All photos credit: Ajantha Abey

Let’s talk about why no-one’s reported that Team UK are the European champions of quidditch.

What happened?

On July 9 2017, Callum Lake caught the snitch with a spectacular catch which rocked the UK. After the catch, the UK claimed the title of European Games champions, rocking the world of quidditch and landmarking a major, important and absolutely wonderful date in the development of the sport.

After the final catch was made, a press release was created and sent to people who may be interested in the title. You can find what was sent here. I was unable to call people in Oslo, though I was able to receive calls that evening. I arrived in the UK at 2:30am Monday morning.

At 8am the same day I came into the office to do some calls – as journalists typically receive hundreds of emails and miss a few over the weekend, calling is always vital. Warm leads were generated with the BBC and Press Association, though they seem to have fizzled out when the reporters consulted with the editors. A few radio stations picked up the story, but in the end no news articles had been generated.

No-one reported on Team UK’s victory at the European Games.

Considering that my life currently revolves around legitimising the sport and getting it seen by as many people as possible, this is a bit crap. And I pondered why this may be.

Why did it not work as much?

Much of the following is conjecture. I will never know what is being discussed in newsrooms, or what people really think about quidditch – I can only make educated guesses. But with that said, I am confident that the following is true.

I should have been in the UK

Typically speaking I like to do one or two calls in the morning of Sunday to let the running editor know that the event is happening, and that I can keep them up to date on what happens on the event. This was what I did at BQC and it worked very well.

This year was the first time that I supported Team UK overseas and cheered them on – which, by the way, was one of the best decisions of the year. However, this meant no-one was able to do calls in the morning of Sunday, which meant the editors were not tipped off earlier. This is something I must consider for next time, and work out a way where the media can be called while I am on-site. There is an easy solution for next time.

Quidditch no longer works as an intrinsically interesting story

At least, that is partially true; of course quidditch will be reported on as being a fun story. But the impact has been lessened; all but one of the reporters I have spoken to has heard of quidditch now, in comparison to very few two years ago. On the national level, the story has now been ‘done.’ Locally it will always work well provided that the match is in a local park or field, but nationally the name is no longer enough.

I believe this is in part because I marketed it as a home news story; it’s a national interest story for those interested. I see this as a mark of pushing for the sports pages now, though I will discuss this in greater detail a little later.

Press office activity is no longer as effective

For the last two years I have been doing the cheapest kind of public relations available – press office work. This is when press releases are made around particular events and achievements, and are then pitched to journalists for the sake of interest. Success rate is always tiny, but it is cheap to do; it requires a computer, a story, and some caffeine in the morning.

Now, this is an old school version of PR which doesn’t work as well. Major campaigns do social media campaigns which revolve around created videos, hosted events, stunts – all things which costs tens of thousands of pounds to create each. You may not see a survey story on what people think of a certain type of toothpaste, but you sure as hell seen Cadbury’s ad.

For the next few months I want to think seriously about how to do an equivalent campaign which can be hit the news. The idea needs to be perfect, cheap, and shows us in the best light possible. It’s a transition from traditional press office to another mode of comms, if slightly more expensive.

It should now appear in the sports pages

It is now too late to sell it as a news story; the event has happened over the weekend, and it’s been a day after. However, it would be possible to organise interviews with certain publications based around the story. For example, Callum appearing in a fitness magazine may be viable provided it is given as an exclusive. Or Emily Oughtibridge appearing in the sports section of a paper to discuss what it’s like to coach a national quidditch team.

In other words, Team UK’s victory legitimises the sport in the UK in a big way, and I want to use that to highlight how competitive it is by having the European champions talk to people about their experiences. This is a big opportunity to make a push for sports publications, and something I will work on over the next month.

This could be a one time thing

This is less likely, but it could just be the worst luck in  the world. Perhaps something transpired in each of the newspaper places that meant Team UK’s victory was glossed over, from every single publication. I would still think that Team UK’s success is very newsworthy, so this must not be the case, but it’s still a thought I should entertain.

What next?

In a personal level, I am frustrated that Team UK’s success was not covered widely. It should have. It might be that I am running on four hours sleep after the tournament and travelling home, so I am not thinking fully straight, but either way I feel I let the team down.

On the other hand, I am seeing this as the start of a transitional shift. Team UK’s first place at the European Games was not picked up by the news, despite calling them and discussing the story. That is fascinating, and as I listed above, it means the way the UK media responds to quidditch has now shifted from a novelty to potential banality.

We’re now to a similar of Korfball and Ultimate in this sense; it’s time to step up or game.

In all my work, I will always do press office as standard. For the QPL I will be doing the same, but with local media and slightly tweaked based on my EG experiences. But alongside the activity, I want to work out ways to get into the sports media and slowly transition towards sports PR.

For this, I consider the following:

  • Roundtable event: Host a event where journalists are invited to speak to quidditch players about the sport and why it is serious. I will be costing this over the next few months.
  • Campaign: Launch a social media and press campaign to highlight a particular aspect of quidditch, either through a video, stunt or survey. This in itself would be massive, and the idea needs to be perfect. If you are interested in helping develop this over the next year, please contact me.
  • Sports outreach: I will be working with a few sports people to seek advice on how to do sport public relations – an alien world to me and one where I will need to dabble in form now on.

I’ll turn this around. Let’s get quidditch legitimised fully as a sport.

Tom Ffiske

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