Image: ShutterstockWhen Louis Van Gaal was removed from the manager’s position at Manchester United, few were surprised. It was one of the worst kept secrets that the Dutchman was being sacked – and it doesn’t take a PR expert to recognise the communications strategy of the football club has been a long way from premier. With the impending arrival of Jose Mourinho, here are five things to learn from the club’s catalogue of communication errors.
(1) Correct positioningFootball clubs are businesses like any other and management changes are to be expected. Like in the wider business world, positioning changes correctly is key. Staff and stakeholders need to be onboard whoever is in charge. The error Manchester United have made is not properly positioning Van Gaal’s departure. It was well known that Van Gaal saw this Premier League role as his last job, and he had no intention of extending his contract beyond 2017. Therefore, had the leadership positioned his departure as part of their long term strategy, the club would ensure a much more positive reaction, reducing criticism for its handling of the situation. With Mourinho available this summer, the football club could have said thank you to Van Gaal and explained his replacement as a means to ensure the success of the club in the next three, four or five years. Positioning a change in management or operations as strategic or long term is basic PR and doesn’t require a complex program to implement.
(2) Keep controlSome newspapers ran the unfortunate storyline that Van Gaal was informed of his removal by his wife, who heard about it in the press. He was also apparently then phoned by Jose Mourinho, all before speaking to the football club in person. Whether or not this is true, it is clear that someone at United told the press, with the news widely reported as a certainty within hours of the final whistle at Wembley. Organisations must as a priority keep control of communications strategies. Fervent gossip on the same level that we’ve seen at Manchester United risks damaging an organisation’s reputation, by appearing unprofessional and disorganised. Read on to find out how the club could have avoided some speculation.
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