In the latest instalment of Industry Insider, we spoke to the Communications Manager at the Rugby Players’ Association, Stephen Thomas!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Stephen Thomas and I currently work for the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) as their Communications Manager. I’ve been in this post for since August 2021, and it’s been great so far.
Previous to this role, I worked at Sale Sharks, as their Social Media & Website Executive, where I travelled to as many games as I could from the first team to the U18s and reported on them. I worked their full time between 2014-17.
In 2017, I felt I needed a change in my life, so I moved to London and started working for Perform Group (now known as DAZN) in the rugby team as their Social Media Assistant Producer. I was the first of its kind. I worked closely with Premiership Rugby, developing their social media videos and helped come up with content. At first, I was brought in to solely concentrate on that, but as time went on, I started to work on the highlights show that was produced for Premiership Rugby which was shown on Channel 5.
I contributed in many ways to that show, from editing and producing highlights to going out on the road to produce our presenters Mark Durden Smith and David Flatman. I built up my experience and by June 2021, I was the main show producer for the Gallagher Premiership Final. Another part of the role was working at outside broadcasts (OBs). DAZN had the responsibility of putting on all the games for the World Feed, so I often went out and was VT Co-Ordinator for 8-10 camera games too.
What do you do in your current role?
I am responsible for the day-to-day management of RPA social media accounts by producing engaging and relevant content across our primary channels.
This can form from player interviews over the phone to in person interviews as well. I also collaborate with departments across the business (including Rugby, Commercial and Restart, the official charity of the RPA) to communicate and promote the RPA’s work. Plus, alongside my manager, we help implement the strategy over the year.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
I can tell you what, you are right, normal isn’t a thing! I forward plan a lot, to ensure that our channels are filled with engaging content as that is something I want to improve on our channels. We have regular meetings with each department to discuss any communications requirements, and then it’s just trying to come up with content which will educate and inform not only our members, but the general public.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I remember watching football matches when I was younger, and I vividly remember wanting to be the next John Motson! I used to mimic him and aspire to own that sheepskin coat! However, as I grew up, I realised that I didn’t have the gift of a commentator, but I had more of a passion for reporting.
I am very fortunate to have built up a relationship with Dave Swanton, the then Head of Media at Sale Sharks. I emailed him back in Year 10 to ask if I could go on Work Experience, and he fortunately said yes, and the rest is history! I got my foot in door, worked hard and worked my way up the ladder. It is an industry I love and feel honoured to work in it.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Enjoy it, as you don’t know how long it will last. If you enjoy your work, then that will come across in the content.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
There have been way too many! One of the ones that sticks to me was tweeting the wrong score at full time and I didn’t realise for 10 minutes, and it was a big defeat. You just have to learn your mistakes and move on; the more you reflect on it, you’ll beat yourself up and be stuck in a rut.
What are you excited about in your industry now?
I’d say the emergence of TikTok. It is a huge platform, with such a huge young demographic, and I find it really exciting and promising that they have signed a deal with the Men’s Six Nations and signed a deal to be the Headline Sponsor for the Women’s Six Nations. It will lead to more people discovering the game we love. But going back to the original question, I think seeing new social media platforms are exciting and ones to embrace.
The TikTok Women's Six Nations will commence in 2022! ✨ pic.twitter.com/vYE1yzxJu8
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) January 27, 2022
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
More of a focus on work/life balance. I know quite a few people who struggle with maintaining a work/life balance and have had to leave roles they love to ensure that their life is balanced better. It’s an individuals responsibility to take care of their self, however companies also have a duty of care towards their employees.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
I’m made to by my partner! Ha, this is something I’m slowly getting better at. In the last few years, for a variety of reasons, I’ve never been able to fully switch off when I’m off for the day or on a holiday for example, and it’s really affected me mentally from time to time.
But I sing in a choir to switch off every week, it really helps me out a lot. And then I also love to switch off by watching some classic TV (please tweet me any recommendations) and play A LOT of Football Manager!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Never take no for an answer and be brave. It took me one email to get my foot in the door at Sale Sharks, and I’ve never looked back.
How to connect with Stephen Thomas and the RPA…
@theRPA – work
@RestartRugby – work’s charity.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Stephen Thomas! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.