It is important and wonderful to see the World Paddle Awards grow and build. They demonstrate the true breadth of these incredible paddlesports about which we are all so passionate and help us learn about the people behind them.
“In addition to all my wonderful memories of the sport, it was fitting to see that the future of the sport would be in such capable hands”, says Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Bill Endicott.
Masia Almiral de la Font near Sitges, Spain provided the beautiful backdrop for the 2nd annual World Paddle Awards.
Here is a full listing and links to my canoe slalom articles during 2015. These were posted to Sportscene.tv, International Canoe Federation as well as this blog. Through the year I provided live race commentary on Twitter via @gregiej @planetcanoe and using #ICFslalom.
Tonight (May 9th) the inaugural World Paddle Awards ceremony kick-off in Augsburg at the stunning Augsburg Rathaus Goldener Saal. As many as 400 people are expected to attend this star studded event, with the finalists, nominees, faculty and sponsors.
This is highly poignant for me realizing the journey over the last 25 years desperately trying to engage the media with press releases to publish a few column inches in print media.
Today we have engaged sponsors and media supporting this fantastic event. See the World Paddle Awards website. I will report on these inspiring awards ceremony and look forward to listening to the winners.
It is an exciting weekend in Augsburg with the ECA Wildwater Sprint & Boater-Cross race on the Eiskanal. Qualification is today and finals tomorrow.
This week I reflect back on my own personal favourites over the last 25 years. The common link in many of them have been the personal insights athletes, retired athletes and coaches have afforded me through interviews. Like any good old fashion press release and article they contain strong titles, quotes and great photography.
Trail Blazers Martyn Hedges (Canoe Kayak UK magazine issue 16 July 2002)
Martyn Hedges was regarded as one of the top C1 paddlers in the 1980s. Sadly, after being selected for the Barcelona Olympics he was killed in a car accident months before. Ten years after this tragic event I was able to contact his competitors, training partners and coaches to write an article about the paddler we all knew as Bushy. It was printed in Canoe Kayak UK magazine as two double page spreads. It was complemented by amazing photography by Tony Tickle and Pete Astles.
Another ten years later in my Unofficial Olympic Canoe Slalom blog for the London 2012 Olympics I paid tribute again to Bushy and to share the story with a new generation. The original is not available online to my knowledge you can read my 2012 tribute here. It was the post that received the most comments and shares.
With the Rio Olympics less than 2 years away it is great to follow the progress of this young developing team. Neil Proctor and I had the pleasure of an evening with the Brazilian Canoe Slalom team after the close of the 2013 Worlds in Prague. The evening was fun in itself and having the full team of paddlers, coaches and team manager, Ettore Ivaldi, altogether enhanced the conversation. I have continued to follow the team’s exploits here and hope to do a similar article with the Japanese Canoe Slalom Team in 2015.
Not unlike the Martyn Hedges piece noted above this was a wonderful opportunity and privilege to go back to the legends in the sport; Jon Lugbill, Davey Hearn & Bill Endicott. The original article The Ultimate Run 25 years on piece was posted online through Sportscene.tv. The organisers of the Deep Creek Worlds then invited me to re-edit as a feature piece for the Deep Creek official programme. I decided to seek additional insights from Richard Fox. I was very proud of the finished version. Again, both the online and subsequent print article was enhanced through the stunning photography of Tony Tickle and Dale Briggs. The only disappointed aspect was leaving out more fabulous quotes in the interests of space.
In the previews and race reviews posted on the Sportscene.tv website over the last two years I have also sought to include historical references or analytics which the main stream media would be unlikely to find. It has helped to have been there in person and witnessed many events and had personal relationships with the people involved in some way or other. Online also enables us to measure the impact of different articles or even alternative titles. One of the most viewed and shared was my blog piece A Spectator’s Guide Knowing that lists are often the most viewed or shared this last year I wrote Top 10 Predictions for Deep Creek. Like many of the posts or articles mentioned it has been in development for many months before it went live. To me the key is knowing the right questions to ask.
I have worked with remarkable talented people along the way. In the early days contributed to Slalom Magazine and then supported Jimmy Jayes with his 1991 book Every Second Counts and then produced a report entitled To Athens 2004 and beyond that arose from an Athens Canoeing Advisory Panel. More than anything it has been fun. The only other piece I pull out is my piece of creative writing My Ultimate Run in the Canoe Slalom blog. I thought it was different and may offer insights to those who had not experienced Lee Valley from water level.
As I described in the very first of these four posts social media has enabled us greater control of the media channel and helped us widely communicate our passion for the sport with the worldwide paddling community. Live commentary on Twitter is a different skill set capturing information in the instant and communicating it well is less than 140 characters. Social media enables all of us to be engaged. You are all playing a part. Thank you.
Content is king. Creating value for readers requires great content. Creating a continuous flow of high quality content is time consuming although surprising simple. We can see that content that includes photographs, audio and video gains an increasing number of likes, shares or retweets.
Tip 1 – How to make the most of Twitter
Start by establishing hastags for each event or series. I have increasingly pushed organisers to specify their hastag for an event very early on and encourage everyone to consistently use the same hastag. This makes it easier to trend a topic and easier for others to search and follow a specific topic. It is good to see the ICF encouraging use of #ICFslalom for 2015 and beyond.
Keep Tweets short, less than 140 characters so they can be retweeted without losing important links. A good proportion of tweets should contain a link or photograph although not every one.
The art of gaining insightful quotes is asking the right questions. This comes with practice as well as an intimate understanding of the sport and what will interest readers.
Many of the international elite canoe slalom community are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which has made obtaining live quotes from athletes at events easier. I try to maintain a balance and not to unnecessarily disturb paddlers mental focus at races. Not every athlete will respond and this is fine.
These social channels have also made it possible to ask the community for a photograph of a specific athlete and request permission from photographers to use their pictures in subsequent articles or posts. Always state to whom the photograph is credited.
Tip 3 – How to create yourself as a brand
You are you own brand and social media channels enable you to control the message. Paddlers and teams can prepare what they might say as a quote and can use those providing coverage for a race to extend their own brand image. Take advantage of this opportunity. My brand is @gregiej
I communicate links to all the articles I have written across multiple platforms, which have included Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. These link back to where the core pre or post race content is posted which has tended to be either Sportscene or my own blog.
Building a following on any of the channels is hard, doesn’t come easy and requires time and patience. However, we know that good content gets shared and so your following will expand. It is incredibly exciting to see highly influential members of the paddler community or media outlets retweet your content to their own followers.
Tip 4 – Plan ahead
For the London Olympics I posted at least once a day which got me to the top of Google searches. I tried to write a couple of days ahead and send questions to current or retired paddlers asking for quotes maybe a week in advance.
I have detailed spreadsheets and analytics of athlete’s results and I have a structure template for the race previews or reviews which allows me to create content very quickly. That said, several articles have been weeks in production before they finally appear on the Sportscene website.
Final tip in planning is to proof read extremely thoroughly. Get help if necessary and cross check spelling, which nation a paddler is competing for, in which class and double check the results.
This is the second in a series of posts describing the journey from print to digital supported by print in the world of canoe slalom. Last week’s post described the shift from copy and paste using scissors and glue to blogging. Today’s post builds on how micro-blogging is taking live race commentary on-line.
As outlined in last week’s post. I have been able to use blogging is a valuable mechanism to deliver content, however it is not so easy to do continuous live updates. This is where Twitter described as a micro-blogging platform has proved excellent. At the Deep Creek Worlds I posted more than 1,000 Tweets across the 5 race days. It was amusing for me to see the race commentary and media using the Tweets as a source of their facts and race information.
Twitter as well as Instagram and Facebook have opened a new world to journalism. I can obtain immediate quotes, insights, photographs, reactions from the canoe slalom community at a race; athletes, competitors, teams, officials and their family. I commented on Jess Fox’s apparent tweet as she prepared to start in C1W in Deep Creek. She alleged it was sent earlier than it appeared! Klauss & Peche (FRA) were also pictured taking and posting a selfie on the start.
I have been so excited to hear people I have never met are following live race tweets, including streaming on a screen at the gym so they can follow the race. Sportscene.tv has embedded my Twitter feed in its liveresults page. It continues to be an absolute race to find fast ways to post as the results can change so fast. Every tweet should include an agreed hastag. We used #canoeslalomworldcup through the 2014 World Cup races and agreed upon #DeepCreek2014 for the Worlds. I am pleased to see the ICF has now recommended a series of hastags with #ICFslalom for canoe slalom.
I have also developed a structure for the Tweets themselves with a consistent convention for example posting immediate unofficial results, then official results and the make-up of nations advancing in a particular class through to semi or finals.
I am exciting to wait for the start of the 2015 season including 5 World Cup races, Junior/ U23 and Senior Worlds as well as the Pan American Games #TO2015. I will be live tweeting.
As a closing reflection; in some respects live Twitter commentary doesn’t sound exactly new after all is that not what Teletext was 30 years ago? It has just become a little more portable.
This is the first in a series of posts describing the journey from print to digital supported by print in the world of canoe slalom.
I have been writing about international canoe slalom since 1989. In those early days I wrote on an electric typewriter, copy and pasted (with scissors and paper glue) to make up a one page press release and then went off in pursuit of a hotel who would agree to a fee to fax the page to the national newspapers. I remember chasing down results with Jennifer Munroe on the bank of the river Dee for the ICF Llangollen class C international race. We have come a long way. In 1991 this was an especially popular international race prior to the Nottingham ’92 World Cup and Barcelona Olympics. That summer Gareth Marriott had won the pre-Olympics.
Some eighteen years later I agreed to write a daily blog for the SportFeed.com for the London Olympics. It proved a bigger undertaking than I could have imagined, particularly given that I was also working full time in the four weeks prior to the Olympic canoe slalom race at Lee Valley. On the race days the daily blog then became two posts, then three and then four. Exhausting. An incredible insight was that this linked content pushed me top of the Google ranking for searches on canoe slalom during the Olympics.
I have always been an early adopter on social media tools and now make a living do so. Out of shear natural curiosity, powered by ADD, I wanted to really understand how they could work for sport, the not-for-profit sector and business. The daily blog for the London Olympics proved to me that it really is about content. I was honoured to receive permission to include photographs from many of the best photographers in the business, including World Paddle Awards co-nominee Antony Edmonds. Fortunately, I was also sufficiently connected to obtain quotes from the legends in the sport of canoe slalom.
As a follow-up I produced an article published in the 2013 Planet Canoe print edition on the use of social media in the Olympics; @London2012 The impact of Social Media in 2012. Here is a link to the original article from which it was based. I now understand even better how blogging can drive SEO ranking and how with tools such as HubSpot we can help to integrate digital with followers and access to additional content.
The blogging has continued and evolved. I have posted 40+ articles since the London Olympics primarily through the fabulous Sportscene.tv platform. I think Rob van Bommel deserves enormous credit for a self-less passion to elevate Paddlesports. I have come up with something of a formula for these articles, including a standardized format for the race analytics. This has been made possible by using extensive spreadsheets collating all the race results for each paddler, class and race. These articles have included a preview of the year and end of season review as well as individual preview and review of each World Cup and World Championship races over the last two seasons. These have again been supported by stunning photography and insights from paddlers.
Going back to the start of today’s post it was a dream standing above Town Falls that one day we may be able to propel canoe slalom to a level to attract main stream TV coverage and sponsorship. Now, however, we have control of the distribution channel and can avoid the disappointment of toiling for hours to find the print media decided only to list the results and not the story behind them.