Emma Ballard is the Marketing Manager at Medi8 Limited, a marketing communications agency working extensively within the golf industry. Here she talks about her career, about changing the image of the game and how social media expertise helped her create a great success story with Get into Golf, inspiring other mums to try the sport.
When did you take up golf?
Golf has always been part of my life. I come from a golfing family and it was inevitable that I’d catch the bug!
What do you like about it?
What I like most is being out on the golf course, it honestly feels like a sanctuary to me. Even if I’m playing badly, at the time I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Oh and smashing drives – doesn’t always happen but hugely satisfying when it does!
Anything you dislike?
I have never been a fan of 18 holes, as a child I didn’t enjoy playing for that long and now as a grown up with two children I can’t dedicate that amount of time to a full round of golf.
Was it inevitable that you’d work in golf?
It was through playing and growing up in a golfing family that really made me want to work within the industry and I have been since I was 16. My real break came when I had a chance meeting with the MD of a sports agency when I was looking for a place to work for my placement year during my Sports Development degree at university. I knew after that placement that the golf industry was where I always wanted to work.
Tell us about your work
My early career was varied from working in a sports agency, then moving on to working with global golf brands. I finally settled with Medi8 ten years ago. The benefit of working for an agency is that you get to work with a number of different clients across the whole golf industry. My current work is very much based in social media and digital marketing – looking at developing and delivering social media plans for our clients. The highlight at the moment has to be the new campaign from The PGA, #WeLoveGolf – it is so rewarding to be able to highlight the great work being done by PGA professionals to get more women and girls into golf.
Does it help that you play golf?
I think it helps that I play golf just because I have a better understanding of the game, but saying that I do not think it is a prerequisite to work in the industry. I have often found that the best ideas have come from people who do not play and have little knowledge of golf. A fresh perspective without the deep engrained bias that a lot of us have after years of being in the industry is always welcome.
Do you feel you are helping to improve the image of the game?
I am lucky to work on a number of projects that are trying to do just that. Also, I volunteered for Women’s Golf Day and had the opportunity to run their social media channels, an amazing opportunity and experience to see so many people promoting golf in a positive way.
But ultimately I think it is the industry as a whole which has been driving to change the image of golf over the last few years. It’s a slow process but now everyone is working together I think we’ll see a big shift in people’s perceptions of the game.
You’re a member of the England Golf women and girls’ advisory group. Why did you decide to join this and what do you feel the group is achieving?
I am passionate about women and girls’ golf, from grass roots through to tour level, so when I saw positions advertised to volunteer for the advisory group nearly four years ago, I thought it would be a great way to give something back and use my expertise in marketing and PR.
I joined the group properly at the beginning of 2016. I think the group is a great way of getting input from different areas of the industry. We have in depth discussions, provide feedback on initiatives and act as sound boards for ideas.
I hope that as a group we are able to give England Golf some different perspectives and impart our expertise where necessary. We certainly have some lively discussions!
How important is it to you to get more women and girls into golf?
I think we all know the benefit of having more women and girls playing golf. For me personally, I would love for my two daughters to be able to play golf and know nothing of the gender imbalance that I have experienced over the years.
How can we encourage women and girls to play?
We are lucky that there are so many great initiatives out there to get women and girls playing. I think that women who already play golf are in the best position to encourage others to play.
Get into golf is my success story. After a conversation with another school mum I used the Get into Golf website to find Bromsgrove Golf Centre. Three of us signed up with head pro Rob Laing and I offered to promote the Get into Golf sessions to other mums at school via our Facebook closed group. We ended up with 20 women and two groups, one for beginners and the other for improvers. The knock on effect 2½ years later is that the women have signed up their children and there are now 12 groups across ladies, men and juniors. There is no way I can take all the credit for this because ultimately it’s Rob, his team and Bromsgrove Golf Centre that have kept everyone playing, but it was great to be able to contribute and get other mums playing. There’s no doubt that recommendations from friends and family and using social media in the right way can only have a positive impact on participation
What would you say to someone to persuade them to try the game?
It’s been said a million times but I’d tell them just to give it a go. For a lot of people it just takes one sweet shot in their first session to get them wanting to come back and try and do it again (and again)!
• Inspired to try golf? Visit www.getintogolf.org to find out about low cost or free beginner activities across the country