They say no PR is bad PR. But obviously “they” who say this have never worked in Public Relations. I have, for more than six years now and trust me, anyone who tells you they’ve seen everything will quickly find out that they have not. I’ve dealt with anything from employees crashing company vehicles to “misappropriation of resources”, to employees who are abusing drugs. To be completely honest, most of the PR issues result from people making dumb decisions or saying something stupid in a public forum. And guess what? Ultimately, the PR person can’t control what people do and say. And the other caveat? Just because you live in Podunk, USA, doesn’t mean your “issue” won’t end up on the world stage.
In most cases in professional sports, that “problem” 100% WILL end up on the world stage. Especially with the internet and social networks. Once your “issue” is out there these days, you have to wait for the next person to screw up, and screw up way worse than you. While the hockey world tends to be relatively quiet compared to some other sports (football I’m looking at you buddy!), whenever you put 20 plus different personalities and egos on a team, and make them fight through 82 games with other teams for a cup, guess what that equals? Problems people, problems.
Let’s first address everyone’s favorite current PR Problem, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Mr. Kane “allegedly” got sloppy drunk on Cinco de Mayo and took many photos, which then ended up on the internet. Go figure, alcohol + photography + All Star Hockey player never hurt anyone right? Wrong! Patrick Kane has thoroughly embarrassed himself and by association, his teammates and his organization. Kane received a great honor of being drafted as the first overall in 2007 to an Original Six NHL Team at the young age of 19. I understand boys will be boys and he didn’t get to go party in college like others his age. But guess what? Literally thousands of people would kill to be in Kane’s skates. I don’t care if you drink, I don’t care if you take pictures of it, but know that they will end up in the wrong hands and YOU will pay the price. Patrick Kane is currently a joke, a punchline for all of the internet. I’ve seen those Cinco photos shopped more than the “Kanye West/MTV Music Awards” incident in the last two weeks.
Then you have the rumors that have started to unfurl from this “incident”. Patrick Kane has a terrible temper. Patrick Kane gets kicked out of bars. Patrick Kane choked a woman. People will remember this Kaner and they will bring it up over and over and over again, whether or not it’s true. I’m fairly sure I can say with certainty that your organization is not happy with you right now, and they’ll be keeping a close eye on your activities. This is certainly not Kane’s first strike: he was also arrested in 2009 for attacking a cab driver in his hometown of Buffalo just a year after winning the Calder Memorial Trophy and one year before winning the Stanley Cup. Can’t imagine our Carolina Hurricanes Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner ending up in a situation like that. As for the actions of our Captain Eric Staal during his bachelor party – boys will be boys!
Now let’s turn the public eye to coach of the New York Rangers, John Tortorella. Notoriously a hot head and for treating the media like absolute dirt. He’s famous for 30 second press conferences and “next question” – so famous he inspired this rap.
Does it make him look bad? Yes. Does the media hate him? Most likely. Does he care? Doesn’t look like it. If the Rangers weren’t in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now, would Torts have a job? NEXT QUESTION! It would appear as if the Rangers organization doesn’t much care how Tortorella acts as long as he’s winning. He’s been fined several times by the NHL for criticizing officials. What the Rangers organization needs to be cognizant of is, over time, how many fans will turn away from the organization because of Tortorella’s behavior? Will they come back if he’s not winning or when a new coach takes over someday? Nonetheless, when you coach an NHL team, especially one in a market like New York City, you have some responsibility to the media, whether you like it or not.
There is a term in PR that is probably not unfamiliar called “spin” – meaning, how can this story be pitched to the media in a way that will ultimately be beneficial. It’s a little easier with Torts, because again, he’s winning. Patrick Kane, you’re on a slippery slope.
Washington Capitals Coach Dale Hunter announced today he would be leaving the organization to spend more time with his family in Canada. Hunter is also the owner of the OHL’s London Knights. It may very well be true that Hunter wants to spend more time with his family and he should absolutely be commended for that. But I literally just saw an interview with Caps GM George McPhee and he made sure to focus on the family side of things saying that everyone has a family and they should always be number one. Wonderful, but do you really think he’s going to come out and say, “Dale cares more about his OHL team than this one that might be about to fall apart.” Not likely. It makes the Caps organization look better either way if Hunter is leaving to spend time with family. Coincidence that we hear just hours later that Caps forward Alexander Semin and goalie Tomas Vokoun will be leaving? Spin, spin, spin the family story. And not to worry, the rumors have already started that Semin will be coming to Carolina.
Of course I do not work for an NHL PR team, but many of these issues are similar across any business or organization. All of the players and coaches in the NHL most likely receive media training, and if not, they are probably not encouraged to speak with the media. But hello, is there any training Philadelphia Flyers Ilya Bryzgalov? I feel for that brave PR worker. Plus, Bryz is not wrong, the Universe is humongous big.
This doesn’t even take into account the dealing with every day issues that come with trades, injuries, suspensions, fines, divorces, etc, etc, etc.
Ultimately you have to trust the people in your organization to handle themselves professionally, and if they don’t, you trust your PR person to clean it up.