Sports Pr at Its Best: Jessica Ennis Lets Her Performance on The Track and Field Do All The Talking
Even before this weekend and Jessica Ennis’ record-beating, world class performance in Gotzis, the comments by an unnamed UK Athletics official (most likely now in need of professional reputation management) about Ennis being ‘fat’ were laughable. Now, in light of her performance in which she smashed the British record for a female heptathlete with a total of 6,906 points, the misplaced criticism seems utterly ludicrous; an embarrassment to whoever uttered them in the first place.
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Ennis could have gone out last week when the comments first came to light to rebuff the criticism and to explain, with a deftly written statement, how she was in the shape of her life and was ready to prove it in her upcoming competition. No doubt many sports PR professionals would have been tempted to go down that route, to bury the criticism which many had already condemned, leaving Ennis to concentrate on the task in hand.
Ennis decided instead to employ the most effective reputation management strategy there is. She let her running, throwing and jumping do the talking. She put in the performance of her life, smashing the previous British female heptathlete record set by Denise Lewis in 2000, and reasserted her position at the very top of her multi-discipline sport. She also stuck it to her critics in the process, far more convincingly and satisfyingly, than any written statement would have.
Not every athlete who has faced criticism (and there have been, of course, many) have been in a position to answer their critics in the style that Ennis did at the weekend. In those situations, a media relations strategy is often needed to communicate the facts of the situation and the individual’s response to those facts.
A glance at the front and back pages of all today’s newspapers will quickly tell you that Ennis, of course, is in no need of such a strategy. Hardworking, dedicated, successful, and now record-holding, Ennis is a British athlete rightly being celebrated in all quarters of the press. Let’s hope that come London 2012 there is even more reason to rejoice in Ennis’ success, and an even bigger slice of humble pie to be dished up to whoever made the ‘fat’ comments in the first place…