Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

2020 will always be a year that will be etched in every single one of our minds forever. A year that has tested every single individual and as the saying goes “it’s in time of adversity that we meet the real person”. That is a saying that we can truly relate to this year, in the extreme challenges that Covid-19 has brought us. We have seen in the actions of our supposed ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ the real person and morals of the person and in terms of politics, the parties and people that are supposed to be leading our country. 

We have seen this in our own country, that a deadly virus that put the health and future of our constituents in danger, the political leaders could still not abolish the infamous tags of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This came in the most direct way of Sinn Fein following the actions of our Counterparts in Dublin, whilst the DUP following the actions of just across the water.  Either way many could argue that they have failed to lead with any sense of logic or integrity, coming with the latest inability to reach a decisive decision over the recent ‘circuit breaker’. 

The PR of the political parties in this country has taken a dent, as would have been an invaluable opportunity to portray a level of togetherness and solidarity and to show how much we have moved on. Instead, the pandemic has shown the same old attitudes of old with Jim Allister’s “Dungannon park” comments, Edwin Poots comments about “Covid-19 being prominent in Nationalist areas” and Sinn Fein accusing the DUP of “wasting time”. 

Although, the actions of our own political leaders have been detrimental to the PR to political parties, we have not been on our own which may of some comfort.  Just over the water, Boris Johnsons chief advisor Dominic Cummings travelled 260 miles to self-isolate with his family throwing into disarray all the Governments previous efforts and all self-sacrifice that people had made. This was an action that damaged the reliability of the British government  

It wasn’t just the integrity and morals of our political parties that we learned about during this pandemic, major business owners and worldwide companies also made error of judgements giving us all an insight into their true values.  Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) was branded one of the villains of the Covid-19 pandemic after he laid some of his staff off unpaid.  It was a highly unpopular move and one that was branded an “avoidable PR disaster”.  Richard Fuller, the Tory when describing the Richard Branson sage and when talking about business owners at this time in general stated “Big or small—in a small village, a leader of a church or a leader of a large business—when it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions.”  This is a very powerful message that demonstrates that actions taken at this time will go a long way on how a company is seen and something that could build or devalue their reputation.  Although, Bransons actions were largely criticised, many Virgin employees leapt to his defence with Jenny Hall declaring “At least this is better than having to make redundancies. The unpaid leave will be spread out over the yearly salary. I personally would take this option over losing my job. 

Mike Ashley (owner of Sports Direct chain) came under enormous scrutiny and was later forced to apologised after his chain sent an email to the Prime Minister insisting that his shop should be allowed to open on the basis that it is an essential service. An action that Ashley described as “ill-judged and badly timed”, and later he wrote a letter explaining that his communication to his staff and the public was poor and stated “”I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”. This was a disastrous PR stunt for Mr Ashley who was later described as valuing profit over the safety of human life. 

It wasn’t just business owners that came under fire for decisions made through this pandemic, the two finalists from the 2019 European cup final and two of the richest football clubs in the world came under huge scrutiny. The two clubs revealed that they were placing staff on the furlough scheme, taking government money. Both clubs didn’t just come under pressure from immediate public but from their supporters.  Former Liverpool FC player Stan Collymore revealed “I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff. Fellow football fans, furlough is for small business staff to keep those small businesses from going bump”. As a Liverpool supporter myself, I was simply embarrassed and disgusted by this action, and action that Liverpool FC later apologised for and backtracked.  A club that has always held itself with such dignity, had now shown itself in a light that previous members of the club ensured that it would be something that they would never be known for.  

On a lighter note, someone that has portrayed himself in the most positive of lights is the 21-year-old Marcus Rashford. The young Manchester United and England player received huge plaudits from all over the country for his tireless work in campaigning for free school meals for kids. The award saw Rashford receive an MBE and the City of Manchester award. Lord Mayor of Manchester Tommy Judge said it was “remarkable” to see him “give a voice to the powerless”. 

These previous examples we have seen just how these trying times have really revealed some people character and tested their character to the core. 

Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

GAAs Response to Covid-19 and the effects upon its PR

GAAs Response to Covid-19 and the effects upon its PR

The GAAs response to Covid-19 was nothing short of decisive and responsible, and led by example compared to other sporting organisations and political institutions.

The 12th March 2020 is a date that will forever be embedded in our minds as the GAA called a halt to all GAA activity. Club gates were locked, social clubs shut and stadiums up and down the country seemed eerily quiet.  It was nervous times, not just for the GAA, but for the whole of society.  These unprecedented times had resulted in uneasiness and a fear amongst many.  We didn’t know the strange times that lay ahead, not just for our games, but the financial instability in people’s lives, the future and safety of our loved ones and in particular the vulnerable in our community.

The overall GAA response was favourable and certainly done their PR no harm apart from the odd hitch or debateable decision. But given the unpredictability of these times, we can forgive them for that.  They called a halt to all activity before our governmental institutions, before Downing Street and before Mr Trump, as well as multi-million pound institutions such as the Premier League and the Cheltenham Racing festival.  In contrast, the Cheltenham festival welcomed 250,000 spectators from all over the UK, Ireland and beyond travel through its gates that week.  This action was highly detrimental to the PR and integrity of the sport and a decision that was described by many as highly irresponsible and dangerous.

As we then entered the first weeks of lockdown and adopted to our new ways of life, the community value of our GAA family kicked in, and overall possessed themselves in the brightest of lights, and was very beneficial to the PR of the organisation.  Communities came together as one as they had done so many times before.  From delivering groceries and meals to the elderly and vulnerable, providing virtual entertainment for the youth, raising much needed funds from events such as sponsored runs, and even providing PPE for the key workers and the heroes in our society. There were even promotional videos made of the importance of staying at home, most notably the Ardboe O Donnovan Rossa club in Co Tyrone.  A survey carried out by the GAAs community and health department sent to 1,600 clubs across Ireland and abroad returned responses from 1,090 GAA clubs and shows that more than 19,000 club members have been involved in the provision of support to more than 34,500 people.  These actions portray the very best aspect and identity of our wonderful games.  It was all great PR for the GAA, and showed an organisation that people would be proud to be a part of, as well as encouraging their children and future generations to play an active role in.

Above: Photo shows members of the GAA community delivering goods to the vulnerable
The appeal video that was done by the Ardboe O Donnovan Rossa club in Co Tyrone

Three long months had gone by; no training, no matches, no craic with the lads, but on the 5th June 2020, we got that message of hope that we had craved.  The GAA announced the ‘gaelic games safe return roadmap’.  It was another responsible decision made by the GAA, it was seen as a safe return that would prove highly beneficial to the morale of the country and more importantly, to the physical and mental welfare of our players, members and supporters.  Water breaks, separate water bottles, limited spectators and no changing areas. Okay, there were differences. Perhaps, this was the ‘new normal’, but we were just so thrilled to be back.  The GAA were seen to be providing hope and joy at a time when it was so badly needed.

As we began to enjoy ‘some’ familiar scenes; the points, the goals and big Championship wins and the overwhelming joy and emotion that comes with those wins.  However, these emotions sometimes reached a boundary, a boundary that would prove detrimental to the PR of the GAA.  One obvious example was Dungannon Clarke’s invasion of the pitch in Healy Park, Omagh.  Yes, it was their first championship win in 52 years, yes the overwhelming joy and raw emotion of such an achievement can bring uncontrollable actions, but these outpouring of emotions were seen as dangerous and detrimental.  These pictures provided bad PR for the GAA, especially at a time when numbers were beginning to rise again in our country.  Arlene Foster described the scenes as “detrimental to the health of others”.

Picture above shows Dungannon Clarkes pitch invasion

Just one week later, the GAA was yet again receiving more negative PR with an appeared lack of social distancing at the Derry County Final between Magherafelt and Slaughtneill, which was held in Bellaghy.  The GAAs decision of not choosing a larger venue and the supporters in attendance lack of cohesion provided much unneeded bad PR following the events of the week before. Health minister Robin Swann stated that he was “disappointed and angry” at the scenes that he saw at the game.

The Derry Co Final which received much criticism due to the lack of social distancing which can be seen
Another picture showing the lack of social distancing

In response to the negative PR, Ulster GAA chief executive Brian McEvoy admitted that there was a direct link between Covid-19 clusters and County Finals due to the crowds that had developed and also some of the celebrations that had occurred in club houses and bars after the games.

Despite these negatives, the GAA have reddemed in some way their previous faults by calling another halt to all GAA  activity.  Again they acted promptly as our country in particular was struggling to control the spread of this virus.

Of course, we are unsure what lies ahead, but the PR of the GAA has been favourable and despite the odd hitch, which all organizations and government institutions can be guilty of given these extraordinary times that we are going through.

Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.