Our next guest is Deputy Head of Content for Snack Media, Charlie Carmichael.
Tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
I currently work as the Deputy Head of Content for Snack Media, one of the U.K.’s largest independent sports media agencies. I mainly work across its flagship brand, GiveMeSport, helping to coordinate the written and social content we produce, as well as working closely with other businesses on commercial partnerships.
Prior to Snack, I worked as a Content Editor for COPA90, helping to oversee its written editorial strategy across all its owned channels — those being the website, its newsletters and its e-commerce store.
Since graduating from university, I’ve also been involved in the football writing space. I freelanced for years for several publications, namely These Football Times and NPLH Magazine. After spending a couple of years working full-time in digital marketing alongside my freelancing, I got my break at COPA90, when a recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn and put me forward for an interview.
As Deputy Head of Content at Snack Media, what does a normal week look like for you?
It’s quite varied, really. I work across a few different projects, from content planning and general editorial strategy, to booking interviews and exploring syndication opportunities.
We’ve recently relaunched GiveMeSport Women, a section of the website dedicated to championing women’s sport, so that’s been a big focus of mine over the past few weeks.
Generally speaking, I don’t have a set routine. There are a few weekly meetings I attend with various departments, but much of my time is spent trying to enhance both the quality and quantity of our work, as well as increasing the amount of traffic we drive, whether that’s by seeding our content into different news sites and apps, or optimising it for organic search.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I’d say there are two: getting the team to produce the best content possible, and then getting that content seen by as many people as possible. You could have just penned a masterpiece of an article, but if no-one reads it, it’s not of much worth to the business. Likewise, if you’re driving lots of traffic but the articles are subpar, it’s not a good look for the brand.
On a personal level for my role specifically, I’d say organisation is the biggest strength you could have. The day-to-day is hectic — you can quickly end up spinning a lot of plates at once — so being able to prioritise certain tasks while ensuring you get everything done on time is very important.
What is the most enjoyable part of your role?
Seeing all the work we put into projects come to fruition. Take the relaunch of GiveMeSport Women, for example. A lot of hard work went in behind the scenes on that, across multiple departments, so when the relaunch day finally arrived, it was super satisfying to be able to shout about it across social media and see everyone’s reaction.
Another big one would be our content syndication work. If we manage to sign up a new partner — be it a sports publisher, live score app, or some other news aggregator — and they start generating tonnes of referral traffic for us, it can be really satisfying.
As a freelance writer, I’m sure you’ve sent many pitches to editors. In your opinion, what makes a good pitch?
What the article is going to cover is obviously crucial, but for me it’s about selling yourself. Why can you cover this topic in a way no-one else can? Have you got quotes from a big-name source? Do you possess an intimate knowledge of the subject matter? Is this something that’s barely been covered elsewhere?
Any writer can knock together a pitch on Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign at Old Trafford, so you need to be able to add an element of uniqueness to the conversation. On the other hand, if it’s a really niche topic, think about who your target audience is and whether there’s enough mass appeal there for it to be of interest to publishers.
What are your thoughts on the current freelance market for football writers?
It’s tough. Really tough. I wrote a lot of articles for free before I eventually started getting paid for work. Not everyone is able to do that, and if you are going to write for free, be sure to check it’s because the publisher doesn’t make much money and therefore can’t afford to pay you first. There are a lot of businesses who will ask for free work if you don’t push back.
As clichéd as it sounds, the industry is still very much about who you know not what you know. I worked really hard to get to where I am, but I’d be an idiot not to acknowledge that luck has played a massive part in my journey.
What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career in football writing? What are the key skills required?
There are quite a few. One thing I’d absolutely say is that you need to be accepting of constructive criticism and always be hungry for feedback on how to improve your work. I’ve had plenty of editors rip into my submissions in the past, and it can be disheartening, but you’ve got to reframe it in your head and tell yourself that you’re improving with every article you put together.
Networking and developing your own style are another two big ones for me. Try and speak to as many people in the industry as possible. There are a bunch of free events and online panel discussions you can sign up to and attend. Make yourself known to others in attendance and those leading the debates. You never know when an opportunity may present itself to them and you could well pop into their head as the perfect fit!
With regards to writing style, it’s always nice when you can look at a piece and know who’s written it before glancing at the byline. Great writers — the likes of Jonathan Liew, Rory Smith and Marina Hyde — all have their own unique tone of voice, making it easy for readers to build up a relationship with their work. You know exactly what you’re getting each time they publish a new piece.
Where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve?
I’ve taken a step back from writing in recent months to focus more on the management of content. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss writing, but in truth, there are plenty of people far more talented than me out there. If I can help to optimise and amplify their work, then that makes me just as happy.
I’d like to continue working with talented people, be they sports writers, graphic designers or social media gurus, and help to add structure to their overall process. Ultimately, if I’m in a position where I can actively help change the landscape of sports writing in a positive way, I’d be over the moon.
And finally Charlie, where can people find you on social media?
I’m most active on Twitter, so it’s best to get me on there: @CharlieJC93
I’d also encourage anyone with even a passing interest in women’s sports to check out GiveMeSport Women: @GiveMeSportW. The editorial team are publishing some really cool features every day, so there’s plenty to read!
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