I’m not into horses in any way so maybe that’s why I see them everywhere I go these days – they seldom seem to be out of the news.
If we’re not inadvertently eating our equine friends then it’s Scottish jockey’s riding winners (then falling off and thankfully recovering), Highlanders racing against them, and Prince Charles as a horse logger promoting them (as an alternative to machinery to extract timber from woodland).
Then of course there is the Godolphin Stables: a global business with tens of millions of pounds of race earnings won last year alone – in the news this week for 11 of their horses testing positive for steroids.
Whether this signals a Lance Armstrong-style watershed moment or a significant but one-off error of judgement by an individual remains to be seen. What is certain to me though is that the excuse of Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni, who has accepted responsibility for the doping scandal, that he in essence didn’t realise he was breaking the rules, seems to be more than a little flippant. It’s an incredible admission that has rocked the horse racing world.
What has been important in responding to the media is the proactive sharing of that admission, with the aim of protecting a high revenue business and assets. Yet beyond that I’ve seen little evidence of engagement from the stable but perhaps I’m not the right target audience, or maybe Al Zarooni is being made to carry the can.
Attracting world-wide attention, the crisis management mode will or should have kicked in a long time ago. Only once the storm calms down can the lasting damage to the brand be assessed, then considered planning put in place to manage and if possible recover reputation.
Proof is in the pudding
If you recently watched ‘Britain’s youngest head chef’ then you’ll know that Luke Thomas, in partnership with millionaire businessman Rick Fuller, is head chef at Luke’s Dining Room at Fuller’s boutique hotel, Sanctum on the Green.
The programme followed Luke, whose ambition it is to have a Michelin star within three years time by when he’ll be 21, through the trials and tribulations of running a restaurant with talent and drive but little or no business experience.
While his observations about the attention to detail required for the front of house was seldom wrong, and faith placed in travelling abroad for all expenses paid wine tasting understandable, letting his chefs deal with the main dish and sauce while he sorted starters clearly highlighted inexperience.
When he got it right, things worked. When he wasn’t there the team, accustomed to being under his command, struggled and not least because numbers matter – so too does leadership.
The lesson: a chef’s PR is only as good as the food he is serving.
What both examples really highlight to me is the need to make sure you’ve got your product right before you start your communications planning and execution – otherwise your PR and reputation could well end up in the knacker’s yard.
At the end of the day, your PR really is only as good as the product on offer.
Take it easy