20th April 2015
Liverpool and England footballer Raheem Sterling came in for some stick recently when he decided to undertake an interview with the BBC and attempt to explain why he wouldn’t sign a new £100,000 a week contract at the five times European champions. The youngster said he wanted to concentrate on his football rather than be distracted by putting his signature on a contract that would make him one of the wealthiest 21 year olds on planet earth.
In the post interview analysis Sterling’s agent also got a kicking, notably by the Anfield crowd who chanted, ‘Raheem Sterling, your agent’s a knob’.
It’s difficult to argue with this assessment by the Kop. Sterling’s interview was a particularly ill-conceived PR stunt. His saving grace though is that he didn’t conceive it, his agent did. This car crash advice is no surprise. What does his agent know about managing reputation? In this case, the fragile reputation of a multi-millionaire kid who is totally reliant on the advice he gets on everything from his daily diet to choice of tax haven.
I’ve no doubt football agents are great at using a calculator, not too shabby on tax, or know an accountant who is, and I’m sure they can top and tail a contract, after a solicitor has given it the once over.
This case study in ineptitude does illustrate how public relations is so often assumed one of those soft skills possessed by any fool or football agent.
No doubt many bigger agents have their own highly skilled PR teams in the background providing sound advice and guidance. Not to be confused with the media trainers who are currently re-engineering the personalities of modern sports men and women in favour of one anodyne response after another whenever an interviewer waves a mic at them.
To look after your finances you need an accountant, to look after your legal affairs you need a solicitor, to build a house you need lots of bricks, you get my drift, and to deliver strategic PR for an individual or organisation, you need an expert in public relations, not a willing all-rounder, however well-meaning (or not) they might be.
For example, in my humble little world we work with graphic designers a lot. Once upon a time you’d find me on their shoulder suggesting different colours, a line here, upper case there and why don’t you use a tint across that bit. Thankfully for my current clients I grew up and matured and understood where my skills start and where they stop.
Like me, Raheem’s agent also needs to recognise his limitations.