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By Mitchell Collier, Consultant - Media and Communications

On Tuesday evening prominent rugby league journalist James Hooper went on Fox Sports program NRL 360 and dropped a bombshell – that the Brisbane Broncos have held secret talks with Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy to replace rugby league icon Wayne Bennett.

This has enveloped the Broncos in a media frenzy, with both Bennett and CEO Paul White fronting cameras and providing (slightly) contradictory versions of events. The story has dominated news media in Queensland and New South Wales, with it appearing on both the front and back pages of today’s Courier Mail. In the Brisbane media it has managed to relegate just about every other news story – including the impending first state of origin match – to the background of the news cycle. Last weekend’s royal wedding now seems as old as the pyramids.

Breakdown in communication

Although many aspects of the story are disputed, a couple of things do seem to be clear: Wayne Bennett was happy for the club to contact Bellamy about replacing him, so long as he was kept in the loop. The Broncos did meet Bellamy, but Bennett was not informed, instead finding out via the grapevine from a staff member.

This highlights the importance of internal communication in any organisation. A simple phone call to Bennett from the CEO confirming they had met (or were about to meet) with the Melbourne maestro would have at least quashed this angle of the story. It may even have prevented it coming out at this point entirely.

Instead, this breakdown in communication has the potential to damage the relationship between coach and CEO in a manner that extends well beyond the current news cycle. Having been left out of the loop (despite explicitly asking not to be) Bennett is now left to fill in the gaps: are the club considering sacking him before his contract expires? Are there other reasons that the club wanted to keep him in the dark? Can he trust Broncos CEO Paul White moving forward?

Rather than concentrating on tonight’s match against Parramatta (also Bennett’s 800th as an NRL coach) the Broncos have now been left scrambling to manage a story that (like an actual bronco) has well and truly bolted from the stables.

Managing a media story

Even the mere rumour that the Broncos were attempting to lure Craig Bellamy to Brisbane was going to attract media attention at some point. This story highlights the importance of getting in front of any news story and controlling the way in which it is communicated to stakeholders such as the media, the public, and the organisation’s employees (in this case the players).

When the media approaches you about a news story it is vital that the planning has been put in place to ensure that you are in a position to respond quickly, effectively and clearly. Having the right strategy can minimise the ensuing media bushfire and potentially enhance your reputation.

The SAS Group has a a wealth of experience in managing high profile media issues and crisis situations. We have the expertise to advise our clients on how to prepare and deliver responses to delicate media topics. We understand what the media needs, and we use this understanding to maximise positive exposure for clients, as well as advising on the course of action likely to lead to the largest volume of positive coverage. Everything we do is geared towards protecting your reputation and maintaining public trust in your organisation. Having the SAS Group deal with your media enquiries allows you to focus on your organisation’s number one priority: the business itself.

The SAS Group is your trusted partner for government, media and corporate engagement.

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