The New England Patriots and NFL are in full crisis communications mode and I have to say, it’s been fascinating to watch. From the coach and Tom Brady press conferences to the lack thereof by the NFL except for a brief statement, the scandal raises discussion points about public relations ethics in general.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s press conferences were a necessary exercise for the Patriots, who most certainly have done issues management sessions and have a public relations crisis communications plan and handbook. At least I think they do. And while both men stood in front of the press and took a lot of questions, their answers seemed to lack detail, which in a media relations situation, just pours gas on a fire. Whether the two men practiced their messages and underwent a rigorous crisis media training session before their press conferences, I don’t know. However, their messaging was not cohesive and Belichick threw Brady under the bus.
While I watched the press conferences, I wondered about that and then I wondered, if it’s true that they cheated, were they media trained or were false messages that are lies created by their PR team? Would an ethical PR person, beholden because they work in-house for the team, do such a thing? Does the PR person for the Patriots even know the real truth or is he/she not at the table for the internal discussions regarding the situation and is training them on talking points he/she thinks are true? It’s a jumble of ethical things to consider, particularly as the team is a complex organization and the NFL even more so.
On the flip side, the NFL’s statement regarding their investigation and no press conference by Goodell is a major mistake. With the earlier scandals this year, particularly with Ray Rice, Goodell is already on the bubble and needs to get out front of the story. Instead of issuing a statement, he should have given it at a full-blown press conference, detailing all ball handling procedures so journalists can be refreshed on them and those unfamiliar will learn them.
Either way, it will be a public relations and media relations case study for years to come and is still evolving in real time.Share: