Dawdling to the pavilion

Here’s an overdue update on the career situation – in May 2015 I left New Zealand Cricket for Fonterra. I wanted to wrap up the two years before it all disappears in a fond, summery haze.

Working in cricket was a bit of a dream come true – I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it and was constantly pinching myself that I was in the thick of it for a remarkable couple of years, comfortably two of our best ever, culminating in that world cup.

I was Digital Manager at NZC for that time, basically looking after the website and social media, as well as helping with PR and comms as required, including media management for the team on a couple of overseas tours and a handful of games in New Zealand.

Professionally, the highlights were:

Overhauling blackcaps.co.nz, both the front and back ends over the two seasons. We did the front end first, making the site mobile responsive and stripping it all back to make the content, text and words, the stars. Then in the second off season (the off season is when you do the ‘proper work’ in sport team!) we moved the CMS from a bespoke but vintage system we used to Umbraco, and went onto the new Microsoft Azure hosting, for all that sweet CWC traffic – there were a hair under a million page views on the site during the six weeks of the cup.


Being part of the online cricket community. People on Twitter love cricket, it’s the ideal sport to watch with the phone or the laptop. I wanted the national team’s account to be part of the conversation and show we were prepared to use Twitter as it’s meant to be, with personality, genuine engagement and to show off our fan’s love for the game (we used Storify to bring the social stuff into the website, hopefully to good effect.) It’s meant to be fun and I hope that my enjoyment came through.

There’s too many people to mention that helped make the BLACKCAPS community what it was – special mention to Jamie Bell at the NZC Museum, who tirelessly brought stats and history to life, as well as Jess, Ruth, Graeme, Andrew(s), Moog, Aotearoa XI, Toby, … it was a privilege to get to meet everyone at the ‘tweet ups’ and at the grounds.

Vine went really well for us, cricket kind of lent itself to the six second clips – here’s one from training before the CWC quarter final at the Basin, I was sifting around taking photos as per usual, when I was instructed to stand in the umpire’s position to see if any of the bowlers overstepped – and so got to see Kyle Mills, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson and Dan Vettori bowl close up. Seeing professional athletes do their thing so close up was quite  an experience.

I got to know one end of a video camera from the other, and how to edit. Kind of. I have much respect for the skill it takes to do this properly.

Launching the NZC mobile app – full credit  for the technical stuff goes to Tim McConnell, Gus Pickering and team at NV Interactive’s Christchurch office, I highly recommend them and their work.

Cricket-wise, where do you start? How about

  • The drawn Test against England at Eden Park in 2013
  • Somehow ending up in a taxi from Dunedin airport wedged between Darren Sammy and Richie Richardson in late 2013
  • Beating India at Eden Park in the first Test in 2014 – then being at the Basin for Brendon’s 302. The drawn ODI v India was tremendous too
  • Being at the Basin for Kane Williamson’s first double century in the second Test v Sri Lanka in early 2015, and seeing the team come from way behind to win that one
  • CWC15 – Hagley, beating Australia at Eden Park, the Guptill quarter final, THAT BLOODY SEMI FINAL WIN and going to Melbourne for the final

In terms of results, the two trips to Bangladesh were not highlights, but the experience of traveling with the group and being part of it all will stick with me for a long time. Believe everything you read about the team being made of good people. It’s extremely well lead by Brendon and Mikes Hesson and Sandle and I was made to feel very welcome on those trips and whenever I was with the team back in NZ. I’ll miss that a lot.




Couple of snaps from Bangladesh – I was pretty green, but luckily these guys are real pros.

If you haven’t had enough of What I Did, you can read a review of summer 2013Bangladesh trip one, Bangladesh trip two, a review of summer 2014a photo review of 2014, and the Cricket World Cup report.

Cricket in New Zealand is run by some incredibly enthusiastic people, who give up their summers to bring you this magnificent game. It was very hard to leave the dream job, but the time was right to move on for me, it was nice to go out on the high of the world cup.

I would like to thank NZC’s James, Callum, Richard, Joanne and David, the cool kids at the back of the office-bus (and Nicki!) and everyone else there for putting up with me, as well as the support and opportunities. See you at the grounds in the summer. 

How I live-tweet cricket for the BLACKCAPS

As a twitter nerd, and a cricket nerd, when I got a job at New Zealand Cricket, getting to live-tweet BLACKCAPS matches was a bit of a nerd explosion. I’ve been at it a couple of years now, and have covered our matches from the office, my couch and cricket grounds around New Zealand and the world. Not to mention off the phone at a Kindy Trike-A-Thon. Ahem. Here’s a bit of a run down on what I’m trying to do with live-tweeting BLACKCAPS matches.

Being there
Ideally, you’re giving your fans something they can’t get somewhere else, like the team news first, early news on the pitch, the scene in the shed, what have you. It is hot? Is there a dirty great rain cloud on its way? Is there a rowdy section in the crowd making all the atmosphere? I want to tell you about anything you can’t see on the telly.

Find the right rhythm
I’m aiming to keep folk on Twitter up to date, without annoying them. Some people are watching on TV, some are at the ground, some are following live scorecards and some are in the office or our and about following on Twitter.

With all that in mind, I want you to be able to follow the game through our account, alongside all the other people you follow on Twitter, with the tempo of the game in mind. We generally tweet about wickets, fours, milestones (50s, 100s, partnerships etc) and between all that, that’s usually plenty. Obviously if something happens you need to know about we’ll tell you, but there’s no minimum number of tweets.

If it’s a dull session, I’m not going to give you the blow by blow. But at the same time, if we need 12 to win in the last over to make our first World Cup final, you bet your arse I’ll let you know what’s happening in lengthy and in vivid.

I’m aiming for impartial, but at the same time, we’re the @BLACKCAPS account. If someone makes a tremendous catch, takes a wicket, scores 300 etc, we’re going to celebrate it. At the same time, if we mess up, we’ll tell you but probably not go to town on it.

An example – I use our players Twitter handles when they come out to bat or bowl and take wickets / score milestones, but if they drop a catch or get out, I just type their name out, they don’t need to see that.

Apart from that, I think it’s OK to use humour, but not too much. I’m aiming for pithy.

Aim for first-ish
When a wicket goes, you need to have the score, batsmen’s score, method of dismissal, bowler, catcher, etc, etc, etc at your fingertips in seconds. That’s a bit to get in a hurry.

You want to be swift, but I don’t put pressure on myself to be first with the news. There’s ALWAYS someone faster on the internet, and people at the ground / watching or listening at home can see what’s happened for themselves after all. It’s better to be near the front of the pack and right than first and wrong.

Also, you want to apologise and fix things when you stuff up. Our fans have saved me a number of times, I find it’s best to embrace and make friends with correctors, in general (!).

2014-02-03 16.41.14The crowd is better than you
The internet is funnier than we are, has great photos and better stats. It’s a team sport, Twitter, and we can cover what’s happening better as a group, recognise and reward our loyal fans and have some fun together, so we embrace and hit the retweet button a lot.

It makes our feed better and hopefully our fans get a kick out of it. If your gameday tweet deck doesn’t have mentions, match and team hashtags and Twitter lists of your fans handy for retweeting, you should set that shit up now.

Don’t forget to look up
Right? No matter if you’re sat in the media box, or in front of the TV, with the laptop open it’s easy to get distracted by Twitter, updating the website, the news, etc etc etc. While keeping everything ticking on your channels is what you’re there for, you do your best job by being very aware of what’s happening on the park. I can be bad at this, to be fair.

2013-05-16 23.15.27

(Sports) Geeking out

You can listen to me on Sean Callahan’s Sports Geek podcast, talking blackcaps.co.nz, our social media stuff and wot’s coming up for the world cup.

Sean’s based in Melbourne and works with a heap of teams and leagues with their digital and social efforts, as well as producing a cottage industry in podcasts. When I started my current role I found the pods (casts?) a treasure trove of tips and ideas, so I was stoked to be asked on.

All the Sports Geek podcasts are well worth a listen – if you want to dive in, three that’ve resonated with me are:

Finn Bradshaw from cricket.com.au – I’ve listened to this a few times in fairness, good history of how they’ve got to where they are, and the reasoning behind what they do.

Richard Clarke from Arsenal. Shit football team, but worthwhile listening on sports and digital. Channels galore and a new one every year felt about right to me.

Josh Tucker from the LA Dodgers. I thought Josh’s approach was not a million miles away from what we’re trying to do at NZC in terms of simply talking to fans online.

Also check out Beers, Blokes and Business, which covers a wide variety of business topics, tending digital, in a fairly relaxed fashion.

Actions, not words

Some quick thoughts on the Telecom -> Spark thing.

Telecom’s biggest challenge has always been doing less. Like any incumbent telco, it has no end of systems, processes, technology and products that keep getting in the way of having a product line up that’s simple and complete while still innovating at the pace demanded by the telco industry. And despite all that, they’re doing a pretty reasonable job, potentially enabled by the energy injected by new leadership. Anyone paying attention can see that Telecom is moving in the right direction and out-thinking the brash up and coming ISPs and telcos that were doing so much chest beating in the last few years. You don’t hear much from them these days.

On the back of today’s news, marketing chap Jason Paris says in the NBR story comment thread: “…there are still key, fast growing customer segments that tell us they will always just out right reject the Telecom brand.” I have to say I dealt with enough people with long memories in my time there to say with confidence that people have long memories and no-one is going to forget that Spark = Telecom, especially after the front-page stories, tweets and Facebook comments exploding today. And isn’t it Skinny or another of the sub-brands’ jobs to reel these folk in?

Why not just show people that Telecom is able to listen to customers and give them what they want at a reasonable price with great associated story than bet the farm on a new name? This process is well underway already. Why not wait a while and see if it’s still necessary? I mean, today Telecom has announced a pretty interesting foray into TV, precisely the kind of thing you want an innovative, data-driven telco to get into, but the fluff and froth of the rebrand is getting the headlines.

Anyway, it’s happening and I sincerely hope it goes well – the people responsible for pulling this off have a lot of work in front of them. I understand the organisational transformation that started before I left has continued and is making good progress, I hope the re-brand helps rather than hinders the pain and effort everyone’s gone through to get this far.

Would also hope the folk in the shops and call centres are front and centre in everyone’s thinking and there’s more in it for them than a launch party and (another) new set of posters. As we all know, the folk you speak to when your phone or broadband needs sorting out and what they’re enabled to do by the company’s products and processes are far more responsible for a company’s brand than an advertising agency run by one of your board members.

Like I say, good luck to everyone concerned. The last thing any company needs is a clever dick ex-employee banging on about stuff like this, especially without the benefit of actually working at the company and knowing what’s actually going on, which is always vastly different to what you see from the outside / gets reported. I hope that in five years time we’re remembering the awesome products and service coming out of the organisation rather than the name shuffling.

 Not a Photoshop BTW.

Misc. thoughts:
– Not having the @sparknz Twitter handle among other things is a bit of an issue, but I imagine a large corporate wanting to obtain a punter’s dis-used Twitter handle is not that big a deal to quietly sort
– I await the new branding with interest. My personal opinion is that the agency’s track record is not great when it comes to Telecom and hope they can do better and more sustainable than previous efforts. Let’s face it, the Telecom marketing campaign everyone remembers is SPOT, can’t you guys just, erm, come up with something like that? I joke
– Troy has been kicking arse on the Twitter
– Lance Wiggs’ article is worth a read

You don’t really need a Wolfram Alpha strategy

There’s a school of thought that says whenever two chaps in a garage get a 0.3 beta of a social network out the door, digital folk everywhere should drop everything and get on it.

This is bollocks. Your valuable and limited time, energy and resource is best spent on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or the platform(s) that work best for your customers / fans / etc. When an organisation proudly lists all the platforms they’re on (and the list could be pretty long by now), the question is ‘are you any good on them?’ and probably ‘do your fans care?’.

How many times have you heard ‘this could be the new Facebook’, only to struggle to even remember its name weeks after the initial squeee-ing dies down? I really question the need to spend time building up a platform whose goal might ultimately be to be brought by Facebook or Google when they get popular enough.

You won’t miss much in the early days of a new platform – often you don’t get a fair reflection of what the platform is going to be like because there’s simply no-one on it yet. You’ve got plenty of time to make ground up if you don’t get in on the early days. Take Instagram – for a long time, people on Android, the world’s largest mobile OS couldn’t even use it – folk seemed to catch up just fine.

As always, you need to figure out what platforms are the right fit for your organisation’s fans or customers and what’s right for you.

Some social platforms are more useful as handy places to store your content – think Flickr for photos and YouTube for video – and sharing your content somewhere more suitable, like Twitter or your website. Honestly, no-one really enjoys YouTube for its social functions.

Remember, tthere’s questionable value in getting involved in non-social platforms like Snapchat (where content can’t be shared or even allow a link back to your website). Sure you might get some street cred points for being there, but it feels a bit dad-rock to me if it’s not the right fit for your organisation.

In short, what I’d do when a hot new platform comes along is:

a) register your company name, because 1. it might come in handy one day, and 2. it stops the hilarious pranksters from nabbing it, and
b) keep an eye on it. You’ll know when it becomes right for you

Remember, channels are channels – don’t throw your strategy out the window because someone invites you to a pets-only mobile app.