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PR IN FOCUS | It just wasn't cricket

Thursday 05, Apr 2018

Despite the chill descending on relations with Russia and a horror week for global tech companies - a tragic shooting at YouTube HQ, Facebook still reeling from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Amazon losing $60 billion in market value and Tesla’s tone deaf April Fools bankruptcy announcement - it was a small piece of sandpaper that dominated the Australian news.

Yes, yes, it was what was done with the sandpaper that just wasn’t cricket. The nation’s media was swiftly howling for blood and oh, did they get it. Three international cricketers saw their careers spiral, sponsors abandoned ship, heartfelt and tear-laden apologies were given, the coach fell on his sword and an investigation into team culture began.

In communications terms, the advice is usually to go above and beyond what’s expected in dealing with a crisis. To act swiftly and decisively. And that’s exactly what happened - the band of three were slapped with heavy, possibly career-ending bans.

But in the wake of former captain Steve Smith’s raw-but-responsible press conference, something interesting happened. The strength of the sanctions were questioned. Perspective was suddenly given as a wave of social posts compared previous slap-on-the-wrist penalties to year-long suspensions. Questions were asked - did Cricket Australia go too far? Did they move too quickly? The answers will undoubtedly unfold over coming months.

Steve Smith yesterday opted to cop it sweet and not challenge his unprecedented punishment. Some would argue that his actions show leadership under fire. While he has some serious soul searching, repair and recovery to do, if he should decide to return to the public eye, my bet is he’ll be met with a good deal of empathy.

Susan Redden Makatoa FPRIA, Honorary Secretary of PRIA