The NFL and the New Orleans Saints have a massive problem on their hands, to say the least. Over the weekend the NFL issued a press release addressing an investigation into the Saints organization about a bounty system that was in place for the past three seasons. Allegedly, players would receive money for injuring opposing players and bonuses if the player needed to be “carted off” the field. The bounty pool involved at least one assistant coach as well as a former felon, who is good friends with Saints head coach Sean Payton. Obviously, a bounty program violates NFL rules and is undoubtedly unethical, and as a Louisiana native, I’m as shocked as the next Saints fan.
This seems like the definition of a public relations crisis, so…what should the NFL and the Saints do?
First and foremost, address the situation head on. Many people tend to run from trouble instead of facing the problem, but there are rules in crisis management. Saints owner Tom Benson followed the first rule of crisis management, engagement, by releasing a statement discussing the controversy. The Saints organization released Benson’s statement via Twitter, utilizing social media to communicate with fans and stakeholders.
Utilizing social media as an effective crisis management tool is something that is becoming the norm for many businesses. Social media is being implemented into a number of organization’s business continuity management (BCM) plans, and according to Cybermedia India Online Limited (CIOL) 75 percent of businesses with BCM will implement social media into their crisis management plan by 2015.
The Saints and the NFL both appear to have a handle on how to integrate crisis management and social media, but where do they go from here?
The only step left in this type of situation is resolve the issue. We have seen a controversy of this magnitude in the NFL before, and the league managed to successfully restore its reputation and maintain its vast popularity. It remains to be seen what action Commissioner Roger Goodell will take against New Orelans’s favorite team, but it is clear that the punishment will be heavy.
The Saints public relations department better have their crisis management plan nearby, and hopefully it includes further use of social media. Who dat say gon’ beat them Saints? The Commissioner, that’s who.