In the world of Public Relations, one of the biggest issues you have to deal with is crisis management. A CEO in legal trouble. A corporate scandal. An ill-placed word (or sentence). It is the job of the PR representative to not only help fix the issue, but to fix any relationships that are damaged in the meantime. With the advent of social media platforms and 24-hour news cycles, PR professionals must always be on the lookout for the potential of something bad, especially in the field of professional athletics. And the task of fixing relations with fans that may become scarred due to comments or actions by a player…or coach…
The Florida Marlins (MLB) changed their name to Miami, moved into a brand new stadium, changed their logo and colors, signed top free agents, and hired World Series Champion manager Ozzie Guillen. With all of the positives surrounding the revitalized organization, there was a minor red flag next to Guillen who is known to have a temper. The season began, the Marlins were winning, and the red flag remained off the flagpole. Then Guillen was asked an unfortunate question.
Guillen was asked about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, to which he responded “I love Castro.” A simple comment made in a poor choice of location. Miami is a hot bed for Cuban defectors who escaped the tyranny of the dictator. Guillen’s comments struck an extremely sour note with Miami residents. Guillen offered an apology, but the Marlins still suspended him for five games.
So again, as a PR professional, what do you do? Should you ignore the matter and continue with the plan you had in place at the start of the season? Do you advertise the apology but try and remind fans of Guillen’s success so they “get over it?” Support or ridicule?
Situations like these are difficult and can only truly be evaluated on a case by case basis. The audience/fan base needs to be remembered at all times so there is no potential of disaster (attendance decrease, loss of fans, etc). When you lose the fans, it is increasingly difficult to regain their trust as the season marches on. However, as a representative of the organization, you need to stand by those employed by the organization (within reason), especially when they are high profile.
Do you think the Marlins acted properly in this situation?