3 Times Public Relations Saved Sports
After earning a Masters of Science in Sport Management, you may decide that you’re interested in pursuing a career as a public relations specialist for a sports team or individual player. The position is becoming more and more necessary as players at the collegiate and professional levels are more visible and accessible to the public than ever; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels make them available to their fans (and foes) 24/7.
When crisis strikes — and it inevitably will — players and organizations need a strong PR specialist to help pick up the pieces. It’s a crucial job that has saved the day for many athletes on many occasions. Here are three times that public relations saved popular professional athletes or teams bad publicity and possibly their careers.
NFL Team Funds Charity to Boost Reputation
In 2009, the San Diego Chargers partnered with the Ronald McDonald House to raise funds for homes that would go to families who have young children in the hospital. It was a lovely way to connect the Chargers’ organization with the public while simultaneously casting them in a positive light. They also collaborate with the U.S. Marine Corps to host their annual Toys for Tots toy drive every December in their stadium.
Image via Flickr by Blue Steele
Why is this important? A reputation is all about perception. PR moves like this can be added to a bank of goodwill that the team can refer to if they get into trouble later and with all the controversy lately surrounding the NFL, clearly this choice was a smart PR strategy. Should a scandal arise, the organization can point to their collaboration with the Ronald McDonald House or the U.S. Marine Corps and Toys for Tots as proof of their true character. PR teams encourage their clients to take part in activities like this as often as possible to boost their reputations, giving them a little breathing room if bad publicity comes knocking.
Michael Phelps’ DUI Coverage and Reaction
Many people believe that a publicist’s job is to take their clients’ bad behavior and spin it to look good. That strategy isn’t always effective. More often than not, transparency is the best course of action because the media has no room to speculate.
Recently, Michael Phelps was charged with a DUI and suspended from competition, but he released public apologies and expressed his desire to seek help. Phelps took his punishment in stride, maintaining the public’s respect. The case was open and shut, providing no more fodder for the media. Compare that to Lance Armstrong’s long PR battle with the media as he denied steroid use. When the truth finally came out, which it usually does, he was banned from competition, stripped of his titles, and his reputation was tarnished forever.
Tonya Harding Uses Negative Light to Highlight the Positive
Publicists can also help their clients become more skilled communicators. It’s important for a public figure to know how to win over a room and even more important that they understand how to use that skill in times of crisis.
Tonya Harding had a rough reputation even before allegations surfaced regarding her involvement in Nancy Kerrigan’s injury, but the media had a tough time cracking Harding during interviews. She kept conversations short and focused on skating and all of her hard work, which was crucial to her image leading up to the Olympics.
While strategies may always differ, a good PR agent serves as an architect of sorts, someone who knows how to plan and structure a message with a solid foundation that won’t come tumbling down later.