As we wrote back in April, during its protracted labor dispute, the National Football League, as America’s popular sport, had nothing to gain from a PR war with its players. This week, now that the lockout is over and pro football is getting back to business, the league and its players’ union can look back at the past several months and see PR success along the way.
Most importantly, of course, the two sides reached a long-term deal without disrupting any of the regular season. That alone automatically makes this a successful effort, from a PR perspective. But digging deeper, you see signs of almost model public communications behaviors.
With the exception of the ugly day that the lockout actually began and the union decertified, there was very little public dialogue. The negotiating was happening via mediation, not via the media. While bits and pieces leaked (and some good reporters did some good reporting) and a few statements were released, the two sides avoided public comment and avoided the nasty soundbites that often cloud public perception during a time of negotiations.
It’s easy to contrast these approaches to the tactics we often see that resemble the ugliest political campaigns. Like the heads of both sides giving separate, but bombastic, interviews trying to woo public opinion or paid advertising that exaggerates points, designed to scare the public about one side or another. We often see name calling and finger pointing, all out in public.
In this case, for the most part, class actually reigned. What needed to be public went public. What was most effective in private remained private. Wise PR heads prevailed on both sides, which likely was among the keys to labor peace.