What PR pros can learn from Leicester City’s EPL success


It’s 27 July, 2016 – 74 days since Leicester City Football Club (LCFC), won the Barclays Premier League (now English Premier League) and 18 days to the start of the new season. This feat by the premiere league minnow surprised many – myself included. It reinforced popular support among already existing fans and courted new support for the Foxes.

Claudio Ranieri aka the Tinker Man, took over a team nearly relegated the season before and steered them from underdogs to title contenders. It was a fairy tale campaign and the story will be told for many years, given that the success of the underdog in any situation is always a compelling tale.

But what lessons can be drawn from the club’s most impressive season in recorded history? Today on my blog, I share with you five (5) lessons PR pros can glean from this success story.

  1. Develop the right Leadership style

In the build up to the 2015/2016 EPL season, Leicester City announced Claudio Ranieri as their new manager. The Italian was no stranger to English football. Having once managed Chelsea FC, he had good knowledge of the English game even though the last time he ever managed a team in the EPL was 2004.

Given what he was presented with i.e.  players and staff, he brought a certain leadership to bear. A decade out of management in England, he adopted a modern approach to the Leicester test. Don’t let the strict façade on the touchline fool you. The Italian is a charming and likable figure, who is not afraid to make big decisions and adapt his tactics to suit the occasion. Among his team, it is said that he gave them a voice, and in the case of more senior members courted their opinion.

As a PR professional, developing, harnessing and providing a 360 degree leadership for both superiors and subordinates is key. This ensures that you have a seat on all fronts; at the management table and with members of your team. It is the only way you can obtain the right or full support; for delivery of key performance targets.

  1. Establish the right Culture

I remember as a freshman, I joined a club on campus. An executive of the club remarked to us, “This club works better because we see ourselves as participators and not spectators”. That was the culture and we embraced it without question.

Anyone who knows Claudio Ranieri knows he is a man who comes with his own culture – hard work and passion. Faced with the task of steering the team from any possible romance with relegation, he knew he had to ingrain this culture in the fabric of the team. Have a look at the way LCFC played from the get-go, and it was evident that he had brought a new culture to bear on the team.

Are you a team lead? What is the culture among your team? Are you a professional? What working culture have you developed? Culture is what defines any group. Beyond definition, it is what keeps the group going in the face of insurmountable challenges. Developing the right and winnable culture among members of your team or as a professional is what ensures that you stand out as the standard.

  1. Focus on Team building

Someone once defined TEAM as “Together Everyone Achieves More” and I wasn’t only amused but agreed with every bit of his definition. Nothing beats a team and one which is ready to work hard. If you doubt this, ask Gifty Osei Bingely of Tigo Ghana.

Even though there were individual talents like Riyad Mahrez, Jaimie Vardy, N’golo Kante, Wes Morgan to mention a few, LCFC Manager, Claudio Ranieri spent much of his time building a cohesive squad, who supported each other and the overall goal.

He made it acceptable for a traditionally glory-hunting striker such as Jaimie Vardy to play for team success even as he was chasing an EPL record. On the other hand, it was realised that defenders communicated with each other all the time, with Wes Morgan providing leadership among players on the pitch.

Having a good Communications or PR team is one thing and ensuring that the vision and individual roles are properly spelt out and communicated is crucial. This is the only way to ensure that together everyone will achieve more to support the corporate strategy of your organization.

  1. A small Budget is no excuse for not achieving Results.

Leicester City’s budget and resources is only a fraction of what the likes of Man Utd and Man City wield. But to many, their success has flown in the face of financial logic. The entire LCFC team cost about £54 million (the total amount Man City spent on acquiring Kevin De Bruyne).

Nonetheless, through meticulous measures such as retaining the already existing backroom staff, planning and smart recruitment of the likes of Riyad Mahrez, N’golo Kante, among others, they made every single penny work for them and were able to punch above their weight.

It is an undeniable fact that the PR budget is often the smallest in most organisations. To this end, you have many practitioners moping about small budgets but faced with herculean tasks. Despite this situation, a lack of resources is no excuse for not giving your best shot. It is always not just about the resources you have but how well you use them. You may have a small budget but to succeed, what you need is a great and well thought-out plan and using every available resource and tool at your disposal.

As a professional, when you begin to manage resources, measure success and provide evidence of ROI, it might surprise you that management will have every cause to vote huge amounts toward communications efforts for pronounced impact. Do you remember the parable of the Talents?

  1. Tinker Strategies and Tactics when it matters

Claudio Ranieri isn’t called the Tinker Man for no reason. He is a master strategist and knows when to tinker when it matters. A critical analysis of Leicester City’s impressive season reveals his masterstroke at every given point. He made the team play to their strengths by using what he had to achieve an end goal.

Instead of trying to play the same way as the big clubs, the Foxes outfoxed the rest of the premiere league with strategies and tactics which suited their own squad and system.

For instance during the early days of the 2015/2016 season, the foxes found themselves towards the summit of the league and were noted for winning their matches despite conceding goals. When Ranieri realised that success for this team was in sight, he made a tactical masterstroke by changing the setup of the defence and thus, created a situation where his team which didn’t have a clean sheet in its first 11 games, begin to recording clean sheets.

The same management recipe for success applies to any undertaking, PR included. During a campaign, focus on well thought-out strategies and tactics but don’t fail to tinker with them along the way. The fact may be that whatever strategies and tactics you are already employing is what gives you an edge.

Notwithstanding this, the truth is that the business of influence is dynamic and will demand honing best practices; while tinkering strategies and tactics at some point. That’s the only way you can achieve competitive advantage and cause a lot of disruptions on the landscape of already existing giants.

Do you know of any lessons PR professionals can glean from LCFC’s league success? Let’s have a conversation in my one corner.


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