Why Public Relations is Important to Sport Management
There was once a time when it was believed by most people that athletes did not need public relations. Athletes should let their actions on the field, the court, the ice, or wherever speak for them.
That was before everything a person did was filmed by a smart phone and put on the internet. People make mistakes. Imagine what the press could have seen, and what the public would have learned, if there were video cameras following Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Johnny Unitas around all day. In the 21st Century, athletes are asked questions about the sports they play, but they are also asked to comment on controversial political topics, or social issues, and nearly any answer will make a portion of society unhappy. Often, someone else has to step in to help fix the perceived problems. That is what professionals in sport management do.
Before Damage Is Done
There are rumors that a recent inductee into the baseball hall of fame was not the friendly, childlike person he acted like while he played the game. Teammates and coaches could receive blistering put-downs if they did not measure up to his expectations. But, when he played the game, this athlete smiled often and played with childlike abandon that fans and the press loved him. His reputation was stellar.
Meanwhile, a contemporary of this player was noted–in the press and among fans– for putting himself first. He played for many teams, and although he was a great player, no one seemed to like him. His teammates, and there were many, did not like him. The press did not like him.
The difference between these two players and the public perception of them is that one had a better handle on public relations and knew how to control the dialog about him, and the other player did not have help keeping negative stories under control.
After the Damage Is Done
There have been several scandals recently that top players have had to contend with. In the instances in which these scandals were handled well, those players were able to regain the respect and love of their fans. The below might reflect a good rulebook for handling these types of situations:
● Don’t deflect what happened.
● Don’t dismiss it as though the indiscretion doesn’t matter.
● Don’t denounce the accuser(s).
● Just be honest, even when admitting errors.
● If you apologize, do it fast and make it complete, people will be more likely to forgive you. People want to forgive their heroes.
● You need to control the agenda.
● Play your best.
This is just a small list of things recent players have done to take control of personal PR crises. The strategies certainly don’t end there.
If you’re interested in Public Relations and sports, learn more about what opportunities could await you by visiting Adelphi University online.