Last week, Jo Coates, new CEO at British Athletics did a press update. Stuart Weir did a series (3 parts) on Jo Coates’ event. I am quite interested in Ms. Coates’ ability to communicate with the media, the athletes and the potential audience.
Would hope to see this done in the USA.
Jo Coates press briefing
New UK Athletics CEO, Jo Coates, gave a press briefing in early August 2020, which she described as: “not going to be a massive news headlines. We just wanted to keep the relationship going with everybody [and] to update you on things that have happened and where we’ve moved forward”.
She said that the review conducted by Dame Sue Street “was a really good springboard to try and make some change”. While acknowledging that “it’s very easy when you come in new to say ‘that’s rubbish, that’s rubbish'”, she did not shy away from acknowledging the shortcomings of the organization she found on appointment as CEO.
Jasmin Sawyers, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics
She spoke about “the behavioral and cultural change that we need to make in the organization”. She added: “We’re writing a new strategy and we will be looking at what the structure of the new organization looks like. We’re looking at a new structure which will deliver the strategy going forward. British Athletics will begin to look very different”.
She referred to the new trailer for the British Championships in September: “The theme is Playground to Podium. This shows a slightly different slant on where UK athletics sees itself. This is absolutely a journey from school playground right through to those who want to make it to the podium. We think that is a massive part of our responsibility to get that right”.
Playground to Podium is narrated by former Olympic and double World Champion, Christine Ohuruogu.
— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) August 10, 2020
One criticism of the organization from the Street report that Coates has taken on board concerns: “internal and external communications” She said that she hoped the media were “finding that access to me and access to staff [was easier] – that we’re much more open now in the way we want to communicate with you. We’re calling this Join The Journey to rebuild and rewire athletics in the UK. We’re going to start that new look and feel with a new Trailer we’ve created for the British Champs. We haven’t done much of this before but we are delighted with what it looks like. This is the way we are going to work going forward. But as well as the trailer we’re going to start to do some athlete stories leading up to the Muller Games [British Championships] because the number of eyeballs watching the British Champs is crucial to our sport. We need the viewing figures to look good”.
Women’s 800m, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics
She acknowledged that UK Athletics should have organized events to replace the cancelled Diamond Leagues: “we were slow off the blocks. I don’t want to sound like an egomaniac – I’m not. Maybe if I’d been here a few months earlier, and had understood the sport a bit more, we could have reacted a bit quicker. Some of the stuff they did abroad was amazing like the pole vault drive in or the virtual racing. We were slow to react and our athletes have been critical, and I accept that. But moving forward now I think there’s a group of us who understand what the market wants. And I think we would react much more quickly
“Part of the events strategy moving forward is about having much more agile competition in different environments. We don’t need to showcase a whole 8 hours of absolutely everything. That’s what we’re looking at, a lot more agile competition, in different environments more relevant to a younger audience. We’re looking at all that kind of stuff”.
She also commented on a recent Safeguarding Review, saying: “I absolutely welcome that but we didn’t just say ‘we’ve got a review’, sit on it for a bit and tell everyone we’ve had a review. As soon as we got the review, we worked with the safeguarding lead from Scotland to create an action plan, going forward. We will start to implement that over the next couple of months”.
Jo Coates looks to have been making her mark in her first few months in post.