Crisis Communications – Sharapova’s Drug Crisis

I seem to be on a path right now to write about crisis communications (I must be part of some multi-platform database from Facebook and Twitter to show me articles I would be interested in – which include public relations and crisis communications) because just a few weeks ago I wrote about Uber’s crisis communications plan and just last week I wrote about Whole Foods (Crisis communications – responding vs reacting) being under fire for selling whole pre-peeled oranges in plastic containers and its response to the crisis.

Today, I am writing in response to PRWeek‘s article “Why the ‘Sharapova response’ will go down as a crisis communications blueprint” (again Facebook stalking me since I was just at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells this past weekend). The article, written by Miguel Piedra, does make a few good points about crisis communications in general: “Crisis communication strategies are a lot like natural selection: the survivors adjust, inch-by-inch, year-by-year, adapting to the changing environment.” And denials, no-comments, and refutations have become standard responses, and the public in turn has become jaded.

But, as I mentioned in my earlier blogs, here at HMA Public Relations, a Phoenix-based PR firm, we have worked with many clients with many different crisis situations including the illegal sale of religious objections in foreign countries, labor issues, slip and falls, suicide and even homicide.

So this is where my agreement with Piedra has to differ. Piedra stated that: “The tennis star’s forthrightness is a case study in proper reputation management. It’s a stunningly bold and mature handling of the crisis, especially considering her youth.”

Sharapova is 28 (almost 29) years old, she is not that “young” and I believe she also knew exactly what she was doing. But, if indeed she didn’t know that she was taking an illegal substance, someone on her team knew, and that was their responsibility, which is why she has a team in the first place.

Sharapova also stated during her news conference: ”If I was going to announce my retirement, it wouldn’t be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.” Which in no way says to me that this was a mature handling of the situation. In fact, it states the opposite, it shows that she is not mature and is very selfish, and while she is claiming she is taking responsibility, I don’t think she is honest in saying that that. In a crisis situation, the response needs to be honest and sincere, both of which were not the case. In addition, as a result of Sharapova failing her drug test, she has lost sponsorships with Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche. In an ideal situation, if Sharapova’s response was indeed a “blueprint” for future crisis situations, she would not have lost her sponsorships so quickly.

In conclusion, being fast and claiming responsibility doesn’t make it a “blueprint” for a crisis response, there are many different components, and most of all the response needs to be honest and sincere.

What do you think about Sharapova’s response to failing a drug test?

Written by
at Mar 17, 2016

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