The Rising Sports Journalists series begins with an interview with Owen McMahon of Manchester, England.
Owen currently serves as the Social Media Manager for Football.com and is the founder of OMcMahonMedia.com. He attends Manchester Metropolitan University and is also a contributing writer for The Student Perspective and The Sportster.
You can follow him on Twitter at @omcmahonmedia.
1. What made you decide to pursue sports journalism as a career?
Owen McMahon: Interestingly enough, I still do not know whether sports journalism is the specific field I want to specialise in over the next 5-10 years. It’s a lesson I have learned and I think is important for other people to be aware of – you don’t necessarily know where you’re going to end up till the very last minute.
My first taste of the ‘media industry’ as I’m going to refer to it as was contributing to a social media account called @GetFootballNews back in 2012/13. They had 80,000 followers, and I left as we just hit 160,000. It was an incredible experience – all for free. You have to work for free initially in this industry – it’s something you see far too many times where an individual demands money when they have near to no experience. Put the work in, gain the experience, and the rewards will eventually come. But that’s where my love of social media came from. Obviously since then I have gone on to work for Football.com for the past 2 years now.
In terms of journalism, I have written voluntary for sports sites for over three years now. Granted, at 15 my writing skills were not exactly the best but – I like to think I’ve always been a good writer. I’ve always followed the news, always interested in writing, debating and commenting on social media about sports – so it made sense to do a journalism degree.
I have had many people say – ‘if you want to do social media in the future, why are you studying journalism’? I have two answers. Firstly – because I enjoy journalism and it is a pathway I may well be interested in when I finish university in 2018. Secondly – if you look at job adverts for the social media sector, they usually ask for a degree in communications, digital media or journalism. The three are so closely linked these days that they can all help secure a job in each of the roles.
Ultimately I do not know whether I want to be a newspaper writer, an online editor or a social media manager – but I do know I want to work in the digital media industry.
2. You got your start in digital media as the social media manager for Football.com at age 16. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from being involved with such a well-known sports media brand?
McMahon: Working for Football.com since the age of 16 has given me a great insight into what working in digital media is like. I have learned a lot over the past two years, such as the basics of using a content management system (CMS), the best way to utilise social media to drive website traffic and how to tailor your content focus to your audience.
The biggest lesson I have learned however is that digital media is non-stop. You always need to find ways to reinvent yourself/a company and to keep things fresh and (especially in the modern era) interactive.
Keeping up-to-date is incredibly important.
3. What’s the biggest mistake young journalists make when it comes to how they manage their social media accounts?
McMahon: The biggest mistake I see so many young, aspiring journalists make on social media is split into two.
Firstly – it is vital to separate your personal life and your professional life. I personally have two accounts, @omcmahonmedia and another which I use for personal reasons such as interaction with friends, etc. Think to yourself – would you really want a potential employer to be reading what your 14 year old self was saying back in 2011? My guess is – probably not.
Secondly – continuity. The #1 rule I always give when advising someone on how to best use social media is to stay active. I see people post once every three days and it simply isn’t enough. So overall, I’d say professionalism and continuity are what I don’t see enough of with young (especially students) journalists.
4. How can a new journalist best use social media in trying to get their name out there in order to build their personal brand?
McMahon: There are an abundance of ways you can get your name out in the public domain these days.
I think that you need to firstly establish a name for yourself. I use ‘omcmahonmedia’ for all my social media accounts. Accompany this with a somewhat professional looking photograph of yourself and maybe a distinct header photo which will soon become recognisable to your personal brand. I’d even go as far as establishing a colour theme – all which seem like small things but make a big difference.
I also believe having your own personal blog/website is important. You can use this, not only to put content online – but for potential employers to find your profile. Again, keep it related. For example – omcmahonmedia.com is my website and it links to all my social media accounts. I have tried to create somewhat of a network amongst my own personal social accounts and I believe it is working so far.
Finally, similar to the advice I put for question 3 – keep your online platforms updated. Keep putting content up, share your opinions – let your readers & potential employers see your personality through the screen.
5. You’ve started The Student Perspective with five other aspiring journalists at Manchester Metropolitan University. Tell us a little about the project and what people should expect from it.
McMahon: ‘The Student Perspective’ is an exciting new project me and five friends who are also studying journalism at the same university suddenly came up with. We simply started a WordPress blog and now we’ve branched out to creating social media accounts and creating a little brand for ourselves. We aim to get 6 pieces up every week – shared amongst the 6 people we have collaborating on the blog. Topics range from sports (football & formula one) to lifestyle (beauty, fashion, travel) all the way to politics and social issues.
Once we’re up and running and begin to establish ourselves we hope to bring fellow journalism students for guest posts, and create somewhat of a platform for young journalists to share their views.