13th Mar 2018 by Andy Barr

The Jamie Carragher spitting issue is actually a PR masterclass in crisis communications

There is no doubt that Jamie Carragher has had a tough week of it, brought on by his own shocking actions. Let me be clear from the start, I am a massive Carragher fan and an even bigger Liverpool fan. His "moment of madness" of spitting at a rival fan who had been goading him has been comprehensively documented elsewhere but what has not been analysed so far is his brilliant crisis communication public relations plan.

I have worked in crisis communications for over 20 years now. This has been for a range of companies and industries such as an ex-government electricity brand, bus and rail company FirstGroup, alongside their rivals Stagecoach, and also Unilever and AXA.

It is fair to say that I have managed my fair share of public relations issues in my career and this is why I feel experienced enough to comment on how Jamie Carragher has handled his spitting issue. The below video are my thoughts on how he deployed a classic crisis communications public relations plan in order to convey how sorry he felt and also keep his job.

I am hugely confident that Carragher won't be fired from Sky, not least because of the under-current of support he is receiving, but also because he is a hot commodity in terms of his global appeal when it comes to football analysis.


So, Jamie Carragher has got himself in a bit of trouble this week with spitting gate and whilst the story itself is pretty unsavoury, from a crisis comm's point of view it is actually really interesting. Carragher has done everything right, no doubt advised by some fantastic PR people and the comms team at Sky Sports.

If we go through it, in terms of crisis comms, he has done everything by the book.

Number one, he's apologised straight away for his sins. He apologised on Twitter and announced that he had apologised to the family in question. In crisis comm's terms it is always important to apologise, where you can, without admitting liability and getting yourself in legal troubles. If you can apologise, you should apologise straight away and that is what Carragher did.

Number two, Carragher then got out on the front foot and went to all the news channels and did interviews, he didn't shy away from it and didn't duck away and that's always the most important thing from a crisis comm's point of view, to get your most senior person, in this case, Jamie Carragher, out there and facing the media and not ducking out of the way and that is what Carragher did. He answered all the awkward questions he did all the awkward interviews and he did them really well.

He looked really upset, he looked genuine, he used honest language, he kept it simple and did really well.

The other thing that Carragher did, that is very similar to a brand, is that over the years he has built a lot of brand advocates, a lot of people who support him. When people started to pile into Carragher, for example Gary Lineker with his holier than though sort of attitude, Carragher had people like Geoff Shreeves on Twitter sticking up for him. He also, obviously, had Gary Neville who is probably Mr Man United saying "yeah, what Carragher had done is despicable but, he didn't deserve to be sacked for it". Carragher, the same as any other brand, had built up all of those years of goodwill to get people behind him so that when something negative did come along, in this case spitting-gate, he had people there who would support him. This is a really important thing from a crisis comms point of view.

Finally, Carragher has kept his head down over the last few days or the last few hours certainly, and not fed anything else to the 24 hour news media to keep the story alive. He has kept his head down, obviously gone back home now, kept away from London where the media is desperate for the story to continue in order to fill their schedules and time.

I have no doubt the he will keep his job, that Sky Sports will announce that they have investigated this and decided that it was a once in a lifetime incident, he has shown genuine remorse and they don't need to take further action.

I should end by adding that I am a Liverpool fan and a massive Jamie Carragher fan but I think that even in this case that neutral supporters would say that Carragher, outside of the incident itself, which was, as he says, a moment of madness and truly horrible, has handled it really well and obviously had some really good comm's advice.


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