As a football fan, it’s fair to say I was absolutely thrilled when I found out my application to benefit from a week’s experience in the media and communications department at Manchester United had been successful, particularly given the cause.
Shooting Star prides itself on building a positive company culture and supports its staff in their personal development; I’m incredibly grateful that my colleagues were fully supportive of me embracing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with both hands.
Football is still very much a male-dominated sport, and just as on the pitch, many of the off-pitch roles within football clubs are filled by men. However, at Manchester United a large proportion of senior leadership roles are filled by women – and the chance to work here stemmed from the club’s idea to inspire young female professionals to follow in the footsteps of those in senior positions.
This initiative gives young women a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes at one of the world’s highest profile football clubs – and I felt incredibly lucky to be one of only six applicants to secure a place out of hundreds that applied! During my jam-packed week, I was lucky enough to gain an insight into the operations which make this brand globally successful.
Walking through the doors at Old Trafford on my first day was a huge pinch-me moment. When I arrived I was greeted by John, Head of Social Media at Manchester United. Having worked in a fast-paced newsroom and in a busy PR, marketing and digital agency, I was looking forward to seeing how the club’s media department is run and whether I’d be able to relate any of my experience to this large organisation.
I spent the first morning on a tour of Old Trafford learning about the rich history associated with the club. On the way to the staff restaurant and café, I enjoyed panoramic views of the pitch while passing some of the exquisite suites and hospitality boxes used by those wanting an exclusive match day football experience. Shortly afterwards I was introduced to the club’s wider media department which manages the club’s official TV channel and mobile app, the website, print, editorial, analytics and customer relationship management (CRM).
I spent that afternoon with the social media team who are responsible for managing the club’s high-profile social media channels – including the official Facebook account which has 73 million followers alone, Instagram which has 32.4 million followers and Twitter which has 20.6 million followers. The team also help the players and club legends with their social media content. Like most organisations, the club has a social media protocol which all members of the team must adhere to.
On day two I spent time with the social media team, gaining an in-depth understanding of their roles and the processes behind their daily tasks. Not only did I get to learn about the club’s social media strategy across each platform, I also learned how content is created and how the team manage the club’s official international social media channels to engage with their worldwide fan base.
Once I had digested all the information I’d been given, I was tasked with carrying out a SWOT analysis of all the social media accounts – and it was great to be able to put my knowledge to good use. Throughout the day I was able to meet with members of the team responsible for managing the analytical and digital activity on the Manchester United website and official club app. I was amazed at the level of detail which is recorded by them.
It was great to also meet Manchester United and England women’s goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain, who is currently heavily involved in the promotion of the women’s team’s social media channels.
The third day was, without a doubt, my favourite and the most exciting! I got to visit Carrington – home of the AON Training Complex (ATC) – where the club’s first-team and academy players train. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the facilities and meet and watch some of the players being interviewed for the club’s official app and TV channel, all while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was being interviewed by Gary Neville for Sky Sports across the corridor ahead of the highly anticipated derby against Liverpool in a few days’ time.
I met the communications team who manage the players and got an insight into the processes behind press conferences, new player signings and media relations. During the visit I was privileged to meet Kath the receptionist, who is one of the club’s longest-serving employees. Kath has been working on the reception desk since Sir Matt Busby was in charge and has become a legend around the club amongst staff as well as players including Ryan Giggs and David Beckham!
It felt very surreal leaving the security gates at the complex knowing that I’d been given very exclusive access to this £60m facility! That afternoon the team who manage MUTV – the club’s official TV channel – were filming the Legends Tonight show. I was invited along to see what goes on behind the scenes before being given a seat in the audience.
On this show, former United players are invited back to the club to answer questions in front of an audience. On this occasion it was Norman Whiteside – he began his career at Manchester United at the age of 17 before quickly becoming a key player. I got to watch the show and was also able to ask Norman about his career highlights.
On day four I got to take a trip down memory lane and visit The Cliff – the club’s old training ground in Salford which was used by the famous class of ’92. Unlike the state-of-the-art facilities at ATC, what remains at The Cliff in terms of equipment and resources is very simple – including the old school-like changing rooms. During the tour I was shown Sir Alex Ferguson’s office and the original gym and was able to walk on the pitch which was used by legendary United players. It was surreal to think that the likes of Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes had all trained here.
After a whirlwind five days, I was thankful to have spent the last day in the office engaging in conversations with the sub-teams who manage the official club app, the website, project management and operations as well as equality across the club. The build-up to the Liverpool game had started and it was very interesting to be able to witness everything I’d been told about during the week come into play across all the sub-departments.
The biggest thing that I learned during my time at Manchester United is that it is more than just a football club; it is an iconic brand and a global operation with an incredible amount of work going on behind the scenes to make it a success – and that should never be underestimated. Looking back, I’m still in awe but so proud that I was able to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience – and one which I won’t forget in a hurry!