ARTICLE

The Deadliest Words In Crisis Management: “Could have and should have”

It’s easy to imagine this scene – even if you haven’t gone through it. Yet.

INT. OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL – PRO SPORTS TEAM HEADQUARTERS – DAY

GENERAL COUNSEL, headset on, paces in front of the window as he talks.

GENERAL COUNSEL

(frustrated)

I don’t give a damn what the Commissioner would like to do, we’ve
already agreed there won’t be a rule change this year.
 

General Counsel turns as he hears his office door open and COACH enters. He’s obviously worried as he moves toward General Counsel who holds up his hand to stop his progress, then puts his finger to his lips as he mouths “quiet”.

GENERAL COUNSEL

I know it’s a big pain-in-the-ass problem but…

He listens as he paces and Coach maneuvers to get in front of him, slicing his fingers across his throat and mouthing “hang up” as:

General Counsel throws his hands up in the air, shaking his head “I can’t” as:

General Counsel follows with his eyes as Coach moves to the phone on the desk, puts his finger on the “off” button and mouths “hang up now” as:

GENERAL COUNSEL

Sorry folks, got to bail out and call you back later.

General Counsel flips his headset off as:

GENERAL COUNSEL

(very edgy)

Better be damn important, Coach.

COACH

(sitting behind the desk)

And you better have a damn great criminal attorney in Atlanta.

GENERAL COUNSEL

Because?

COACH

(typing on keyboard)

Because TMZ just posted video of two of our superstars naked in a
hot tub with some very naked, very young girls.
 

Coach turns the computer screen toward General Counsel.

GENERAL COUNSEL

(looks at computer screen)

How young?

COACH

(standing)

Fourteen. Maybe.

GENERAL COUNSEL

(looks close at the screen)

What’re they doing now?

COACH

Snorting cocaine, counselor.

 

The playing field you’re on:

And so it begins: A crisis management saga that will define not just the values and character of the team’s brand/image/reputation, or its relationship with its fans, but also the scope of the damage to its economic value in the competitive marketplace.

While this is not your average day in the perpetually-under-the-microscope world of professional (and primetime NCAA) sports, it will surely be a crucible experience that tests top management to the fullest. For of all of the skills needed to run any organization successfully, crisis management is the one where the metrics of success are most easily calibrated and measured – and the most closely scrutinized in today’s all-seeing, always-viral world of cell phone cameras, saved text messages, Facebook postings, and 24/7 global media coverage of the “celebrity athlete industrial complex” (including of course all the wanna-be celebrities).

This is why there needs to be a separate playbook in every team’s front office (and in the appropriate legal affairs office of every NCAA school) that lays out the strategies, tactics, and implementation methodologies developed and approved by the ownership and top management for how to deal with this, or any other variation of SNAFU or TSJHTF or, in printable language, “What in God’s name were they thinking?”.

Unfortunately, the answer is as obvious as it is painful: They, of course, were not thinking at all – not about their team nor their role as a representative of their sport or university, and certainly not about their obligations to their fans and community.

But this harsh reality doesn’t help the organization deal with an event that, at the very least, can devalue or wipe-out a multi-million dollar investment in a talented player or the (in good standing) ranking in the NCAA. Or, at the worst, inflict serious long-term damage to the franchise’s brand/image/reputation, the loyalty of the fans that support it, and therefore its overall economic value to its owners (or in the case of the NCAA school), its value to the university/college, its alumni, supporters, sponsors, and business partners.

Just ask the folks at the Pittsburgh Steelers who are dealing with the hyper-embarrassing  blowback from Ben Roethlisberger’s character-defining, maximum–trashy, posse-supported behavior, not to mention his alleged criminality. (See sidebar “What was he thinking”  page 8)    

 

 CLICK HERE  for the complete article from The Association of Media & Entertainment Counsel_Fall 2010 Issue   

The Deadliest Words In Crisis Management: “Could have and should have” article begins on page 5.