Maria Sharapova and the PR, allies to generate as little damage as possible in the face of the doping crisis
On 6 March 2016 during the Australian Open, Maria Sharapova at a press conference convened by herself announced that she had received a letter from the ITF informing her that she had tested positive for the anti-doping test. As the tennis player explained, "In the last 10 years I have taken a medicine that my gpites prescribe, it is called Meldoniun" however this substance had been banned since January 1, 2016.
The tennis player explained that she received a list in December 2015 containing the new banned substances but made the mistake of not reading them. The world of sports was once again paralyzed... however something was different between the news of Maria Sharapova and cases such as those of Lance Armstrong, Diego Armando Maradona, Alex Rodriguez, James Tonet, Dieter Baumann among many other athletes who had also tested positive for doping.
The Role of PR (Public Relations)
Sharapova with a clear vision of the power of relations was an extraordinary anticipation of what would be an imminent wave of attacks and rejections when the ITF publicly announced the results of anti-doping tests, highlighting an excellent execution of the crisis management.
Maria seized the moment and took responsibility for the results by accepting her guilt, not without first highlighting her unconditional love for the sport she has been practicing for several years. Hers testimony that alluded to ignorance at the prohibition of such substance, ALL accompanied by adequate bodily language (hand at heart, compunged gestures), to evident his repentance and sorrow in the face of such a situation.
While such anticipation failed to change the sporting and economic sanctions that would logically lead to the results of the anti-doping test, in public opinion it did have a different effect from similar doping cases. Her social media followers turned to support former tennis world No. 1 and even as a result of that event the hashtag emerged in support of Maria #LetMariaPlay and #StandWithMaria.
Likewise, its sponsors suspended their support for the tennis player by leaving the doors to negotiations in the face of a possible return to professional sport by Sharapova, a situation that did not favor other athletes in the same way.
It is for this reason that we consider Maria Sharapova an excellent exponent of how to make excellent crisis situation management and take advantage of media attention to gain the support of her followers in an adverse situation and avoid as little as possible the harm to her public image.
Maria Sharapova's 4 points of success in crisis management
Here are, from our opinion and expertise, the 4 important points that Maria Sharapova uses for crisis management:
- Anticipation: in a globalized world and where social media has exceeded the speed of conventional media it is crucial to act promptly, in this particular case the key was to anticipate giving our true and own version of the facts to avoid guesswork.
- Taking over the situation: It is crucial that in the face of any media crisis those involved take charge of the situation in which they are involved and demonstrate the best willingness to clarify the picture. In this case Maria Sharapova and her PR team had every willingness to convene and serve the media.
- Image consistent with the situation: remember that it is extremely important that the image presented to any situation, especially in crisis, is consistent with what we say. Maria came to the conference formally dressed, without much makeup and maintained proper body language. Likewise his message was clear and appealed to emotions without losing his temper.
- Use of social networks: the hashtags generated on networks were also part of the strategy, thus generating empathy with the athlete and reinforcing her image to her followers. It is important to consider networks as communication channels that if used properly are great allies.