Budding PR and marketing professionals were told to simply “tell the story” by the Communications Director of one of the world’s biggest football clubs during a talk at UCFB.

Mark Gonnella, media chief at Premier League giants Arsenal, visited UCFB Wembley and told students the importance of PR in football and sport and the wide scope of his role. As well as organising interviews for players and club staff with various media outlets, his job sees him work closely with chief executive Ivan Gazidis and help promote the club’s community programme, the Arsenal Foundation.

Prior to working with the club, Mark was a journalist for 20 years before forming his own sport media agency. Mark’s final role before joining the north London club was leading the global communications team at Barclays bank.

His key message for students from years of elite level experience was simple: “It’s about communicating, not communications.”

Mark said: “As we move forward I see the communications, digital, marketing, media piece as one entity and that’s the way people should think.  A key principal for me throughout my career has been ‘who’s my audience and how do I reach them?’”

“Now that’s marketing 101, but it’s also communications 101. My view is you’re going to need those skills to show you understand audiences, and you’re going to be able to find a way to tell stories. This is all about telling stories, whatever your channel may be, whatever your ultimate purpose is, it’s about the ability to help you tell stories and your ability to help others tell their story.”

The role and rise of the communications team at football clubs has changed exponentially in recent years. Before the rise of social and digital media and 24 hour rolling news, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for a club of Arsenal’s size to have a team of two of three staff in a media office, dealing mainly with written press. Now however, especially with the explosion of digital media, content is king and clubs have dedicated social media teams, content teams and press officers.

Mark added: “Telling the story is the most powerful thing. When you look around the world the great communicators, the great marketers, they’re all telling great stories, so that’s what you need to learn.”