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New manager must change old habits

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MEDIA MESSAGING An interview with Mayo manager Stephen Rochford is pictured being recorded on a mobile phone during a press conference in 2017. Pic: Sportsfile

The Way I See It
Ger Flanagan

BACK in 2003, the late, great Páidi O’Sé got himself into bother with the Kerry supporters when he described them as ‘the roughest type of f*cking animals you can ever deal with’ when describing how difficult it was managing his native county.
In an attempt to water down the impact, he later clarified that he was merely trying to describe how they demand the highest of standards and can be difficult to please.
Páidi was genuine in his clarification of his comments, but you can be sure he felt he wasn’t far wrong with the original statement either!
Because, at the end of the day (and Páidi found this out the hard way), football is a results-based business and anything you’ve achieved in the past is long forgotten when things go wrong.
It would be very interesting to hear the frank and honest opinion of James Horan on the Mayo supporters at the end of his second term.
That’s because there is no doubt he achieved considerable success during his eight years in charge of the county senior team, and during his time as a player too.
But by the time he stepped down he was far from the most popular figure in Mayo GAA circles. The reality was he had ‘lost’ a cohort of the support base.
Rightly or wrongly, that was the situation.
The game at the top level is cut-throat.
Some of the reasons were beyond the control of the Ballintubber man, but other factors were preventable and a lot of the issues boiled down to poor communication from the camp.
That’s why this columnist feels that the new Mayo manager must put an effective communications strategy high up on his list of priorities if he is going to bring some camaraderie and ‘spark’ back between the Mayo supporters and the football team.
A lack of engagement with supporters, a reactive rather than proactive approach to social media messaging, and a defensive relationship with members of the local media were some factors in the way that everyone just drifted apart in the end.
The new Mayo manager will have to show the supporters that their reign will be different and a new approach to communications will be employed.
Firstly, they have to build a strong working relationship with the local media; secondly, they have to start embracing social media correctly as a tool for building relationships.
Having worked full-time in the local media with this newspaper under two different Mayo managers, and now employed in social media, I have gained a good insight into the workings of those worlds.

Keep it local
WHEN James Horan took over in late 2018, I was optimistic about the way he portrayed his plans for a new working relationship with the local media.
We were assured that the lines of communication would be open regularly, but quite quickly it became apparent that would not be the case, and trying to find out about simple things like injury updates or who was in the Mayo squad became more difficult than cracking the Da Vinci code.
Over time frustrations grew and relationships became strained.
So, if I could offer the next Mayo manager a small piece of advice it would be to start building a professional working relationship with the local media.
Because they (we) don’t actually look for much. A bit of team news at the start of every week during the National League or before championship games; a squad list at the start of the league and championship; maybe a monthly sit-down with the local journalists and the odd player being offered up for interviews would go a long way.
Regional newspapers are at a major crossroads in terms of their future prospects, so getting an odd exclusive interview can be a massive injection to circulation.
I remember how some of us had to jump through hoops to try and get an interview with one award-winning Mayo footballer during the Covid lockdown in the spring of 2021.
The GAA season was in shutdown mode but, even though the player in question was happy to talk to The Mayo News, the senior team’s ‘media handler’ politely (but firmly) declined our request. No, we couldn’t make sense of that decision either!
Nobody is looking for special treatment by the way, just a bit of common sense.
The new manager also has to accept that he will get criticised if things aren’t going to plan. At the end of the day, the local media have a job to do and critical analysis is part of that.
It goes with the territory.

Social Media savvy
YOU don’t need a degree in new media to see that Mayo GAA are sitting on a goldmine with their social media accounts because they have what is considered absolute prime real estate in social terms — an active and engaged audience.
It’s what brands and businesses are working tirelessly to build, and spending thousands every year to try and achieve, but for Mayo GAA it comes easy.
Proper messaging is critical in any social media campaign – if you get it wrong in the early stages, be ready to feel the brunt as it trickles down the line.
You also need to provide your audience with some sort of a mechanism to get them interested and engaged, a sweetener or token of appreciation.
‘You have to give to receive’, as they say in the business.
That means providing good content — behind the scenes access, supporters’ questions, player interviews, giveaways, along with the regular squad news.
Just take a look across the pond and see how many of the big Premier League teams are utilising YouTube, Instagram and Tik Tok to give their fans incredible access and promote a feeling of transparency and trust within the supporters.
It’s also critically important that social media is being monitored all the time to hear how the wind is blowing and what the public opinion is, to ensure you get your message ‘out in front’ and not arrive too late.
Because social media can be a cannibalising beast that needs feeding constantly or else it will quickly open an abyss of negativity.
Mayo GAA spend an astronomical amount of money on the senior team’s preparation every year, so why not allocate a small budget to a skilled team who can strategise and execute a social media plan for the year ahead?
Given the sheer volume of work required, combined with the skills needed, the days of volunteers trying to steer the ship are gone.
It’s a great opportunity for Mayo GAA to combine the appointment of a new Mayo manager with changing the relationship with the fanbase.
Because things have to change.

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