PGA public relations crisis

Taking a Swing at the PGA

Over the last few years, golf has exploded in terms of popularity with the number of players out there and viewers watching each event. 

Yesterday’s news of the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) coming together to create one unified organization might have put the game’s growth in jeopardy. There is a lot of negative perception based on this merger as Saudi Arabia is backing the PIF and the LIV Golf Tour, and the PGA will be seen as being highly hypocritical since they have blasted LIV on this issue in the past. However, the PGA is now comfortable with receiving money from the same people.

According to the PGA news release: “The parties have signed an agreement that combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.”

There is an argument to be made that this represents an opportunity and overall growth for the game. The decision to unite multiple prominent golf entities in the sport can be seen as commendable, but the PGA Tour could have communicated the announcement and change in a better way to enhance the overall perception and mitigate potential concerns.

From our perspective as a public relations firm, we want to take a crack at a few strategies we would have recommended if the PGA Tour were a client to ensure a more positive and transparent environment during this crucial period of change.

Timing is Everything:

One major aspect the PGA Tour could have improved upon is the timing of the announcement. Ideally, the organization should have prepared a coordinated strategy to communicate the merger’s details simultaneously across various platforms. Krakoff Communications could have helped develop a comprehensive communications plan outlining the key messaging, developed a press release, an FAQ document and direct communication to key stakeholders (including the players) well before the final decision was announced. It’s just bad form for any important stakeholders to be caught by surprise and learn about a big announcement from the media or social media instead of the organization itself. 

By leveraging a strategic communications plan, the PGA Tour could have effectively disseminated merger-related information, ensuring more clarity and consistency across all communication platforms.

Clear and Concise Messaging:

When announcing a significant development such as a merger like this, it is crucial to provide clear and concise messaging to avoid misinterpretation. Over the last 24 hours, a variety of factual and false items have made their way into social media and news outlets. The PGA Tour could have created a dedicated forum to address the merger’s purpose, goals and potential benefits for the players, fans and sponsors. If they were a client, we would have helped the PGA Tour identify compelling narratives surrounding the news of the merger and craft a story that builds excitement rather than confusion.

Strategic Media Engagement:

Engaging with the media strategically would have been an asset for the PGA Tour. Media training could have been conducted to prepare key PGA Tour representatives, ensuring they are well-prepared to communicate the merger’s details to journalists and address any potential concerns. Using simulated interviews and practical techniques prior to the news of the merger launching, we could have equipped spokespersons with the skills to deliver concise and compelling messages to reassure all stakeholders. 

So far, the PGA seems to have been totally unprepared for the backlash, and the President of the PGA admitted people will see him as being hypocritical without any reasoning to the contrary. Just today, after receiving major push-back from the families of 9/11 victims, he said it was a mistake to make the announcement before talking to them first. Again, this is a result of poor planning and anticipation.

Most organizations need to make big decisions and then must announce them both internally and externally. The PGA and its new partner organizations don’t appear to have done nearly as much strategic planning as they should have in the way everything was communicated, and this is a great lesson for all organizations.


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