By Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director
We’ll never know the real story behind the Fox Sports footy fiasco which ended up with the victim being sacked for ‘newly discovered’ historic audio containing allegedly sexist and homophobic comments.
But in a powerful piece of thought leadership, legal academic Joellen Riley Muntons makes some really important points about managing reputational damage from employees expressing their views outside the workplace.
It’s well worth reading her whole story here, but I took two things from it:
Fair Work is an angle best left to the experts, although communicators need to be across it to manage the stakeholder impact. But I do have a view on value signalling and contrition.
TL/DR: It’s critical but you have to get it right. Still interested – keep reading for how and why.
Fox Sports Reporter Tom Morris was publicly humiliated by Western Bulldogs Coach Luke Beveridge in a media conference. Beveridge crossed a line and the club immediately issued an apology which did the trick: It scored well on my Sin, Sacrifice, Sincerity matrix to evaluate apologies.
Then the spotlight turned on Morris.
Fox had no choice but to suspend him pending an investigation – the public backlash and potential loss of subscribers and advertising revenue was too great.
Remember Israel Folau’s toxic hate speech in 2019, which saw his contract terminated, and Pete Evans’ sacking from My Kitchen Rules? The employers were backed into a corner by the tone-deaf employees who, possibly despite their contractual obligations, insisted on their right to publicly air their views, however damaging.
It’s possible that some sign of understanding, compassion and contrition may have saved their pay cheques – but they refused to play the game. Morris did issue an apology which should have helped, but he needed to seal the deal with a resignation to show true contrition. And having listened to the leaked audio it was really inappropriate.
When your reputation is under attack your leadership team must understand how it plays out in the court of public opinion and the importance of a simple by timely response.
If you'd like more information drop me a line. You might like to read:
CommBank’s Mea Culpa
United Apology Fuels Outrage