FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a proud former Burson employee.
That said, the Washington Redskins lost whatever integrity they had left when they hired Burson-Marsteller yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, the hire made sense. If B-M is known for anything, it is a powerful one-two combination of public affairs and crisis communications.
Those are two things that team and its thick-headed owner sorely need.
The problem is that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder didn’t hire them to help his football team do the admirable thing. He hired B-M to help his team continue to do the wrong thing.
And there goes his credibility, swirling down the drain.
Regardless of how fueled with PC power you think the “is it racist?” debate is, the point is that the engine is fully gassed-up and there is a burgundy and gold vehicle ready to run Daniel Snyder down in the parking lot of FedEx Field.
People — some fans, many politicians, and even moreNative Americans — want the name of the mascot to change. Snyder, however, has tried to think of every shiny ball possible to distract everyone from that fact. From a failed CSR campaign to his “honoring Navajo codetalkers of WWII” stunt, every attempt has done nothing but make him look worse.
And now this: hiring a PR firm to make Snyder look like he’s trying his damndest to relate to the public?
“We have been retained by the Washington Redskins and the player alumni association to provide technical and editorial support to distribute information to those who inquire about the team’s history and name, which includes the website redskinsfacts.com,” said Burson-Marsteller spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan.
See there? A website to stop the hate and thwart the movement. Just what the team needed. Is there a “spin doctor” in the house?
Perception of our industry holds that one either hires PR when they need something to get attention … or when they are trying to minimize the attention they already have. Regretfully, this move to hire Burson-Marsteller smacks of the latter. They know it. Snyder knows it. The media knows it.
The problem with any PR on the Redskins’ behalf starts with the owner’s mindset. Snyder is treating this entire imbroglio as a football game — he wants to win this battle. Really, he needs to think of another sport, like soccer. When that game ends in a tie, people celebrate. That’s what B-M needs to get him to see — compromise and everyone wins.
Until this guy and his new firm can change the name and still honor all that tradition, no one will ever win. That is about it.
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