By Neil Silver

Neil Silver, UCFB’s Head of Employment and Enrichment, and a football journalist with decades of experience covering the game, has highlighted why it pays for a manager to have good relations with the press…

Don’t fall off your chair when you read this, but football managers and football journalists really should try to become best of friends.

On the whole, there is too much suspicion of journalists from managers – although that suspicion is sometimes not without its foundation.

Like every walk of life, there are some in the journalistic pack that are not as much of a pleasure to work with as others. Despite that, life would be so much easier for managers and journalists alike if everyone could just get along.

The key is for managers and journalists to talk to each other. Whenever I write a story, I always want to get my facts right, and I have always prided myself on being someone who a manager can trust. I have a network of managers who will always take my call, because they know I won’t let them down. They appreciate that I want to get it right.

By talking to a manager, on and off the record, you can get to know what they do and don’t want reported. Then if you are true to your values, you know that they won’t be upset when the article appears, and if it is a positive article then it is unlikely to do them any harm.

Sure, it can be frustrating for a journalist when a manager asks them not to write something, even though it is true, but my view is that you have to play the long game and develop a relationship that will last throughout both your careers.

In the past I have helped managers prepare for their press conference by talking through possible “lines” and “angles” they can give the media. This enables the manager to be pro-active, control the press conference, and come across as friendly and helpful. If the information being handed out is good material then the journalist will go away happy, with their ego well and truly massaged, and not look to “stitch up” that manager.

Of course it takes a bit of time to build up a good working relationship, but if a manager and a journalist talk on a regular basis there will be a trading of information. Yes, journalists are a good source of knowledge too, so managers should talk to them like a friend and use them – there have been many times when I have told a manager something useful that they didn’t already know.

We are instilling these values in our students at UCFB who are the football journalists of the future. We take them to cover Under-23 matches at a number of football clubs where they talk to coaches, players, and press officers to learn how it works in the real world. The people at the club get to interact with the “press” in real time, and the students get the chance to put what they have learned to the test.

This is working so well that more and more clubs are allowing UCFB students to work with them and I am confident that this building of relationships is a “win-win” for managers and our future football journalists.