Managing the England Crisis – Why Speed is of the Essence
“It’s Game Over for Big Sam” (The i), “Shaming of England Boss” (Daily Mirror), “Humiliation for England” (The Times). Today’s excruciating newspaper headlines were inevitable after the departure of Sam Allardyce in disgrace last night, in the wake of undercover reporting by the Daily Telegraph. The paper alleged (with accompanying video footage) that the England manager negotiated a £400,000 business deal, despite his multi-million pound salary, and, most damaging of all, appeared to advise ‘businessmen’ on how to get around Football Association rules banning third party ownership of players. Like many a media crisis before this one, and endless such crises to come, the personal disgrace of an individual can, if well managed, can mitigate the threat to the reputation of an entire organisation and help to repair and strengthen that reputation.
Speed is absolutely of the essence in terms of how the FA manages the media storm engulfing it. The story is still moving quickly and will continue to have “legs”, in the parlance of editors, for plenty of time to come, thanks to the reactions of disappointed fans, censorious commentators and columnists. Witness how quickly the comments of Alan Shearer, revered former England player and CBE, have been replayed. Having said late yesterday on BBC Radio 5 Live that England is now “the laughing stock of world football”, his interview was replayed to a fresh audience this morning on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today programme. The brevity and impact of Shearer’s soundbite extends the analysis and reach of the story in a way that’s ideally suited to further comment, headlines and social media coverage. The Daily Telegraph is also continuing to drive its story with today’s headline declaring “Eight Premier League mangers accused of taking transfer bungs”. No longer is this the story of one man’s greed and shame but a wider story of alleged corruption at senior levels in English football.
So what strategy should organisations in the eye of the media storm use to wrest back control of the damaging narrative in the media? Delegates attending TNR’s Bespoke Media Training and Advanced Media Handling courses grapple with exactly this kind of scenario, under the guidance of specialist, journalist media trainers. We teach the CAP approach – Care, Action, Pledge/Perspective. In summary:
It’s essential that your organisation shows empathy as quickly as possible. Making clear early on that you understand the upset, anger, disappointment to its stakeholders (in the FA’s case, fans, footballers etc) allows you to contribute to the story at the start, rather than watch it spiral out of control, leaving you to respond under even greater media pressure.
Every organisation, especially one with a media profile as considerable as the FA, should have a crisis plan in place and this should swing into action immediately. If there’s no such plan, the comms/press team needs to put out a holding statement at the earliest opportunity, acknowledging the situation and explaining when a full statement or interview will be given. This full statement or interview should focus on what action the organisation is taking to address the problem/issue/allegation. Again, this allows you to be part of how the story is being told.
Your stakeholders (fans, players, customers, investors) will be desperate for reassurance and the absence of such reassurance is rocket fuel to a crisis. Tell them how you intend to avoid the same thing happening in the future and, if appropriate, give some context. Is this, for example, an extremely rare situation or perhaps something that happened beyond your control but which you’re working hard to rectify?
Bridgid Nzekwu is Head of Media Training at TNR, part of the Press Association. For more information about our media training courses or to book one, contact us at: Hello@wearetnr.com or visit our website: www.wearetnr.com/media-training