So England return home from Brazil, their World Cup dreams dashed and the reputation of manager Roy Hodgson left in tatters.
The team’s early elimination from this, the most social sporting event ever, has fuelled a fire of criticism that has spread far and fast across Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media stratosphere.
• This World Cup is being watched by a television audience of 3.6 billion, that’s half the world’s population.
• Facebook predicts that 500 million of its global community of 1.28 billion users are football fans.
• 350 thousand tweets about the World Cup are being sent every single day, that’s according to the journalism website Mediabistro
This is all a far cry from the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, which was the last time an England team performed as badly as this. Television audiences then were tiny and Tim Berners-Lee, the man who went on to invent the world wide web, celebrated his 3rd birthday just three weeks before Brazil beat Sweden in the final.
Walter Winterbottom was England’s manager at the time. Despite the nation’s disappointment, he faced a fraction of the pressure that the current incumbent Roy Hodgson is forced to cope with. This lack of media and public pressure helped Winterbottom to keep hold of his job for four more years. He later received a knighthood for his outstanding contribution to English football.
The picture looks very different for Roy Hodgson. Pre-World Cup he had a reputation for being a cautious, defensive-minded coach. Ahead of the tournament something of a brand re-launch made him everyone’s favourite as he was seen to "back the kids".
The kids though failed to perform, England lost and the manager’s fragile reputation has been left in tatters.
The challenge now for the FA is to rebuild confidence in their chosen manager and to repair his reputation:
• Consistent Messaging- the word coming out of Wembley has been clear and consistent, so far. Hodgson says he won’t resign and the chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, has already given him the dreaded vote of confidence.
• Online advocates – supporters of Roy Hodgson were quickly rolled out to support the current England boss. Within hours of England’s exit being confirmed, Wayne Rooney, (9 million+ Twitter followers) apologised on behalf of the players. This deflected some of the attention away from his manager. England goalkeeper Joe Hart went further by saying that he and his team mates were proud to play for Hodgson. Much more of this is required over the next few weeks and months.
LET’S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY:
• Influencer engagement – strategies here have been much less effective so far. Some of those who are most influential online quickly distanced themselves from the England manager. Celebrities Piers Morgan (4 million+ followers) and Ricky Gervais (5.8 million+ followers) were amongst those who were quick to tweet but their messages were much less favourable:
• Public opinion - In its poll of fans 68% of Sportsmail readers said that they wanted Roy Hodgson to go. A similar survey, conducted by the Mirror, resulted in 61% of its readers saying that he should be replaced. With England out of the competition, newspaper back pages still have to be filled. Readers enjoy a good survey so there will be more of these to come. Watch out too for the theories on who will replace him as manager. There are headlines in this type of speculative story too.
AND THERE’S MORE:
• Media tours – the clamour for interviews with Roy Hodgson is going to increase. "No comment" is not an option for him, after all he’s the England manager. Executed well these media opportunities can play a major part in reputation management strategies. To succeed Hodgson’s tone will be as important as what he says. In order to win over fans he needs to be seen to be sharing their hurt and disappointment as well as showing a steely determination to get it right next time, if he’s given the chance. Click here to see a winning way to conduct a media tour.
• Keeping in touch – perhaps most important of all for the Football Association is to keep an eye and ear on the changing mood of the nation. The views of the FA cannot afford to be at odds with those of the fans for long. Advisors at Wembley will be looking for that tipping point when sentiment towards Roy Hodgson begins to change. Media monitoring tools and social media tracking will provide them with the hard evidence. If, however, the mood doesn’t change the FA will eventually have to take the necessary action to protect the reputation of the England football team, even if it is at the expense of the manager.
SUCCESS OR FAILURE:
With no matches to play until the autumn it will be the success of these reputation management strategies that will determine whether Roy Hodgson continues as the England manager, or not.
A good reputation should not be taken for granted. The growth of social media means that it only takes a second, or the time that Balotelli took to head in a goal, to damage one.
It takes a great deal of work to rebuild and restore a brand's public profile once it has been tarnished.
For more information and advice about reputation management, read about Core Management's approach to protecting a brand.
Keith Beech is director of Core Management – Crisis, Organisation and Reputation which is part of the Nexus Communications Group.