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The Case for a Reputation Protection Model

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The sports world is a long way from the romantic view espoused by the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger: “The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page usually records nothing but man’s failures.”

Of course, the sports pages record more accomplishments than failures. But from Tiger Woods, to Title IX law suits, to scholar/athlete kleptomaniacs and coaches with their peccadilloes, the sports world has had its share of crises in the past few years.

Back to the front pages: 2010 will go down as a bumper crop year for crisis communications. As each crisis unfolded, there were multiple references to other crises that were handled poorly or well.

Johnson and Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol poisonings in 1982 is considered the best-in-class response of modern crisis management, and then BP, Tiger Woods and Toyota in 2009-10 provide perhaps better lessons for three decades of crisis preparation and response.

Tylenol stands for best-in-class company values, decision making, brand management and recovery. BP, Tiger and Toyota represent examples of the gravest risk of brand implosion, failure to anticipate calamities, and the media piling-on effect.

The “big ones” are “teaching moments” for any professional sports team, athletic department or even local high school sports organization to understand reputation management, crisis anticipation, response and recovery.