can follow Grant Russell on social media…

You can get me on Twitter @grantrussell_. You can also read a bit more about the work we do in my recent LinkedIn article (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/telling-story-people-can-believe-grant-russell/).

But more importantly, give Motherwell FC a follow on your favoured social platform. We’ll take you with us on where we go next.