In a reversal of roles, centre-half Pat Baldwin spoke to media manager Richard Dorman about his role at Exeter City.
This time of year is when I normally put football at the back of my mind and find something to replace that fix. I might even try to get a little break away with my family to recuperate after a long hard season.
The majority of footballers the world over would normally be doing the same unless they’re involved in a certain competition this coming summer.
To others employed by football clubs up and down the country, the summer doesn’t bring them the luxury of time off or a chance to get away. Instead, people like Richard Dorman, our very own Media Manager, is still busy at work preparing for the next campaign.
Us players are accustomed to Richard floating around the training ground or stadium on match days, eagerly seeking out interviews and quotes. But to anyone outside the playing or coaching staff, little is known about the man.
Richard and many others alike at other clubs are just as, if not more, important than any playing staff. Players and managers invariably come and go but its people like Richard who remain, continuing to drive the club forward.
An interesting concept occurred to me to give an insight into whom gives the fans their instant stream of information about the club they love, his journey up until arriving at St James’ Park and what his job involves.
I caught up with Richard in a rather trendy coffee bar in Exeter high street after his long day at work and was intrigued to know where his love of football began. He said:
“Growing up in Solihull, West Midlands, I ended up supporting Birmingham City. I remember my first match very clearly. It was New Year’s Eve 1994. We played Blackpool and won 7-1.
“I’ve always been interested in football, always enjoyed watching it and have recently enjoyed learning about it too.”
It was a very steep learning curve ever since his arrival here at Exeter mid-way through the 2012-13 season. The journey from interview to starting the job was less than a week and he found himself travelling down by train with just a suitcase full of clothes. It was something he remembers vividly. He added:
“Even though I was confident about my own ability to do the job, I was extremely nervous about the move. To take over a job mid-season, inherited without any handover was a real challenge.
“Rather than being handed a baton, I was picking it up off the floor and trying to sprint with it.”
I have had many dealings with Richard ever since his arrival at the club but only very fleetingly and mainly on a professional level. The more we sat chatting, the more intriguing his story became. Said Dorman:
“After leaving Uni and spending a year floating around dead-end jobs, through a friend, I found a scheme where I could teach English to secondary school pupils in Poland for a year.”
It was after this year abroad and returning to Sheffield University to undertake a Master’s degree that he found himself, stumbling somewhat, into the world of football. He explained:
“After coming back to Uni where all my past friends had left, I set up a six-a-side football team for Post-Grads as a way of meeting people.
“I used to write some daft reports, very tongue in cheek stuff, very self-deprecating and just taking the mickey out of the team.
“A friend that I was working with just so happened to be working for Rotherham and he quite liked what I was doing.
“He said if I ever wanted to, I should just come and do a little writing for their programme.”
Within a year of writing match reports for a laugh, Richard found himself at his very own field of dreams, St Andrew’s, writing match reports for Birmingham City in the Premier League after answering their call for contributors.
Brief spells working for Comic Relief as a Football Partnership Assistant and Communications Assistant for the British Olympic Association followed, amongst other jobs, and he found himself applying for the vacant Media Manager’s role here at Exeter City.
Remembering his interview with Julian Tagg, then Chief Executive, the unassuming Brummie said: “I think I made a pretty good case for myself, in the way I prepared for the interview, I think it proved I had the skills to do the job.”
This little glimpse of self-confidence was refreshing to hear from a man who is very modest, almost shy, but these traits make him very easy company and appealing to be around. He was quick to tell me something that I found when joining the club. Said Dorman:
“Exeter City, I have since learned, is not like any other football club at all, it’s extremely unique.
“I think it’s been a good fit although it’s meant for a lot of hard work. You know from a players’ point of view, you have to fit the Exeter criteria.”
His humble demeanour and realism is evident again when he explains the opportunity offered to him by a club like Exeter City. Dorman continued:
“There’s never a day where I’ve come out thinking that I haven’t learnt something or got a different insight or changed my perspective on something.
“With the greatest of respects, if I was perfect at my job, I wouldn’t be here.
“Exeter City prides itself on developing young players, but they are also developing other people too, like backroom staff.”
I can certainly vouch for the club in that sense; they do provide a fantastic platform for everybody to improve and get better at their job. But what does his job actually entail?
Everybody takes the information provided to them via modern technology for granted. How many of you can actually say, when reading news, football or otherwise, that you think about who wrote the article, or where it came from? I would say not many.
Talking to Richard about his job in detail certainly opened my eyes. He said: “I am solely responsible for the club’s website, all of our social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and now Vine, YouTube and Grecian Player.
“I’m responsible for keeping things up-to-date, not just the football side but the commercial side, charity things, youth team, ladies team, Football in the Community.
“That’s just the digital media part. You then have the editing the matchday programme as well, e-newsletters, and travelling to matches home and away.”
That is some job description. With juggling so much with such little time and the ever-expanding changes to technology and social media, Richard explains the difficulties of staying ahead of the game. He said:
“Nowadays, communication via Twitter and Facebook is official information, so keeping up-to-date in terms of making sure the content is fresh is hard.
“Being one step ahead of the curve or at least on the curve, with changes in social media outlets such as Instagram, is tough as well.”
With instant media messaging at our fingertips means Richard is able to get instant feedback from the fans - the people he essentially provides the news for. Being so readily accessible, does he see that as a benefit? He stated:
“Constantly getting feedback from the supporters means you can have a close understanding of exactly how our fans are feeling, what their frustrations are and what things they want to see done.
“The flipside to that is it’s hard to leave work at work. It is very 24/7.
“For example, I’ve been on one holiday since joining the club and that was a friend’s stag weekend and even then I had to do work when I got back to the hotel doing a press release.”
Richard is clearly a workaholic, dedicated to the Exeter City cause. He is now currently busy planning for next year. Speaking to him before this interview in quite some depth, he has visions and ambitions for the direction he wants to take the media side of the club.
Whether practicalities such as budget allow, is a different matter but he is certainly hopeful for the coming season. He declared:
“I would hope to, in a broad sense, increase the quality and quantity of the media output of the club and doing that in a way that’s engaging.
“We are in an entertainment industry and there is such a demand for information, or to just be entertained, that runs around the clock and there will always be more we can do.
“It’s a case of just maximising every opportunity we have and doing things differently that suits Exeter City.”
This club certainly has a fantastic reputation of producing excellent young talent on the field. But off it, the media department is in very talented, ambitious and safe hands.
Quite aptly, the interview reaches its climax at the arrival of Richard’s friend to accompany him for a game of six-a-side. Maybe I should spectate and write up a funny match report, you never know where it will lead my life.