From the board: making a difference

15th December 2017

From the board: making a difference

Board member Simon Griffiths gives an insight into the work the Volleyball England board have been doing. Many challenges have been overcome this year which means each member of the board can focus more on working in their particularly area. For PR and Communications Director Simon, his top priorities are content and the core market...

Governance. Reforms. Risk management. Frameworks. Terms and conditions. The first few months on the newly formed Volleyball England Board have been an absolute riot. No, really – bags of fun; a laugh a minute.

It was all so necessary though. As a Board, we have been made well aware that Volleyball England has spent much of 2017 on the naughty step. It’s not somewhere that we wanted to hang about much longer.

So, for those first few months, we looked at lots of paperwork. And then some more paperwork. And we made sure that our house was in order. That work is now pretty much complete, meaning that every one of us can begin to focus on the changes we want to help deliver as Board members.

In my own area, that can be summarised under these three headings – our website; our content and communications strategy; and articulating the value of our products, services and events.

We need to talk about the website

Ok; let’s get this one out of the way first. The current VE site is not great. It’s not particularly easy on the eye and it’s tricky to navigate around (although it does still rack up about half a million site visits per year). It’s an old 2011 platform that currently does a lot of work, hosting membership details, club registrations, NVL competition data and much, much more.

If we could simply switch across to a new platform tomorrow, no questions asked, we would. Two things are holding us back though – money and scope. Everybody knows that, financially, we’ve had a tough time. We’re just emerging from that now and need to be super prudent with the funds we do have.

It’s therefore my job to convince the rest of the Board that this is an investment worth making. Right now, some of you are screaming, “This doesn’t have to cost that much!” And you’d be right. But we need to be sure that the new site has all the functionality we might want – in terms of a CRM system, a membership database, the competitions back office and all the front-of-house, media whistles and bells that a modern-day site needs.

More than that though, we need to know who we’re building this site for.

In search of the core market

Anyone who’s paid close attention to all the VE / Sport England news this year will know that our focus is on the core market of people currently engaged in playing volleyball. That’s a pretty broad church. Ask yourself, how would you define it? It’s everyone from a player in the lowest regional league, through to a Super 8 superstar. It’s refs, coaches, administrators and volunteers at all levels of the game. It’s not just about the elite.

I’m core market. I’ve played for 25 years, coached for 15 and been a club chairman for five. However, only the last of those three years have seen me involved with the NVL. Therefore, my views of what I want from VE will likely differ immensely from a more talented player who’s spent their whole life playing NVL rather than regional league volleyball and/or has been engaged in the established talent pathways.

We need to better define that core market and to establish what it is that they – i.e. you – want from us. Otherwise, everything we do, whether that be building a new website or redefining our portfolio of services, is being done from the inside-out rather than the outside-in; reflecting what we want to do rather than what you want us to do.

So, before we get too far into designing a new website, that research piece needs to come first.

What’s in the locker

We probably don’t think of VE as a big purveyor of goods and services – but perhaps we should. We’re not just here to act as competition administrators. The team in Loughborough offer support services in terms of club governance, club administration, fund-raising and talent pathways. There are plenty of events as well, above and beyond just the NVL. And there are courses and conferences for our volunteer refs and coaches.

But have we ever properly articulated the value of these services? Have we properly shown how VE can help you? Probably not as well as we could have done.

That desire for a stronger articulation extends to the events we put on. In this case, the target audience would be potential commercial partners and sponsors. We need to get better at identifying our strongest products and articulating their main selling points. To kick-start this, I’m part of a group that has identified four products with commercial appeal which we feel could be better monetised. Two of those (my personal picks) are the National Cup Finals day and the Inter-Regional Championships so I’ll be intrigued to see just how sell-able they are.

Make me want to read more

My final priority for the year is the content we publish on our digital and social platforms and how we communicate with our VE members.

Content really is king nowadays. Every savvy consumer brand knows this – which is why your inbox is stuffed full of content (some good, some not so good!) on a daily basis. It’s all brand enhancing, rather than explicitly commercial.

All of which should work in our favour, as VE is not an explicitly commercial organisation. We want to build a sense of a volleyballing community with content drawn from all parts of the afore-mentioned core market. I had a personal stake in this earlier in the year, shifting our content from being results-based, NVL-orientated reportage content to something which had more of a lifestyle feel. Stories about volleyballers, opinions on the issues that matter to us, insights from behind the scenes at VE; all these things were fair game.

For those who felt this wasn’t appropriate, I had a simple response. Two of our most popular, well-received stories or initiatives this year were the piece we wrote about non-compliant team uniforms (which got some people very hot under the collar!) and the Logo Wars competition on Twitter (which was a brilliant accompaniment to the Super 8s Finals weekend). That’s the sort of variety I want to see on our platforms as we look to reinvent the old 3Touch magazine in digital form.

All this will take time though. Believe me, there are so many discussions taking place behind the scenes with fellow Board members all doing their bit to bring about change for the better. Nothing will happen overnight but rest assured that none of us fancy the look of that naughty step any more.

From the board: making a difference