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Public Relations and Labour Disputes

I need your help with a case study public relations problem

The case study is:

After a labor dispute, there is often an ill effect on fans of sporting events. The NHL has been on strike and missed an entire session. Your challenge is to WIN BACK HOCKEY FANS and try to make them forget all about the strike. (Let's assume the strike has been settled).

1. I need your help with your point of view to the press and other concerned citizens.

2. I also need your help with the thoroughness in which I prepare to present the above case. By this, I mean how much RESEARCH has been done on all sides of the issue and the ability to present it to an audience

3. I also need to select the important elements and produce a coherent and comprehensible presentation.

4. I also need for the case study:

<How will I build EXCITEMENT?
<You can focus on a single team (Ducks/Kings) or as an entire league.

Solution Preview

Response:

Let's look at some general information to consider for this case, which is followed by a tentative outline and suggested information for each section.

1. "I need your help with your point of view to the press and other concerned citizens."

I gleaned several sights and news reports and drew several points from the press and reports about concerned citizens. From the iceblock.com website, I printed a news report in full below for you to read.

a. Hopeful: "you may not be back next season, or even the season after, but you've come back every other time, and we think you will now too... and we'll do it again soon too".
b. Ratings are down, not up - and even with no lockout, all hockey has received is criticism from all angles. "The general public isn't excited for the time hockey comes back and many of us now have 200 niche channels on cable and satellite that we didn't have a decade ago. We have more options, and our watching habits need to be won over again."
c. Suggested means to get fans back: The NHL needs to win back Exposure. "What the NHL needs to win back more than anything is exposure. Count on losing money now, even the NHLPA admits that's going to happen, so we can all say it's a safe assumption to make. Just work on growing the audience. Don't compare it to ten or twenty years ago. Don't compare it to the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR or golf. Don't compare it to network television. Just look at yesterday and try and go up - that's it."
d. How? See suggestions presented in the article below in section What should be done?

Article: The NHL Needs to Win Back Exposure

Phil posts their conclusion which can be summed up this way as well: you may not be back next season, or even the season after, but you've come back every other time, and we think you will now too... and we'll do it again soon too. While I have zero disagreement with their historical findings, the tomorrow of now was not the tomorrow of 1994 for the NHL. People like to crap on the league and hockey in general today, but in '94 hockey was talked about as a sport on the rise and people were looking forward to it being on broadcast television on Fox (seriously, they were looking forward to that). New arenas were being built and everyone had the attitude of "any day now" when it came to that year's lockout. Here we are, ten years later and except for the "Saturday that never was", no one has been expecting a deal to be done. There are not a bunch of soon-to-be built arenas that people are waiting to visit. Ratings are down, not up - and even with no lockout, all hockey has received is criticism from all angles. People will most likely return to see live games. I have little doubt about that. There are enough hardcode hockey fans for that. Sure, they'll lose some season ticket holders, but a few years of good promotions go a long way and as much as we hate to admit it, we still love hockey and the NHL, as long as it's in its current form, is the best talent hockey has to offer.

TV ratings, however, aren't going to fly back up any time soon. The general public isn't excited for the time hockey comes back and many of us now have 200 niche channels on cable and satellite that we didn't have a decade ago. We have more options, and our watching habits need to be won over again.

What the NHL needs to win back more than anything is exposure. Count on losing money now, even the NHLPA admits that's going to happen, so we can all say it's a safe assumption to make. Just work on growing the audience. Don't compare it to ten or twenty years ago. Don't compare it to the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR or golf. Don't compare it to network television. Just look at yesterday and try and go up - that's it.

What should be done?

§ Eat all the criticism that comes from media folk ribbing the NHL for taking NBC's AFL-like agreement (where the NHL doesn't get paid a large fee like other "major" sports). Eat it and foot the bill if NBC will agree to put a few more games on the air whenever you can get some games on the ice.

§ Make NHL Center Ice dirt cheap. We all know it's not going to be for free, but don't price it like the other sports out of the "we're on the same level" mindset. No one has to say "we have to do this to get people to buy it", simply say "this is part of the way we're apologizing to the fans who have stuck by us." See? We'll take some spin if it's done right.

§ Get the NHL Network on in the US. Do whatever it takes to get the major carriers to pick it up and make sure it's cheap/free and easily available. I have an extra sports package with Time Warner because I wanted to grab three Fox Sports College stations and College Sports TV. They show a good amount of college hockey, and it's one of the ways I've been getting my fix. Guess what else is in that package? NBA TV, Fuel, and the Tennis channel. Get in there.

§ Work closely with any company looking to make an NHL-licensed video game. Video games are huge, I don't need to tell anyone that. Nor should I have to remind anyone about how a young fan base can be built from video games, but I'm reminding everyone anyway. Hockey games still do fairly well, encourage companies to keep at it. Don't get greedy and sign an exclusive agreement with any one game maker. The NHL needs game makers to keep competitive and keep adding to the games as much as possible. Encourage the game makers to sell the games cheap, lower the licensing fee temporarily if necessary. Get AHL and any other minor league or international teams in there that you can. Video games are one of the easiest ways to educate fans about the game and introduce them to players, and you will want people to know about the players after the lockout is over, even those that may not be in the NHL yet. Having the opportunity to play as a local minor league team can be a real techy-grassroots marketing method.

§ Give media more access. Players may be irritated at first and coaches may want to toss cameras out of the lockerrooms, but the more hockey players are available to the public, the easier it will be to recognize them. You never know, someone may emerge as a personality star - something the NHL desperately needs.

§ Give "new" media more access. Anyone who runs a website knows you can be treated like a second-rate citizen. Guess what? More people may read someone's fan website than a beat ...

Solution Summary

This response explains the public relations challenge(s) of labour disputes and strikes, as evidenced in a specific case study.

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