Social media has done it again. Pinterest has developed “secret boards” where users can generate idea boards for private events and do not have to share them with their followers. This innovative update to their website is not really what the story is about though. Instead, it was the public relations team that posted the press release in a skilled manner. The release began with a personal story that their users could relate to, and the overall tone of the announcement was friendly, and “cute” which keeps in line with Pinterest’s image. I will admit that Pinterest is my guilty pleasure, and it is because of the positive nature surrounding the website. I too, also appreciate the privacy is offers, and am very excited about the creation of these secret boards. When it comes to public relations, Pinterest is a shining example of an organization that is “doing it right” . They are communicating in an effective way that mimics their product and connects with their audience. Pinterest has become a platform for many other organizations to reach female consumers. For example, Pinterest has an entire category directed to sports where people can view everything from their favorite teams gear, nail polish patterns, game day recipes, or even parking tips for specific stadiums. For sports, reaching the female audience can be a challenge, but if an organization can create or seek out useful content for Pinterest it would benefit their organization. It is not sports PR in a traditional sense, but it is important to be consistently reaching out to new audiences, and communicating your brand in new ways. So pin away sports fans (and PR professionals).
There is no longer debate that sports are a big business. Where we may have previously only considered the finance department at a professional organization “business” we now see business in athletics of all levels. It starts with youth club teams, then collegiate partnerships, and finally professional teams, and somewhere along the way business has engulfed more than just the income statements. When it comes to sports PR, understanding business is becoming a necessary ingredient for success. In Sara Benwell’s article, “A Good PR Consultant Needs to Understand Business” she says that, “Understanding business will not only improve media relations but it will also enable you to develop the right messages for owned media platforms, where businesses talk directly to stakeholders. It also improves client relationships, as they trust you to help them decide what content to put out, and where. Understanding businesses is key to ensuring that public relations is not a commoditized service and that instead we become trusted advisers to clients, who rely on us to ensure that their communications fit with their wider business objectives.” I think she hits the nail on the head. Public relations is becoming ever more powerful, and at the same time complicated and in order to be successful, one needs to understand the business climate in which they are operating. In sports PR, one of the most important aspects is generating interest in the team in order to sell tickets and merchandise. In order to best reach those goals you need to understand the market research, and other technical aspects included in the business spectrum. It is important to be innovative in your presentation of information to the media, and it begins with fully understanding every element of your organization.
THANK YOU. A phrase so often used, but at the same time, so obvious when it is missing. I believe “Thank you” is one of the most powerful phrases we have in our language. A simple expression of gratitude can go a long ways. I have grown up in a household where writing a hand written thank you note was harped on so frequently that it is ingrained in my head as second nature, however, as I continue into the professional world, I find that I am unique in that sense. The Harvard Business Review article, “Do You Really Need to Say Thank You” tells the story of a man who missed out on the opportunity for a promotion because he failed to respond to a complimentary email, and explains why they believe sending quick thankful responses are under used. I think when presented with the information in an article such as this one it is difficult for anyone to disagree, but apply the principles they preach is another story. In the world of public relations and athletics, personal “thank you’s” are rare. Too often we see athletes show complete disregard for the resources that are bestowed upon them, and it is one of the primary reasons professional sports organizations alienate fans. Most players are thought of as selfish and egotistical, and the difference between them and the ones who are respected is often those two words. Take a player like Chad Johnson, who’s post game interview will likely revolve around a complaint, or an ego stroking, while someone like Peyton Manning will first and foremost thank his teammates and acknowledge their hard work. With professional athletes becoming more and more publicly scrutinized, it is especially important when considering their image to remind everyone to use those two little words.
This was a rebuilding year for the once-great Indianapolis Colts. After releasing arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history, albeit on amicable terms, and firing head coach Jim Caldwell, the Colts started the 2012 NFL season under a great deal of scrutiny. By drafting former Stanford standout Andrew Luck (after a season where Colts fans held the mantra “Suck for Luck”), expectations for Luck were quite high. How would a rookie quarterback handle comparisons to of one of the NFL’s legends and, and awkwardly enough, one of his longtime family friends? Peyton Manning is regarded as an all-time great as well as gentleman around the league, but more importantly in Indianapolis. Luck would inevitably feel pressure from an ever-judgmental sports media and pouncing fans. But the pressure that he would feel in Indianapolis was unprecedented. Despite the docile nature of Indianapolis fans (viewed as some of the most polite in the league), there were fears and threats of riots and fans abandoning the team after refusing to resign Peyton. What would happen? Could Luck possibly live up to unprecedented exceptions? Would die-hard Colt fans stick by their team? The 2012 season was public relations nightmare in the making.
In early October, the Colts faced yet another challenge. Head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Even in the victory focused NFL, some things are bigger than football. The Colts immediately rallied around their head coach. Following the first game of Pagano’s absence, long-time Colts’ owner Jim Irsay brought the game ball to his hospital room. An uproar of support ensued from Indianapolis. The team, fans, community, and league rallied around Pagano with a new cry: “Chuckstrong”. Every practice, every game, and every play was dedicated to supporting their fighting coach. Dwight Freeney, the 10-year Colts defensive veteran said of Chuck’s battle, “You can’t measure how much that lifts a team.” Inspiration was at an all time high. And to everyone’s surprise, this inspiration has lifted the Colts. In 8 games thus far this season, the team has already more than doubled their 2012 effort with 5 wins, including an emphatic week 8 win against the Miami Dolphins where Andrew Luck threw for a rookie record of 433 yards. The Colts are on the road to the playoffs and, strangely enough, a matchup against their beloved Peyton Manning, now the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. With Peyton having arguably his best year yet, on track to win his record-improving 5th NFL MVP award, many would have expected outcry from Indianapolis. Why let the legend leave? Clearly he can still perform at a high level. But in Colt country, no such outcry exists. Colt fans are proud, both of their teams victories, Luck’s triumphs (if he continues at this pace he will shatter virtually every rookie quarterback record), and most importantly of the universal support for their head coach. Some would say it’s the culture of an organization and its fans that might have created this atmosphere naturally, but I tip my hat to the Colt’s PR department, because football fans are not easy to please.
Chuck Pagano’s emotional speech to team:
In the realm of sports PR, cheating scandals like doping are some of the most controversial events organizations have to deal with. According to the PR News report, “Nike, Livestrong Put Kickstand Down on Relationship with Armstrong” last week Nike and Livestrong terminated their contracts with cycling legend Lance Armstrong, who has been the target of an ongoing doping investigation. Armstrong was hit with a lifetime ban from cycling back in August, but both Nike and his Livestrong foundation stood by him. However, recent revelations in the case have made being associated with Armstrong too detrimental to the organizations images forcing them to cut ties. From a PR standpoint it is easy to see why they needed to disaffiliate themselves from Armstrong. Nike, as an athletic company, cannot condone sports cheating of any kind. Armstrong’s indiscretions were not a part of his personal life (think Tiger Woods) but rather directly impacted his athletic performance and achievements. Although I think it has been widely regarded that releasing Armstrong was the right thing to do, from a PR perspective the message must be carefully crafted as they have had a successful, long standing relationship, and Nike will maintain its relationship with the Livestrong brand. While I agree with much of what the PR News article said, I believe its final comment questioning, “exactly what company executives knew about Armstrong’s actions, and for how long” is likely a stretch. Nike delivered a clear statement and explanation on the issue and I believe that commenting any further on the topic, especially in relation to possible insider information, would bring a lot more negative press.
“Hey JETS!!! I’m available! I’m ready, willing & able! Call my agent @jordanwoy & let’s make it happen.” – Terrell Owens
This tweet made headlines last week midway through the fourth quarter of the Jets loss to the Texans, as Mark Sanchez struggled to connect with any of his wide receivers. Terrell Owens is on the wrong side of 30 and out of a job, and Sanchez might be edging in a similar direction. Although the post seemed to be in good humor, I don’t think anyone out there would doubt that Owens would love that job. As a player, Owens has been criticized, fined, and condemned for essentially what comes down to his personality. Is a rouge tweet like this simply the knew equivalent of pulling a sharpie out of your sock and signing a football after a touchdown? Is it just a digital signature? Or did this one little tweet just condemn Owens to unemployment forever? The power of social media is yet to be fully understood, but one thing that has been studied for many years is personal branding and if used correctly, social media can be the most effective tool to do that. Owens has tainted his personal brand and no NFL team wants his stains rubbing off on their program. Now, you have to give him credit for an innovative approach, but he should have thought about his “comeback” before the memories of his antics as the old TO came back.
Social media is all about image. I guarantee if Peyton Manning had tweeted that he would have been signed within an hour.
When looking at the way a business is run, often the role of corporate social responsibility is overlooked. When it comes to public relations in a business, the CSR is a huge opportunity to connect your brand with your audience. For example, the NFL has partnered with the American Cancer Society and for the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month, there are pink accents present on all different types of NFL apparel and equipment. This campaign has raised millions of dollars and has helped the NFL maintain a positive image and reach a wider demographic, that includes a greater female audience. It is imperative as to connect with as many people as possible and for the NFL, which has a predominately male supported audience, reaching women is an important initiative. The tips for implementing a successful CSR plan as provided by PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility and Green PR guidebook offer a solid foundation for someone new to the PR business, but I think they left one point out. I believe as a PR professional it is important to authentically connect with the cause you are supporting because often times when it is discussed it appears as just another business ploy, when in reality there is a lot of power behind human interest stories and charitable causes.