Full disclosure: I work in PR. I advise clients on how to work with media, how to get their message out and how to protect their brands.
The puff piece with Richard Peddie in Sunday’s Toronto Star is a brilliant bit of maneuvering and a textbook example of what good media relations can do.
The client (Peddie) is getting trashed on every message board and at every water cooler. The talking heads all wondering about which heads should roll at MLSE (see here, here, here and here. Oh and here, and discussion threads here and here. The dedicated website seems to be down, but there's so damn much of it you can just goolge it for yourself.)
So Peddie does a sit down with a reporter – no more than four or five questions (most of them are softballs, right across the plate) and he comes out of the interview looking like a nice guy who would never meddle in the day to day sports operations (that's a fantastic quote Peddie offered up comparing his style to JP Ricciardi).
In terms of planning and execution – well done MLSE.
To the Toronto Star – I say shame on you. You call this journalism? You get an exclusive with this guy and you decide to ask him about his worst job? How does he answer his critics? His attendance at concerts?
If it was a condition of the interview that MLSE pre-screen the questions, you should have turned down the piece or put a full disclosure up front as to the terms and conditions.
If I was at the Star and had Peddie in my sights, here are 10 questions I would have asked*:
- At the conclusion of the 2003-2004 season the lockout was imminent. How long did you expect the lockout to last and what was that estimation based on?
- Toronto's financial clout was a real advantage for the team under the old labour agreements. What was MLSE's reaction to the NHL CBA and the hard cap?
- Did you think all of the changes and new rules that were to be introduced in the 2005-2006 season would stick? Or did you have a feeling that, like previous attempts at crackdowns in the NHL, these changes would be out the door by Christmas?
- Once the CBA was agreed to in principle, did JFJ approach the board looking to buy-out any of the existing contracts?
- What was your take when you saw other teams in your salary bracket buying out contracts – Philly, Detroit, New York Rangers – to get more flexibility under the cap?
- You mentioned that you’ve never stepped in to prevent a trade or a player move – have you ever encouraged a trade, a signing, a draft or any other player personnel decisions?
- There has been much talk of “the Plan” going forward for the Leafs. Do you think the organization has effectively communicated what this plan is to fans?
- You said, “I still think John Ferguson — John Ferguson's 36, 37 — has the potential to be a really good general manager.” Is that what this hockey market deserves? Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup. Shouldn’t this team have a GM that’s a little more seasoned and a little more qualified than a guy who you just described as having "the potential to be a really good GM?" As a fan, I want the best GM on the market, not a guy who has potential. As an organization, the Leafs are one of the most recognizable sports brands in the world, is a guy with "the potential to be a really good GM" the one you want steering the ship?
- Is MLSE considering hiring a President of hockey operations? If no, why not?
- It's been said that everyone at MLSE undergoes a review in May. Walk me through that process for the GM and Coach - what are the goals these individuals are expected to meet?
*In all honesty, I probably would have completely chickened out and asked him about what it's like to work for the Leafs and tried to score tickets or a press pass. Probably would have folded like a cheap suit after question 4.