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BLOG - 25 July 2022

All Blacks PR ‘own goal’

There are several things a PR professional should never do when advising organisational leaders. How could the All Blacks media manager not understand when she cancelled a press conference with coach Ian Foster a day after the 16 July test defeat to Ireland?

The episode is easily forgotten but it offers a case study in … well, how not to be a PR adviser.

First, never in words or actions undermine the organisation’s purpose and values. Said media manager cancelled the press conference to protect the coach, who she declared to be “human first”, from difficult questions.

Seriously?  The All Blacks stand, surely, for good sportsmanship and resilience in the face of adversity – and a that thing called ‘character’ (gracious in defeat, magnanimous in victory and so on). Withdrawing from reporters because they might ask hard questions after a test defeat is simply not the All Blacks we all know and love.

Second, never fail to respond to any public questioning with reasonable and credible answers. The questions might not be the ones you want but show respect for the reporters and respond. That doesn't mean the answers cannot  be as hard -- and maybe ‘unfair’ -- as the questions.

This media manager cancelled because the coach needed more time to figure out what he would say. Seriously?  The situation was hardly that complex and anyway, speed in figuring out credible answers is why organisational leaders have PR advisers in the very first place.

Third, never make yourself or your opinions the object of public attention. Two days after the cancellation, this media manager burst forth with a social media message to explain why — paramount was her wish to ‘protect’ the All Black coach from reporters who were ‘after blood’ – and then discoursed about her 10 years in journalism and her views on being human.

Like any of this was remotely relevant to an Irish test series win in NZ or to millions of All Black fans’ valid interest in knowing what the coach is now thinking and planning!

In that other sport, Football, teams sometimes score ‘an own goal’. Bungled defence leads to a team member knocking the ball into his or her own goal.

Views will differ on how badly (or well) the All Blacks played against Ireland.  But bungling by the home side’s PR team certainly led to an ‘own goal’ by the coach in the following days.

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