By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner
The firing of Red Sox manager Terry Francona offers a few valuable lessons in crisis communications, especially those relating to the unexpected departure of an executive. For those of you outside of Red Sox Nation, let me offer a little background: the only living manager of Boston’s professional baseball team to win a world series (twice!) is now unemployed after missing the playoffs following a disastrous September collapse. To be technical, Francona wasn’t fired; the team declined to pick up the option on his 2012 contract. While the debate over letting Francona go is an ideal subject for a sports-focused blog, the way the decision was communicated offers two valuable lessons to anyone in crisis communications.
1) Take a Deep Breath: When a decision is made suddenly to release a senior executive, care should be taken to think through the communications timeline. The Red Sox put Francona in front of the microphones the day after the final game of the season for no reason other than to discuss the final calamitous loss. If ownership had even an inkling that the team would be sending Francona on his way, why put him in front of reporters to awkwardly answer questions about his future? To make matters worse, the very next day Francona held a press conference to announce his departure, which was then followed by another media gathering by the Sox brass to discuss the action. Why two additional separate press conferences? The Sox would have been better served to have one well rehearsed press conference (including Francona and the Sox higher-ups) to address the disastrous end of the season and announce that the time was right for a managerial change. In any crisis situation, take a deep breath, think a few steps ahead and plan all messaging and timing of external communications accordingly.