In PR, we have a tough, tough job.
We must convince people that completely false rumors are just that, as much as they would like to believe it to be true.
Case in point, the Washington Nationals.
(Full disclosure, they are a former–and hopefully future–client.)
On Monday night, the team signed it’s first round draft pick, hyper-prospect Stephen Strasburg. That signing, despite the contract being 50% more than ANY rookie had ever received, was hailed as a major victory for the oft-maligned team.
Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman said it boosted the respectability factor of the team. A non-sports writer for the Washington Post welcomed the pitcher as DC’s “savior.” All-in-all, a good day for Washington baseball–and there haven’t been too many of those over the past several years.
The man behind the negotiations for the Nats was Interim General Manager Mike Rizzo, who assumed his post after the Nats cut major-league trainwreck Jim Bowden. I mean, his Wikipedia list of controversies is LONGER than the list of accomplishments…and neither list is complete.
On Tuesday, hours after Rizzo got the deal done, he and team President Stan Kasten did the media blitz trumpeting their success. I was in the car most of that day and caught several of Kastens interviews, where he profusely credited Rizzo with getting the job done.
Later that evening, Yahoo Sports uploaded a , paving the way for an outsider to become the permanent GM for the team.
The media outlets that were just, scant hours before, handing out the team Kool-Aid were flabbergasted.
How could a team that 12 hours earlier credited Rizzo for signing the franchises “savior” be on his way out the door the next day? Shouldn’t signing such an important player, as well as making several shrewd trades that have bolstered the team’s weakest points (bullpen, organizational depth, speed) have automatically removed the “interim” part of his title?
To say that Washington, DC, had a collective conniption would be a gross understatement.
The popular sentiment was “one step forward, three steps back…again.” People that had just been so excited for the future of the team were questioning their relationship with it moving forward. All of a sudden, the brightest day for the Nats had turned into it’s blackest night.
The one problem? The report wasn’t true.
Internal sources used every word in the dictionary to say it wasn’t true, and the team .
Can the harsh feelings of the day before be easily erased, even though the report was false? Or did the rumor become the reality?
From a PR perspective, how do you, as a team, shoot down such a report? The only way that I think works 100% is to do what they did – give Rizzo the job!
PR folks…what do you think about this? How have completely false rumors affected you?
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