SE+ Perspective | a perspective on sports matters

Building Your Brand #3: How to Manage Negative Publicity

So, you’ve taken a risk, tried a few new things (that worked) and now the public is watching. That’s the good news—brand recognition is a big part of business success. But the bad news is that the public is watching and anything that goes wrong, or even seems to go wrong, can lead to bad press and hurt you.

Take TCU and Baylor. In 2014, these underdog teams made a splash in college football and started to make names for themselves. Since then, they have gone down different paths.

TCU has received great press. Their Heisman hopeful quarterback, Trevone Boykin is considered a young man that says and does all the right things. Their coach, Gary Patterson is widely respected by other coaches and the media. When they were left on the outside looking in of the 2014 College Football Playoff, he handled it with respect. People admired that. Baylor, too, gets great press for their actions on the field–but the same can’t be said for their actions off the field. This summer, a new student recently accepted into the program was charged with assault. Baylor’s coach, Art Briles’ , knowledge of this player’s past was called into question. People feel like he knew about this players past and if he did, he shouldn’t’ have allowed him on campus. Therefore, it leads people to conclude Art Briles cares only about winning (at all costs) and not about brand. Whether that is true or not, it creates negative publicity and potentially could destroy the brand. The point is that the program got bad press and that’s going to change the public perception of the team (as discussed in a previous article).

Florida State is a big brand, well established and even they have had a brand issue. I have spoken with many alumni of Florida State and even they are sick of the bad press they received over the last two years. Players constantly in the news for domestic issues. Whether true or not, the negative press has an impact. You must avoid the potential of creating a bad vibe.

Leaders, in the sports world and elsewhere, have to manage their public image. That means considering the PR potential of every decision you make and being prepared with a plan B in case something happens to tarnish your brand. “Stuff” happens. Sometimes you have no control. Admit the issue happened, sincerely apologize to whoever was wronged, work to find a solution and ensure that it never happens again. Failures are apart of college football and business. Don’t be the repeat offender and instead learn from your failures. This will earn you respect and lead to potential success.

Photo by Polupharmakos (own work) with Creative Commons 3.0