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Pucks and PR

Because hockey is more than just a game

A core concept of public relations is that of open and honest communication. This seemingly simple concept continues to be taught to PR practitioners. Disturbingly, this isn’t a universally implemented policy. Businesses continue to adhere to it in theory but not in practice.

In the NHL, teams continue to fall victim to systems of poor information sharing.

The new reality of the NHL is that information reaches the public at an alarming rate. Trades, signings, hiring and firings are all part of a sporting organization’s product. As such, teams should want to control the information regarding them.

In any situation, a business always has a better public image when they control messaging and information regarding their business operations, practices and procedures. A consumer is always more trusting of a business when they are the source of information. If that information is distributed by a third party, the image is always one of secrecy whether or not that was actually the intention.

Contract terms – cap hit and length – are essential pieces of information for the modern hockey fan. Within a salary cap environment, contracts have a huge impact on performance and operations of a team. As such, contracts are tracked, debated and contended by fans.

The majority of teams in the NHL have a policy to not release contract terms. In a world of social media and well connected journalists, those contract terms are often leaked online and then later confirmed – or denied – by the team. During that lag, between release and confirmation, teams lose control of the messaging.

TSN’s Scott Cullen has been pointing out teams on Twitter who release contract details immediately. Among them are the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames. The interesting thing that those both inside and outside of the hockey world can learn is that being identified as an open organization creates instant positive image. If an organization is spoken of in positive terms, then the reaction is positive.

Teams may consider contract terms to be a small piece of information, or even trivial in the grand scheme of things. But if the information is so minor or trivial, why withhold it? Closed communication on small issues only makes the image of secrecy even more pronounced.

This is an important situation to consider in any business. Why allow others to control your information and messaging if it isn’t necessary? Control the information and you control the situation.

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