Beleaguered England manager, Steve McClaren, was caught throwing his toys out of the pram during a post-match conference following England’s unenthusiastic performance against the minnows of European football, Andorra. Instead of fielding an array of pointed questions from the assembled press corps, the England coach simply walked out of the post-match news conference, telling the media: “Gentlemen, if you want to write whatever you want to write, you can write it because that is all I am going to say. Thank you,”
I am really not sure why he dispensed with Max Clifford, who was working on his case last year, but I am sure the wily PR would not have tolerated or advised such a strategy. Publicists know that keeping open lines of communication with the media at the highest level is essential.
Steve surely can’t be surprised to discover that he is in the second most difficult job in Little Britain. As England manager you are only winning when the team is winning, so a healthy attitude and a phlegmatic stoicism are an absolute must. As Sven’s old assistant, McClaren must have witnessed the media pressure heaped on Eriksson and recognized it as all part of the game, so why employ such a petulant tactic now?
A fellow publicist thinks McClaren is a well-adjusted person and perfect to deal with the pressures of public life because he makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous. In public relations, no matter what is thrown at you in times of crisis, a constant dialogue with the media is paramount. The media respect a public figure in the firing line, as long as its taken on the chin, and every new dawn is an opportunity to exploit. If a stream of carefully constructed sound, bytes are provided as a crutch this will always keep the heaving ship across a stormy passage. If the national team coach were designing cars, I am pretty certain he would create a machine that would not have a reverse gear. Make no mistake, the bloke needs outstanding PR council.
The national game generates unique passions and everybody, including a middle-aged PR blogger, has a POV and a favoured team formation so it is clearly impossible to achieve perfection. Therefore, foot-shooting is unquestionably an ill-advised sport. Where is the clever word-merchant, on hand to help the coach deal with the inevitable? Petulance further alienates football hacks and exhibits signs of weakness throwing spades out and inviting a spot of grave digging.
From a PR perspective, surely the joy of a tough job in public life consists of honing of one’s energies, trying to create a dialogue with those feeding off the bad news and attempting to provide a surprising honest perspective as well as telegraph an enjoyment of the experience. To stop, or even to run, simply means you die.
The eternal mistake is to set up an attainable ideal, like a mirage the flawed job offers. McClaren needs someone in the shadows to point the finger of blame at key players who perform for their clubs but somehow fail to pull their fingers out for the national side. Various commentators and pundits are whispering it, but the manager is by his behaviour seems to be deflecting their criticisms.
A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying to communicate and connect to the media that serves your best interests. Someone should whisper from on high Bertrand Russell’s maxim: “Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.”