The volatile nature of public relations can be very tough to manage. Public opinion can be formed from small slip-ups, misquotes, one bad review and many other issues, some that are simply out of your hands. This is only amplified when dealing with large scale organisations. In FIFA’s defence it would have taken a herculean effort for them to have successfully navigated the storm of criticism that they have faced.
Standing squarely in the centre of this storm is FIFA’s (now former) president Sepp Blatter, who over recent years, has faced a barrage of scrutiny as scandal after scandal rocked the organisation. Once just seen as the ringleader of a humorously out of touch old-boys club, the public used to laugh over his missteps and ill-advised comments. But as mistakes of increasing severity piled up, the spotlight sharpened and he became the media’s easy target. Under him FIFA have become perfect fodder for the press, as each story draws as much anger as it does disbelief. Sepp, in particular, became the man everyone loves to hate.
It could almost be seen as a noble gesture to wake up every morning and be a figurative punching bag, especially because he certainly doesn’t need the money and is well beyond an age most would consider of retirement. Yet his tendency to say the wrong thing and seemingly not care paints him as deluded to an infuriating degree. At the height of criticism concerning yet another bribery story he was quoted as saying “Crisis, what is a crisis?”
So let’s answer his question. His phrasing suggested the term ‘crisis’ is defined subjectively, maybe he has a point, but like all industries PR also has its own basic widely accepted tenants that lay the foundations to a positive reputation. If you’re failing to meet these then whether you accept it or not, you have a crisis on your hands. The list below represents these essential considerations:
- Quality of management
- Financial transparency
- Value as a sponsor
- Capacity to adapt
- Social engagement
- Communication effectiveness
It seems as though FIFA have clearly studied these rules in depth; how else could they have systematically managed to have done the total opposite of even the most basic requirement?! In this age of increasing coverage, the public demands transparency and FIFA have totally failed to adapt to these expectations. The culmination of the bribery scandals and their inability to meet the requirements of a positive reputation has landed them in the position they find themselves, by all accounts it’s the perfect example of a crisis.
So, what can be learned from FIFA’s mistakes? This case goes to show just how important transparency is. The constant scrutiny organisations are under means they should not only react to disasters quickly but pre-empt possible ones, rather than try to sweep them under a rug. Oh, and if your company is making headlines for all the wrong reasons, then don’t make a film about yourself. For your viewing pleasure I present the trailer for FIFA’s vanity project: United Passions. This comically mistimed release is now officially the lowest-grossing film in US history.