Breaking a league record in professional sports is one thing that fans and other players alike look forward to. In this situation, one of the star players of our professional sport franchise is at the verge of achieving that goal. However, he is now faced with accusations of illegal activity and there is a possibility that, that player might be arrested. The current situation has not reached the media yet and the franchise itself or the player has not made any public announcements yet.
Researching and controlling the problem might be very difficult for public relations professional. There are many complex factors that affect the situation and it should be tackled one by one so that the problem will be handled properly. The first thing to research in this situation is what is the precise illegal activity being pinned on the franchise’s star player. Knowing what the exact accusation is very important so that the correct steps in handling the situation will be carried out.
The next factor to be researched is, who is the person accusing the player of such illegal activity. The person behind the accusations should be known by the franchise and the PR person to gauge the strategies that will be applied to the problem. The strategies will vary depending on the connection of that person to the star player. That person may perhaps be from a rival franchise or someone personally related to the player. The degree of relation of the accuser to the player will be crucial especially when the media gets the story and publicizes it.
The star player should be interviewed thoroughly about his side on the issue. If the PR person is knowledgeable about the client’s side of the issue, the PR will be able to measure what information will be given to the public in case the issue will spread. It should be kept in mind that there are two possibilities in this situation- either the client is guilty or not. The PR should interview the star player about the whole story so that the PR can explain the story well to the public without revealing too many details.
The owner of the franchise should be interviewed too about the possible steps that he wants to take regarding the issue. The opinion of the franchise owner on the situation will have a great effect on the problem because the owner holds the star player’s employment. Whether he will support the player or not throughout the situation should be made known to the PR person so that the steps that will be taken will be appropriate for the star player and the franchise as well.
There are also qualitative and quantitative researches that should be addressed by the PR person. The qualities of the star player and the accuser should be researched and it should focus on whether these people have encountered such issues in the past. In the case of the star player, the PR should know whether this is his first time to have such an accusation thrown at him. This information will make it easy for the PR person to formulate steps to handle the situation.
The same research should be done on the person who is accusing the player of illegal activity. The public relations agent should know if this is his first time to accuse someone of an illegal activity. Knowing this information is also important because it will help the PR establish a good statement for the clients. The PR person can possibly make a better image than the accuser if this kind of information is researched properly.
The severity of the illegal activity accused to the star player should be studied very carefully for proper statements to be issued. Legal aspects of the said acitivity should also be researched and analyzed so that the measures that will be taken by the PR will not be unlawful or will cause more problems to the star player. The job of the PR person is to make sure that the client will not have a bad reputation to the public and therefore the PR should be fully knowledgeable not only about the side of the client but the legal side as well.
The amount of damage that the issue might cause to the star player’s reputation should also be researched or predicted by the PR. If the issue will be too big, then the PR can prepare steps on how to make the reputation of the franchise and the player good again.
Concerning this situation, the PR recommends certain actions that can be taken in order to minimize the negative effects that will be brought about by the issue. The first thing that should be remembered by the franchise is to plan for the unexpected. In this situation, the franchise should plan for situations such as the media hype and the public’s outburst about the issue. A star player accused of an illegal activity is a real public concern because the player might be considered as an icon for many people.
In case the media gets hold of the story, the PR department of the franchise should focus on the good deeds done by the star player instead of dwelling more on the issue at hand. It should be remembered that unless the accusations made to the star player has been proven, never admit any liabilities because it will only make the situation worse (Regester & Larkin, 2008, p. 204). Speculating about the prior intention or about the cause should also be avoided by the franchise because it will derail them from forming plans on how to handle the situation properly and from proper researching of the cause.
Legal consultations or third parties should be used to demonstrate about the innocence of the star player who is accused of having illegal activities. Authorities such as lawyers will be the best people to speak for the star player because the player’s own protestations will never be sufficient to clear his name. However, relying solely on the words of legal consultants or lawyers should be avoided because they can also get their advices wrong or say the wrong information to the public. Therefore, the sports franchise and the star player can listen to their advice but never depend on it fully.
Traditional PR communication tools can be utilized in order to build a stronger and more positive reputation for the star player. The traditional press release can be sent out to the media in case the issue is covered by the media to generate a positive response from the public (Breakenridge, 2008, p.24). The traditional media kit can also be used and sent out to the media. The media kit should contain the information about the star player and all his positive contributions to the franchise and the sport. Support groups for the star player online especially in social networking sites can also be established to create a positive reputation for the player that will counter the accusations thrown at him.
Another form of PR communication tool that can be utilized is the use of spin or selecting the facts or details that will be shown to the public. The details that will be picked in making statements or press releases will thoroughly reflect and support the position of the client and so in this case the star player. PR spin can also be used in situations such as the releasing of statements in a certain period of time so that the statement will have a greater effect or positive reception.
If I were to offer a solution in this situation, it would be a middle ground strategy. Middle ground strategy would be best here because unless the accusations were proven by legal means, the franchise and the star player cannot admit any liability. Middle ground strategy works best because they will not be forced to admit anything in public but still look for ways on how to build a positive reputation to counter accusations. The PR can present two extremes concerning the star player and yet imply that the truth lies in between and not on the two extremes.
The public will not be informed unless the media gets hold of the controversy and broadcasts it. However, when this happens, the aforementioned PR communication tools should be used to build a good image for the client. Support groups should be established and the achievements of the player will be released to the public so that they will be reminded about the valuable contributions of the star player in sports again. The use of the internet will be very efficient because more people are connected by it than the television. Though the use of the broadcast media will not be totally ignored, new media such as the internet will also be good.
In order to gauge if the target audience is reached by the PR communication tools, the current issue should be the center of every discussion both in the public and in public as well. If there are many online debates between the supporters of the star player and those who are against him, then it can be inferred that the aim of the PR to contradict the accusations is effective. It can be said that the PR failed if majority of the people form groups against the star player and there are no debates concerning the issue.
Newspapers can also be used to measure if the message had a great impact on the public. If the issue makes the front page of newspapers then it has a great impact on the reading public. Opinion writers will also write about the issue greatly if the issue has a great impact. Other ways to measure the impact of the message is through watching the television and observing if majority of television shows are talking about the situation.
Breakenridge, D. (2008). PR 2.0: new media, new tools, new audiences. New Jersey: FT Press.
Regester, M. and Larkin, J. (2008). Risk Issues and Crisis Management in Public Relations: A Casebook of Best Practice. Philadelphia: Kogan Page Publishers.