Walk-on girl row shows why it’s crucial your business knows its audience

by Fraser Clarke

Friday, February 9th, 2018

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The decision to stop having walk-on girls at the darts sparked a national debate and led other sports to reconsider their positions. Scottish PR experts explain why image is crucial for your business.

Scottish PR experts explain why PDC decision can relate to your businessWHEN you think about Darts, what springs to mind?

Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. The cries of ‘one hundreeed and eeeeeighty’ from the raucous crowd. Or the scantily-clad women who accompany the arrow-throwing stars to the oche.

Well the last one on that list no longer applies.

The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) has taken the step to stop using the long-established tradition of using walk-on girls at events.

The move comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal which rocked Hollywood and led to campaigns such the #MeToo movement on social media.

The PDC’s decision has proved divisive, with those on one side of the fence praising them for making a decision which in their opinion stops the objectifying of women, and those in the other saying it’s counter-intuitive, as it removes women’s rights to do the job they want to.

World number one Darts player, Michael Van Gerwen, has backed the decision to end the tradition, however walk-on girl Charlotte Wood, says she loves her job and will lose 60 percent of her earnings now.

Formula One bosses have now followed suit and made the move to get rid of gird girls, who would walk round the pits and join the race leaders on the podium after the event.

So, when a judgement needs to be taken for your business which will likely divide opinion, how do you walk the decision-making tightrope and ensure you make the right choice?

Why must the decision be made?

If you’re making a decision that has the potential to annoy and alienate some customers, there is likely a good reason that it must be made.

It’s unlikely that you have taken the decision on a whim to alter a key aspect of your business and instead, other factors and pressure from elsewhere are probably causing the re-think.

In the case of the PDC, the decision has been taken amidst a backdrop of ever growing media coverage of women’s rights in the media, with the widely publicised Weinstein scandal, the row over the BBC pay gap and, more recently, historic tweets made by new England women’s boss, Phil Neville.

The PDC appear to have taken a proactive stand, largely before other people start to question the use of walk-on girls, however, it has faced backlash from the girls it employed while the decision has sparked debate on talk shows and in newspaper columns.

Another high profile case recently has been the recipe change for Irn Bru.

Again, makers AG Barr, took the decision following new laws and guidance on sugar levels, with the choice leading many avid drinkers to panic buy the last of the old bottles.

In both cases, the decision makers would know that their actions would anger and please people in equal measure.

The key to both is to be aware of the likely reaction and consequence and make sure you’re entirely comfortable and committed to the decision before announcing it to your customers and the wider public.

When is the decision being made?

Like so many things in life, timing is a key element of any successful decision when it comes to business.

Are you making a decision purely because others are? Are you making a decision you don’t believe to be right but feel bound to by external pressures?

The PDC’s decision to remove walk on girls was quickly followed by F1, which has called time on the tradition of grid girls.

Sean Bratches, F1 managing director of commercial operations, said that the custom no longer resonated with “brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”

The PDC and F1 decision was applauded by charities such as the Women’s Sport Trust but both faced a backlash from regular fans across Twitter who were dismayed by the decision.

Therefore it’s crucial that your business is forward-thinking and moves with the times, however, make sure your existing a loyal clientele are kept at the forefront of the decision making process.

A customer base that has been consulted and had the reasoning explained to them is more likely to react well to a break from tradition, as opposed to one that feels a change has been sprung on them out of the blue.

Make sure you know the wider landscape

Having a wider knowledge of the news landscape can help ensure you avoid any PR faux-pas around the timing of a decision.

For example, if the BBC announced a massive pay rise to four of its male stars just now, it wouldn’t be well received against the backdrop of the well-documented gender pay row.

It’s crucial not to become too wrapped up in the world of your business that you fail to notice what’s going on in the world around you when you take a business decision.

Having the nous and knowledge of an expert PR firm can help you navigate the media minefield and choose the best time to announce a new turn for your business.

It can be hard to keep on top of what’s going on in the world of news and how subtle changes can influence the reaction your announcement will receive, but that’s where our Scottish PR exerts can come in and make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality.

If in doubt, call in the experts

The PDC has certainly blazed a trail with its decision to stop using walk-on girls, with F1 closely following and others likely to come under pressure to do the same.

Radio and TV debates have questioned whether boxing should stop using ring walk girls, while some have questioned if the use of cheerleaders should also be stopped at sporting events.

What’s clear is that any decision which will likely divide opinion must be thoroughly considered, and the probably reaction judged well in advance so that steps can be taken to prepare for questions and potential backlash.

Whether you side with champion darts player, Michael Van Gerwen, or are in the camp with Piers Morgan, make sure your business is best prepared by enlisting the help of experts to guide you through the decision making process.

Interested in working with our award-winning Scottish PR agency to help your business get ahead by telling your stories?

If so, get in touch – while we could run a digital campaign for you we could also ensure your reach is widespread, in news, online, video and on social media.

If you’re interested in learning more, simply give us a call on 0131 561 2244 or use the number below:

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Young PR professional Fraser Clarke, who works with public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh, Scotland

Fraser Clarke

Young public relations professional Fraser Clarke is part of the multi award-winning team at Holyrood PR, a leading Scottish PR agency

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