Sam Keir, head of communications at Sussex CCC, explains what experience you need to get into cricket and a media role in the sport.
If you haven’t got the drive or ability to play sport for a living then I think it’s hard to argue that working within the sport you love is the next best thing. I had worked in a variety of different roles before arriving at Hove, starting out in the shipping industry – after completing a degree in English Literature – before spending time in a communications and marketing role at Human Race, which specialises is mass participation events, particularly in cycling.
The fact is, though, that cricket has always been one of the dominant elements of my life. Whether it was collecting newspaper cuttings of an England Ashes tour to Australia or coming to watch Sussex Cricket Club at Hove on a warm summer’s day, the sport has held a special appeal to me since I was able to first pick up a bat. Bearing that in mind, I suppose you could say that this was the perfect role for me – it’s a passion project, which is probably quite common for people working in sport, even more so when it comes to cricket and helping me get a career in cricket.
And that, I think, is one of the key elements of forging a career in cricket. Particularly in my role, I’m probably the only person, alongside my colleague Matt who works on the social media side, who works every single day that the team are playing, home and away. As fascinating as the PR and the media management elements are in themselves, if you didn’t love cricket then I don’t think you would last that long. For me, a love of cricket, is pretty essential.
What made my CV standout, or what did I do differently to other candidates in the interview process? I’m not sure, but I think my knowledge of the sport, coupled with the fact that I had a fairly diverse background probably helped. I think if you’re going to try and get into cricket you can’t be one dimensional – it can’t just be cricket, cricket, cricket. Sometimes you have to take a step out of that bubble and look at the bigger picture because cricket clubs are about far more than the sport itself. Take a county like Sussex, which was founded in 1839. That’s 180 years of history, and means that Sussex is about far more than what happens on the field, it’s part of the very fabric of the community. My job isn’t just about the first team here, it’s about what we do within that community, the non-cricket events we do – whether that’s a concert or a fireworks night, a conference or an event – and the less fashionable stories that we try and tell to as wide an audience as possible.
I think if you turn up at an interview and just come across as a mega-fan then that potentially might work against you – you need a few more strings to your bow. I had come from an environment where I was proactively seeking engagement and producing content that I had to be creative with. I look back now and realise just how valuable that was.
If you can build up a diverse range of experiences and skill-sets, it can only help, not just get you the job in the first place but then help you thrive in the position.
Of course, working at a club like Sussex Cricket Club, which has had so much success in the past but also has such an incredible history and back-story, can be all consuming, particularly in summer. You’re working long, long days and very often you can feel that the success of your day is inextricably linked to something you have absolutely no control over – namely the performance of the players on the field. There are times when I cycle or get the train home feeling pretty dejected because of a loss, but then the beauty of the English summer is that the team gets a chance to make up for those bad days so quickly because the matches come so thick and fast between the months of April and September.
As I said before, though, you constantly have to remember that Sussex isn’t simply about the first team. From a PR and communications perspective, Jofra Archer is an easy sell and a fantastic communications asset for us but you get just as much pleasure out of getting a story about our community activities or our player pathway out there. These are things that aren’t automatically covered, so when you come up with a good way of getting that into the public eye, then you really feel like you’re doing your job. I get a real buzz out of that.
At a county like Sussex, where the resources aren’t as great as they would be at a Premier League football club, for example, you take on a lot. And that’s probably true at most counties. But I don’t see that as a negative. When I started, I was not only interviewing players, I was then editing the videos, writing up the interviews and then posting them and driving engagement on social media.
I’m lucky to have an extra pair of hands for some of those things now, but my role in cricket is still incredibly varied and that kind of experience gives you the basis to really develop your skills and hands you an extraordinary amount of responsibility, as well as keeping things interesting. That can only be a good thing.