Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in this case, hiding out in the dugout), the most recent PR snafu has involved the major league baseball club Houston Astros and their getting caught for electronic-stealing of “signs” (they were able to decipher and transmit signals the opposing teams’ catchers relayed to the opposing pitcher. Ergo, their batters knew what pitch was coming). Huge, and illegal, advantage in the playing of America’s Pastime.
As such, the Astros baseball club was fined $5 million by baseball’s commissioner, docked draft choices for the next two years and the team’s manager and general manager were suspended for the season (they were subsequently discharged by the club as well.)
There were no penalties for the team’s players, and the Astros did not have to vacate their 2017 World Series championship and all the spoils that go along with it. Turns out, the team had been stealing signs for almost two (or three?) years until it had the conscience to suddenly ‘stop’ late 2018 (just before they played and swept our Cleveland Indians in the first divisional playoff round. Hmm.).
Anyway, why the diatribe in our February PR e-newsletter? Well, it’s one thing to be caught. Another to apologize (and really mean it BTW!), and another whereas an organization you screw up so proficiently the entire US sporting press screams for you to hire a good PR practitioner:
The Houston Astros had PR companies across the globe pointing and laughing at them.
Andy Nesbitt, columnist in USA TODAY Sports, is attributed the above pull-quote taken from his recent article “I was wrong for calling the Houston Astros cowards, turns out they’re just idiots”
The best writeup of the bunch was last week’s by Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri, Breaking Down the Astros’ Latest Public Relations Meltdown Subtitle: A public relations expert analyzes the Astros’ poor effort to apologize for their sign-stealing scheme.
Well, that expert is Tony D‘Angelo, our past PRSA National Chair, and director of Syracuse University’s Master’s program in communications management (note of transparency here, I served with Tony on the National Board back in 2007–09).
His advice is so right on folks when it comes to handling a crisis – and eventually, we’re all going to find ourselves, our client or our organization in some type of predicament – that I urge you all to click and read through.
And then consider if the Astros were your client, or Jim Crane was your boss: What would you do? And taking an intentional pass is not an option.
And BTW, this is at least the third or fourth huge PR screw up for these guys – another good read, from October 2019, is Al Yellon’s feature The Houston Astros demonstrate how not to handle a PR Crisis! Subtitle: The A.L. Champions are really bad at media and public relations.