QUESTION: WHEN DOES PR BECOME A MILLSTONE? ANSWER: WHEN IT’S ILL-CONCEIVED.

I have no idea what MP Damian Collins thought he could achieve when he secured his parliamentary debate on governance at the Football Association. He undoubtedly has a bee in his bonnet and let’s be clear, it’s not without a high degree of justification when it comes to the FA. But what on earth possessed him to hurriedly push for a Commons’ vote of No Confidence in the middle of February when there’s a deadline for the FA to set out its own clear guidelines for reform just of a few weeks later?

Clearly, it was a thirst for publicity. But now he’s on the wrong end of the re-bound.

Gain v Pain

Unfortunately for him, the short-term pre-debate ‘gain’ of a series of tough-talking, rhetorical interviews and some generous visibility for a public figure calling a major institution to account, has morphed into medium-term ‘pain’. Now, the media’s post-debate reporting has attacked the ultimate futility of Collins’ whole approach – and in many cases questioned his overall motive.

When you let them, it’s what the media does.

When the reality of the process kicked in, the headlines turned from hero-grams suggesting Collins as a champion of football’s national audience, to mocking reflections of a man making as much noise as he could to satisfy his own clamour for status and recognition.  

Collins’ boss – or at least one of them – Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, said the motion was premature and FA Chairman Greg Clarke said he would resign if the FA’s own blueprint wasn’t accepted in April. Moreover, at the debate itself just over 20 MPs out of 650 bothered to turn up, only 17 of them actually voted and the outcome was non-binding anyway because less than 30 MPs were present.

Pleased

Collins was no doubt pleased with the bold headlines when the media reported his initial ‘success’ in securing the debate and there’s no doubt in my mind that he realised the juxtaposition of the words ‘Football Association’ and ‘No Confidence’ would guarantee him coverage. But what I find incredible, is he didn’t appear to think about the possible PR ramifications of a poorly attended debate falling on its backside and a Sports Minister and FA Chairman who effectively told the world it made no difference because they remained focused on the April deadline.

Yes, the FA does need major reform and yes, championing such a cause is destined to provoke heavy support.

But from a PR viewpoint, jumping on a heavily supported bandwagon isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes, today’s chest-puffing headline can provoke tomorrow’s smack in the nuts; and too many people, even MPs it appears, just don’t seem to get it.

Phil Mepham

is a Partner at Lyndcroft Media

Dealing directly with FIFA and its most senior administrators, operating amidst the media frenzy of Premier League football and presenting live television are all experiences which illustrate Phil’s ability to identify communications opportunities and recognise potential issues, traps and consequences.

Phil provides executive counsel and practical guidance on areas such personal profiling and crisis management to both individuals and commercial organisations and also works with consumer brands to produce product and service campaigns on both B2B and B2.