The Bulldogs, The Media And The Changing Face Of Public Relations

You always have to watch these media types, they will give you one side of the story, but leave out the other.

Earlier this season the NRL put out a set of guidelines that teams needed to follow that outlines how much time NRL players and coaches should spend being available to the media and even how many players should be made available. The Bulldogs stuck to the bare minimum required, and that is their right. So after the NRL Grand Final when the Bulldogs closed ranks and refused to talk to anyone, many within the media saw this as the final straw. Their frustration verged on outrage.

Fast forward a a number of hours and the Bulldogs are holding their Mad Monday session behind closed doors at Belmore Oval, a secure environment that is fenced off from the public. The media was told in no uncertain terms that there would be no interviews. That didn’t stop them hanging around outside the stadium trying to catch glimpses of players. Even a news chopper was sent to circle the stadium to get pictures.

During this time someone yelled something out of a window in the stadium. That was taken by the media as being directed at them, outside the stadium gates, around about 100 meters away.

Cue the outrage….

The Bulldogs have since been hammered by the media unmercifully  The club has been labeled ignorant, arrogant and sexist. Their fans haven’t been missed either, with their post Grand Final celebrations somehow turned into something bad, despite the fact there were only a few arrests. The media has spent the last few days pushing all of these lines and demanding the ARL take action.

Lets look at it from a more level headed point of view though….

If a club decides they don’t want to talk to the media, that is their right. The last time I checked we live in Australia, and if you don’t want to talk to someone, you don’t have to.

A good relationship with the media is a great thing. It is free advertising. It lets you get a message across to a large group of people. Any club that decides not to take advantage of that is only hurting themselves. If that is what a club wants to do, I have no problem with that at all. Focus attention on clubs that want to get out there and spread the word. Ignore the ones that don’t.

The real problem the media has is that this sort of attitude stops them from doing their job. They can’t get the quotes they want or the vision they need to put together their stories. When the media gets cut out, they don’t like it one bit, and they let everyone know about it! In this case, they have done it in an openly vindictive manner. When journalists are writing that “You reap what you sow“, that says it all about the mindset they have.

It is understandable too. After all, a lot of these journalists are being made redundant as media companies cut back costs as they face the pressures of new age media. Which brings me to my next point….

The Canterbury Bulldogs have 109,035 people following them on Facebook. They also have 15,513 followers on Twitter. These are their fans and they have a direct line to them. No middle man. Do they really need the media to give them a voice? Does any team? The media once was the only way a club would get a message out to people. Now, its not even the most efficient way!

For all the talk about how much better media access is in the United States with sporting teams over there, this is a phenomenon that journalists in the U.S. have been facing for a while. Clubs can create so much in house content, why do they need to deal with journalists at all? Especially ones so willing to burn them.

I go back to an article I read last year by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban titled Whats the role of media for sports teams?. In it he outlined the value he placed on various media platforms for his team. Some he valued, others he didn’t, while some actually caused issues for him and his club.

We are now getting to a point where clubs make so much money that they can afford to generate their own media and feed that directly to their supporter base. A single voice, unsullied by outside influences and agendas. If you ran a company and you could afford to do this, you would. It eliminates so many potential problems while at the same time establishing what could be a future revenue stream as sponsors look to advertise on your clubs growing media influence.

We live in a world where a teenager can post a video on YouTube and reach more people than watched the NRL Grand Final on Sunday evening. If you can create something good, something interesting and something entertaining, you can completely bypass television, radio and newspapers and still get your point across!

So while its is all well and good for the media to talk about the advantages the game can receive from giving them more access to do their jobs, there is also the counter argument that the media is not as valuable as it once was. Sure Rugby League makes hundreds of millions of dollars from its broadcasting deal, but it earns that money by selling the rights to show games, it doesn’t get that money for newspaper articles or 30 second grabs on the nightly news.

The media used to be television, radio, newspapers and magazines. These days you can download apps on your phone that will stream you video content right from you favorite football club. As times change, the media also needs to change as well, and inevitably that is going to mean they either provide clubs with a fair and reasonable service, or they won’t get access to anyway.

Is that a good thing overall? Maybe its not. Removing the ability for the game to be held accountable is not a good thing. However, if it leads to more responsible media coverage, less much raking and rumour mongering, than I think that would be a positive thing.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, so to speak. I’m not a Bulldogs fan and I’m not part of the media. I can honestly see both sides of this media access argument  and I think think when you get down to the core of it, the reality of this situation lies somewhere in the middle.

The media however needs to realize that it is needed less and less every single day. They can’t expect to put the boot in one day and then rock on up the next expecting everyone at a club to play friendly. This isn’t about stopping negative reporting, this is about players, coaches and officials at some clubs being sick to death of having to deal with certain media types that are just looking to cause issues to grab a cheap headline. From that point of view, I can completely understand why some people within the game want nothing to do with the media.

It is a case of give and take on both sides.

What was yelled out of the window at Belmore Oval was dumb. It was the act of someone who had drank a few too many. To suggest it was targeted at someone in particular so far away is drawing a very long bow. I’m the first to hold players accountable for their behavior but come on….where is the line?

I hope that the Bulldogs fine who ever made the comments. I hope the media calms down. I hope that this time next season fans have more access than they have ever had before to players and coaches.

Whether that is via mainstream media or club generated content, I don’t really care. Neither do most fans.

At the end of the day, that is the real problem the media faces.

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