In September 2011, John Cronin, Director of Rugby at Railway Union RFC, approached me about assisting in the rebuilding of a rugby club and taking the position of Head of PR and Marketing…

Looking for a challenge outside of work, I agreed to take on the role and see if I could use my PR background to help put the club back on the map.

As Head of PR and Marketing, I am responsible for raising the profile of the club in the community through information, publicity and promotion. I support the various sections in the club, such as men’s rugby, women’s rugby, age-grade rugby, social, community initiatives, etc, in preparing their plans to promote and market their activities. Different sections have different needs and our approach around marketing for each section or activity is unique and specific as they have different target markets and are at different stages of development. No one approach is the same!

There is also no such thing as a typical day. Some days I could be working on press releases to announce new developments in the club, others I could be writing articles for the club website and local media. Posting links to articles from the website, posting photos and writing comments on Facebook is one of my favourite roles as I can see feedback from fans directly and it’s nice to see the positive commentary. There’s an excellent community vibe among Railway members. Chasing people for information for match reports is probably the most challenging aspect of the role with 7 teams and expanding to 13 this coming season!

My own rugby experience is mainly limited to tag rugby during the summer months. Balancing work and my second job in Railway as well as my other extra-curricular activities which includes a lot of community theatre, means there’s not much time to make training and play matches. The coaches we have are so experienced and at Railway the women and men train at the same time so training is a good place to get to know everyone in the club.

There have been plenty of laughs along the way, be it the club dinner-dance, overseas touring, Kinsale 7s, Ladies’ Day or just a random Friday night in the clubhouse. Our annual Christmas Carol singing for charity before the Leinster Heineken Cup match in the Aviva is one of my favourite events and I usually end up taking on choir mistress duties. The first rehearsal ever was particularly funny, with solos being given out to certain members whose skills seem to be better saved for the rugby pitch.

Last season was a great year to be involved in Railway, working with so many talented people and with the men’s and women’s sides winning leagues and cups for a total five Leinster Pennants. Whilst strictly speaking the season finished in April, I’ve had a busy summer with the redevelopment of our website (which will ‘go live’ next week), supporting the PR around our Leinster Rugby Camp, and the launches of our girls/women’s 7s academy.

I’ve also been planning the launch of our minis rugby programme, which kicks off this September and is something we’ll launch in the coming weeks. We’ve developed some extremely innovative marketing around this and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. We’re also launching age-grade rugby for girls, as well our schools 7s for 2013/14, so there’ll be some work to do on that. One of our stated goals is to develop Leinster, Irish and Olympic rugby champions and we intend on discovering talented athletes and helping them realise their potential. My job is to help find and recruit those girls.

This year, Leinster Rugby awarded me ‘Public Relations Officer of the Year’ for “setting the benchmark by consistently promoting Railway to a variety of media with fresh, innovative and interesting content”. That honour was a pleasant surprise and makes me even more determined to continue doing the work at Railway along the same lines going forward.

Volunteering is a fantastic way of developing management, professional and people skills. It adds to your CV and can give you valuable work experience in an area you might want to break into, not to mention giving you a new circle of friends. I would highly recommend it.

Kirstin Smith.