For those who follow the MLB, you’re likely aware that Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has presented a one-time, take-it-or-leave it contract demand to his current employer.
Bautista, of course, let Jays fans know of his contract demand by publicly stating his demands this week.
On the surface, it’s a savvy PR move from the longtime fan favourite for a couple of reasons: 1) He’s well aware of his current popularity with the Jays’ fan base, especially since this happened; and 2) He’s also well aware of the current lack of popularity of the Jays’ new front office regime.
— Michael Revell (@MichaelRevell9) February 23, 2016
Add both those together, and you have a situation ripe for leveraging in the media by this player and his agent (although, as this story progresses, there have also been murmurs of fan discontent with the star’s inflexible demands).
General consensus is that Jose Bautista is being way too greedy with this contract demand. 3 years is perfect but 6 years into his 40s?
— Justin L (@nightwolf99) February 23, 2016
So what are the top three lessons PR professionals can learn from Jose Bautista’s latest play?
1) Timing is everything. It’s no accident Bautista made his contract demand during his annual “state of the team” address at the outset of spring training, while fan interest in the 2016 season is starting to peak (and vitriol against the team’s management group is still festering). For communications professionals, timing when to say what (and how much) by creating a coherent communications plan is just as crucial.
2) Get in front of the story before it gets in front of you. By naming his price before his contract issue had registered in the media (most chatter before now had centred on a possible extension for Edwin Encarnacion), Bautista and his agent have been able to control the story early (online news mentions of “Jose Bautista” and “contract” jumped nearly 5,400 per cent from Feb. 21 to 22, after his comments). It’s a technique PR pros are wise to heed, lest someone else get the jump on you.
3) When you have an advantage, leverage it (within reason). By naming his price and putting the ball, so to speak, in the Blue Jays’ court, Bautista put all the pressure on his employer without looking like he wants out of Toronto. It’s a win-win for Bautista, and a nasty spot for the Jays.
By monitoring, measuring and then leveraging public sentiment when addressing various issues, PR pros can do the same thing (just be careful — public sentiment is a fickle beast, and can turn on you just as quickly if you’re perceived as disingenuous or too much of an opportunist).
Much to the chagrin of Jays fans, it’s looking likely that Jose Bautista’s next contract won’t be in Toronto. But thanks to an obviously well-thought-out communications plan on behalf of he and his advisers, it’s likely his employer that will suffer the brunt of the negative reaction his departure is sure to spur.