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Team Media Officer: The window of a football club

by Lesley Ngwa
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The Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) recently released a letter to football stakeholders wishing to take part in the upcoming 2023/2024 season about the guidelines, requirements and expectations clubs need to meet.

The release signed by the Secretary General of the Federation outlining CAF’s decision to oversee professionalism in all leagues of its member nations follows up with a twelve – point mandatory guideline which clubs must adhere to inorder to be part of the 2023/2024 season.
FECAFOOT in its bid to make the practice of football where professionalism should reside in every sector has laid out the foundation. Observers, pundits and other football experts have been unanimous in their assessment of the Cameroon football landscape about the need for professionalism.

Cameroon football can only get back to the top where it rightfully belongs like in the 70s and 80s if the right professionals are put in place to do what they know how to do best.

The national team, with all its successes through the years is not the image of Cameroon. Not even the window where we can see through. The clubs are the backbone of our football. Oryx Douala, Dynamo Douala, Tonnerre Kalara Club of Yaounde, Canon of Yaounde all have the weight of Cameroon football history. Recently, CotonSport of Garoua seems to be the only headlight in a myriad of unlit bulbs.

The image of Cameroon football and the clubs starts with the Press Officer.
Point number 7 of the release signed on June 21 2023 specifically requests that clubs must have a Team Media Officer.

This goes inline with the numerous recommendations kick442.com has made to various football stakeholders in the South West region, North West region, all over the national territory and on the African continent where our presence is hugely felt.

The role of a Press or Media Officer

A press officer is a professional who works within the larger sphere of public relations (PR) with a club or an organisation. PR is a set of strategies organisations employ to manage how information relating to their business reaches the media and public. The role of a media officer is to represent the club to the press. They present information in various formats, such as printed reports, televised news programmes and online media. Although this role can seem different depending on the club they represent, media officers share some characteristic functions, including:

● Media officers act as the main representatives between the club and the wider press. This responsibility typically includes responding to enquiries from journalists requesting club news about initiatives, club product launches, signings and events, seeking to interest journalists in a club’s current campaigns and stories and setting up interviews. Overall, they work to promote a positive image of an organisation in various forms of media, such as print, radio, television, websites, social networks and apps.

● A large part of a media officer’s responsibility includes closely observing media coverage relating to their employer’s club. This involves monitoring and tracking news in various forms that may require a reactive response on behalf of the club. Media officers typically organise quick and appropriate responses to ensure the integrity of the club’s image in the media and the public’s view.

● At their core, media officers work to provide continuous positive, transparent and accurate representations of the clubs in which they work. This requires an understanding of how to maintain a club’s integrity by promoting its policies and ethics while responding to or feeding information to the wider media. Media officers are necessary contributors in promoting open and positive working relationships with the media to ensure the public’s view of a club remains constructive and beneficial.

Responsibilities of a Media Officer

Press officers typically perform various job duties, depending on whether they’re promoting a campaign for the club, responding to a journalistic enquiry or arranging for spokespeople to engage with the press. Some of the main duties of this role include:

● preparing, writing and editing articles and press releases for the media

● liaising with journalists, managers and other media representatives

● organising, planning and executing interviews, PR events and press conferences

● acting as a first point of contact for enquiries from journalists and other media representatives

● tracking and monitoring news, trends, current affairs and coverage of the organisation in the media

● contacting journalists about current or upcoming media campaigns to try and interest them in providing PR coverage

● monitoring incoming correspondence for media enquiries

● researching, planning and producing proactive media campaigns

● providing stakeholders and management with evaluation reports about the club’s media coverage

● attending press conferences and interviews with spokespeople on behalf of the club

● advising management and stakeholders about how to respond to the media

● editing the media statements of other members of the PR team or club

● promoting positive media relations by fostering relationships

● updating the club’s website and social media pages

● responding to urgent media enquiries during unforeseen PR events or organisational crises

Media officer key skills

First and foremost, press officers need to have excellent written and spoken mastery of their working language as both are prerequisites of the job. But on top of this, awareness of the media’s different audiences and sensitivity to how they are addressed, is important. Press officers need good interpersonal skills as they will constantly be dealing with enquiries from journalists and trying to ‘sell’ stories to them. They need to be persuasive, resilient and able to handle criticism. Press officers should be able to cope with pressure well and be able to meet erratic deadlines. They should understand the importance of social media and be comfortable editing and posting in social media formats.

Press officers require a wide range of communication, interpersonal and technological skills to ensure they can properly monitor, respond to and update the media on appropriate information regarding their clubs. As the media can sometimes prove unpredictable and volatile, media officers also use problem-solving and conflict resolution skills to ensure they present the club in a positive light. Here are some key skills that media officers typically develop:

● Media officers use written and verbal communication to interact with the media, the public and other members of their club on a daily basis. Effective communication ensures that the information they disseminate adheres to PR standards of integrity.

● Media officers use organisational skills to keep track of incoming and outgoing PR correspondence and to organise and manage interviews, press conferences and media events effectively.

● Media officers consistently network with PR industry professionals such as bloggers, journalists and social media influencers. Effective networking ensures they maintain the club’s positive presence in the wider media.

● In such a fast-paced and constantly changing industry, media officers continually deal with challenges in a flexible and well-adapted manner. Problem-solving abilities help them find solutions to daily challenges quickly and effectively.

● Because most media and PR representation exists in the digital space, media officers require exceptional skills in information technology to perform their jobs effectively. They typically use desktop publishing software applications, layout and design software, to interact with the media in their day-to-day work.

● Media officers require the resilience to absorb constructive criticism readily and effectively, especially as the PR sphere can change and transform quickly. They also require resilience to react to constantly changing strategies and organisational needs.

A press officer’s perspective

This is the way it works. Sport media outfits are always looking for information that can help them report stories that are attractive to their audience. Unfortunately, sometimes, they make up the story if they could not get reliable information from anywhere. This is called media hyping. It is unfortunate because the media help form public opinion in our society and you cannot under-estimate the effects. Public opinion is one of the most powerful force that can promote or destroy the brand image of any football club.

Now, if the club you represent have not had crisis before, then you may likely take for granted some aspects of the job function of a media officer.

One of Cameroon’s illustrious sons who works as a CAF Media officer, Angu Lesley Akonwi, reached out to kick442 and provided insights for fellow colleagues, journalists, and aspiring media professionals:

“You should understand this; the most vital function of the media officer is not to pass on information, but to foster relationship with the local, national and international media (both print and electronic) to enhance the brand image of the club. “The job designation is actually media relations officer. And media relations are designed to formulate and shape favourable opinion via mass media.”

“First, the media officer is responsible for all club publications – including Press releases, media guides, publicity, schedule cards, promotional posters and flayers.”

“The media officer keeps game and seasonal statistics as well as maintains all time records of the club. And make them available to the press from time to time as when requested.”

“The most important function of the media officer is to build and maintain a strong relationship with the media. He serves as the liaison between the club and the media. In fact, he is the spokes person and is expected to generate as much positive publicity for the club.”

“It is the responsibility of the media officer to diffuse potentially damaging situation or matters concerning the club that could attract media interest; and hopefully play a role in controlling or solving the crisis.”

“In some cases, the media officer also assist in providing media training classes to help prepare coaches, players or any other member of staff for media spotlight or appearances.”
When quizzed further on the subject, Angu Lesley provided three ways a Media Officer can be effective on the job:

● The media officer should initiate promotional information and make them available to the press. For instance, a club could choose to contact media outfits with possible stories. He could distribute packages of players bios, media guides or video clips and club documentaries to select media outlets without having been requested to do so. This kind of approach ensure a club get regular media spotlights.

● The media officer should always respond to inquiries and guide club personnel to respond to questions, queries and requests from the media and other interest parties. In a football setting, such requests may concern player interviews, appearances, autographs, photographs, biographies… The request may also relate to queries about club policy. The media officer should prepare to use such occasions to portray the club and it’s personnel in a positive light.

● The media officer should develop mutually beneficial relationships with the media. As the media officer assist the press in a variety of ways, it has reciprocal effects. This is a relationship marketing approach aimed at building a lasting, long term relationships with the media. With this kind of relationships, either the media or the club can initiate requests or activity knowing that the other will cooperate fully because doing so is in the best interest of both parties.

Although the sports industry in Cameroon and the football environment are still walking baby steps towards professionalism, many clubs may have difficulties with compliance to the 12-point requirements for next season.

Nevertheless, a window of opportunity has opened for clubs to grab with both hands: Get your press officer to sell your club positively and the rewards will be enormous before your football business breaks even!

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