08 February 2013

PR Jarheads

by Andy McGowan | CRO Contributor

There may be a new name above some doors and some new shiny staff hired but some things simply don’t change round Ibrox way. The club continues to get involved in PR nightmares, something that has been bugging fans since the name Craig Whyte was as meaningless as Phil Macgiollabhain.

The latest PR disaster from Rangers puts me in mind of the novel ‘Jarhead’ by former US marine Anthony Swafford. Most of us are familiar with the story given it was adapted into a big time film a few years ago: Swafford was a sniper during the Gulf war who saw almost no action during his tour of duty in Iraq because modern warfare had simply moved on. He was out dated and almost irrelevant; the war moved too fast for a scout sniper to be an effective weapon, and this is what I am put in mind of when Rangers struggle to deal with negative news stories that now emerge online.

In the old days a story would appear in one paper, a club would respond in another. Times have changed.

Now these PR wars are fought on a virtual battlefield, not a paper one. Twitter is now where stories often break and develop and there is instant feedback in fan forums and independent club websites. News is no longer a daily entity; it is an ever evolving and changing picture – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and until Rangers realise this and are prepared to combat it then the club will forever find itself red faced when irrelevant bloggers are breaking stories that could be quashed before they gather any pace.

The claim that Rangers owe Orlit Enterprises £400,000 was broken by an aforementioned discredited timothy blogger – allowed to gather pace for almost a week – and has now grown arms and legs, becoming the subject of a small feature blog on the Channel 4 website and more worryingly making the front page of the Daily Record.

Rangers now find themselves involved in a game of he said she said with Orlit Enterprises being played out in the mainstream media. The claims of the club statement Wednesday were quickly denied by Orlit Enterprises as is being reported by the BBC on the front page of their sports section, only for Rangers to follow up with yet another statement (follow quickly by a blog from Big Jim Traynor) which offers a very different opinion from the original. It has become another messy dogfight for the club who seem intent to get in their own way when it comes to PR and defending the name of Rangers – and we are no clearer as to why this situation has been allowed to develop to this stage.

The £400,000 and whether or not an agreement has been reached is almost an irrelevance. Rangers have money in the bank and despite the club currently running at a loss even the most extreme among the East-end debt experts would struggle to convince you this debt is an issue for the club or that they were ever in any real threat of it becoming so.

The question has to be asked though: Why did it take a Channel 4 blogger putting this story out to make the club sit up and take notice? These rumours have been circulating online for days and I am aware of more than one person who made club staff aware of the situation developing. Like most of you I know these members of staff through interaction online. They are sensible, fair-minded, passionate Rangers men of that there is no doubt, and they make great strides in trying to both defend the club and improve its presence online. But the question is, when are the club going to start backing that up? More often than not it is left to a handful of staff and websites such as the CRO and TRS to defend one of the biggest football clubs in the world and that simply isn’t good enough.

The Copland Road Organization, The Rangers Standard, We Are The People Podcast, Heart and Hand Podcast – even our very own little CROpod along – with a community of fantastic individual bloggers and fan-run sites, plus individual club staff members, are often left fighting a PR war on behalf of Rangers. In online terms the club is bringing a knife to a gun fight and something’s got to change, because, put simply, if the club doesn’t understand the rules of modern warfare then we will continue to lose these online battles and inevitably the PR war.