FIFA (the federation that governs international soccer ) couldn’t have asked for a worse buildup to the largest sporting event in the world – its signature quadrennial World Cup, just underway in Brazil:
- Facility and infrastructure completion problems right up to the start of the games
- Massive, violent local protests against the lack of the promised economic World Cup “trickle-down” to Brazil’s poor
- News coverage of alleged international match “fixing” by a sophisticated syndicate managing crooked referees
- The prospect of the 2022 World Cup being taken away from Qatar after revelations of $5 million in alleged bribes paid to FIFA officials to sway the selection
Question: How does an organization counter this type of spiraling bad publicity happening in real-time around a major event?
- Assess. Monitor traditional and social media communities to determine if you are facing an escalating crisis. Take the temperature of key stakeholders. PR can’t solve specific issues like venues not being finished.
- Acknowledge. Don’t hide from cascading negative news. Publicly and believably express concern from the highest executive levels to affected internal and external audiences across all relevant traditional media and communications pathways, and social media.
- Ensure Transparency and Accountability. Announce steps to investigate credible allegations and issue an unbiased report – with respected outside inputs as necessary.
- Focus. During the event, highlight the matches as much as possible by finding compelling positive stories to promote. Most spectators and fans just want to be entertained.
- Reputation Repair. Don’t wait to start work on restoring your organization’s reputation. Determine where you want to be in 6 months. A year? Two years? Then strategize, plan and implement accordingly.