The owners behind the #EuropeanSuperLeague have been castigated for their greed, selfishness and lack of understanding. But let’s not forget their completely incompetent communication skills.
Great communication ticks three boxes: It’s relevant, it’s clear and, where possible, it’s empathetic. Let’s see how they performed in each area:
This means understanding your audience. Who are you speaking to? What do you want them to remember? What language and tone are appropriate to them?
So addressing fans as ‘stakeholders’ was about as effective as turning round and scoring an own goal before the opposition had touched the ball. Explaining the benefit of the new league as “generating resources and stability for the full football pyramid” was odd, considering that the proposed structure removed the league from the pyramid altogether.
In fact, it was the complete lack of relevance to anybody other than themselves that created the comms miracle of uniting Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, the FA, FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Prince William. Against them.
This should be pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t understand it, you can’t buy into it. And the logistics should have been pretty simple to communicate. But the owners managed to get that wrong too. The proposed league wasn’t set-up to replace domestic leagues at all but to run in conjunction with them (instead of existing European competitions). That message bypassed the majority of commentators.
Where do you start? Generally by creating an emotional connection with the people who you need to hear, understand and react positively to your story.
None of these happen by accident. They require a deep understanding of your target audience, a lot of research, and a clear vision of what will happen after the news breaks.
The ESL owners managed to do the opposite. This raises a whole load of questions about ‘fit and proper’ club ownership, democracy in football and wider governance. But from a comms perspective it was, simply, a benchmark for complete and utter incompetence. Something that can be avoided by checking what you’re going to say against three words without paying a cent.