Sport is returning. Looking across the industry landscape and the difficult decisions that have been taken so far, it’s not a moment too soon.
For now it is without crowds and probably with bigger viewing broadcast audiences and plenty of forced innovation.
Then, in time, our amphitheatres will be filled again and the best escapism there is will enrich our lives – and salvage the many livelihoods reliant on sport.
For now, many budgets have been cut. Many team members have been furloughed. Many revenue streams have run dry.
But if there is one thing organisations cannot afford to dial back on, it is their reputation.
Right now, they are being judged. By fans, the media and investors. By employees, participants and politicians.
This is not the time to hibernate when it comes to engaging with these audiences. How you are acting today through this crisis, defines how they think about you tomorrow and for a long time to come. If you do not continue to interact with key stakeholders – in fact more so now than ever – why should they engage with you when sport returns?
Clearly that cannot involve spending money at a level you don’t have, so it requires a considered approach. To that end, here’s some of the recommendations we’re sharing with our clients:
- Don’t waste this platform. What you do now as an organisation is of more interest than under normal circumstances.
- Be guided by your purpose and values in the decisions you make. Your long-term reputation depends on this. Good times will return and you cannot afford to damage your culture and brand DNA with short-termism. That’s why it’s always a benefit to have corporate affairs represented in your executive management team and on your board so they can have a real say in decisions.
- This is a real opportunity to reset expectations. Be clear about what will return, what you can fix and what you can’t. Use this time to take your key stakeholders on the journey with you, including being honest about some of the hurdles ahead.
- Show empathy. Be sensitive to the pandemic that is still impacting every family in some way. Explain how you’re being of benefit to the communities in which you operate.
- Sport has a huge advantage over other walks of life – it offers incredible visual storytelling opportunities. Take them. That vibrancy, colour and personality in an image or film can lift your story onto bigger platforms. A picture does tell a thousand words! If you have a business story for example, it is more likely to be used because the section gets the chance to use a sports image instead of a factory for once.
By means of illustration – recently we helped Lancashire Cricket to tell its story, on the back of record financial results for the prior year. A great achievement juxtaposed with a completely different picture evolving in front of our eyes for 2020.
We asked ourselves, is this crisis really a good time to announce record results? Yes, because they’re interesting and newsworthy. But more than that, this was an opportunity to shed light on the challenges facing sports clubs now in the midst of the pandemic and set expectations for the future. This wasn’t a time to shy away from a record 2019 nor bury the proverbial head in the sand hoping the challenges of this new world just go away – quite the opposite in fact.
We were lucky enough to be working with a Chief Executive in Daniel Gidney and the wider management team who was prepared to talk about pressing topics, and we worked together to ensure the opportunity to illustrate a very well run business was not lost, while trying to share any insights Lancashire Cricket has to help other clubs to enhance their own businesses from a financial perspective.
The media has not vanished during the crisis, and they haven’t gone quiet. Indeed, with so little taking place on the pitch it stands to reason they need to create a new type of content until things return. Telling your story could be that very content.
Every club, whether it’s cricket, football or anything else, should do the same. Tell that story and don’t go quiet in the crisis.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss how MRM can help you to navigate your reputational challenges.