07 February 2013

Rangers' PR Failure

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

Rangers Football Club was once again at the centre of yet another negative headline when Channel 4’s Alex Thomson published his latest online blog claiming that Orlit Enterprises, a Singapore-based company, were set to issue a winding-up petition over unpaid invoices amounting to £400k. The liability arises from services provided when Charles Green purchased the club last year and, with the club’s finances under intense scrutiny, this is the last thing we needed.

There may well be some fans who will take issue with the outstanding debt or the fact that supporters’ money is being used to essentially fund the purchase of the club for other people. That however is not the real problem here as sadly such practices are fairly common in the world of business. The real predicament facing us is another disappointing performance on the PR front at Rangers.

The rumours of this winding-up order have been circulating for a number of days thanks to a certain bigot of many names and this surely cannot have gone unnoticed by everyone at the club. Since then his chum at Channel 4 has spread the word far and wide and you only have to look at the front page of today’s Daily Record to see the negative image that is being portrayed despite what is essentially a non-story.

Rangers have been badly underperforming in their Public Relations endeavours for a number of years and this is yet another unnecessary and undesirable own-goal by the club. Social networking sites and fans’ forums mean that news travels very quickly nowadays and we should be aiming to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to harmful or negative rumours.

James Traynor swept into Ibrox surrounded by considerable optimism and his early articles were certainly warmly received by the vast majority of supporters. He attacked the football authorities, the clubs who are damaging Scottish football and issued a strong warning to those who have written about our club in months gone by. Actions however speak louder than words. We’re still waiting for any meaningful contribution on that front and in fact most are unsure as to exactly what it is Traynor is meant to be doing.

The reality of this situation is that if the club had responded swiftly to the rumours that were beginning to gather pace with a brief statement clarifying our position then the chances are we would not have been sitting yesterday discussing our finances, our debts or a winding-up order. Unfortunately however we allowed ourselves to be forced onto the back foot and only managed to respond after the story had grown arms and legs. I’m not sure whether we are being amateurish or simply na├»ve. It was too little, too late.

Rangers fans’ have been disappointed with our PR performance for years now and the “dignified silence” approach certainly did our club no favours under the negligent management of David Murray. That perhaps is why so many warmed immediately to Green and the fact that he was not scared to open his mouth and defend our club when it was required. We cannot allow ourselves to slip unwittingly into old habits for there are many out there who will gladly take advantage of that.

This latest situation certainly leaves lessons to be learned for the club. We can sit back and allow others to create mountains out of molehills, sending the media coverage into overdrive, or we can sit up, take note of these things and go on the offensive. It’s time to wise-up and realise that there is no place for silence or apathy in the environment in which we operate. Even as I type this Thomson is now claiming that no agreement has been reached with Orlit. It would appear that even our brief response was not good enough.

Over to you, Rangers. Must do better.