Sign Off Process: Don’t Dally Because of Dele Alli

by Chris Fairbairn

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Why businesses should pay close attention to Tottenham’s response to star’s howler – Scottish PR agency

Dele Alli image to illustrate blog-post sign off | Scottish PR agency

NEVER before have football fans had such access to their idols. 


Top players are increasingly showing technical expertise off the pitch, connecting with their audiences across platforms in smart, funny and insightful ways.


They are often among the first to utilise the latest on-trend platforms – and can demonstrate real creativity. Just take a look at Messrs Pogba or Sterling’s outputs if that sounds fanciful.


But this freedom comes at a cost. Young, cosseted, worshiped and extremely wealthy – these young men deal with a whole different world to the vast majority of us.


They are naturally prone to howlers, whether outright bizarre (remember Patrice Evra licking raw chicken?) or entirely ignorant and ill-judged, like Dele Alli’s recent coronavirus skit.


The response to this has seen critics on the likes of TalkSport urge clubs to rein in their stars’ freewheeling social media ‘insights’ – with some even calling for clubs to ban players from social media – or worse – insist on club approval for all the content they produce.


While Dele’s dalliance with xenophobia could cost Spurs, by resulting in a playing ban, the prospect of teams of social media execs scrutinising and sanitising every tweet, story or message will not end satisfactorily for anyone.

It raises a pertinent point for businesses too. One that as a PR agency, we deal with every single day.

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How strict, rigid and extensive should our “sign off protocol” be? 


While there is no strictly “right or wrong” answer to this, as PRs we see all extremes – from the relaxed to 15-layer-strong.


Clearly, sign-off must ensure that nothing is distributed on behalf of the business that is erroneous, incriminating or damagingly off-message.


But strictly speaking, those at the top of the chain of command should be able to entrust the appropriate people to ensure sign off is kept as reasonable – and timely – as possible. Leave the subtleties of language to the experts.


Why is over-control a problem? 


Besides the obvious financial time-cost (at both sides!) that layer upon layer of sign-off poses, there are multiple reasons why complexity can be crippling.


It can wholly undermine trust in your media consultant, whether in-house or external. It questions outright their ability to reflect the organisation in the best possible light.


Quotes, comments or articles that have been pored over by multiple people can often lose their essence or fluidity, instead appearing for what they are – boring pieces of work created by committee.


In response to a live media enquiry, that delay can wreck the chances of a strong or positive showing, instead relegating your comment to a “bolt-on” – or if a deadline is missed – the dreaded “unavailable to comment”.


The solution


Clearly, no two businesses are the same and everyone has different sign-off requirements.


Within that, different pieces of content will require different approaches – a response to a business-critical crisis doesn’t warrant the same scrutiny as a kids-team sponsorship.


From our own perspective we want to ensure we’re putting out the right message, without anything that could be deemed misleading or false.


Efficiency is the aim of the game, and I’d urge all organisations to consider from the outset the fastest-achievable route to satisfactory approval, as well as clarity over when and where the process warrants escalation to the top echelons.


Yes, that may mean letting go of some control for the greater good.


Hopefully, Tottenham will understand this and instead of enforcing a cumbersome process, they’ll better educate their players on what is and what isn’t acceptable.


Let our Scottish PR agency navigate sign-off and help you with your media presence

Regardless how streamlined your approval process is or isn’t, our experience allows us to work with you to deliver your stories in an effective manner.

We believe that fundamentally, our work boosts workplace morale as well as the bottom line.

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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