Tag Archives: public relations

All FIFA-ed Up

One of my favorite movies is Casablanca. It came to mind last week as the FIFA scandal unfolded. Soccer fan or not, you’re probably aware of the indictments issued (with more to come) against high-ranking administrators and marketing executives. If you’re not the details are here.

Casablanca? Yes:

That was, in essence, the response by Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, who claims to have had no clue such corruption was going on.  I’ll wait while you stop laughing, but this really is no laughing matter.  We are watching a major sports organization implode and there are billions of dollars involved.  It is a classic PR crisis, and one thing you can’t do in this situation is to go dark and allow others to dictate the conversation.  That is, however, exactly what the brain trust at FIFA is doing:

A quick look into Socialbakers Analytics tells us that that’s not what was going through the minds of FIFA’s PR team: out of the almost 8000 questions posed to them on Twitter in just under last month, they’ve responded to zero.

That’s from the Social Bakers blog.  Into that vacuum you have one of the indicted executives citing a piece in The Onion as supporting his innocence and several of FIFA’s corporate sponsors have expressed dismay while threatening to pull their financial support.  After all, brands sponsor sports in part so they can transfer the goodwill that fans feel for the sport to the brand’s equity.  When that goodwill vanishes, the brand is damaged as well.

What should they be doing?  I’m not a PR expert but I know silence is not an option.  The few messages they’ve put out there have been met with ridicule and the reelection of the man at the head of the organization, who claims he can clean it up, is widely seen as a negative.

“You can’t just ask everybody to behave ethically just like that in the world in which we live,” Blatter said in his opening remarks to the FIFA congress. “We cannot constantly supervise everybody that is in football,” he added. “That is impossible.”

Really?  Most big companies with which I’ve worked do exactly that, and the stench of corruption has been around the beautiful game for as long as I’ve worked in sports.  Staying silent in a crisis is bad.  Making statements that deny culpability (FIFA is trying to argue that all the problems are with other soccer organizations, not FIFA) is worse.  As with Louis in Casablanca, what’s been going on is very obvious and as the old line goes, I’m choosing to believe my lying eyes over FIFA.  You?

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Filed under Huh?, sports business

The Lady Does Protest Too Much

You might have read Hamlet. Perhaps unwillingly in high school English, perhaps for pleasure since it’s one of the greatest dramatic works in the English language. At one point Gertrude says “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Tiger Woods Photo by Paddy Briggs

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That line has been used as a figure of speech ever since (and since 1602 means for a long time) to mean that a person’s overly frequent or vehement attempts to convince others of something have ironically helped to convince others that the opposite is true, by making the person look insincere and defensive. Thank you, Wikipedia!

I thought about that quote the other day as Tiger Woods responded to a satirical piece written by the great Dan Jenkins. Jenkins wrote an “interview” with Tiger which was clearly labeled as made up in which Tiger was made to look cheap, dumb, and nasty. What happened next is instructive for all of us and for any business.

The “interview” ran in the print-only edition of a golf magazine.  Had Tiger left it alone, it would have been read by hard-core golfers and died.  Instead, Tiger took it upon himself to issue a 600 word rebuttal on ThePlayersTribune.com which was picked up immediately by the media.  The interest in the controversy grew quickly, and the golf magazine then posted the original article on its website where anyone could read it.  The mostly ignored problem became a front and center issue.  Which is the point.

Maybe you’ve heard it called “The Streisand Effect.”  This is when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.  It’s instructive.  By protesting too much we fan the flames of the problem.  Should every negative comment be ignored?  Of course not.  But had Tiger responded publicly (and I’m not sure he should have in this case) with an appreciative chuckle and a wink of the eye (“I’ll have to work harder and adjust my thinking to live up to the bad guy image you made up”), this all would have gone away.  Better would have been a phone call to Jenkins and a quiet meeting someplace to straighten it all out.

There are dozens of examples of companies and individuals choosing the wrong course and triggering The Streisand Effect.  While our emotional response to something false or misleading might be to take that course, the smarter response is to choose another.  What’s yours?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

How NOT To Do Social Media


Sometimes you see something that reminds you to start a folder called “stupid corporate tricks.”


(Photo credit: Link576)

What I’m writing about today would be top of that heap.  In fact, it sets a new kind of standard for stupid behavior but let’s see what you think.

Gizmodo published a piece yesterday about Chick-Fil-A and their social efforts.  As you might know, that company is engaged in a controversy with the gay community over same-sex marriage.  Now since we don’t do politics here, let’s put aside the cause of the controversy and just acknowledge that there is one.  This issue caused another company – The Jim Henson Company – to announce that it would no longer allow Chick-Fil-A to distribute miniature muppets in its children’s meals.  Again, let’s not argue right,wrong, good, or bad – those are the facts.  As a preemptive move, Chick-Fil-A announced it was ceasing to distribute the toys because of a safety issue – kids were getting their fingers stuck in the puppets.  With me so far?

Now comes the business part.  On Chick-Fil-A’s Facebook page, there were quite a few comments.  One commenter accused the company of making up a lie about the cause and asked them to admit they were dumped because they were “bigots.”  I suppose we could have a long chat here about how to handle negative comments in social media and that would be a valuable discussion.  However, I bet we would all agree that one way we would never endorse is to have a PR staffer create a fake Facebook account in the personality of a teenaged girl and respond with corporate talking points through that mechanism.  Want to guess what Chick-Fil-A did?

The company denied having done it.  However, the account was created hours before it began posting and the profile picture is from a stock photo house – a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that this is not a real person.  Regardless, it’s a lesson on how NOT to handle a problem is social media.  Yes, we need to respond quickly but not by hiding or lying about who is talking.  Transparency is one imperative; knowing that if you’re using social you no longer control the conversation is another.

I don’t suppose we’ll know for sure if this was a corporate flack or not.  We do know for sure that in addition to the original controversy there now is another.  Thoughts?


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Filed under Helpful Hints