Top of the Month: Lionesses produce classy PR performance at Women's World Cup

Sporting success has helped, of course, but the England Women's football team produced a convincing PR performance in June to match their World Cup achievements.

Phil Neville: Speaking at a press conference after England's victory over Cameroon
Phil Neville: Speaking at a press conference after England's victory over Cameroon

Whereas men's team manager Gareth Southgate's humble serenity is in necessary contrast to the sometimes brash complacency of the 'golden generation', his Lioness counterpart Phil Neville has a different challenge - talking up his side, and the women's game generally, to win over doubters.

He has done this with aplomb, with media coverage focusing on bold pronouncements such as full back Lucy Bronze being the "best player in the world" and losing at the semi-finals representing a failure.

Neville's condemnation of the Cameroon team after their match with England - which he said made him feel "ashamed" and that the game "didn't feel like football" - appeared an authentic, heartfelt response from someone who genuinely cares about the women's sport. His approach may not be to everyone's taste, but Neville seems to galvanise England.

While the likes of Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose talking about their personal struggles helped 'humanise' the men's team, the Lionesses have tended to follow Neville's playbook (albeit in a slightly less forthright way) and emphasise their confidence and determination rather than dwelling on challenges.

"We’re always fighting people who are saying [negative] stuff. But the [viewing] figures show it’s a minority," Chelsea’s Fran Kirby told the Evening Standard after England's 2-1 win over Scotland garnered 6.1m views. "Hopefully we can keep the minority a minority and continue to grow this sport."

The build up to the tournament has also been relatively controversy-free, with some nice promotional activities including the squad being announced via a series of social media posts featuring celebrities such as James Corden, Ellie Goulding and David Beckham.

England games have repeatedly smashed UK viewing records, with 7.6m watching the 3-0 victory over Norway on 27 June.

At the time of writing, before England's semi-final clash with the USA on Tuesday (2 July), it’s unclear whether the team will go all the way. But in PR terms, it’s a clear victory.

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