I have very few rules in life, but one of them is this: Whenever Mike Gilbert is on the radio, the Sabres screwed up.
The thing about public relations is that it doesn’t require further explanation. In fact, that’s really the whole point. PR is supposed to explain what an organization is doing, with the intent of putting a good “spin” on it. Every form of communication an organization has with the general public and media should be under the wing of PR, including the so-called “media” they put out there for themselves.
So when something like this happens, it’s the result of a public relations failure. There is no one to blame for it but themselves, and no matter who is to blame, whether a Twitter intern or Regier himself, it’s important to remember just how quickly that “spin” spiraled into “bad press.”
It’s also important to remember just how it got to this point. Despite their frequency, the Sabres only respond to situations like these when a select few established media organizations mention them: The Buffalo News, the local television stations (2,4,7) and WGR550. Chris and I certainly weren’t expecting a text message from Mike Gilbert explaining things, but only because he doesn’t care what we think and have little influence on Sabres fans.
Where this started was a Tweet, at least for me anyway. What followed was a few responses and the post I’ve already referenced. None of that really matters until WGR starts talking about it, and suddenly there’s Gilbert on the line saying everything is just a big misunderstanding.
But here’s the thing: I think he’s lying. Think about what happened here. The Sabres don’t care what a bunch of bloggers think because they are only “out to get them” anyway. What matters is the real media, the ones that can reach a large audience and sway public opinion. The Lunch Express series has been great for PR, a way to appease the fans while tossing softball questions at some people who would rather be fishing.
But having your general manager fielding questions a half hour after the start of free agency is, in a word, asinine. That’s not smart, and it’s certainly not good press when the local radio station and The Buffalo News start telling you how stupid it was.
So you backtrack. You delete Tweets and claim it wasn’t going to be live even though it was advertised as such and has been all along. You send text messages to beat writers covering baseball games in order to douse the flames, but only after removing all evidence beforehand. I mean, either someone’s lying or the intern updating the Twitter has the CAPS LOCK key broken on his computer.
Either way, I call bullshit.
No matter how this plays out, it’s a complete slap in the face to the fans. What it says is that the Sabres PR thinks we are either too dumb to notice what’s going on, or not smart enough to realize when they are covering their asses. Both answers are completely rational, but underestimating your customers is one hell of a unique business model.
I can’t see Sabres fans expecting GMDR to make a splash tomorrow. The Sedins aren’t riding into town on a tandem bike unless it’s Twin Day at the ballpark, and every Sabres fan knows it. Still, I think we would at least appreciate the illusion that our general manager gives a shit. I want Darcy in his office all day on July 1, even if he is there looking at Keyboard Cat videos and refreshing TSN.ca all day. Just give me the ability to pretend that he’s trying.
As Sabres fans, sometimes illusions are all we’re given to grasp hold of. These days it seems to me we’re running low on those, too.