Keen equestrienne Nicki Strong has landed a dream job communicating the messages of Racing Welfare. Surprised by the huge team effort behind the sport, Nicki’s focus is on keeping up the momentum after the charity’s record year for helping people.
In April I joined Racing Welfare – the Jockey Club’s charity – as Head of Communications and Marketing. The charity exists to provide an invaluable range of support to anyone working in or retired from racing, including help with housing, finances, and mental and physical health.
Having worked in communications for 13 years, the role gave me the opportunity to combine this experience with two of my passions: the charity sector and racing.
Keen supporter of retraining ex-racers
While I don’t come from a racing background, I’ve been a racegoer for as long as I can remember, inheriting my Dad’s keen interest in the sport. I learnt to ride when I was young and through many years of following and admiring Thoroughbreds on racecourses, I eventually bought my first ex-racehorse. Fast forward 20 years and I still very much have the bug – both for racing and retraining.
Adaptation key to a record year
When the opportunity came up to join Racing Welfare, it felt like a perfect fit and it has been a privilege to learn more about the organisation and the role it plays in supporting the industry. The racing industry is vast and has so many different organisations and stakeholders within it, it has been a real eye-opener.
Joining during a pandemic has limited my ability to get out to events and visits so far, but with lockdown easing I’m looking forward to seeing first-hand the work what our amazing welfare teams do on the ground and meeting people in person rather than via a screen!
The team has done an incredible job of adapting over the past year, meaning we’ve been able to continue supporting people over the phone and virtually. In fact, 2020 was a record year for Racing Welfare, with more of racing’s people being supported than ever before – a reflection of what was a really challenging year for everyone, including those involved with the racing industry.
Within my role, much of the external communication we do is around helping to signpost people to our services – whether that’s the website, the 24/7 support line or the local teams. We have such a wealth of different support services, it’s important that we really demonstrate all the different areas we can help with, and make sure that they are easily accessible. We have various ways of doing this, whether it’s social media posts with links, case studies or even our podcast ‘On Track, Off Course’ which helps to highlight relevant and topical issues as well as the support available.
Events schedule hotting up
We also look for opportunities to engage with the media, providing stories, interviews and footage relevant for their audiences, and ultimately help to spread the word about Racing Welfare’s work and key messages.
Another element is around helping to plan and promote our events and fundraising opportunities. Now that life is starting to get back to normal after Covid, Racing Welfare’s events calendar will be able to begin again, which is vital for helping to raise funds so that we can continue to provide and grow our support services to all of racing’s people.
For example, in August we’re running the Great Racing Welfare Cycle challenge; we have around 30 intrepid cyclists who are cycling 100 miles a day for five days, making their way from Carlisle Racecourse to Newton Abbott. It should be a great experience for all involved.
A great chance to get the public back involved
In September to tie in with National Racehorse Week, we have our ever-popular Malton and Epsom open days which give the opportunity for the public to see behind the scenes at some training yards and it something I’m really looking forward to supporting. With people working in racing at the heart of what we do, one of our key events having its fifth renewal this year is Racing Staff Week in October – an opportunity to celebrate all of the individual and teams who play a role within racing. Before joining Racing Welfare, I thought I knew a fair amount about the people involved with making a day’s racing happen, but I have since learned that it involves a far greater effort than I ever could have imagined, with an incredible team of people behind the scenes who make racing possible. I’m particularly excited to be a part of it this year, helping to shine a light on all of the amazing people and their roles that make the industry so special.