Steve Young vs. Rick Reilly vs. Twitter – That is what we saw unfold on “Monday Night Football” when the men behind the desk didn’t know the cameras were rolling and they were caught in what appeared to be a little spat. It was the “death stare” seen round the world as Steve Young shot laser beams right through Rick Reilly who was seen instructing the shows host to “say that I had this first on Twitter” in reference to the breaking news of Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury. Only seconds later they realized the cameras were rolling and quickly restored order, but the damage was already done. In the following day the clip of the incident was played on news networks, ESPN, and all over the internet. It became the topic of multiple conversations as people questioned whether Steve Young harbored bad feelings towards Reilly and also started the conversation about how Twitter is now used as a news source, and the real importance of being “the first” person to break the news. Young explained his look as follows, “that was not a death stare. What it really was, it kind of was incredulous. I was like, “You didn’t just say that.” And so I was joking with him”. Young did his part to damage control the situation and employed good public relation skills by talking about the incident directly and deflecting criticism. Reilly, however, seemed to be less credible in his defense of wanting credit for breaking the story on Twitter. So I guess I ask the question to you, does it really even matter who tweeted it first?
Watch the “death stare” here:
Social media has allowed fans more access than ever to their favorite athletes and both parties seem to enjoy the connection. Milwaukee Bucks player Drew Gooden used twitter to fuel a friendly rivalry with former teammate Joakim Noah when he tweeted this:
It did not take long for a fan to retweet him a photo of exactly what he asked for, a Bulls jersey in the toilet, and Gooden held true to his word leaving two tickets at will call for the fan. This is only one example of many where fans are able to interact with their favorite athletes through social media. As an athlete, their public image can be almost as important as their play on the court or field, and connecting with fans is one of the easiest ways to maintain a positive image. Not to mention, I think its probably fun for athletes too. Gooden’s twitter stunt made the front page of Yahoo sports and I’m sure drew in a few more viewers for the upcoming game, and a few more twitter followers. Although the tweet maybe not be a PR professionals dream, it has not caused any harm and has strengthened communications between their brand and consumers.
“NBAer’s Unusual Twitter Ticket Gimmick”
The quarter back who can run, or the quarterback that can pass? That seems to be the ever common question these days when it comes to football. In San Francisco this seems to be the only questions any one is talking about. Returning quarterback, Alex Smith, led the 49′ers to the NFC championship game last season, and so far this season has a 70 percent completion percentage. If thats all you knew, you would wonder why there was any controversy at all, but young gun Colin Kaepernick stepped in for Smith after he suffered a concussion and he has people talking. Kaepernick brings something new to the table with his speed and running ability, and it has 49′ers fans excited. Amidst all of this excitement though lies a difficult public relations choice, and that is how to control the media attention being thrown at the topic and the best way to protect both the players and the program.
Quarterback controversies are nothing new for 49′ers head coach Jim Harbaugh who was involved in one as a player in the late 1980s, and he has been described as handling this one “diplomatically” but more often “indecisively”. He has kept the guessing game going for over a week though, not giving any indication of who will be “the guy”. One of the most challenging aspects of managing a quarterback controversy is limiting negative comments from other team members. Overall the hubbub in San Fran has been kept positive and the announcement, whenever it arrives, is sure to be carefully worded and spark even more conversation.
“QB Controversy in San Francisco”
Seattle Seahawks starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are facing a four game suspension for a violation in the leagues policy regarding performance enhancing drugs. The two of them have played a large roll in the Seahawks tough pass defense (ranked 3rd currently in the NFL) and have combined for seven interceptions. To add insult to injury the Seahawks are 6-5 and in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot. It is incidents like this that test public relations departments. Up in Seattle they are doing things right. There was a quick response on the matter and they announced an appeal which quickly addressed the issue, squashed rumors, and minimized distraction.
The issue of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports has been a topic of discussion for quite a while and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. It seems as baseball and cycling have drawn much of the attention but in the last year there has been an increase in positive tests from the NFL and one would imagine other sports will follow. Dealing with any kind of player related scandal is challenging for a public relations department, but it is one of their primary responsibilities to mediate crisis in the public forum. Honest and immediate reaction usually heads the best results but is sometimes difficult to produce amidst the chaos of an issue. Seattle responded appropriately and addressed the issue while also releasing and focusing on more positive news stories from their team. So even if Sherman and Browner’s wings are clipped, the rest of the organization is sure to soar (at least in the media).
“Seahawks ‘Aware’ of Report on Browner, Sherman”
As rumors swirl around the University of Oregon campus about the potential departure of football head coach Chip Kelly to the NFL, there is one big question mark in his employability; his media relations. Coach Kelly has more than proved his expertise on the football field, by producing 4 consecutive years of BCS bowl bound teams and National Title contenders, but his weakness lies off the field. Kelly has been criticized for his inability, and unwillingness to communicate with the media. As the figure head of an organization, like it or not, media relations is a part of the job. A head football coach is expected to provide post practice and post game interviews and represent his team in the most positive light. A head coach that is good with the media is much more likely to have a longer career, than one who shuns them. Interpersonal communication skills cannot be over looked when investing millions of dollars into a salary for your coach. Owners and general managers expect those millions to be more than enough pay for a few minutes of answering questions in front of a camera. The media has such a large impact on public perception of a team and of a head coach. Coaches rarely can outlast a media firestorm and being able to effectively communicate with the media is one of the best ways to mediate such a situation. Kelly’s quick wit may come back to bite him but its fair to say his job is safe with 10 wins a year. They say dress for the job you want, but if Kelly hopes to make the jump to the next level, maybe he should consider speaking for the job he has.
The Indianapolis Colt’s have done it again. They have struck PR gold with the recent actions of two of their cheerleaders who accepted the challenge to shave their head if they raised $10,000 for cancer research and in support of the head coach, Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with Leukemia earlier this year. The Colt’s as an organization have rallied around Pagano and have now raised $250,000 through the team’s “ChuckStrong” fundraising campaign, according to NFL.com. The Colts have made the very best of a tragic situation and have reached out to consumers beyond their organization and have contributed to something bigger than sport. This fundraising campaign has been unique as it has been based primarily in online donations. The Colts mascot, Blue, challenged the cheerleaders via twitter, and the response was overwhelming raising $22,000 almost instantly, and all online. Beyond raising money for a great cause, the PR department decided to make the shaving of the cheerleaders heads a public event by doing it during the third quarter of the colts game vs the Bills, with Pagano looking on. Their decision to make the event public engaged their fans and maximized the exposure both for the organization and for a good cause. There were countless tweets and Facebook posts by fans, members of the media, and viewers watching at home. The Colt’s ability to connect their brand to a good cause, and market it effectively using social media is a perfect example of a successful public relations campaign. You just gotta love #ChuckStrong.
“Two NFL cheerleaders shave their heads in support of Colts head coach”
Public Relations is an industry that has grown tremendously over the past few years, and is ever changing in its functions. I have focused a lot of the impact social media has had on the PR world, and there is no questions that social media plays a large roll, however, as with anything, it is important to refresh yourself on the basic principles and skills on which your profession is based. The site “PR in Your Pajamas” recently posted a link about “10 Time Tested PR Skills that Will Never Go Out of Style” and the very top of this list is writing. With social media sites such as twitter limiting users to 160 characters it is easy to see how a skillful writing can be pushed to the way side. Number two on that list is interpersonal skills, and I personally believe this may be one of the most important. PR is about building a bridge between your organization and the media and consumers, and you cannot effectively do that by sitting behind a computer all day. For example, a PR department for a professional football organization is at a minimal required to interact with the teams coaches and players. Having strong relationships with those people, or having the ability to build them is the first step in successful external communication. It is not always easy to get a star athlete to communicate effectively with the media, and is something that should be focused on when considering the skills it takes to work in public relations. Overall, I found this article to be extremely beneficial, because it never hurts to be reminded to keep it simple.
“10 Time Tested PR Skills that Will Never Go Out of Style”