Social Media Mavens 2020 – Heather Boyle

In the latest of a series looking behind the scenes with those in charge of key areas of Irish sport on social media, Sport for Business caught up with Heather Boyle, preparing for a massive year handling social media duties for the Olympic Federation of Ireland

What is your official title within your organisation?

Public Relations Officer and Athletes’ Commission Support

What is the social media reach of your organisation and which media are you active on?

We are active on Twitter (33.8k), Facebook (53.4k) and Instagram (12.4k), so a combined following of just shy of 100k.

What are the best performing social media channels for you?

Twitter is our most active channel, and Instagram tends to get the most engagement. Facebook is our biggest audience. While we use all our channels, we tend to use them differently, depending on our message and our audience.

What do you see as the optimum balance between social media as information on one hand and promotion on the other?

I believe that social media should primarily be informative. The best kind of promotion, in my opinion, is when the posts are informative or offer some type of insight or nugget that is adding value to the reader, or that resonates with them.

In the Olympic Federation of Ireland, our social media can vary quite a lot, with our biggest engagement coming from events, or Games. While the Summer Games are what most people associate Team Ireland with, we generally have a few events in a year. Since starting in the OFI 18 months ago, I have covered five different Games.

If you are informative, trustworthy and relatable in your posts, that is the best promotion of your brand and of your athletes.

Our most engaging content is usually when we are providing updates from Games, specifically with results and reactions of athletes.

What has been your favourite piece of Social Media content that you have produced over the past 12 months?

I really enjoy working on social media during Games time, and I think it is particularly rewarding working with athletes, especially when many of them come from sports that don’t ordinarily get attention. I love the unpolished and honest reactions that I get with that initial interview post-race.

With many of the Olympic events, there are a lot of restrictions on when and where you can conduct video interviews. If you have not paid for TV rights, you are considered a non-rights holder (broadcasting) – and social media is broadcasting.

At the European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku last summer we were not faced with the same restrictions around broadcasting rights, because the events were not televised. I was in my element, as we know video is king! I particularly enjoyed my interview with Rhasidat Adeleke after she won her double gold in the 100m and 200m. Her reaction was so raw and bubbly, I smile every time I watch it. I think people love a good news story, and they love smiles, so it was definitely a win-win!

And your favourite use or campaign by someone else either in Ireland or on an international basis?

I know I am now completely biased, but I love all the emotionally charged P&G ads that are released around the Olympic Games – the ones that tell the story of succeeding in the face of adversity. If you haven’t seen them you should look at the “Thank You Mom” series they launched before London 2012, and the “Love Over Bias” before Pyeongchang 2018. They involved a massive advertising and movie production spend, of course, but they are tearjerkers – and that’s always good, right?!

The Olympic Games is such an engaging sporting event that grasps the nation and pulls people in whether they have an interest in sport or not. The athletes have such unique stories that are always inspiring. This means most campaigns around the Olympic Games command huge attention and engagement – that’s one of the reasons why there are so many rules about what sponsors/non-sponsors can and cannot do. I am excited about some of the campaigns that our Team Ireland sponsors will be rolling out in the next few months – I think everyone will love them!

How much of your time would you estimate is devoted to updating social media?

Not as much as could be spent! The nature of social media is that it never turns off, and when the role is more than digital media, then there is always that niggling feeling that you could be doing more.

On a normal day, I probably check in about once or twice every hour to monitor notifications and share any relevant content. Aside from Games time, when the pressure and commitments of the overall role ramps up, I tend to get more reactive than proactive.

What is your personal favourite channel?

In my personal life, my favourite channel is Facebook – giving away my age!! But with work, my go-to is generally twitter. Our athletes tend to be on Instagram more than the other channels, so I also follow that closely.

Tell us something that made you think that you came across on social media?

I enjoy following a lot of the journalists who cover Olympic sports on social media, and they do a fantastic job of promoting the sports and the athletes. I think Ireland is lucky to have good journalists who generally have the main prerogative of promoting athletes and sports.

I have been really enjoying following Irish Times journalist Ian O’Riordan’s articles in the run-up to Tokyo, as he has a very interesting perspective; his father competed in the 1964 Games and he will be travelling to Tokyo 2020 as a journalist. I also enjoy listening to Cliona Foleys Off the Bench podcasts with female athletes. The broader coverage of women in sport has improved dramatically, and that’s very encouraging.

And something that made you laugh?

It’s easy to make me laugh, and I get a good laugh out of following athletes, especially when you get the sense of the craic they have outside training. In sport, it is so important to enjoy what you do and to have balance, and I think that most of our sportspeople get that balance right. I think my most recent laugh was a post by boxer Michaela Walsh throwing some top dancing moves at a recent training camp.

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