This seven-part series has considered whether sport PR needs the introduction of a bigger and a more detailed social media policy to prevent reputation damage and conflict arising between the individual and the organisation they represent.
The hypothesis set out for the research sought to prove how ‘Social Media policies in sports organisations need to address abuse by individuals to avoid negative effects on corporate reputation and control corporate image’. PR theory was considered to understand the demands of corporate reputation and how they are affected by the use of social media, and found wanting when it came to understanding the unique relationship between sportspeople and their organisations, as well as between clubs and their fans.
Secondary research laid the foundation to illustrate what kinds of stories are published via social media.Content analysis revealed the extent and nature of the problem, with three different categories of twitter traffic identified – tweeters, who help a corporate reputation, twits who are relatively harmless but not helpful and twats, who can be positively destructive.
The content analysis conducted on eleven sportspeople demonstrated, overwhelmingly, that inappropriate social media use is common throughout sport. That is not to say this use is always a negative, rather it includes missing opportunities to enhance the corporate reputation of one’s team. Footballers are the obvious target considering their global impact, but it is up to their corporate communicators to set policy and lead by example. Football already has a somewhat tarnished reputation and the fact it does not apply social media guidelines to common practice inevitably makes reputation management even more difficult.