I’ve spent the last couple of months outlining evergreen blog topics to share insight into sports publicity and related business issues.
As often the case, however, it’s a crisis that’s brought me out of my summer cave. The United States is in a big one, and once again, sports – today the NFL — is in the thick of the news, but not in a way you might think. Sure, I’ve thought long and hard about Colin Kaepernick and why he’s not on an NFL roster, but this is about other football players taking a stand and the discussions many of us are having about race and religion today.
Brand outline redo
When I coach branding and how to build a positive public-relations platform, the longtime script has been be to good at your sport or sports business role, stay out of trouble, give back, show an affable personality and be nice to people even when they annoy you.
Most of that script remains.
A few years ago I spoke to a group of young sports broadcasters when one of them asked what I thought about them sharing religious or political views on social media. I told them that unless their brand foundation was built on political or religious bricks, avoid those topics 99.9 percent of the time. I said that their audiences come from all walks of life, so they’re best not to rock the boat.
I shredded that part of the script.
During the past few days we’ve seen deadly riots led by white nationalists – Nazis — in Charlottesville, Va., who later claimed victory against people that counter demonstrated in the name of equality. Three people lost their lives. A hate-filled man drove a car into a group of innocent people. If you’ve been living under a rock or haven’t tuned into any media since the start of last weekend you don’t even have to Google it. Just open your eyes.
We’ve seen this before
We’re seeing hate in society that we haven’t in decades. It’s not like prejudice disappeared after the 1960s riots, but in the last several months it’s come out of the shadows because it’s been validated. Politicians refuse to decry it so in silence, they empower groups that spew hate and violence. They, in fact, instigate it, and then don’t take responsibility. They craft words that meet their own agendas and say “see, we’re against it.” Not really.
Sports + Society = Us
Now back to sports. And society. Because sports and our communities intersect. People debated throughout the summer why former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick would or wouldn’t play football this year, and many continue to say that he’s not on an NFL roster because he chose to sit during the national anthem last season to protest police brutality.
This past weekend, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem before their preseason games. Bennett, who’s voiced his religious and political opinions in the past, said he might not stand during the anthem all season. Bleacher Report’s NFL reporter Mike Freeman tweeted last night that he exchanged texts with five NFL players who said to expect more like them in light of the events in Charlottesville.
From these men to Packers tight end Martellus Bennett (Michael’s brother) who’s long said that he’s much more than a football player, I applaud their not “sticking to sports.” None of us should if we want to influence change for the better. News Flash – athletes are human beings like the rest of us. We on the sidelines watch games and enjoy their incredible physical feats, but if you say you don’t want politics with your sports, you better find a new hobby. It’s not like you’ll feel like you’re watching Meet the Press when you turn on an NFL game, but we officially live in a different world than even one year ago. NFL players know they have a platform that airs their messages on a bullhorn that reaches millions of people. They also know that not all fans will agree with them and may not buy their merchandise as a result. They’re fine with that. And we should be fine with and respect their actions. It IS, the American way.
Athletes have influence
What will I tell the kids, you ask? We talk about children that look up to athletes and see them as roll models (don’t @ me about the latter – it’s an entirely different topic). What better people to admire than those that exercise their right to fight against racism and for religious freedom in a country that thrives when it’s inclusive? I personally want athletes to use their public platforms for good, not evil. I want them to rub off on adults who sit on their couches and preach beliefs but do nothing.
Football is a business
Even in business, branding is a different ballgame. Today you saw company executives take stands against evil and promote unity and diversity. I hope they see the value in athletes that do the same.
The bottom line is that it’s time for people to stand up and support one another like they never have before. We are born innocents. If we’re fortunate, we join loving and nurturing homes and go to school where people accept one another regardless of looks, physical ability or religious beliefs.
America is still the most wonderful country in the world, but we live in a dangerously divisive time in our history. We cannot let 2017 end looking like the 1960s. If it takes professional athletes to say that hurting others in the name of race, gender or religion is wrong, then I hope they keep talking. You don’t have to agree with how they protest, but respect that they have the right to peacefully demonstrate the way they want.
They’ve got to do more than sit
Athletes have to go steps further than simply sitting and talking, however. Along with the rest of us that need to get off of our collective tushes, they must be involved with their communities and back their sitting with constructive, peaceful action … help make the world a better place because they have the influence to lead others in that direction.
We love to see athletes do something special with a sick child or provide resources to an impoverished area. Many of these things are done with a league or team push and in the name of good PR. I hope that players who sit during the anthem do it because they have greater goals in mind and know that when they work toward a greater good, fans will follow their lead.
Do you remember how the NFL and its teams were going to aggressively discipline those charged with domestic violence, and assured fans that they wouldn’t stand for it any longer?
That was so 2014.
Today if you look at facts that have come to light about New York Giants kicker Josh Brown during the last six months and even more in-depth in the last 24 hours, you wouldn’t know that the league or its teams give a damn about how its personnel treats others.
We’re not talking about tackles on a football field. We’re not even talking about dangerous helmet-to-helmet hits. We are, however, talking about multi-million dollar athletes not only taking swings at their spouses and significant others, but admitting it, and experiencing little if any repercussion. In the Brown case, it was all in black-and-white if someone within the team or league would have made more than a proverbial phone call.
Like the Ray Rice case in 2014 when he admitted to hitting his then fiancée but wasn’t aggressively disciplined until video was made public, like defensive end Greg Hardy was permitted to play football for the Carolina Panthers after being convicted of assaulting his then girlfriend or Adrian Peterson going about his life until photos of his bruised and bleeding son became public, Brown, despite his own admission, was extended the privilege to continue to be paid to play football.
With Brown, the New York Giants claimed ignorance, even blamed the decision for a weak one-game suspension on Molly Brown, the kicker’s now ex-wife, for not cooperating. The NFL said it requested information from authorities but didn’t receive it. But somehow, after it shuffled that paper to the “read” pile and the Giants resigned him to a new deal, reporters uncovered legal documents that told of how NFL security intervened more than once after altercations between Brown and his wife.
The Giants’ Foot-in-Mouth Disease
For an organization whose owner once professed that “there is no excuse for domestic violence ever and there is going to be severe consequences,” he and others in the Giants’ organization have spoken as if tone deaf. And this from John Mara about Brown on Thursday:
“He certainly admitted to us that he abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.”
— Giants owner John Mara to Mike Francesa on WFAN
One could say that we are too hasty to assume what goes on within a team’s building, but words that have been spoken by everyone from Mara to coach Ben McAdoo have been clueless at best. I would dismiss the words, but the team’s actions speak loudly. Only when called out regarding what it knew did it bench Brown for its upcoming game against the Rams.
The NFL: all talk and hires, no action
After the aforementioned cases of the last two years, the NFL hired personnel to focus on domestic violence and investigate them more thoroughly. I said then, that time would tell if those were window-dressing hires or they were really going to change the league’s culture. Well, this week, I’m sorry to say it shows it was the latter.
The NFL and teams have long employed former law enforcement. It’s been well documented that the league is in every crevice of every controversy.
“On any player issue, NFL security has full information within two hours of an incident. It knows everything,” said Joe Casale, a former player agent and sports business consultant.
A new PR problem, same as the old one
There has been a lot of talk about the NFL’s anti-celebration rules of late. “The sock rule” is still enforced ($5,000 to $10,000 fine to players who wear “incorrect” socks or wear the right ones too low). Accused but not proven to let air out of footballs? That will be a four-game suspension for your future Hall of Fame quarterback and loss of a first-round draft pick. Slap around your wife? You earn a new contract!
If that’s not one of the worst public relations moves an organization can make, I don’t know what is. If that doesn’t make your stomach turn, it should.
At a time when the pro football’s TV ratings are challenged because of a variety of issues, ignoring domestic violence should anger the near 50 percent of the NFL’s audience (women), and I won’t be surprised if many tune out because of it. As I tweeted yesterday, it should tick off men, too.
I’m a big football fan. I have followed and have been fortunate to work with NFL-related interests for a lot of years. This, however, truly ticks me off. I can’t be the only one.
What will you do about it NFL?
I don’t want to see your written plans or read more policies. They’re obviously just words. I want to SEE action that you give a damn about how others are treated off the field, particularly your personnel’s spouses. I want to SEE that you respect women, who spend so money from merchandise to tickets to time in front of the television to watch your teams. As for your pink month … you can save it.
As someone in the league office once said, “ignorance is not an excuse.”
©Gail Sideman; publiside.com 2016
There are some sports organizations that do their thing bigger and better than others.
With the NFL set to unveil its 2016 Hall of Fame class this weekend, I nod to the league and its teams when I think of businesses that set themselves apart from the rest of the sports world. It maintains immense television ratings in a day when few achieve such dominance and its loyal fan following and media keep the league in the news year-round.
Among this weekend’s HOF inductees is former Green Bay Packers quarterback, Brett Favre. The seemingly indestructible No. 4 continues to attract TV viewers and attracts listeners and clicks each time he’s on a radio show or quoted in a story.
In Wisconsin there are people who love him, love-him-not because Favre finished his career playing for the alien purple people mere minutes away. Despite his time with the Minnesota Vikings, all you have to do is look around hallowed Lambeau Field to see Favre’s influence.
This summer I did a “tourist in your own state” thing when I took my nephews on a tour of Lambeau Field and followed it with time at the storied Packers Hall of Fame. From the moment the Florida boys were born, I did all I could to “raise” them to be come Packers fans. They both bought in early, but one defected around the time that Favre did for others teams. Nonetheless, even he was impressed by a house that if Brett didn’t help build, he contributed proverbial raw materials and grit.
Make no mistake that Packers stars sparkled before and have after Favre, but it was the Kiln, Miss., native that thanks to Packers’ executive Ron Wolf, resurrected a storied franchise that looked like it would never return to the glory days of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.
Lambeau Field continues to evolve and the community around it, expand. The development of the adjacent Titletown District is under way and is expected to attract thousands more fans than Lambeau Field already does in-season and off . (In early July I looked wide-eyed at the number of people, many from other states and countries, that lined up for stadium tours.)
As someone that works in sports marketing and publicity, I’m certainly aware that stadiums need to grow and meet ever-changing fan demands. It’s just too easy to stay home and watch games in the comfort of your own home with the best television picture and snacks within arm’s reach. Green Bay is different, though, and the likes of team president Mark Murphy, as Bob Harlan knew before him, are meeting them. While it’s been a few years since the Packers brought home the coveted Lombardi Trophy, fans know that the smallest NFL market indeed enjoys a “Lambeau Mystique” and they cannot get enough of it.
I will think of all of that and more when I watch Favre deliver his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech this weekend. I’ll remember how I followed his field heroics in college, was frustrated when my then-local Atlanta team didn’t play him, but then giddy excitement when in 1992, Wolf took a big chance and it resulted in bigger returns.
Favre is one of many that helped the Green Bay Packers and the legend of Lambeau grow. Appreciate it all today and in years to come.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE
I learned something about branding last week that shouldn’t be entirely surprising.
When humans interact with humans as it relates to a brand, good things can happen.
I had the privilege to attend EA Play with sports broadcaster Charles Davis, with whom I’ve worked several years. It was the culmination of a year during which we kept Davis’ involvement with Madden NFL 17 quiet until Electronic Arts announced that he and Brandon Gaudin would comprise the game’s new announce team. (Madden NFL 17 will be available for purchase August 23.)
If you’re not part of the gaming community, you may consider Madden NFL as just another video game. At EA Play, during which all of Electronic Arts’ new games, including Madden NFL ’17, were previewed, you could sense it meant more to players. EA knew it. Those of us new to the scene quickly learned it.
Some brands say they listen, but …
There are textbook instances in which businesses say they cater to their customers but when you peel the layers, engagement goes as far as measuring analytics. The Madden franchise, at least from my vantage point during the last 12 months, solicits and acts on much what they learn from fans. Mix that attention with producers and talent meet-and-greets, and everybody feels part of the experience.
Davis and his Madden play-by-play partner Gaudin were greeted with excited gamers across the board at EA Play in Los Angeles. Devotees who were on hand to sample Madden ’17 chatted and took pictures with them, and many took to their smartphones to tweet words of gratitude for their work as well as their time at the rollout event.
It’s not unlike a professional athlete that stops to sign an autograph. Interacting with people can help create fans for life.
I knew little, but enough that loyal Madden players from the past would likely be loyal Madden competitors of the future, especially after they learned about the dynamic updates implemented by EA’s production team for the ’17 game (see some of them here: https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/news/2016/madden-17-franchise-big-decisions-and-community). With Davis and Gaudin in the room, they learned first-hand of their new announcers’ respect for the community and their promise to do more than proverbially mail in their calls. Human interaction… It pays dividends.
New commentators in awe of Madden NFL’s community
I asked the rookie Madden NFL announcers who have spent hours in broadcast booths calling live college football and NFL games, what they thought of the EA Play experience. They were as wowed as the fans. They said they knew that Madden players were invested in the game; in fact, they went into the recording booth with that respect Day 1. They said that interacting with EA Play attendees made them appreciate the franchise even deeper and as a result, want to work harder on their fans’ behalf.
Social media is good; eye-to-eye contact is great
Social media is a great way to communicate with people and Davis and Gaudin have certainly reaped the benefits of chatting with their followers. When it comes down to true branding, however, few things validate consumer connection with a product or service like eye-to-eye contact.
As the duo heads back to the studio for last-minute tweaks before Madden 17’s August 2016 release and updates throughout the NFL season, Madden fans may rest assured that as much as the announcers love football, they appreciate and respect fans, real and virtual, even more.
© Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016
It wasn’t long ago that decades old sports leagues admired UFC’s creativity, popularity and fan loyalty. Publicity for this mixed martial arts organization was off the charts.
Now we see it as a group that may have taken all of its positive publicity for granted.
During the past weekend, well-known MMA reporter Ariel Helwani was reportedly stripped of his press credential “for life” after he broke news about a returning star for which he had reliable sources. People that works in sports journalism or knows the role of a reporter say that he was doing his job.
Outsiders wonder if this was a case of misunderstanding or a business not knowing any better. Sometimes organizations see great headlines and flush bank accounts, but don’t understand the media’s role. They don’t know that reporters sent to cover their sports aren’t there to be their public relations staff. If I didn’t know any better, that seems to be the case with UFC. Why else would the powerful Ultimate Fighting Championship subject itself to atypical public and media scrutiny?
We PR types like control
As public relations specialists, people in my industry have ideal scenarios where we control our clients’ and organizations’ messages. We want news to go out at a specific time in a specific manner with information we provide. The people we represent like it that way. They often demand it.
No comment leads to public dictating conversation
Since UFC president Dana White made no official comment as to why Helwani was stripped of his credentials June 4, the public created its own narrative for three days about what went down. (Today White made a vague statement to TMZ.com, but with little detail.)
Hundreds of journalists from all ills, as well as MMA competitors, have come to Helwani’s defense. I heard some suggest that this power play proves that UFC isn’t a real sport because true sports organizations wouldn’t behave this way.
NFL, NBA, MLB look great now
We often criticize the NFL, NBA and MLB for certain policies, but media that cover each benefit from organizations that speak to and defend their journalists’ rights. The UFC and Helwani don’t have that. Regardless, from what we do know, (again, we, the public, are communicating the narrative we believe to be true), Helwani was stripped of his media credentials for reporting news before that organization released it on its own terms. If that happened with other leagues, grown adults in jerseys would be outraged. It would be like firing an NFL reporter for speaking about an anticipated matchup or rule change before the league released it on its stationary. It would omit any discussion of a team except for game nights, sports media outlets would be unnecessary and cash flow would become a drip because marketers would find better exposure for their brands.
The UFC is in essence, bit the proverbial hand that feeds it.
There are better ways to communicate with reporters. With the move against Helwani, the UFC is at least for now, rebranding itself not as a sports organization, but as a bully that sells sophisticated workouts.
UPDATE: No sooner did I hit “publish” on this post when I read that Helwani, by his own admission was, in essence, paid by UFC before his unceremonious ouster. As the Deadspin piece says, however, it doesn’t justify banning a writer for doing what was reportedly his job. If he was hired to be a voice for the group, he should have been advised about news as other PR staffers were.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Helwani’s credential was restored.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE
I won’t go into great detail about what was horribly wrong with an interview Waco, Texas KWIX-TV television reporter Julie Hays conducted with former Baylor University chancellor Ken Starr. All you have to do is watch it.
You don’t have to work in public relations or as a crisis communications specialist to know that this interview regarding rape allegations against Baylor athletes and subsequent staff firings was anything less than a disaster. It was a cluster for Baylor, Starr and his PR specialist, who was introduced to the KWIX crew as a “family friend.”
To be clear, I in NO way dismiss the victim(s) in this growing case against Baylor by talking PR.
Here we look at some of the ugliest of inauthenticity and downright bad public relations practice. We remind universities or any organizations that while most crisis responses are not this shameful, it pays in many ways to be prepared before a mess occurs. In sports, it prompts presidents, athletic directors and coaches to read and tend to emails that proverbially scream “HELP.”
It tells young public relations practitioners that you never pull your client aside and tell him to change his answer during an interview, and then ask the reporter to edit the part you don’t like from the piece.
Of course there’s the No. 1 rule of crisis communications, which is to tell the truth and be as transparent as possible. If you lie and there’s a paper trail or anyone to refute your story, it will come out.
We often say that the cover-up is worse than the crime. In this case, not much could be worse than sexual assault allegations, yet in a PR sense, the apparent cover-up carries a whopping stench.
Like I said, watch the interview for yourself. And when faced with a crisis, don’t do anything that was done here.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016
Sports PR, along with every industry, has changed, but I maintain that those that publicize teams, individuals and products are in the business of making information and access relatively simple for media that cover them.
The Buffalo News Bills’ beat reporter Tyler Dunne shared the team’s 2016 media policies on the first day of OTAs (organized team activities) which outline more restrictions than than the SEC (the Securities Exchange Commission, not the Southeastern Conference).
As Dunne noted, NFL teams have become increasingly stringent with what can and can’t be transmitted via emerging media and player access, but the Bills’ policy is puzzling. Did personnel from management to coaches to publicity staffers think that media were going to accept the limitations and go about their days? Reporters’ livelihoods depend on access and many of these items do everything but welcome them and thus, their audiences. The latter, of course, are the ticket and merchandise-paying public.
I’m not privy to what was considered before the policy was released, but when PR restrictions are put in place, there should be as much concern for possible repercussions as protecting your client. In this case, the client is the Bills organization. If ramifications outweigh benefits, professionals should take a second look and strongly consider modifying them. The result will be more positive press on what is in essence, Day 1 of the NFL season.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE.com 2016
Non-profit organizations could take a lesson from Dan Dakich about how to mobilize a community.
When he speaks, people listen. And they act.
Best known for his work as an ESPN college basketball analyst and former coach, Dakich is host of the Indianapolis-based Dan Dakich Show where sports and life take center mic each weekday.
Little holds-barred, Dakich’s show is Indy and Big Ten heavy, as one might expect from a former Hoosier hooper, but conversations often take unexpected turns. While they may involve sports stories of national interest, they might veer into song and society. Song certainly entertains, but it’s the real-life get-real stuff that drives his audience.
“I modeled my show somewhat after the Bob & Tom radio show,” Dakich said of the long-entrenched Indianapolis-based production. “Despite their fart jokes and innuendos, I liked that they humanized their show. I also admired that they did a lot of things in the community.”
Eschew the chew
Among topics that have resonated with Dakich’s listeners during the last year-and-a-half have been the hazards of using smokeless tobacco and dangers of obesity. Each, according to Dakich, a Gary, Indiana native, are ongoing problems for much of his state’s population. Instead of just spewing statistics about how bad they are, however, Dakich shared his own challenges and invited his audience to join the good fights with him.
“I chewed for more than 20 years,” Dakich said. “It took waking from a dream about me floating above my daughter’s future wedding to essentially scare me straight.”
He quit chewing five-years-ago, and hundreds, who have dutifully reported in via phone call, social media and private email, joined him.
Worth the weigh-in
While he continues to applaud listeners that share their stories about the tough road off tobacco, Dakich more recently shared that he wanted to drop some weight. Call it the Dakich Weight-Loss Challenge or tag it with any other name, but his fight has also turned into his audience’s prizefight. Fans tweet photos of their of scales during weekly weigh-ins and call into the show to commiserate with Dakich. He, in turn, provides coach-like support to keep them going.
“Sometimes you need a kick in … and if I can be that kick, I’ll embrace it,” Dakich said.
“It got back to me that people like to see themselves retweeted, so if that provides some kind of support and recognition of something good their doing for their lives, I’m thrilled to do it,” the 53-year-old Dakich said.
The sports talk audience response to living healthier has been a pleasant surprise for Dakich.
“I’m surprised and flattered that people become so invested,” Dakich said. “The ditch tobacco message really took off to a degree I didn’t expect, but absolutely appreciate. I know how hard it is. The same with losing weight.”
Let’s not forget that Dakich has a lot of fun with his show that launched in October 2008. He entertains as much as informs and educates.
More than a brand
Broadcasters often ask me how to build a foundation for their personal brands. I tell them to start with showing their audiences the real person behind the mic.
It’s served Dakich well. More importantly, it serves an audience he empowers each day on-air and online.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE.com
Bill Belichick can get away with saying, “We’re onto [name-the-city],” each time he’s asked about a hot topic. A rookie that hasn’t played a down of football in the NFL? Not so much.
As if Dolphins’ first-round pick Laremy Tunsil didn’t have a rough enough introduction to the league, he eventually met the media in Miami Friday afternoon and according to reports, he repeatedly said that he would answer only football-related questions. That was after reporters were initially told that he wouldn’t appear because he’d suffered an allergic reaction.
If the public and reporters were suspicious, blame it on one of the biggest public relations fiascos in NFL Draft history.
The jury remains out for some regarding the question of who released a video on Twitter of the former Ole Miss OT smoking out of a gas mask bong. To say that the incriminating footage spread through social media like wildfire would be an understatement. It was more like an inferno. By the time NFL Network and ESPN reported the story, the highly rated prospect fell to the Dolphins at No. 13. Tunsil and his representatives said his Twitter account was hacked. And it didn’t stop there.
The Tunsil camp said that his Instagram account was also hacked after screen shots of a text conversation between him and an Ole Miss assistant regarding money changing hands were revealed.
Before the second alleged hack – and even though I don’t know for sure, I can’t imagine that a high draft pick would sabotage his career on one of the biggest nights of his life – I asked why Tunsil would share his social media passwords or provide access to anyone. After the second attack, I sniffed carelessness, regardless of who hit the “send” buttons. The pictures changed the conversation of the entire first round, if not the draft.
You may agree or disagree with the importance of either impropriety, but the bottom line is that each is illegal in the NFL and the NCAA, respectively. And this post is about social media and a reminder for all of us to use it responsibly.
Let Tunsil’s lesson be one for all sports and public figures
If athletes at any level ever needed a lesson why they should be careful about what they do, where they do it and with whom they do it, Thursday night was the first day of school and final exam combined.
The Tunsil story is so layered that I’m simply going to share some sports social media bullet points of do’s and don’ts for sports social media users. In this case, it also extends to traditional media conduct, as it relates to Friday’s press conference in Miami.
You may ask why we continue the conversation. I ask in return, which one of you projected “bong hit” and “Cheech ‘n’ Chong” to be mentioned in the same NFL Network broadcast during Round One of the NFL Draft?
Tunsil is lucky
Tunsil is actually luckier than others may have been. He has big talent and was still drafted in the first round. He will have a chance to prove himself on the field. Others may not be as lucky.
- Beginning in at least middle school, request that educators and coaches teach athletes about responsible social media. Raise the level of those lessons with new instructors each year. Parents, learn to use social media and share responsible habits with your kids.
- Create a social media account and secure an unsuspecting password.
- If you anticipate a high-profile life move, change your password. Shoot, when the calendar changes each quarter, change your password!
- Always consider who will see a post. If you’re an athlete, that means potentially the world.
- Before you post, ask yourself how viewers will benefit from reading or seeing a post. Will they be educated, informed or entertained (in a way your grandmother would approve)?
- Review the post before you hit “send.” Review it again. Does it incriminate you? Does it hurt others? Review it again. Ok, one more time. If you’re confident it’s good, hit “send.” (If you’re not sure, consult with a trusted advisor or sports PR and social media specialist … we want to help.)
- If you are caught with a post such as Tunsil’s, whether you send it yourself or not, own it, explain it and move on. (I think Tunsil did this to a degree Thursday night.)
*If you’re later asked about a miscue in a press conference, address the topic, answer a few questions and only after that you may request sports-only questions. The quicker you honestly discuss controversies, the faster the issues evaporate, assuming you stay “clean” going forward.
- Share your password with ANYONE. The only exception is your agent or publicist (not their assistants or interns, just them).
- Do anything that may be perceived improper or illegal. Cameras are EVERYWHERE.
- Get into social media spats with fans. Most that initiate them are just in it for 140 characters of “fame,” so don’t waste your time and aggravation.
- Post something and think you can later delete it. Anything posted on the internet is there FOREVER if someone truly wants to find it.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE.com, 2016
PGA Tour member, Jordan Spieth is a professional golfer, not a sports publicist, he could have a second career as the latter.
Roll out the cliches when you consider Spieth after a devastating Masters Tournament finish. Grace under pressure. Sportswriter’s dream. It could have gone badly, but Spieth didn’t let it.
Consider the circumstances. In what looked early like the makings of a Spieth-to-Self green jacket ceremony when the 2015 Masters winner birdied holes 6, 7, 8 and 9, took an ugly turn, literally, when the 22-year-old golfer bogeyed the 10th, 11th and carded a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole. He went from a one-shot lead to looking up from three down.
After he finished his round tied for second and left the course to sign his scorecard, he was caught on camera asking the camera operator not to focus on his face. Cue the social media police! Posts compared him to Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton, who infamously showed little interest in his Super Bowl 50 postgame presser.
I gave Newton a mulligan at the time and still say that his future conduct will determine how I feel about his ability to publicly lose as gracefully as he wins.
Spieth doesn’t get that break. He doesn’t need it. Moments after he signed his scorecard, he headed to Butler Cabin, then back to the golf course where he took part in traditions that required him to present the new Masters winner, Danny Willett, with the coveted green jacket. Yes, Spieth had to stand in front of cameras and drape the green jacket over someone else after losing a commanding lead in one of the biggest tournaments of the year. TWICE. As if the quadruple wasn’t bad enough.
But it was what Spieth did afterward for which I give him big PR props.
“Under the circumstances he handled himself quite well,” said ESPN golf reporter, Bob Harig, who was among the media that gathered to get the runner-up’s post-tournament reaction. “He was honest and didn’t make excuses. He explained the key moments.
“You can’t ask for much more.”
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman agreed.
“I thought Spieth handled it (press) with class and grace and his usual refreshing candor,” Bohls said. “I know he took a PR class at Texas but he could teach one as well. Most all I talked to, agreed with me.”
Unless PR classes have gotten A LOT better since I took them, Spieth learned how to conduct himself with aplomb from other sources, as well.
It’s not unusual for athletes that care about their brands to get publicity coaching, but sometimes it’s intertwined with what someone learned and practiced through each level of sport. The result in this case is that Spieth could teach smart and effective sports PR by example. There are dozens of athletes in all sports that could learn from him.
How did Spieth in his ultra competitive mindset, pull it together so quickly? He likely did as I would have suggested: walked off the course, took a few deep breaths and headed to his green jacket obligations. There he likely took many more deep breaths before speaking at length.
Someone who’s seen the top of the mountain is not expected to act jovially after a competitive face-plant. He, however, took the moments between walks to get it together before he answered reporters’ questions with thought and detail. As Harig said, you can’t ask for better.
To the PGA Tour: the way I see it, you’re lucky to have a guy like Jordan Spieth for his talents on and off the course. To the sports community: watch this guy. He can teach you something.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016
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