Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport.
Paul Holliday, Head of Marketing and Communications at Bolton Wanderers is the latest professional from the sport industry to share his story with us.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Paul Holliday and I’m the Head of Marketing and Communications at Bolton Wanderers Football Club. I’m currently in my second spell with Wanderers having previously spent almost seven years at Lancashire County Cricket Club where I was Communications Manager.
I was the Media and PR Manager at Bolton Wanderers between 2001 and 2010 and returned, following my stint at Emirates Old Trafford, in 2016.
I’m a lifelong Bolton Wanderers fan and it’s very much a dream job for me.
What do you do in your current role?
I am responsible for the club’s engagement with all our stakeholders whilst also ensuring that our marketing function runs effectively in union with all our communications and commercial activity. Working with my talented colleagues Luke Gallagher (Media and Communications Manager) and Mikey O’Gara (Digital Communications Executive), we are responsible for the club’s entire content output across our digital platforms and matchday programme.
Having sound, professional relationships with the media, especially our local press, is a fundamental requirement for my role. It’s also important that I’m always available to speak with our fans, so I strike up positive relationships with influencers, fans sites and our official supporter organisations. After all, I’m a fan so I think it’s vitally important that our fans feel like they are listened to.
What does a normal week look like for you?
During the season a week is always busy and it’s very rare to be ‘off-duty’ even on a Sunday. I’ve been working in sport all my professional life – over 20 years (yeah, I know I don’t look that old!) so I’ve long since given up on quiet weekends! Each day I start the morning with a phone call to Marc Iles (the Bolton News’ Wanderers’ correspondent). Marc and I have known each other for a long time and we always chat throughout each day.
As I mentioned early, relationships with the media are key in this role, and it’s important that local media are fully kept in the loop with all club activity. I actually probably spend more time talking to Marc than I do with Mrs Holliday! On a Monday, Luke, who edits our matchday programme, will usually sign off the edition with the printer ahead of a home game at the weekend.
In my previous spell at Wanderers I edited the programme and truly appreciate all the hard work that goes into it. Luke does a sterling job and I write the odd article and help with proofing. Planning for the week, we will set up a press conference for the media, usually on a Thursday so that the press can preview the game ahead of the weekend. Marketing wise, me and the team work out a plan to promote and help sell tickets for the match. With the games having restricted access at the moment, our focus has been on digital subscriptions and match passes for iFollow.
On Friday, we have our regular content meeting with representatives from most departments at the club. We review the output from the previous week and plan ahead for future weeks. This also helps us focus on our PR strategy which enables us to promote, for example, activity undertaken by our Community Trust. Matchdays, let’s be honest, are the most exciting aspect of the working week. I tend to get in early, so that I can have a pre-match run to help clear my head and ready myself for the busy but exciting few hours ahead.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
My father worked in the Ticket Office at Burnden Park (BWFC’s former ground) and after years of helping out, I managed to get a full-time role in the ticket office in 1996 – just as the club started on its journey to regular Premier League football. At university I studied journalism and always intended to go down that route. However, the chance to work for BWFC was impossible to resist and I carried on selling tickets for a further five years before a role became available in the club’s communications team.
That was in 2001 – the year BWFC got promoted to the EPL via a play-off win against Preston North End at Cardiff.
The rest is history and I was fortunate enough to develop my own skills as the club grew in size and strength.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Challenges are what excite me the most in communications. Having to adapt to a fast-paced ever changing environment certainly keeps you on your toes, yet you also need to have a rigid and strategic plan in place to ensure that your usual day-to-day activities are not missed. At BWFC, notwithstanding the current COVID-19 restrictions that are affecting all sports, there is a real and palpable excitement swirling around the University of Bolton Stadium. To be part of this journey, both as an employee and a fan, is something that really excites me.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Make the most of any opportunity you get and be prepared to put in the hard yards. Clubs, particularly further down the football pyramid, will appreciate any offer of help they can get, particularly from a media and communications perspective. If you are studying on a sports journalism or PR course, make sure you endeavour to try and get a placement or contribute to a club’s content output.
Build up your portfolio, be patient and maintain good relations with the club. Also, be careful what you post on your own personal social media channels. I’ve seen so many examples of students wanting to get some experience with us, only to find them posting…let’s say controversial content which could come back to haunt them and the organisation they hope to work for!
How to follow Paul Holliday on social media…
@_paulholliday on Twitter
I fundraise for a charity that is close to my heart, so please give them a follow at @HighFiveLancs on Twitter.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with Head of Marketing and Communications, Paul Holliday!