3 PR Lessons from the World Cup

Alicia Lawrence

Alicia Lawrence

The following is a guest post from Alicia Lawrence, a contributor for simonoh.com.

The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world, drawing some 2 billion viewers worldwide. That’s even more than the Olympics, and when the whole world is watching, you know there is going to be a lot of scrutiny. In fact, it’s a real opportunity to learn from the public relations blunders and/or triumphs that take place on this grand stage.

Here’s a look at three lessons you can learn from this year’s World Cup so far, with many more sure to come leading up to the July 13 final.

Lesson 1: Implement New Things Carefully

During this World Cup, referees are using goal-line technology for the first time, which tells the referees whether a ball crossed the goal line rather than forcing them to rely on their own, very fallible eyes. While everyone loves technology, which has given us everything from social networks to smartphones to tablets you can resell for cash, it can be frustrating when you come out on the wrong side of a technology-based decision.

The Honduran head coach was especially upset after the goal-line technology initially ruled that France, Honduras’ opponent, had not scored, then said it did. The coach questioned the accuracy of the new system, which is a PR nightmare. Now other coaches are sure to do the same when their team gets an unfavorable decision. Countries should have been told ahead of time to take their complaints to FIFA, soccer’s governing body, rather than airing them in public.

Lesson 2: Make Lemons From Lemonade

Or, in the case of the World Cup, make something sweet out of days and days of rain, which has been torrential at times and threatened the dedication of fans going to the games. But despite the deluge, Brazilian workers did manage to finish the new Beira Rio Stadium on time, a major accomplishment considering how behind they had been.

By working with the conditions, rather than trying to plan around them, Brazilian officials accomplished their goal. It would have been a PR disaster for the stadium to be unable to host the scheduled game, and with hard work the Brazilians avoided that fate.

Lesson 3: Your Reputation Must Be Protected

Spain came into the World Cup as one of the favorites to win the tournament, as it did four years ago. But in its first game, a shocking 5-1 loss to the Netherlands, the Spaniards looked overly cocky and not up to the challenge.

It’s a good reminder that, whatever you’ve done in the past, you can’t rest on your laurels. A great reputation can be gone in a flash if you don’t work hard to maintain your standards. In just over 90 minutes, the Spanish team went from contender to pretender, and the same could be true for any business that finds itself in an embarrassing situation, forcing the PR team to make amends.

Remember, there are no absolutes when it comes to reputation. You’re always just a few steps away from disaster, and you’d be wise to stay on guard. The Spanish team didn’t, and the Netherlands jumped all over them.

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for a tech company and blogs about online PR in her free time. Continue the conversation with her over on Twitter and Google+.