Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Wings’ PR Staff Lacks Common Sense

By George Malik: I just don't get it. The Red Wings just installed a beautiful set of LED displays on their scoreboard, finally updating the video system after using big-screen TVs for almost fifteen years. You'd think that the organization would utilize that scoreboard to at least show some replays, or maybe tap into the rink's Center Ice package to show some highlights from around the league. It can't be that difficult to call down to the Fox Sports truck and ask, "Hey, can we see that last play on the board?" Right? Wrong. The scoreboard rarely shows replays. In the instances of controversial calls, reviewable goals, and even hard hits, fans attending games may as well bring an AM/FM radio with them, because the in-game production crew spends its time telling its rink-side camera crew to do crowd shots. Little kids dancing? You bet. Uncomfortable shots of fans who are told to "make some noise" but are unenthusiastic? Yes, indeedy. Awkward pauses, with the cameras pointed at an empty rink? Of course! It can't be that hard to splice into the Fox Sports feed to show replays on a regular basis. Yes, when we're talking about controversial hits, borderline penalties, or reviewed goals, showing those replays might get the crowd incensed, which steps on the NHL's toes ever so slightly, but isn't getting the crowd worked up the entire point of having that big video screen?

It’s those little “attention to detail” snafus that become so innervating.
Some of the tried-and-true, ten-year-old CDs that the Wings use over and over again as they play the same music are now scratched up, so the fans are treated to music that chops and chips its way along.  Is it going to break the team’s budget to simply invest a few hundred bucks in new CDs, or maybe an MP3-playing sound system?  They could honestly plug in an Ipod and get better results. 
Whether you talk to fans who hold 4 to 6-seat blocks of corporate seats at ice level, or the average joes who scrape together a few bucks to bring their kids to see the Wings from the upper bowl, fans of all socioeconomic backgrounds are equally outraged at the fact that parking at the Olympia Entertainment-managed Joe Louis Arena garage or the Cobo Roof now costs $15 per car.  They can’t believe that the team would have the gall to charge almost one third of a ticket’s price to simply park vehicles in a region where you need a car to get around.  Fans grumbled about the parking fees when they were raised from $5 to $6, $7, and then $8, but $15? 
That $15 fee may be profitable for the Joe on the front end, but it’s one of the main reasons that you’re seeing so many empty seats these days. 
The parking fees outstretching the simplest of economic rules—finding the point where the supply of parking meets the demand to pay the privilege for parking near the rink, so fans stay home.
As I discussed in an entry posted last Wednesday, the Wings completely blew the one-year anniversary of Jiri Fischer’s seizure.  The local newspapers were instructed to talk to Fisch on the 7th of November, two weeks before the one-year mark, and Sportsnet, not a local news station, or even FSD, was allowed inside the locker room to talk to Fisch about his present routine, his goals in terms of physical and mental health (beyond getting a “cleansing my body” quote, anyway), and the team’s unending support of Fisch in that regard. 
We don’t get Sportsnet on this side of the border.
Nor did Wings fans even know that Fisch wears a heart-monitoring device 24/7 until ESPN Scott Burnside revealed that detail last Monday in a wide-ranging, sit-down interview with Fisch.
Would it have been excruciatingly difficult to let Channel 2, Channel 4, Channel 7, or FSD conduct a parallel interview with Fisch that could have generated local ratings, as opposed to two on-line clips of the three-minute interview that weren’t even aired in the U.S. until this past Monday? 
Wouldn’t giving local news outlets the option to talk to Fisch boost ratings during the November Sweeps period, and wouldn’t a sit-down interview sell papers, garnering the Wings a few “We owe you one"s from the Detroit media?
Nick Lidstrom was the Grand Marshall of a parade that was aired in over 90 million homes around the world last Thursday, but the Wings didn’t pressure WDIV to do anything more than a 60-second interview of Nick during the parade.  No feature story or sound-byte-able clips of the Red Wings’ first new Captain since 1986, no “tickets are available at Ticketmaster by calling 248-645-6666.”  The Wings asked nothing of a broadcast that could have given them a world-wide PR boost.
The Red Wings’ players have been involved with the Salvation Army‘s drive to stop hunger during the Christmas season, a campaign to ensure that low-income families have working smoke detectors, Draper and Osgood are signing autographs tomorrow from 5:30-7:30 at the Hockeytown Cafe for a modest donation to “Toys for Tots,” and the Wings made a HUGE contribution to Children’s Hospital, but the event garnered nothing more than a postscript’s worth of press:

HOSPITAL VISIT: At 2 p.m. today, the Red Wings will visit Children’s Hospital of Michigan, 3901 Beaubien in Detroit. The team will unveil the Red Wings Play Zone area in the main lobby.

Awesome!  Tremendous!  Astounding!  Send a camera crew, please!  Do a photo-shoot! 
Anything, not even a pre-event plug in the paper, saying, “For a small donation, you can attend the opening?”
Nope.
The Red Wings could chop their attendance woes in half by simply using their scoreboard to show highlights of what happens on the ice, investing in some new tunes, and maybe an Ipod, and relenting on their gigantic parking fees in exchange for more butts in seats.
Instead, Mike Heika of the Dallas News reports the usual PR spew:

The Red Wings are working on a sellout streak of 365 games.

The Wings could have created a local ratings and newspaper-sales bonanza by simply allowing the local press to cover the one-year anniversary of Fisch’s seizure and near death experience in depth.  Sportsnet’s insightful interviews with Fisch totalled about four minutes of TV time, and Burnside covered bases that we didn’t know existed in a single column.
They could have used 90 seconds of a gigantic Thanksgiving Day broadcast to promote the team on a worldwide stage.
Worst of all, the Wings could have assisted in efforts to increase support for the Salvation Army, the Detroit Firefighters’ smoke detector drive, Toys for Tots, Children’s Hospital, and the campaign to make the Automated External Defibrillators that saved Jiri Fischer’s life available in malls and even homes to stop the world’s #1 killer.  All tremendously worthy causes that could be helped by even the slightest push from the massive weight that the Red Wings carry in Metro Detroit in brand name recognition as well as an organization. 
But the team’s management and PR staff, for whatever reason, refuses to work on the little things, the small details that can make the difference between a reputation as a fan-responsive organization that reaches out to both promote itself and help the community, and their present status as an arrogant, fan-insensitive organization. 
The Red Wings, by and large, are a good organization, with classy players and coaches, and they do a tremendous amount of good things in the community. 
Why are the Wings making the business of selling hockey, and cashing in on goodwill, so hard on themselves?

Filed in: NHL Talk, George James Malik, Detroit Red Wings, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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