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When in trouble, be specific

The Wellington Rugby Union hit trouble over its response to player Losi Filipo escaping conviction for a vicious fight in Courtenay Place.

The WRFU initially decided to support Filipo’s court case, and stand with him under public scrutiny. But after 24 hours of pressure, the WRFU ‘mutually’ agreed to end Filipo’s contract.

Many people, and likely rugby supporters, were uncomfortable with the court decision. Therefore, they looked to the WRFU to punish Filipo.

In these situations, people seek their pound of flesh. The trick is to give them less than a pound, but make it the tastiest bit.

The original decision to stand by Filipo was not necessarily wrong, but it contained no specific actions. The WRFU said it “continued down the path of providing Losi with a support network to assist in his rehabilitation” and “working with him on a regular basis with the view to achieving a positive long term outcome.”

Nope – we don’t know what that means either. It’s evasive management-jargoned nonsense.

Specificity and detail is the key to persuasion. Vagueness causes distrust.

It’s possible that the WRFU felt it shouldn’t and couldn’t do anything. In that case it should have been specific about why – not mealy-mouthed.

Assuming it wanted to do ‘something’ to meet the likely outcry, our advice would have been to be more specific about the nature of that support; what was he being taught? How, and how often? With who? How much effort is required of him?

These are vital questions that test the acceptability of the action itself. If you can’t be specific, then you really haven’t done anything. If you really haven’t done anything, and won’t say why, then you will leave a very sour taste in the mouths of your audience.

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