Will pundit's crisis skills save his reputation?

Jamie Carragher’s recent actions have delivered a potentially devastating blow to his public image. 

The Sky Sports pundit‘s TV career appears to be in the balance after mobile phone footage emerged of him spitting at the occupants of a car.

If you have seen the video you will know it is hard to defend the actions of the former Liverpool defender, who also works as a columnist for The Telegraph.

But could his subsequent actions help him cling on to his job?

And could others learn from his crisis media management response? 



Early apology

I first became aware of the emerging story when I saw a tweet from Mr Carragher on Sunday apologising for his actions after the video footage of the incident began to capture the interest of the media. 

He posted: “Totally out of order & I’ve apologised personally to all the family this evening. I was goaded 3 / 4 times along the motorway while being filmed & lost my rag. No excuse apologies (sic)."



It’s not the best apology and the ‘no excuses’ line doesn’t really work when it follows a sentence which bears a very strong resemblance to an excuse.

But it was a quick response and importantly he showed he had already taken some action in apologising to the family.




Didn’t dodge the cameras

A doorstep interview is a situation which trips up many spokespeople during crisis media management incidents.

All too often footage emerges of them completely blanking the media and refusing to answer questions.

And it does not create the impression of honesty and openness you should strive for when managing a crisis response.

Mr Carragher was greeted by reporters as he arrived in London on Monday morning ahead of talks with his employers.



While he may not have stopped to briefly talk to them – which would have been the best approach – he did at least answer some of their questions as they walked alongside him.




In front of the cameras

Whether it was Mr Carragher’s decision to quickly appear for an interview in the Sky News studio, or a suggestion put forward by his employer, it was a crisis comms masterstroke.

It allowed the pundit to show his remorse, contrition and embarrassment at his actions.

In fact, he appeared genuinely upset and, at times, close to tears, during a challenging interview which lasted around 13 minutes and saw him have to watch footage of his actions.



Appearing almost immediately after Sky Sports had announced his suspension, he confirmed that he had spoken to the family concerned, put them first in many of his responses, and made no attempt to excuse his behaviour.  

He said: “(It was) A moment of madness which is difficult to explain. Watching those clips back it feels like an out of body thing – just that moment of madness for four or five seconds. No matter what the circumstances for anyone you can’t ever behave like that. That is just unacceptable.

 ‘I wish I could go back and change it, but all I can do now is apologise as much as I can. Spitting is the lowest of the low. I have never done it before and I will never do it again.’

It certainly wasn't a perfect interview - he seemed to particularly struggle with questions about whether he should resign or his employers should sack him - but overall a picture emerged of a man prepared to front up to his mistakes. 






Mr Carragher’s TV apologies did not stop with Sky News.

In a clear effort to take some control of the narrative, he carried out numerous interviews and kept apologising.

And there appeared to be genuine - and well placed - concern about the family caught up in the incident. 



On the BBC he described his behaviour as ‘awful’. He added: “I have let my family down, but I think the family I have let down more than anyone is the people in the car. They are my main worry and thought process for today and yesterday.”

On ITV he added: “I don’t think there is anything anyone could ever do that if you spat back at them it could be condoned. I can’t explain my actions. Again it is nothing to do with the family, it is me. I brought that family into this media storm.”




In the social media age, a person’s or an organisation’s reputation can be annihilated exceptionally quickly.

Time will tell whether Mr Carragher has done enough to be given the chance to rebuild his and keep his job, which ironically involves him regularly pointing out the flaws in others.

But the way he has dealt with the intense media interest in his actions has given him a chance.



Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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