Kristan Heneage | Digital Content Producer for New York City FC
Our next guest in the football media world is Digital Content Producer for New York City FC, Kristan Heneage.
Tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
I currently work for New York City FC as a Digital Content Producer. That involves a varied set of responsibilities including coverage of the team on a matchday to thinking up new content strands and more.
I’ve been in football for a while, but to give you the abridged version; I graduated from Northumbria University in 2010 with a Journalism degree. I then moved into freelance football writing either side of a stint as ESPN’s man in the northeast.
From there I worked in some production roles and also did scripting and research for a mix of football projects and YouTubers before taking this job last year. I was also part of the Front 3 podcast with some good friends.
As Digital Content Producer for New York City Football Club (NYCFC), what does a normal week look like for you?
Given I’m still so new to the role a normal week has been hard to come by. I’d say it shapes up a lot like you see from the outside. We have our match preview content, and then match day content followed by post-match the day after a game. In between that you’ll be discussing plans for key dates coming down the road as well as trying to strategise for any opportunities you think maybe untapped.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Getting it right. My biggest stress with work is undoubtedly my desire to get everything looking perfect. I want my work to be grammatically correct first, but when it comes to features with players I want it to be an accurate reflection of who they are as well as having a hook that identifies why they’re special.
What is the most enjoyable part of your role?
The creative process. I love working on new ideas, seeing how we can tell stories in new ways, and overall trying to produce something that feels in some way different to what has gone before.
To that end, I have to give a lot of credit to the people I work with because they’re very collaborative and I always feel encouraged to dive into that process and have fun with it, even if the idea that was suggested doesn’t go anywhere. I wasn’t always the most creative person when I was younger, so I’ve really embraced that aspect as I’ve become older.
What is the most difficult part of your role?
Balance. I think when I was younger I believe you had to be obsessed with work to make progress — it was a way to stand out. Now that I’m a bit older and wiser, I realise that if I don’t have some form of disconnect then I can’t be at my best. Sometimes you need step back so you can later step forward.
When did you know you wanted to work in football?
I’d say as early as five or six.
I always remember telling a friend my goal was to play for Newcastle, retire, then fix cars like my dad (neither dream became a reality). My passion for football never dwindled, and I liked hearing about the players’ stories and their backgrounds. I think that’s why the Champions League was so appealing when I was a child, you’d get a window into new teams and players you may not have heard of before.
I can’t say I had the dream of being a writer, it was more about wanting to work in football and when it came to deciding my future that route felt like the closest to my goals.
As a former freelance writer yourself, what are your thoughts on the freelance market for football writers?
It’s tough, it’s really tough, and I don’t envy those writers starting out. You really need to be adaptable as a writer, and you also need to make contacts consistently so you can find new avenues to get paid.
On the plus side, I think now more than ever young writers have so many platforms to publish content on, and so building an audience can be a lot easier. The trick is getting paid for that. It’s not impossible, and we’ve seen some great success stories in the last few years of writers earning big jobs, but it requires a lot of hard work.
I’m sure you’ve sent many pitches to editors. In your opinion, what makes a good pitch?
I think the hook of your story is very important. Why should the editor or the reader care? I’d apply the same advice to pitches as I would to those asking for advice — be specific. Whenever anyone has asked me for advice on getting into the industry I get them to send me a CV and what they’re trying to achieve.
That way we have a start point and an endpoint, and your pitches should be the same. Be clear on what story you’re trying to tell. The editor may want to reshape it or reject it, but from speaking to the editors I know they receive so many pitches that a vague idea from someone they don’t know is hard to commission.
What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career path similar to yours? What are the key skills required to work in digital content for a professional club?
Take care of yourself. As I said make sure you have an off switch, and if it becomes too much talk to people you trust. I can’t stress enough the importance of good mental health when working in sport. You are not your follower count, or your RTs and likes.
I’d also encourage you to try and take as many opportunities as you can. I accepted a short contract with Ball Street on a whim and it opened me up to so many amazing opportunities outside of that office living in London, like doing World Cup work for ITV, which I accepted without having a place to stay.
When it comes to skills, I’d suggest becoming familiar with video editing and photoshop, even on a basic level. Those are some things I’ve had to re-learn in my current role, and it just helps when you can pitch in and do something.
Finally, read a lot. I know I don’t do that enough, but when I’ve been consistent in doing so I’ve found my work is better and less formulaic. And in general, just be a nice person. That reputation travels, and even if your work is great, being a pain to work with is no fun for anyone.
Where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve?
That’s a great question I don’t have an answer for right now. I’m loving being attached to one project and helping build something with NYCFC. For that reason, I’m just enjoying the present.
And finally Kristan, where can people find you on social media?
Sign up to the Freelance Football Opportunities newsletter to receive freelance football work directly in to your inbox every week: www.freelancefootballopps.com