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Sunday, August 12, 2012

MAKING a BAD SITUATION WORSE

Crisis Management and Crisis PR have become very significant subsets of the overall communications industry. There are some major PR agency players in New York City and Washington, D.C. making Big Money because of their expertise in this area as well as many independent experts.

Sometimes their fee is deserved. Sometimes not.

But, the point is, the capability is there -- so why so often don't auto racers get that? Just as IndyCar completely mismanaged its situation after Dan Wheldon's fatal accident -- the series' "Run Silent, Run Deep" approach left a huge void which was filled with tons of negative media stories -- AJ Allmendinger has made his own situation much worse in the aftermath of his NASCAR suspension for a positive substance-abuse test.

The information AJA allowed to go out on his behalf wasn't consistent or well-considered. AJA finally decided to grant a series of one-on-one interviews last week. Big Mistake. With the media as-a-whole already unhappy and growing more suspicious by the day, it sure wasn't the time to play favorites. The ONLY way to go was one big group news conference and for the driver to sit there and answer every question. (That could have been followed with a couple of very carefully chosen one-on-ones.) And, I can tell you from personal experience, in this situation it's an absolute MUST to know in advance exactly how all likely questions will be answered. If you want to consider that rehearsing, so be it. (Yes, I admit, I've done it with drivers, team owners and sponsor reps.) I saw AJA's TV sit-downs and he sure didn't come across to me as someone who had thought it all out first.

I certainly don't always agree with Kyle Petty, but what KP said last week was 1,000 percent accurate:

"I hope that every PR rep in the country who has anything to do with a major athlete looks at how this situation was handled by AJ’s camp and does exactly the opposite the next time this happens.”

IF -- and that is a huge IF -- Allmendinger is to have any hope to resume his career at a high level, he must do so with a completely different management team. In other words, people who actually know what they are doing.


Given her massive conflict-of-interest, why does ESPN production management allow Nicole Briscoe to comment on anything regarding Roger Penske? As she did Sunday at Watkins Glen. Her husband, Ryan, is trying to hang on to his Penske IndyCar ride. I don't think he'll be back with Penske next season, based on too many unforced errors, inconsistent performances, and especially not agreeing to take downforce out of his car on his last pit stop during the Indy 500 last May when he obviously needed to gain speed to try to win the most important race of the year to Penske.


Dodge announced its withdrawal from NASCAR last week but there was some good Business of Racing news for the stock car sanction. Sprint Nextel's stock has been on a huge roll lately and CEO Dan Hesse is getting rave reviews by analysts. This reflects well on NASCAR, at least indirectly, and is the kind of B of R knowledge you need to have to be an in-the-know racing fan.


NASCAR returns to Michigan this Sunday and then on to the used-to-be-must-watch Saturday night race in Bristol. With the All-TV-Ratings-Conquering Summer Olympics over, we'll find out if the somewhat surprising Sprint Cup ratings uptick earlier this season was fact or fiction. And it will provide more evidence on the effect of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s success. If that bump is real, it better show up now, because the NFL and college football seasons are about to start.


I was delighted to learn of STP's title sponsorship of the World of Outlaws starting next year. If the much-needed activation of the sponsorship comes together the way indicated, including with TV commercial support, it should give this under-appreciated series a meaningful boost. As long as this is not another Full Throttle, which has done precious little to out-reach its NHRA series entitlement, making me wonder why the Coca-Cola brand even bothers. (Or maybe it won't going forward.) But the Outlaws are having a classic season with the likes of Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell in title contention. I consider myself an Outlaws' fan and am a voter for the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Some amazing stats from Saturday night's Knoxville Nationals, the season's biggest race. Kinser and Swindell failed to advance to the feature. It was the first time since 1975 that neither driver made the Big Show. For Kinser, it ended a streak of 34 consecutive years in the Nationals field. Donny Schatz won for the sixth time in the last seven years.


Interest in the Olympics -- due, in massive part, to the success of U.S. athletes as well as the American-friendly London venue and Yanks' fascination with the Royals -- was so huge it even gave a tremendous boost to the headed-downward Today show. In the world of the fierce morning TV news competition, the dirty little secret is ABC and CBS and CNN and Fox knew viewers who wanted Olympic news were going to tune to NBC. Producers were looking for alternative stories to tell. NHRA blew it again by not getting Courtney Force and Erica Enders booked after their historic double-female wins at Seattle. No, I'm not surprised.


The other week I received an E from Jaclyn Raineri, ID'd as "Community Manager, Social Media Marketing & Product Planning Volvo Cars of North America." This is someone I have never met or spoken with. It was about a Twitter chat with a Volvo product manager. First, if Jaclyn had bothered to do any homework, she'd have known I don't Twitter. Second, and what I consider to be outright rude, the message did not begin with "Hello" or "Hi" or use my name. This is how the E began:

"Hey,". (Bold, color and italic emphasis added by me.)

I immediately deleted it. Do the responsible management people at Volvo know this is how they are being represented? If not, WHY NOT? Add her to the long list of so-called "professionals" who desperately need to read my July CompetitionPlus.com column. As I've noted before, this is about NHRA, but applies throughout the automotive and motorsports industries. Here's that link:
http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/21813-michael-knight-nhra-should-still-reach-out-and-touch-someone

[ more next Monday . . . ]