Social Media has quickly become a vital tool in reaching fans and particular communities. The online football world is constantly growing and so for people wanting to grow a brand, it can be hugely useful. Harriet Drudge was FourFourTwo’s first Social Media Editor. The role required strategy behind driving traffic to their website, matchday analysis, sales, marketing, and audience growth. Still working in social media, she is also now freelancing with Manchester United Women’s team. I spoke to her about her career so far, starting with a student job working at Chelsea FC, her placement year, first job after graduating at Women in Sport, her role at FourFourTwo and Man Utd’s return to women’s football.
Harriet’s passion for sport began when she was young with her admitting she was always ‘the sporty one’. “At school, I was involved in everything: football, cricket, athletics… well, everything apart from Cross Country! Football has always been my main sport, though. I went from being the only girl in my primary school team (as a rather vocal goalkeeper!), transitioned to a striker when I was older, and became captain of my university team in 2011/12.” It was at high school she decided she wanted to work in the industry, though yet to decide on the particular area to focus on. “I wasn’t entirely sure in what capacity but I was certain that I would make a career in sport somehow,” Harriet told me.
Whilst at university, Drudge’s first role in sport came about when she began working at Chelsea FC’s home ground Stamford Bridge. “I got a job as a Matchday Betting Cashier at Chelsea. In all honesty, it’s not the one I’d been dreaming about and obviously, it wasn’t a long-term prospect. But it demonstrated my commitment to be around the game. I was based in the corporate lounges for most of the time so I met some really interesting people,” she explained. Although it may not have been the dream job, this did lead her to make some useful connections, particularly when adverse weather conditions meant there was the prospect of a match being postponed. “In February 2012, Manchester United were due to play at Stamford Bridge but, as had happened the previous season when these two sides were meant to play, it had been snowing in London. I was one of the first to know the game was going ahead because my boss text me to tell me to come into work. So, I tweeted it. 100+ retweets and a few new followers later and I’d made a few interesting connections, including Head of Public Relations at the Football Foundation, the country’s largest sport charity. We started to chat a bit and I asked for some advice about getting into PR in football/sport. He sent me a link to a placement year the Foundation were running. I applied, was invited to interview and got the job,” Harriet told me.
Drudge’s placement was as a PR and Communications Officer. This meant she was responsible for writing press releases about grassroots football and the clubs who received funding from the Football Foundation. She would then send these out to appropriate publications such as local, regional and national news. “I also wrote articles for industry press, like FC Business Magazine, Shoot! and the Non-League Paper. It was a great first step into the industry and because the FF is funded by the Premier League, The FA & government, I got to meet some really interesting people, including Sir Alex Ferguson,” she said.
It was also whilst on this placement year that she began volunteering with The Offside Rule Podcast. Taking responsibility for their social media sites, this provided her with experience of managing several football orientated profiles. “Working with Lynsey (Hooper), Kait (Borsay) and Hayley (McQueen) on the podcast was an incredible opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. Managing multiple football social media provided me with invaluable experience, helped me break into football media and ultimately was key in me landing my later full-time, permanent roles in sport media. The Offside Rule provides excellent opportunities for young women trying to break into the industry; without the experience, advice and support being part of the team provided, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Harriet described.
Having spent her ‘Year in Industry’ at the Football Foundation placement, Drudge returned to university to finish the final year of her degree. Graduating in 2014, all of her peers had secured jobs, though Harriet was keen to find the perfect role. “I was being pretty selective about my next step. I knew I wanted to get back into sport and as there wasn’t a graduate scheme at the Football Foundation, I had to start the recruitment process from scratch again. Thankfully, the job at the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, as it was known then, came up at just the right time. I applied for the Media & Events Assistant role and was lucky enough to be offered the job,” she told me. Her role involved communications, press releases, media appearance briefings for the organisation’s CEO, social media and general event management. “It was a great 14 months promoting all things gender equality in sport. It was a big year or so for the charity, too, rebranding from WSFF to Women in Sport and being there for the announcement of Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign launch at the Women’s Sport Conference in October 2014 was awesome,” Drudge explained.
The following year, a contact Harriet had made whilst volunteering with The Offside Rule Podcast sent her a link to a possible job opportunity. It was for a Social Media Executive role with FourFourTwo, one of the best known and respected football magazines and websites in the country. “If ever there was a dream job, this was it. I had to go for it! I didn’t think for a minute that I would get it when I first applied. I was super thorough with my application and that seemed to impress enough to get me an interview. It was at the interview that I really thought I was in with a chance. I’d never come away from an interview thinking: “Wow, I actually really enjoyed that!” but I did after meeting the Editor-in-Chief and Global Digital Editor at FourFourTwo. I could already imagine working with them and we seemed to be on the same page in terms of ideas for the brand on social,” Drudge said.
Harriet impressed in her interview and soon after they offered her the job. Her role was initially to encourage traffic from their social media to the website as well as overseeing matchday coverage. During the 3 years she worked there, Drudge gained more experience and responsibility. “It quickly became apparent that there were so many more opportunities than just plugging our web content. I developed a strategy that meant social media touched on everything to do with the brand: magazine, marketing, subscriptions, commercial, sales, web traffic, developing audiences, being part of the football community,” she described.
Harriet recently started a new job at another publishing company: “I’m now a Social Media Marketing Manager at Immediate Media – the special interest content and platform company. We own and operate some of the best-loved brands in the UK, including BBC Good Food, BBC Gardeners’ World, Radio Times and Match of the Day magazine. I’m working on the Online Communities team as my full-time job which is a new and exciting challenge! I have developed as much of a passion for publishing and social media as I had for sport and football before I started my career. I’m really looking forward to broadening my knowledge, working on different brands and getting stuck into new projects, using the social media expertise I’ve developed over the years,” she said. Harriet hasn’t stepped away from sport completely, though – something she says is very unlikely! She freelances for Manchester United, mainly covering the women’s team, writing features for the programmes, match reports and conducting interviews throughout the season.
Working in social media doesn’t come without its challenges, though. Social media is non-stop and when you are responsible for a particular profile, there is always a fear that you may miss news or events which should be covered. “Football social media is 24/7, and because it’s my passion, it’s really difficult to know when to switch off. You don’t want to miss out on a big piece of breaking news but equally… you’ve got to live your life and not become a digital hermit! Getting a balance is really key to make sure you don’t burn out or end up not enjoying what you do,” Drudge told me.
Harriet Drudge started working at Stamford Bridge so she could get a foot on the ladder and be around the sport. It was through unforeseen weather circumstances that her knowledge of the placement opportunity at the Football Foundation came about. Speaking of the advice she would give to those wanting to work in the industry she said: “Work hard and don’t expect things to just happen for you. You make your own luck in your career. Own it! Never stop wanting to learn and improve to get to where you want to be and network, network, network.”
You can read some of Harriet’s articles for Man Utd here: https://www.manutd.com/en/news/detail/harriet-drudge-gives-the-lowdown-on-womens-professional-football