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QPR FAN SITES MEETING REPORT
Just to emphasize that "the purpose of this meeting was to discuss media-related issues and forms a separate agenda to matters which will be discussed at the upcoming fans' groups' meeting (although there may be some understandable overlapping in certain areas)."
Date: Tuesday 26th February 2013
Venue: Loftus Road Stadium
From the club: Ian Taylor & Paul Morrissey From the fan sites: Steve Sayce (Indy Rs – www.indyrs.co.uk), Matthew Woolf (WATRB – www.wearetherangersboys.com), Colin Henderson (QPR Report – www.qprreport.com), Ron Norris (QPRnet – www.qprnet.com), Neil Dejyothin (LoftForWords – www.loftforwords.co.uk) and David Fraser (QPR Podcast – www.qprpodcast.com)
* Introductions & summary of the Media department
* Digital communications
o The Official Website
o Match day programme
o QPR Insider
* Twitter / Facebook & Social Media
* Using players to communicate club news
Introductions & Summary of the Media department
* Ian Taylor and Paul Morrissey provided an excellent overview of the media department at the club and what areas each member was primarily responsible for and how it has changed over the years.
* Ian has served at QPR for seven and a half years and Paul for seven years. In that time they've seen the media team grow from three, back down to two, up to two and a half, then to three, back down to two, back up to two and a half, then up to four and now finally and currently six strong – the biggest they've ever been.
* The media team however is currently the smallest in the Premier League, which on average are around 10-12 strong apart from the biggest clubs who have 20+, and source out much of their internal media requirements.
* Manchester United's MUTV has around 60 staff.
* On average a Championship club has approximately 6 people employed in their media departments.
o Neil Dejyothin asked if the team felt they had adequate resources and whether the media team should be at a similar size to other average Premier League clubs.
o Paul Morrissey feels their smaller team is tight knit and able to hold more accountability for their work. He isn't sure it's appropriate to have a media team at a similar size to that of other average Premier League clubs at this stage.
o There could be scope in the long term to increase the size of the team if the club had a bespoke in-house web platform and controlled website. They are however under contractual obligations for the short to medium term with Football League Interactive (FLi) who provide web services for the club.
* Ian Taylor is the Head of Media & Communications and primarily looks after the board and strategic interviews. As well as being responsible for the overall running of the department, Ian liaises with the board on a regular basis and is in charge of online magazine The InsideR.
* Paul Morrissey primarily looks after the first team manager, first team backroom staff and first team playing squad.
* Matthew Webb is primarily responsible for the men’s match day programme and is a contributor for The InsideR
* Adam Hulme is responsible for social media networks including Facebook and Twitter as well as QPR Player.
* David Scriven is the webmaster and responsible for the official QPR website and corporate site.
* Andy Watkins is responsible for covering the men’s Under 18s, Under 21s and the Girls and Women's team. He provides some coverage of the men’s first team as well, providing it doesn't clash with the Under 18s or Under 21s. Andy also ensures coverage of QPR in the Community Trust events.
* Brian Melzack helps the club with the London Call In phone-in show and QPR Player’s Match Day Live coverage.
The Official QPR website
* The official QPR website attracts around 19,000 daily visitors and over 2 million unique visitors since it was relaunched in August 2013. The Korean market accounts for around 450,000 of these unique visitors and demonstrates the marketing potential and interest from that region.
o David Fraser asked what the actual strategy and objective goals of the media team was and which audience the club were talking to with their communication, such as new fans, new prospective fans or existing fans. Ian Taylor expressed that there was a desire from the club to reach out to an international audience, particularly given how many visitors the website has from Korea.
o Ian and Paul are working towards the objective of a more global profile that meets the vision of the board as part of their remit – but they are still mindful about not losing sight of local coverage around W12, the local boroughs and the traditional QPR supporters who come to Loftus Road every week.
* The total visits for the Official Club Website amount to around 3.8 million.
* The club are contracted to FLi for the production of the official QPR website until 2017.
* FLi have been working on preparing some improvements to the platform over the past 4-6 weeks based on feedback received about a wide variety of navigational issues. These fixes will hopefully alleviate some of the sites usability problems – but it can't be guaranteed at this stage whether it will resolve them all.
* The problems with the current Official QPR website are well documented. It's difficult to find information and it takes far too many clicks to find the information you're looking for and the usability issues are stopping people from visiting there more regularly or at all, which is a primary concern for the club.
* The club will continue to provide feedback to FLi to improve the usability experience.
Match day programme
* The match day programme is currently 84 pages.
o The size of the programme has changed and the team were mindful of the impact that may have on collectors who were used to the previous dimensions. There have been some expected gripes – but not as many as anticipated and overall the feedback on the programme this season has been fairly positive.
o The fans’ sites’ reps who read the programme regularly feel it's well produced and has good content.
* The average sales of the match day programme stand at around 4,000 per home game. This works out on average as around approximately 25% of the gate and in the current climate is considered healthy and good.
* Prior to the emergence of digital media – a figure of around 30-31% was considered good for hard print, but in the current climate this is now seen to be more around the 20-25% mark.
* The 3d match day programme for the West Ham United match at home produced the highest volume of sales at 6,000 and was deemed a success, winning the Northern Programme Club Programme of the Month Award.
* By way of comparison one Premier League club with a capacity of more than 50,000 sells around 5,500 copies of their match day programme – which in the context of their gate proves that QPR's programme is performing well in current market conditions.
* The media team feel there will always be a demand for a hard printed programme. There are however ideas to embrace the digital format with iPad/pdf versions being mooted as a potential for the following season. This may or may not be part of a promotional offer for Season Ticket Holders or Memberships in the future – a decision on all this will be made in due course and when the time is right.
QPR’s online magazine – The InsideR
* The free digital online magazine has been well received and had around 10,000 unique visitors. A second version of this magazine is planned for release and will include an exclusive group interview with former Rangers players Lee Cook, Martin Rowlands, Gareth Ainsworth, Kevin Gallen and Marc Bircham. Tony Fernandes is very keen on pushing The InsideR due to its global reach and appeal.
* A discussion arose around the need for a free online digital magazine and Ian responded by saying that Tony Fernandes and the board of directors want to raise QPR's profile on a global scale, both nationally and internationally and were particularly passionate about this project as it helps make information accessible to a wide audience.
* Ian and Paul feel the media team have more scope to introduce innovative ideas under the current owners, and that projects like these were unlikely to be on the remit of
previous regimes. They feel this aspect of their role is refreshing and rewarding for the media team.
* The QPR Official Magazine was discontinued due to poor sales.
Twitter / Facebook & Social Media
* The official QPR Twitter account has over 100,000 followers and the official QPR Facebook Fan Page has around 184,000-185,000 Likes.
* Ian Taylor's Twitter account is a club account.
o A discussion arose regarding the issue of staff using personal accounts for club purposes – and whether the account belonged to them or the club. In the event of a staff member leaving – the followers that person accrued for business purposes would be lost if that person kept the account. It was therefore questioned whether this was sensible practice for the club and in its best interests.
o It was suggested that staff using Twitter accounts for club use should not tweet official club information ahead of the official QPR Twitter accounts where appropriate.
* It was also raised that as the club lists the Twitter accounts for its general staff and players on The Official QPR website and in the match day programme – that it was blurring the lines between endorsing all comments associated with those accounts.
* A discussion arose around the clubs approach to using Twitter.
o It was generally agreed that the Media teams use of Twitter has improved both in tone and consistency of content. There is a more measured and professional feel about the output which is good.
o This is in contrast to how the board currently use Twitter – the fans’ views are that the output appears inconsistent with the media department and feels more amateurish.
o There is a feeling that the lack of footballing expertise and knowledge is evident with some of the messages being tweeted by the board as well as from what is being said in editorial pieces like the match day programme notes.
o An example was given about Philip Beard's recent comments about the state of the pitch over the Christmas and New Year period, when it's widely accepted and agreed that the playing surface is in a terrible state and causing the players problems. The opposing team's manager and players comment on this frequently after visiting Loftus Road.
o It was suggested that in the long term the club need to address the problem of the playing surface and this should be a priority at Loftus Road or the development of a new stadium.
o Another example cited was Philip Beard's discussion about how good the atmosphere is in the Lower Loft at the Fans Forum and talking about the feeling of the Lower Loft sucking the ball into the net, when fans generally feel it is not as good as it used to be. It seemed strange saying that to longstanding supporters who understand the history and heritage of the stadium and what the atmosphere is really capable of achieving.
o A general discussion took place around the conduct towards club staff by fans on Twitter. Some of the staff are receiving abuse, in some cases unnecessarily
– but some of the suggestions and improvements already made will hopefully reduce this. The fan site representatives generally agreed that any abuse of staff on social media is unsavoury and unnecessary and would urge supporters to be more understanding of those carrying out their job for the club. By the same token the club understand that some types of feedback comes with the nature of the job and that they do need to keep a thick skin and not take personal comments to heart.
* It was raised that a better strategy would be to use Twitter to promote the Official Facebook Fan Page and then link back to the website from there, rather than promoting The Official QPR Website. This would reduce the hassle of the usability problems and provide the content more easily – but still give the opportunity for the user to go back to the Official QPR website. The Facebook Fan Page currently appears to have the best level of exposure and reach for the club. Ron Norris raised an example where The Official Website still caters for people who want to go there to find information – such as his Uncle – who wouldn't use social media sites like Facebook, but the suggestions above were a good way to mitigate the existing issues until they are solved.
* It was agreed that the Official QPR website has good content on there – but it's a pain to access it. Neil Dejyothin suggested a key fix for the current platform would be the removal of the excerpt and "Read more >>" feature – which only becomes obvious once you've read half of the article that you need to expand it. This would provide most bang for buck and reduce a lot of the teething issues with the experience. There are also occasions when you go from Facebook or Twitter and the landing splash screen pops up – giving yet another item to click through before you reach the content you want.
* A general discussion took place about the clubs strategy for attracting new fans and the ill-feeling that perceived preferential treatment towards supporters who have little affinity to the club, its roots or the area.
o Both the media team and fan site representatives spoke of concerns about behaviour towards Asian supporters visiting Loftus Road. There have regretfully been some mildly disturbing instances in and around the stadium where respect and conduct have not been appropriately shown by a very small minority of fans, which is unacceptable.
o It was raised that the growth of the fan base in this region needs to be handled with balance and care, and that a more organic approach is needed to integrate them properly into the football club to ensure they are given a fair chance of being accepted – regardless of who they are or where they come from.
o The media team asked for examples where the club may be perceived to be providing preferential treatment and the following were given: a specific Korean Twitter account and the exclusive press conference announcing the arrival of Ji-Sung Park as well as Park's exclusive clothing range. The recent signing of Yun Suk-Young also gives the perceptual impression that he's been signed for commercial purposes over footballing ones – even if that isn't the case and he is here on merit. Ian confirmed that Chief Scout Ian Broomfield had been watching the player for a significant period of time prior to his signing.
o David Fraser raised that he could understand the club’s thinking and that the revenue streams generated from growth in these channels were important and significant and shouldn't be dismissed by supporters.
* uStream was first used by the club to promote the signing of Ji-Sung Park and based on the success and interest it generated, uStream themselves got in touch with the club to create a partnership.
* The pre-season friendly with Wycombe Wanderers was the first QPR game to be broadcast on uStream for free and attracted around 17,000 to watch the game online and around 4,000 attended at the stadium at Adams Park.
* Whenever the club broadcasts something live on uStream it attracts around 8,000-10,000 visits and then on average a further 15,000 may visit the event at a later point.
* Since using uStream the club have attracted a total of around 900,000 viewers.
* The club recognises the obvious benefits of a subscription based model but there are no plans at this stage to go down this route.
* The media team are aware of sound issues on London Call-In. Following the show’s recent sponsorship, they are hopeful of investing in further equipment to improve the quality of the output.
Using players to communicate club news
* The media team explained the difficulty in talking to players who are upset about the team’s performance. There are naturally some players more willing than others and some who are more experienced than others at handling press matters.
* The media team explained that the club does need to protect its interests and image, so there are always going to be certain restrictions on what message they can reasonably be expected to put out to the supporters. The same could be said of their use on the London Call In phone-in show. Paul Morrissey explained that the next show will actually be based around the subject of whether supporters are right to boo their own players.
* It was raised by the fan site representatives that the same group of players tend to be the ones that face the supporters through the media and that the club could try putting some youngsters in there to build up their profile and give them some experience.
o Due to the similar pool of players being used both for QPR Player interviews and the London Call In phone-in show – Steve Saycey raised that the message can sometimes come across as bland and stale, especially at a time when the team are struggling. It was acknowledged this isn't easy for the media team to deal with and that on some occasions it's perfectly acceptable to have a break on some weeks and not put anybody up for public speaking at all – this should largely be assessed on the mood of the fan base.
* It was also suggested that even if a player has a poor performance, is in poor form, or has not got the best relationship with the fans,– that actually having them do a well considered interview is likely to help them get the fans understand their point of view and likely help their situation.
o There can be a perception that some of the players are nicer than others when that might not be the case. The club should look to help those players who the
fans hear little from and build their profile as it will help them develop an affinity and relationship with supporters.
* The club were made aware of its responsibilities and the need to improve upon its communication with supporters at the recent Fans Forum held on February 7th 2013.
o Based upon this feedback the club have set up a new email account at firstname.lastname@example.org to handle enquiries and the club have employed a new Customer Liaison Officer who will be announced in due course.
o It was raised that a generic email can come across as faceless and there needs to be a balance struck in terms of ensuring enquiries and feedback are getting a response in an adequate fashion. The Box Office were cited as a good example – if you can get through to them and not Ticketmaster, they are always prompt, knowledgeable, helpful and courteous and you easily build a relationship with some of the individuals in the normal course of dealing with them.
* The lack of responses have included queries over email and post from supporters groups and individual supporters. These responses have gone unanswered not only at board level but in other departments as well.
o The QPR1st Supporters Trust had sent emails and letters to Philip Beard and personal assistants and other staff but did not receive a response. This has since been rectified and the Trust have since had some contact with senior staff. The QPR LSA shared similar experiences.
o Individual supporters have contacted other departments and not received a response. An example was given of a fan who sits in Ellerslie Road Block T and paying Gold Season Ticket prices writing to the stadium manager on behalf of the fans in that area. The club had to extend the television gantry in this area to meet Premier League requirements, but in doing so, blocked many fans in that area from being able to see the big screen. A query was sent in to ask whether a small monitor could be placed up so that this experience could be somewhat restored and remains unanswered.
o Throughout these communications it's unclear whether they've been received, acknowledged, acted upon or delegated. It was suggested this process needs more clarity and the newly announced meetings and work towards a Customer Liaison Officer should help alleviate this. Ian and Paul confirmed that to date there are no outstanding issues known from the new email that's been set up since the Fans Forum.
o Neil Dejyothin raised the topic of the Supporters Liasion Officer – as mentioned in Section R of the Premier League Handbook 2012/13 – where every club has to have one and that this should be a prominent role within the club that is held by a person at senior level. This person or persons should be present at all meetings with fan site representatives and supporter groups. This feedback will be passed on and discussed internally at the club.
* The issue of the Lower Loft was raised and that moving loyal fans from their seats was not handled with the correct care.
o Philip Beard stated at the Fans Forum that there were too many fans to contact individually.
o This approach and statement was wholly unacceptable from the fans perspective and shows a lack of understanding about what it means to be attached to a club, its stadium and your personal seat and came across as disrespectful.
o An explanation was given about the small pockets of communities that develop across the stadium, that friends, family and loved ones may have passed away – so the attachment to the area you sit in can become extremely personal and that part of the experience is also about familiarity. A side point was raised that this needs consideration and consultation with supporters and supporter groups for any potential new stadium – and that it's imperative they are involved in any such process.
o This came at a time when the previous regime had also moved fans out of the South Africa Road Stand – so it has occurred twice in quick succession. It was widely accepted that the club needs to attract fans to the stadium and the importance of younger supporters and families – but at the very least each and every fan affected deserved the courtesy of a telephone call.
o Matthew Woolf re-iterated that there has been a marked decrease in the volume of noise our fans have been able to generate since the Lower Loft was made into a family stand, which could potentially be at a disadvantage to the performance of the team and would like the club to clarify why alternative suggestions were ruled out.
* The club have acted and chased all action points from the Fans Forum and have resolved or are working towards resolving any issues.
* Neil Dejyothin raised the question about the obvious lack of football experience at board level and whether the club recognised this as a concern? The majority of sports team have a person leading or helping run the club with vast experience in the field. The skill set and focus of Philip Beard appears to be on larger scale projects, such as the new training ground proposals and potential relocation to a new stadium. These things are all fine – but if that is the case then the club does need to ensure all of the football and operational matters are still looked after properly and someone is responsible for handling those matters with the relevant experience.
* Neil Dejyothin asked how seriously the club took staff retention and the importance of retaining people who are good at their job and understand what the club is all about. The club have lost a lot of staff over recent years and the likes of Ian and Paul can be considered veterans of the club given the years of service they've provided. The knowledge they've acquired of the fan base, the club, it's history and heritage and it's relationship with the fans are crucial for helping improving day to day operations and there appears to be a lack of this type of experience across the club or the club tapping enough into the experience it has at its disposal.
* The Fans Sites’ meetings will be held quarterly.
o It was raised that these dates didn't necessarily need to be fixed – but could be dynamic based around the end and the start of the season to maximise the quality of feedback.
* The first Fans Group meetings will be announced in the coming days and these are expected to be held quarterly.
o The Fans Group meetings have taken longer to schedule due to the increased complexity of finding a suitable time when senior management are available.
* Neil Dejyothin suggested that the club kept a mailing list of the fan sites and distributed key press releases to the QPR community at the same time they do for the local and national press. This would help with information flow and strengthen the relationship between the club and its fan sites. Ian and Paul agreed that this was a good idea and would formulate a plan for specific types of news that would be of interest to fan sites and supporters.
* Steve Saycey asked whether it was possible to gain more access to players for interviews. Neil Dejyothin suggested perhaps it was a good idea to get the fans involved with some of the interviews – such as for the second edition of the Online Insider magazine and with the interview feature planned with previous players.