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What Manchester United’s season tells us about PR

February 1, 2019

The end of Jose Mourinho’s reign at Manchester United came as no surprise for even the most casual of football fans.

Under Mourinho, this season on the pitch Manchester United were variable, to put it as positively as possible. Already by the start of December they’d conceded more goals at home than they did in the whole of last season. Since club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, they’ve won seven games in a row, a new Premier League record.

Meanwhile, by contrast, their rivals Manchester City are doing well. Locked in a thrilling race for the Premiership title with Liverpool, playing aesthetically pleasing football, (scoring a goal and half every game more than any of their rivals).

Now look at this chart on google of searches for each of the clubs. You would expect Manchester City to be garnering the attention in the same way that they are raking in points. However, Manchester United are taking way more of the British traffic.

For one example, on 24 November, while Manchester City were beating West Ham 4-0, Manchester United drew with Crystal Palace 0-0. And yet Manchester United got around four times the traffic.

Indeed the only times in the whole season that Manchester City have crossed over and got more attention than their rivals have been since Solskjaer took over.

So why during a time of comparative failure were Manchester United getting the media and attention? And what does this tell us about PR in general?

 

Size matters

The most obvious answer to why United get the views is that, by most metrics, Manchester United are a bigger club than their city rivals, with a larger global fanbase, more trophies and a more involved history. If people are more interested in something then they want to read about it.

And so while you might be looking for the cleverest angle to publicise a product, don’t overlook the obvious because you think it is over or has “been done”. People like the things they like and there’s absolutely no shame in acknowledging this. To mix footballing metaphors, route one tactics can work.

To expand this out, this also holds for the publications and outlets you get featured in. While it’s possible to be snobby about mass media, it remains an important part of our culture.

 

Don’t be afraid of the negative

What is more interesting to the casual supporter: An account of Jose Mourinho losing his temper with a player or an interview with a player who has won his fifth game in a row?

If you want people to read something, there’s more drama in the negative.

Brands can be scared of pointing out the problem to which they are the solution. They shouldn’t be. Sometimes people want to hear bad news and it’s even better if you can offer them a solution at the same time.

Even if the problem or negative element are directly to do with the area where your product lies, there should be no short-to-medium term effects if you have a solid product. Manchester United fans are capable of still loving their team, even if they read bad things about their manager, the players refuse to play or they watch some terrible performances. So, if there was a negative story to do with the Premier League, fans would read it and it has literally no impact on their favourite club.

 

Social media matters

According to a report from Newton Insight, Manchester United’s Facebook following is 26 million larger than Chelsea, their closest rival, while they are also adding more fans on Twitter and Instagram than any other team. In fact, their fans make up 30 percent of all Premier League supporters on social networks, and their share of engagement is even higher, at around 40 per cent.

 

Stories can take a while

Manchester City won the league last year and look a superb outfit, however their supremacy is not going to translate into immediate sales, or extra media coverage. However, if it continues then, younger, more casual fans will be brought along with them. Sometimes, you’re just going to have to wait to get the cut through you want.

 

By Jon Horsley, News and Digital Editor at GingerComms

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