Why unnamed sources can destroy even the best PR plans

“Loose lips sink ships.” World War II era propaganda poster

It’s the bane of any public relations pro’s existence… rumors. Sometimes they come from real, unnamed people, other times they come from no one with any connection to the story. This week, the Boston Globe published a story about the unraveling of the Boston Red Sox at the end of the 2011 baseball season.

As someone that was in the news and sports industry, I love insider-type stories. If well-written, they give you a great picture into what goes on behind-the-scenes.

This post is not written to criticize the Globe’s writers. Their story is well done and obviously well-vetted. The point that really bugs me is this line:

This article is based on a series of interviews the Globe conducted with individuals familiar with the Sox operation at all levels. Most requested anonymity out of concern for their jobs or potential damage to their relationships in the organization. Others refused to comment or did not respond to interview requests.

Obviously, in a story like this, you aren’t going to get people to put their names on the line. They would definitely be disciplined. My point is, in these cases, that no matter how good of a PR plan you may have, rumors and unnamed sources hurt you.

Sox manager Terry Francona had some personal details unveiled that he didn’t necessarily want acknowledged. Information about what pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lester, and John Lackey did during games they didn’t pitch were also laid out in the story. These details were released by people who didn’t put their name to their information.

Rumors can destroy the most teflon of companies, people, or brands. The Red Sox have been darlings in the sports world. Since breaking a championship drought in 2004, the BoSox saw their popularity skyrocket. Fenway Park enjoys sellout crowds and a party-like atmosphere outside.

This story will not destroy what happens on Yawkey Way. It will however hurt, for the time being, the way people look at the Sox and the organization. This undermines how the Sox do business moving forward. It means the PR team will be working overtime to change some perceptions.

The best medicine for the Sox on the field will be getting back to winning in the post-season. From the PR side of things, it would behoove management to admit what happened and move forward. This story will pass, but unless it is addressed now, it will linger for months.


Posted on October 13, 2011, in Hot Topic, Public Relations, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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