Sport is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons as professional cycling gets its head around the conclusion by MPs that Sir Bradley Wiggins abused drugs to enhance his performance. Clearly it’s a distressing and frustrating moment for all clean athletes and their representatives. So much more than individual reputations is at stake: trust in whole sports, sporting associations and federations, agents and competitions is vulnerable, not to mention commercial interests such as sponsorship deals.
So now is a vital moment for all sports to grab the opportunity to present a positive narrative about their values, ethics and standards.
Here are five top tips for being prepared for a media onslaught and influencing/turning a damaging media narrative that threatens reputation:
An organisation can only build resilience if it understands its vulnerabilities, be they human (rogue staff), technological (data loss/hacking), financial (insufficient income) etc. Face your worst case scenarios. Ask the question “What if…?” and work out your strategy for responding.
2. Consider contagion
One unfortunate consequence of any organisation under scrutiny by the media, is that others in the sector/industry become more vulnerable. When a story takes off, journalists cast their net more widely, for example the Oxfam scandal inevitably widened to all NGO’s coming under greater scrutiny and the Weinstein scandal has prompted accusations and investigations well beyond Hollywood. Every story like this should prompt your organisation to review its activities and media strategy.
3. Understand the broadcast media
It’s amazing how many organisations don’t understand the broadcast media, which has quite different needs, timings and content to the press. Boost the knowledge and operational capability of your press and communications staff with a team session on media handling skills.
4. Make sure your spokespeople are trained
In a media storm, the person or people who are the face of your organisation are your best asset. Getting your messages across and being able to project confidence, reassurance, credibility and empathy under the onslaught of a rampant media takes skill. The good news is, these skills can be acquired with journalist-led media training.
5. Communicate quickly
Time really is of the essence when the media comes calling. Often organisations struggle to respond and quickly become overwhelmed because they have no strategy in place. Every press office should have a rapid response plan and a crisis response team. If something goes wrong, or is alleged, don’t let hours tick by before you start to communicate – these hours will be filled by your critics. Have your messages and your spokespeople ready for action, so you can get ahead of the story via press statements, interviews and social media.