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James Perrin

Arsenal FC See the Power of Online PR

14th Nov 2011 Social Media 3 minutes to read

Arsenal LogoIncreasingly, more and more brands are turning to the power of online PR and social media as a way of engaging and promoting their brand, products and services to a wider audience. According to Peter Wood, writing for The Wall, this now extends to the realms of Premier League football teams too.

Arsenal FC have recently taken on a blogger outreach programme to gain positive PR concerning their medical staff, who have come under huge scrutiny in recent years regarding the amount of injuries their players appear to suffer. But is the blogger outreach concept any good?

Well, it really depends on what your brand is, who your loyal followers are and what you’re trying to achieve. In the case of Arsenal FC, their attempts to gain positive online PR for their medical team had actually worked well in terms of the sheer number of social media mentions thanks to positively written blog posts from loyal fans.

So what was the problem then? Well Arsenal FC’s medical team have long attracted criticism for the treatment of their players, with many of Arsenal’s players finding their way on the treatment table initially for a short while, only then for the injury to worsen. This often meant that the player would be out of first team action for a while, with Thomas Rosicky, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby as notable examples.

Now the club would always strongly deny that their medical staff or medical facilities have caused such extended injury problems to their players, but even so, the club have looked towards improving facilities on a constant basis. Most recently this has meant opening a new state of the art medical centre at the club’s training ground. Unfortunately for Arsenal FC, their brand was particularly damaged regarding the issue of medical matters and their players, to the point where this story covered no ground whatsoever initially.

Cue the blogger outreach programme. Knowing that they needed to generate much more publicity regarding their new facilities, Arsenal FC invited many loyal fans and followers, some of whom were also prominent bloggers to see the developments for themselves and speak to both the Head Physio and Club Doctor. After which this particular story grew in prominence; as Peter Wood reveals, there were 957 social mentions, 5 blog posts, as well as hundreds of Facebook Likes and Tweets.

For Arsenal FC, this particular campaign for this story was deemed a success, but only in terms of online PR.  If injured payers continue to stay on the treatment table for longer than necessary, they will need more than online PR to help their cause. However suffice to say that in terms of gaining positive PR for their new facilities, the campaign worked. They knew the power online PR and by being transparent about their facilities, they were able to engage with their followers and fans to help their cause.

So what can brands learn from this? Well it pays to be as open as possible and to open up a dialogue with the people that matter the most. For online PR, that means communicating with the most important bloggers and social media followers, it mean engaging with followers and listening to what they have to say.

This will only work for big brands, especially if those brands have loyal followers, especially in the case for Arsenal FC. The bigger the brand, the more important it is to engage with your followers. However, it doesn’t always necessarily work, and as an example we only need to cast our eyes back to May when Facebook hired the PR services of Burson-Marsteller to defame Google who were allegedly siphoning data from their site [See: Facebook Caught Besmirching the Good Name of Google].

The campaign totally backfired and was a lesson in how to not use an online PR strategy in this way. It very much has to be about generating positivity surrounding a brand, and it’ll only work if followers and fans are completely convinced themselves, and once again this usually means that the brand has to open up a dialogue with the followers. With more and more emphasis being placed on social media, the best people to help with any online PR campaign are those in the know about your brand, the people who buy your products and services, your fans as it were.

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