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Black Letter Communications Blog

Expert pr advice for the legal sector

Jurgen Klopp’s resignation was a communications lesson for us all

When it comes to good communications timing, tone, and getting the messaging right for your audience are key. While PR professionals know this all too well, it doesn’t prevent countless high profile PR disasters from happening every year.

So, it was with a sense of awe – and extreme sadness as I am a lifelong Liverpool fan – that I saw Jurgen Klopp’s resignation video and subsequent outpouring of love towards the Liverpool manager.

When communications are delivered properly it’s a beautiful thing. The fact that Jurgen Klopp’s announcement that he was leaving after eight and a half successful years on Merseyside was praised from all sides, despite leaving Liverpool fans crying into their half time pints, says it all.

Let’s be clear, this could have gone very wrong if the delivery, timing and tone had been different. Traditionally a football manager would have called a press conference to deliver the news ashen faced or it would have leaked out, or been planted, in the press (more about that later). But Klopp is a highly emotionally intelligent person and he knows the bond he has with, not just the fans and the club, but the city of Liverpool itself.

So instead of the options above he recorded a 25-minute video that spoke to the hearts of every Liverpool fan, delivered with eloquence and dignity.

“I will leave the club at the end of the season,” Klopp said. “I can understand that that’s a shock for a lot of people in this moment, when you hear it for the first time, but obviously I can explain it – or at least try to explain it. I love absolutely everything about this club, I love everything about the city, I love everything about our supporters, I love the team, I love the staff. I love everything. But that I still take this decision shows you that I am convinced it is the one I have to take. It is that I am, how can I say it, running out of energy. After the years we had together and after all the time we spent together and after all the things we went through together, the respect grew for you, the love grew for you and the least I owe you is the truth – and that is the truth.”

Pretty powerful and intimate stuff. Klopp has always worn his heart on his sleeve, which in itself has garnered the love of Liverpool fans, but this is a whole new level when delivering the message that no Liverpool fan wanted to hear. The key here? Truth and transparency. Honesty from the heart. When PR goes wrong – and this is the case in legal PR as much as anywhere else – it’s often because of a lack of transparency or people think they aren’t being told the truth.

The messaging was perfectly balanced as well. A love for Liverpool, the fans, the club but then this:

“I will never, ever manage a different club in England than Liverpool, 100 per cent.” Klopp said. “That’s not possible. My love for this club, my respect for the people is too big. I couldn’t. I couldn’t for a second think about it. There’s no chance. This is part of my life, we are part of the family, we feel home here. There’s no chance to do that. But all the rest, will I ever work again? Of course, I know myself, I cannot just sit around.”

A collective sigh of relief could be heard from Merseyside. Klopp manage another Premier League team? It would have been too much. Klopp averted the questions before they were allowed to form on a reporter’s lips while at the same time making it clear he will manage again.

In terms of timing, it was also a masterclass. Liverpool are top of the Premier League and at the time of writing fighting for four competitions. There is still an exciting run in to come and instead of derailing the team’s bid for glory it has invigorated the fans. This is no mean feat. He has delivered devastating news yet has gained more support. By way of an example, tickets for Liverpool’s last game of the season against Wolves are reportedly selling for an eye watering £25,000.

What is also remarkable is that the news of Klopp’s departure didn’t leak out. He told the club’s owners in November as well as those closest to him. As a former reporter I know that news comes from the most unlikely sources and in a leaky world like football I would expect this story to have found its way into the media. How it didn’t is a lesson for all of us. Treat others with kindness and respect and others will do the same to you. Klopp has clearly gained the complete trust and respect of everyone around him by being a nice guy. Put simply nobody betrayed him.

Klopp’s resignation is a communications lesson to us all in how to deliver an unpopular announcement – and turn a potential PR disaster into a triumph.

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