Monday, July 15, 2013

Even the best sometimes mishandle a crisis: Major League Soccer and the YSA chant

Those who know me realize i'm a total football fanatic (read maniac). I"m a fierce supporter of the Montreal Impact, follow the English Premier League and currently coach two soccer teams.

Over the last year or so, I've come to particularly like watching Major League Soccer (MLS) games. They are usually entertaining even though they might not feature the same level of skills and tactical display found in big European leagues.

However, there is one area where the MLS is a trailblazer in my opinion and that's in online and social media engagement. The people at the league HQ are very adept at producing and promoting their online content. In a way, they don't have a choice since they're yet to secure a contract with a big time TV network to show the games. So social they went ... and it's working.

Every team and their fans have an enthusiastic social network presence. That's great since it's based on fan support and promotes engagement from players in their communities.

MLS has also used social network to explain some referee controversies ... where calls from ref and the league's disciplinary committee are dissected very effectively. A good way to avoid further issues/crises:

So, the MLS is usually quite adept at handling issues. But recently, one of its biggest teams (the New York Red Bull or NYRB), committed one of the cardinal sins of crisis communications: don't blow things out of proportion ... In other words, don't make a small problem worse.

For years now, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has worked hard to have fans across North America drop the YSA chant ( You Suck A-hole). It's part of the efforts to make MLS parks as family friendly as possible. But in the great scheme of things ... It's not a big issue. But yet, the NYRB's mishandling made it a bigger deal that it should be .... Judge for yourself here ... listen closely toward the end of the short video below: 

OK ... so not very classy and can be somewhat embarrassing for commercial purposes but there's much worse out there. That's why the NYRB's offer of bribes to supporters groups to stop singing the YSA chant is just a bit ill advised. And it wasn't particularly well received.

What's the crisis comms lesson here? Don't make the situation worse by overreacting ... Discretion IS (sometimes) the best part of valour. 

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