When I started this website I really wanted to make a conscious effort to put the spotlight on as many different sports across Scotland as I could. I’ve been able to interview Ed Hodge when he worked for Scottish Golf, Jeremy Bone from Glasgow Warriors and I went along to a Braehead Clan ice hockey match. This interview is with Elizabeth Sleet who’s currently Media and Comms Executive at Cricket Scotland and it has plenty of insights, advice and examples to takeaway. Enjoy.
I’m going to start off with a big, maybe quite controversial, question to ask you. There may be people out there that are not be the world’s biggest cricket fans. What would you recommend to them to try and get into the sport?
First and foremost, I’d ask why aren’t you a cricket fan? And is this as a spectator or participant?
If it’s because you find the game is too long, various formats exist. The shortest at international level would be about three hours if you wanted to watch a game. If you wanted to pick up a bat and play, there’d be something to suit your commitments and time frame.
If you don’t understand the rules, the long and short is whoever scores the most runs, wins. Basically.
Get down to the Regional Series to give it a watch! Entry is free and you can catch Scotland’s best players. That’ll give you a nice introduction to the sport.
Or, come along The Grange, Edinburgh on 18th or 21st May to watch Scotland take on Sri Lanka in a One-Day International. Featuring music, food, drink, sport – it’s a great day out.
How did you make the move into working in sport?
This is quite a long one!
I was working at a digital agency as a Front of House Assistant (receptionist, basically) when I volunteered to help out in any area of the business I could. I said I was interesting in writing blog posts, coming up with social media ideas etc and I got the chance to pitch some ideas for campaigns. My ideas were well received and I got a taste for all things marketing and communications and I knew I wanted to one day branch out into that field.
After about five months at the agency I fancied a new challenge and I saw a six-month role with Surrey CCC as a Cricket Development Administrator. I absolutely love cricket and jumped at the chance. The role initially was to provide administrative support for the Surrey Cricket Foundation and it covered leagues, events, facilities, match-day activation – it was really varied.
Having come from a digital agency, I recognised Surrey weren’t using any digital channels to talk about the grassroots game. Our overarching aim was to increase cricket participation, and although not my role, I threw myself into running social media channels for the team to shout about the work of the Surrey Cricket Foundation and try and grow the game. Eventually, my six-month role would become permanent and I was tasked with leading on marketing and communications relating to the grassroots game.
One game day, the marketing and communications team at Surrey were short-staffed and asked if I’d like to take over social media for a Royal London One-Day Cup game. I loved every second and from that moment, I knew I wanted to work in communications for a cricket team.
Two years on and again wanting a new challenge, I saw an opening with Cricket Scotland as Media & Communications Executive. The rest, they say, is history!
What’s the remit of your current role at Cricket Scotland and take us through a typical day?
My role covers the entire spectrum of media and communications across all levels of cricket, right from the grassroots up to international.
One day I could be holding a media day for the press ahead of a tour or series, the next I could be leading communications on a match-day and the other I could be with our participation team seeing what they’ve got going on in their world and how we can best shout about it.
A typical day will start with checking my emails. Right now most of my emails come from the press requesting player interviews as we get underway with our busy summer.
I like to be flexible and work on a week-by-week and sometimes day-by-day basis with social media.
I’ll then check our social media and see our engagement from the previous day, before looking at my weekly content calendar and seeing what needs to go out that day. I don’t like using content scheduling tools as in my role things are very fast-paced and we have news to break almost every day, so I like to be flexible and work on a week-by-week and sometimes day-by-day basis with social media.
I use my afternoons to crack on with my to-do list, which at the moment is very long! We’re halfway through four ODIs against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, so I’ve got some media accreditation requests to confirm and graphics to create as well as checking in with our National Head Coach, Shane Burger, on team news.
…whilst not forgetting about what the Regional Series, participation team and Wildcats are up to! There can be a lot to manage.
You’re a good few months into the role now. What was the first priority when you started?
My first priority was to re-engage our digital audience and make sure our digital channels were consistent, on-brand and professional. The person in post before me left three months before I started (thanks to Christmas and New Year delaying my start date) so I wanted to come in and take the wheel from that perspective and really drive our digital offering forward.
I couldn’t wait to get tweeting and reinventing ourselves on social media, as we’d been pretty quiet for a long while and from the outside looking in, I couldn’t tell what our identity was and what was going on in the world of Cricket Scotland. I wanted to let everyone know we were still here, despite the airwaves being pretty quiet.
In terms of my first big task, within my first week or so we were ready to announce Shane Burger as our National Head Coach. Our squad then got announced to tour Oman for our quadrangular series against Ireland, Netherlands and Oman and it was straight into covering a tour. I was thrown right in at the deep end and my focus switched to international cricket right away.
How does your role in media and comms tie in with the likes of commercial and events?
It ties in extremely well! I’m part of the wider Commercial, Communications and Events team along with the Commercial Manager, Paul Macari, and Events Executive, Abbi Aitken. We’re a great team and I’m lucky to work with great people.
I’m always checking in with Paul to go over things like our broadcast rights and streaming plans along sponsor commitments I need to be aware of.
With Abbi, she’s the go-to for anything tournament and match-day related. We’ve got a lot of cricket this year from our Summer Internationals and ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier to our just-announced ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 fixtures. I’m always asking Abbi questions such as “how big is my media tent going to be at the game?” and “what time are the teams training at the venue?”
How important are strong digital channels for Cricket Scotland?
Very important. We’re a governing body, not just an international team, and we have a lot to cover and make people aware of.
People come to us to find out how to get into cricket, how to get tickets to catch our international teams in action, what the latest results are for our performance pathway teams and how to follow our international men and women when they play away from home.
It’s important all potential audiences are satisfied and we have a structure in place. We run weekly features on our top-tier domestic teams, performance squads and regularly interview people within the organisation to make sure we’re ticking off what people may want to know from us.
We also can’t ignore the fact that Scottish cricket isn’t picked up in the media as much as English cricket, so we have to recognise that whilst fans of England can go to pretty much any sports outlet to find out about their team, we have to bring much more of that in-house.
I think fans know we’re the best place to catch the coverage
For example, if you look at England Cricket, they don’t use social media an awful lot during a match. Why? They’re picked up by Sky Sports for every single home game and pretty much any cricket-related social media account you can imagine. Wisden. BBC Test Match Special. The Cricketer. Counties. Journalists. They enjoy tons of coverage on a game-day, so as a result I don’t think they have to worry too much about strong digital offerings.
With Scotland, I think fans know we’re the best place to catch the coverage as we’ve not yet reached that stage (but trust me, we will!) so it becomes even more important for us to give Scotland fans a way to get on-board.
Is it difficult to balance messaging on social between targeting existing cricket fanatics and trying to attract new fans to the sport?
Very much so.
With my social messaging, I try to meet three criteria – engaging, informative and cricket. I pitched this during my interview stages to try and help me get the job. This is something I want to develop further and would even love to write about one day.
With my social messaging, I try to meet three criteria – engaging, informative and cricket.
Engaging: This content is the ‘fun’ content. It aims to go a little bit viral, make people laugh, give Cricket Scotland some personality. This is almost cricket fan neutral, it’s content you don’t have to be a fanatic of cricket to enjoy, but I hope it’s content that people share or makes someone click ‘follow’ and learn more about us.
Informative: This content explains who we are and what we do. It could be content such as ‘here’s the formats we offer in Scotland and how you can get involved, here’s how to watch our international teams, here’s our President Elect, find out more about her’ etc. The idea of this content is to cater for those that actually might not know an awful lot about cricket, but are somewhat interested in sport. They might be looking to find a new hobby or something to do on the weekend and see a post talking about the various ways to play cricket and watch cricket. This content caters for those that have found their way onto our page via the engaging content mentioned above.
Cricket: By trying to attract new fans all the time, you can’t alienate those that come to us purely for cricket content. They may not want to know the latest funny thing to happen in training or a visually impaired cricket match we’re hosting, but just want to see how our international teams have performed recently. You can’t ignore the fans you have whilst trying to chase new ones! You won’t ever increase if you do that.
I don’t want to dwell too much on other sports, but how can you ensure that Scottish children grow up enjoying watching and playing cricket over other sports?
Getting cricket into schools. Getting cricket fans as PE teachers into schools! That’s state schools and not just public. Put a bat and ball in their hands early and tell them that no, cricket isn’t standing in a field in white clothing for five days. Cricket exists in many different formats and you’d be hard done by to not find a format you enjoy.
It’s quite a seasonal sport and the Scottish weather isn’t exactly tropical, how do you ensure interest in the sport remains high all year round?
Let’s break this down into international and participation.
Participation wise, the team do a great job at this with various indoor leagues that happen at schools and community centres all throughout the winter. The outdoor, “proper” cricket season is short at schools, but that’s just one format. The Wee Bash and Tapeball Leagues aim to capture those that want to play outside of the typical short-ish school season.
Then, clubs do their own thing over winter, too. They might hire community centres and sports halls to either train throughout winter or take part in indoor competitions.
Internationally, grab a cuppa.
The year started on January 1st. Scotland’s senior men flew out to Oman for a quadrangular tournament and three-match series against Oman over the month of February.
March and April, yes, they were quiet in terms of international cricket, but we had an outdoor training camp that Scotland’s men and women attended in Spain which I gave a lot of airtime to. Scotland A and Wildcats A (the teams directly below senior international) enjoyed some warm-up fixtures in April which, again, were covered well. It also saw the return of the Regional Series, which is the premier domestic competition for men and women. We stream these games and give them as much publicity as our content schedule allows.
May sees four One-Day Internationals against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka on 8, 10, 18 and 21 May. That’s a pretty big month full of international cricket content.
In June, our Wildcats fly to La Manga for a World Cup qualifier, that’ll be shouted about on digital as much as is possible, as I have the challenge of covering this tournament from Edinburgh!
July will be pretty quiet in terms of international cricket, but there’s plenty of regional and domestic cricket to cover.
August, Scotland’s men play four ODIs in Aberdeen against PNG and Oman. We’ve also got the start of the Euro T20 Slam, a new T20 competition spanning Scotland, Ireland and Netherlands. That goes on until mid-September. August 31st will also see the start of the Women’s World Cup Qualifier which runs for a week. A huge competition.
September will see the continue of the Euro T20 Slam and the Women’s World Cup qualifier.
In October and November, Scotland’s men fly out to the UAE for their World Cup qualifier for three weeks. That runs from October 11th until November 3rd. That’ll also be huge for us.
In December, Scotland’s men tour UAE to face UAE and USA. I may have even forgotten some bits there, this year will be massive. Cricket doesn’t really ever stop.
I aim to cover the away tours that happen outside of the summer months just as well as those that are covered during the summer, just to again ensure interest remains high.
You’re given free rein to change one thing to improve the landscape of cricket in Scotland, what do you do?
Replace rounders with cricket in schools. Or change Scotland’s climate.
What are a few tools or resources that make your job easier?
I would say that my office environment makes my job easier. Can I say that?
Shane Burger and Simon Smith (our High Performance Manager) are both really open and allow me to interact with the squad whenever I want to grab the things I need. They also give me plenty of team-related information whenever I ask. That’s a huge help. I’ve worked in environments before where the squad and coaching team is completely shut off from the rest of the office, but not here.
My manager, Paul, also helps make my job easier. He recognises my skill-set and I would say I have free-reign 99% of the time. I’m allowed a lot of freedom and flexibility.
I would say I have free-reign 99% of the time. I’m allowed a lot of freedom and flexibility.
No secrets are kept in the office and we’re united as a team. From the performance team to the participation team to the finance team – we all help each other and it’s unlike any other team I’ve worked in before.
In terms of non-people related tools/resources, Evernote is great for collating ideas and thoughts. I quite often have really good ideas at inconvenient times – waiting for a bus, on a flight, doing my food shopping, so having somewhere to write things as soon as possible is really handy.
I’m also looking at creating a group for people in Edinburgh/Glasgow that work in sports media, marketing and communications to meet up once a month. A lot of people that I’ve met at various events all share the same problem – quite often we’re one man bands in Scottish sport governing bodies and it can be difficult to share best practice and stories and inspiration, so let’s see what happens with that!
Thinking about launching a network for sports media, communications and marketing professionals in/around Edinburgh and Glasgow to share best practice and ideas, network and collaborate. ?— Elizabeth (@lizziesleet) May 14, 2019
Get in touch if this is something of interest. ?
What other sports, clubs or organisations are you following for inspiration right now?
I find myself admiring Sussex County Cricket Club’s tongue-in-cheek approach fairly often, though, and I like their consistency on Twitter.
When Australia’s Big Bash League comes about I always love seeing what they’re up to. Some of the teams have phenomenal graphic design. West Ham also have great graphics.
Edinburgh Rugby’s branding is really cool. I keep meaning to get in touch with them and see how they operate on match-days and if I can shadow one game. They’re neighbours to us.
As a governing body with limited budgets and resources, I don’t get too hung up on what everyone else is doing. I can put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes to do everything to a really high standard, and if I start looking too much at fan and commercially driven clubs, it can be a little unrealistic in terms of what Cricket Scotland can replicate.
What advice would you give anyone looking for a career in sport?
Sports jobs can be incredibly competitive and that is be off-putting to some.
My advice would be build up as much experience as you can. Whether that’s creating your own online blog or community to talk about sport, completing experience through a university degree or getting in touch with your local sports team to see if you can shadow one day, experience helps.
My advice would be build up as much experience as you can.
Also, get in where you can and don’t give up. I first took a job in sport working in admin and from there I worked my way up. Take any job you can get in sport. It’s a funny little industry in that once you’re in, you’re in.
If it means anything to someone reading this, I didn’t go to university. I don’t have a-levels. I did okay at GCSE. I think what’s helped me has been a combination of my experience, love for cricket and passion for media and communications.
If people ever wanted tips or advice from me, my DM’s are always open!
Thanks for reading and a huge thanks to Elizabeth for taking the time to answer my questions! Hopefully you enjoyed it enough to share it, that would be much appreciated.
If you’ve got any suggestions of someone else working in the Scottish sports industry, please get in touch. Also, guest posts are always welcome on Sports Marketing Scotland if you’ve got an opinion to share on the business or marketing of Scottish sport. The email address to get in touch with is email@example.com, or just Tweet @sportsmarketsco.