Sophie Ryan is a Business Herald digital journalist.

Chiefs stripper saga was handled badly, PR guru Bill Ralston says

The handling of allegations that Chiefs rugby players were involved in inappropriate contact with a stripper is among the worst crisis management ever seen by a PR guru.

Bill Ralston, director of Deadline Ltd, told Newstalk ZB the public relations management that followed the allegations was "one of the worst pieces of handling of a crisis" he had ever seen.

When the allegations arose that Chiefs rugby players had inappropriately touched a stripper at the team's Mad Monday celebrations the franchise's boss had cast doubts on the credibility of the allegations.

In a later press conference, Andrew Flexman said he was "really, really disappointed" a stripper had been hired and "did not condone" that decision.

The Chiefs' major sponsor, Gallagher Group, has supported the franchise and corporate services executive Margaret Comer said she was "reluctant to say that the boys were out of line"

"If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her," Comer told Fairfax.

Ralston said the only person to have come out of the saga with "any credit" was All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

"[He] came sailing through the middle of it all and took his All Blacks brand out of the argument and moved on," Ralston said.

Ralston said the team should have followed the PR mantra: CAP, which means showing concern first, then taking action, then putting the event into perspective.

Comer's comments were damaging, Ralston said.

"I don't think [she] has done herself any good, her company any good or the Chiefs any good with that comment. It's just wound the whole thing up even more."

Three other PR disasters

1. The Abstain for the Game campaign

Telecom's 2011 'Abstain for the Game' television ad was leaked to media and caused lead to an international public slating of the campaign which asked people to refrain from sex during the Rugby World Cup. The entire campaign was then pulled before it officially launched.

2. National Party v Eminem

In 2014 the National Party used music that sounded similar to Eminem's smash single Lose Yourself. The company that owns the rights to the song brought legal action against National and the story went global. Steven Joyce was quoted around the world as saying he thought using the music was "pretty legal".

3. Hilary Barry's exit from MediaWorks

In a shock move, TV3's star newsreader Hilary Barry was off contract and the announcement was made she would be leaving the company. MediaWorks said it was disappointed Barry was leaving, but she hadn't been in negotiations with TVNZ about a position at the state broadcaster. Media insiders say Barry is making the move to TVNZ and is expected to front Breakfast, going head-to-head with her former show Paul Henry on TV3.

- NZ Herald

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