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Sports media – you need a website

Posted on by Gail

{This post originally appeared at nationalsportsmedia.org, previously National Sportsbroadcasters and Sportswriters Association, as it made a website transfer.}cropped-logo-NSSA2016

Sportscasters and Sportswriters: you need your own websites

Sportscasters and sportswriters that have taken buyouts or were released in media organization downsizings ask, often in a panic, “how do I stay relevant in sports media circles when I don’t have a newspaper or station to display links to my work?”

Gail Sideman

Gail Sideman

My answer to them is the advice I provide corporate or contract media: build your own website.

Regardless of where you work, your website will follow. Jobs may come and go, but a website is essentially your personal storefront, and is there as long as you want it.

A personal website showcases your voice, writing and story-telling skills. It may be used as a marketing tool or simply be a place where people can find you. After all, media professionals don’t typically remain in one role forever.

There’s good news for those who feel overwhelmed by the thought of doing anything tech-related beyond using Microsoft Word. It’s never been easier and more cost efficient to create a website that showcases your talent and skills as well as tell the story of you. And if you don’t feel comfortable creating a site yourself, freelancer fees are more competitive than bread prices. Shop around!

Elements to include on your website, whether it’s a multiple page display or one-screen/one-page blog style include:

  • Descriptive domain
  • Contact information
  • Must-read biography (short and long)
  • Clean, attractive design
  • Visuals
  • Clips

Master your domain and find an accommodating host

.com, .info, .tv … there are dozens of suffixes with which you can use to secure your personal domain. If possible, create a domain that includes your name and what you do, e.g. joesmithscribe.com or davegorensports.tv. You may visit websites such as godaddy.com or hostgator.com to see what domain names are available and purchase them there if you’d like.

Host features vary from service to service, and most offer discounts on host packages throughout the year.

My most important advice when you shop for domain or host locations is to use one that has 24/7/365 phone or chat support. Little is more frustrating than to find your site isn’t operating properly and the host and domain service is closed for a long holiday weekend.

Include contact information on each page of your site

Next to your domain and host, contact information is what people should prioritize but often remember last, if at all. Someone recently sent me a media website to critique that looked super and navigated perfectly, but there was NO contact information on any of the pages.

While some have a separate page for contact information and call it a day, I like to Include it on every page of a website. As a member of the media, you’re in the information business. Provide it and make it easy to find.

Your contact information should consist of a phone number and email address at the very least. I further suggest a snail mail address if you have one, and links to your social media accounts.

Make people want to read your bio

Leave your resume in a drawer and tell your story. Who are you? How did you come to work in sports media? What’s your most challenging or favorite part of the job? Share a couple of your outside interests. All of this paints a picture of who you are, and it’s much more interesting to readers than a resume.

In an effort to be prepared for anything, write a brief three-to-four sentence bio with basics of who you are now, and include a link to a longer version that better tells a more complete story.

NO ONE should have an ugly website!

From WordPress to Squarespce to hosting companies that provide their own tools, there are hundreds of options with which to build easy-to-navigate, great looking websites. Use one of these sites’ complimentary templates to build your own beautiful site, or find an expert who’s capable of modifying one to fit your needs and style. Like I wrote above, freelance designer and programmer fees are extremely competitive, so there’s someone that will likely fit your budget.

If you have a website but it takes more than a few seconds to load or has rainbow color squiggly type, you’re past due for an update!

Photos and video are like wardrobe accessories

Rare are days when you want to wear just one color from top to bottom. In a similar vein, photos and video clips add variety and help describe elements on your website. The site isn’t meant to be a scrapbook, but tight pictures of you working or something that visually describes your page topic is appropriate. No one wants to look at pages with straight copy.

Show them what you’ve got

Include a page that samples your work. If you’re a sportscaster, include clips of you talking on camera (you may need permission from the media outlet if you produced it for a station or network, but you can always link). Hotlinks to written work should credit the outlet for which it was produced.

As you build a website or engage the help of someone to do it for you, remember to produce it so that it’s mobile friendly. More people than ever use smartphones as their primary Internet access tool, and Google’s search engine won’t list sites that are not mobile friendly.

If I can help you with the contents of your website and lead you to talented and budget-friendly designers, please let me know.

©NationalSportsMedia.org; Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE.com 2016


10 ways Twitter wins the sports business game

Posted on by Gail

This week, Twitter-owned Periscope celebrated its first anniversary. Last week marked Twitter’s 10th year on our screens. As I’ve written, I use other social media and advise clients to use what meets their needs, but Twitter is my primary social media platform.

FB2D66688CTo many in media and related businesses, Twitter is the first place we visit each morning to see what’s new in the world, and where we share and exchange ideas and content throughout the week.

Since my last post regarding Twitter’s value to sports, many told me that they use it, but they’re unsure if it’s effective. They asked how sports businesses could best use Twitter to engage with fans and followers. While I share as I did above, that everyone’s need is different, I created a list of 10 ways to create a simple, yet super social media experience with Twitter. Each has to be customized to the organization or individual that’s using it to get the most from it.

I may be preaching to the choir since many of us are already in the space, but we feel that if Twitter is good for the sports industry, others could convert these concepts to their businesses.

Sports Twitter 10

1 • Information flows – From waver wires to breaking news, many people learn up-to-the-minute news from our first morning log-in to the last task of the day, and many of the same people are sources for that news. NOTE: Be choosy about the experts you follow and trust to get your information. As sure as the sun will rise, there will be fake Twitter accounts during sports deadline periods.

2 • Athletes and Coaches are on Twitter – If you read print or consume any electronic media that reference tweets each day, you know that many athletes and coaches use Twitter. Some even do it without controversy! Twitter allows athletes and coaches to share thoughts about everything from games to fan love to pictures from their vacations in just a few minutes.

3 • All the cool reporters are there – There are few places where you can find sports reporters from throughout the country in one big virtual coliseum. It’s also a forum where they can show their personalities and truly connect with readers and listeners in ways they couldn’t before. For public relations types, it’s a super place to develop relationships with media you may not regularly see.

4 • And the survey says … – Twitter has an easy tool with which any reporter can create a survey and get followers’ feedback about a trending topic. When described as an “informal survey,” results provide real content for bloggers that are on tight posting schedules.

5 • Quick – tune into a nail biter! – I can’t count how many times I learned about a tight game in-progress because I read about it on Twitter. Thanks to those glued to their tubes, I’ve caught some great events because of the heads-up. Dan Patrick Show producer Paul Pabst has established a reputation of alerting followers to snug games, and now his followers alert him in the rare instance he isn’t watching.

6 • It’s a club where fans gather – NFL Sundays and college football weekends; NBA and NCAA basketball are just some events that bring fans together on Twitter. It’s a virtual sports bar, which is why teams have jumped into the game to provide incentives and product to loyal followers.

importance-of-visuals HubSpot

A graphic from HubSpot that diagrams the value of visuals in social media posts.

7 • SEE it for yourself – From Periscope to Twitpics, Vine or uploaded graphics, there are plenty of ways to add visuals to tweets. Statistics show that people are more apt to pay attention to and share your post when you include some sort of visual. As a fan at a game, your backdrop is the field or court. As a television announcer, show behind-the-scenes in your broadcast booth or position. Your fans love peeks inside your world.

8 • Coaches, athletes, announcers interact with fans – Twitter is one of the quickest, simplest ways for people in the public eye to interact with fans. Some designate times to answer fan questions while others do it as their schedules allow. It has never been easier for them to build a fan base.

9 • You’re being watched – People on Twitter often forget how many people actually see their posts. This can be good for the person with a great sense of humor and humility, and bad for the guy who continually picks “fights” and lets critics get under his/her skin. My mantra is to “kill ‘em with kindness” and if that doesn’t work, use the BLOCK button. Why does all of this matter? I’ve had business people tell me that they became interested in my clients because of what they read on Twitter streams.

10 • In case of emergency – Crises happen in sports more than we’d like. Twitter is a smart place to communicate a well-thought response if you or your club happens into an unfortunate public relations situation and you want to address it quickly. Incorporate it in your crisis communications plan.

These provide just a snapshot about how Twitter can benefit sports businesses. Could you suggest other examples of how Twitter contributes to your sports experience or ways companies and individuals can use it productively? Let’s hear them. We’re on the same team, after all.

©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016


Happy Birthday, Twitter!

Posted on by Gail

You’re a decade old and like many pre-teens, you’re experiencing some growing pains. You’re a bit indecisive (140 characters or 10,000 characters?). You have pimples (abusive accounts remain active after people have begged you to silence harmful trolls). Like in junior high and high school, bullies abound. The Internet as a whole has made people with small brains feel big, but some of these people can be dangerous and must be kicked off of Twitter for good. Twitter

Despite any blemishes (we all have them), I think you’re still the best!

My wish for you on this 10th birthday is to grow smarter, not wealthier, at least for the short term. I know Twitter investors may frown upon that, but there’s a method to that madness. With smart and productive growth, which includes listening to the needs of your longtime, frequent users who will long tout your value to others, the money will come. And face it, nothing in the rumor mill to date has suggested an easier way for newbies to use Twitter or better market its business partners than it does now.

Traditional media is all-in with Twitter

If you doubt Twitter’s value as a medium, turn on your television, log onto any online news site or even open a print publication. Twitter mentions, names, posts and hashtags dominate sports, entertainment and political media. When news breaks, many of us learn of it first on Twitter. Even news outlets quote others’ Twitter posts before they’ve had a chance to gather details when something big breaks (not always the smart thing to do, but it happens). Just like our smartphones, we didn’t realize we needed Twitter, but we needed Twitter.

My hangout

Screenshot 2016-03-21 16.04.39

My first tweet, written in April 2007.

Twitter has been my primary social media outlet of choice, even as new platforms have popped onto the scene and others have added features. It’s easy to learn, and I find it the best way to get to know and engage with others. There may be some mundane (what-she’s-having-for-dinner) mentions and as previously written, there are trolls. But compared to the likes of Facebook, you’ll find fewer obligatory photo comments, drawn out political rants and just blah-blah-blah. I find valuable information shared and exchanged on Twitter, and when you engage civilly and productively, it’s a super way to meet people in your profession or related. Hey, we even have fun there! (Come watch a big event with us, sometime.)

Value for a publicist and most any other business

As a publicist I’ve connected with media to share thoughts and stories or simply discuss what’s on our minds. Where else in the virtual world can you drop into the hospitality room any time of year to watch a game or discover great ideas by chatting business or life?

Better exposure for your work

I’ve also been able to read and view more peers’ and media’s work because they share links, which I may not have seen otherwise. Criticize news aggregators if you’d like, but they’re gateways to up-to-date media worldwide.

So Happy Birthday, Twitter, and best wishes for many more informative and engaged ones.

©Gail Sideman; publiside.com


Sports PR was front-and-center in this week’s news

Posted on by Gail

It was quite a week of you’re into sports PR case studies. Or just into sports.

Sure, there’s that college conference basketball tournament thing. A few overtimes, buzzer-beaters and upsets are always good for a sport that seems to emerge from a regular season slumber at this time each year. [Note to those people: the regular season was pretty fun, too.]

My attention was also on sports off the court. The week began with Denver Broncos and decorated quarterback, Peyton Manning, calling it a career after 18 seasons. Later, tennis pro and marketing maven Maria Sharapova announced in a press conference that she’d tested positive for a banned substance.

The week ended with oft-troubled NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel officially released by the Cleveland Browns after public and legal issues.

When this timeline started, things were pretty cut-and-dried for me PR wise. I’ve seen and consulted positive and crisis situations, and I easily defined them after each event.

Manning could have been a pro

I thought Manning’s retirement press conference was more of a party, not unlike when other star athletes make final podium appearances. The only non feel-good question during the Manning affair occurred when Lindsay Jones from USA Today asked him about the continuing buzz of improprieties while he was a student-athlete at the University of Tennessee. (Afterward, Jones was chastised online from all corners for doing her job.)

The view from the PR platform

I am a publicist and help prepare people to answer possible incriminating questions. While I hope compromising questions aren’t asked, I know better. Reporters have jobs to do, and it’s mine to prepare my clients to answer them with humility and honesty. In my personal view, Manning fell short.

To be sure, Manning’s answer to Jones’ question may have been honest. There are conflicting reports about what happened in the Vols locker room with a female trainer years ago and only those who were on-site know the truth. (Accounts of who was in the training room vary.) The only reason he might care at this point is because he created a squeaky-clean brand and that is tarnished, if just an inch, with renewed attention toward events in 1996 and a book he and his father wrote in which they were highly critical of the alleged victim.

Manning would have been lauded for a smart and concise answer to Jones’ question during his retirement event, but he concluded it with a quote from fictional movie character Forrest Gump. As a woman — as a human that finds nothing funny about alleged sex abuse -– the comment was condescending and inappropriate. I don’t say that to be PC. I say that because it’s classless.FB2D66688C

Manning may be one of the nicest, kindest individuals to walk the planet, and I respect those who say he is. However, the comment was misplaced, uncalled for and unfortunate. If I own a company that pays him to endorse my products, I cringed when I heard that. If he regrets the miscue, he hasn’t said so. There has been no apology and likely won’t be. Unfortunately, many like me will remember the blunder more than the adulation unless something is found to totally disprove sexual misconduct accusations.

Sharapova slam

Hours later in what many speculated would be a retirement announcement, the five-time Grand Slam event winner Sharapova said she failed a drug test at the Australian Open. She was rightly lauded for getting in front of the issue when she met the media herself instead of letting the news leak from anyone else. She said that she tested positive for a recently banned substance called meldonium, a Latvian-produced medication she took legally for 10 years.

I watched Sharapova’s presser on Tennis Channel and tweeted that I thought that hers was the ideal case study in how to handle a crisis at the outset. Too many deny or hide, which only makes a controversy grow.

Today there are questions as to whether Sharapova did in fact take advantage of a medication that until January 1, 2016 had been legal according to the World Anti-Doping Agency but known to have energy producing effects. Regardless, if I were her PR representative, I would have advised her to do the very thing she did. She revealed the results of the failed test, explained she took it for health reasons and blamed only herself for not knowing the med was added to the WADA list of banned substances.

While the 29-year-old Sharapova did what she should PR wise, sponsors didn’t react as positively. Nike and Porsche “suspended” their relationships with her and Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer “suspended negotiations” to extend its contract with her. Ironically, Head tennis racquets publicly supported her, even though she will likely be away from tennis for a yet-to-be-announced period and not be able to showcase its product during matches.

Johnny be gone

Somewhere in the middle but just as concerning was the anticipated release of Manziel who played 15 games and started eight of them for the Cleveland Browns. Reports of his hard party, undisciplined lifestyle and most recently, a domestic violence charge led the Browns to make a simple announcement of his release Friday.

Manziel’s situation is more a life issue than a public-relations one, although with each episode, he continued to make the Browns look bad for overlooking his past when they drafted him in 2014.

Only Manziel knows his true-life challenges. Is he partying because he simply likes to? Does he have a substance problem? Does he feel he’s entitled to do what he wants because he has all his life? Regardless of those answers, another NFL team will have to think long and hard if it thinks it will get a different persona from the former Heisman Trophy winner.

Three professional athletes with three issues played out in the public in a few short days. Public relations and branding professors have a lot to talk about as the 2016 Spring semester ends.

©Gail Sideman, PUBLISIDE 2016


Auburn football coach’s new car is a cool recruiting tool

Posted on by Gail

We are our brands. Each time we step foot out the door each day, we subliminally share our brands in how we dress, act, what car we drive and its color.

That’s why when I read the headline “Recruiting tool? Gus Malzahn’s flashy new sports car” on USA TODAY’s website, I said to myself, “absolutely.”


2016 BMW i8

I love the BMWi8 with scissor doors; saw and admired one in south Florida a few months ago. Some might find it ostentatious while others simply think it’s cool. Regardless, of course it’s a recruiting tool when it comes to sharing a ride with young football players that pass through Auburn, Alabama as they decide where to take their gridiron talents after high school.

Malzahn said he’d never had a sports car and there was no better time to indulge than for his 50th birthday. I don’t blame him. I hope he has a boatload of fun with it.

And if he snares a fast player for his football team while he drives his fast car, all the power to them all.

©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE.com 2016





Social media is changing the way athletes make big announcements

Posted on by Gail

When it comes to professional athletes announcing their retirements, the media planets are in the process of a major realignment.

Last week former Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Carolina defensive end Jared Allen announced that he was stepping away from professional football after playing 12 years in the NFL. He didn’t issue a press release through his team or agent. He didn’t sit on a dais and thank his teammates, coaches and corporate partners. He simply released a 20-second video on his Instagram account (synched with his Twitter page) on horseback and said that he was riding into the proverbial sunset.

Two weeks prior to Allen’s announcement, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement on Twitter during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 50. He posted a photo of his hanging cleats and in typical Lynch fashion, offered no words. By posting on Twitter, he grabbed the attention of thousands of multi-screeners that were already chatting about football, and he didn’t face media questions he’s avoided in recent years.  The Seahawks and Lynch’s agent later confirmed his retirement, also via Twitter.

“We’re now in an era where an athlete can send a message that reflects his own image, and Jared Allen did just that as he literally and figuratively rode into the sunset,” FOX Sports and NFL Network football analyst Charles Davis, said. “His video announcement fit him and his brand. Athletes get savvier as we go along, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

It wasn’t long ago that big-name athletes’ teams scheduled press conferences about 24-36 hours prior to the gathering to give national media time to travel. A few dozen reporters, photo journalists, players’ families and team personnel would gather in the team’s press briefing room where said player would offer his retirement statement. He would thank everyone from his organization and teammates to his Pop Warner coach and agent. He’d take questions from reporters in the room, and feel-good stories would be written and told that day and maybe the next. The video was typically interesting enough only to share on evening news shows and early the following season when national NFL broadcasters talked about that team’s changes.


Our daily digital allows athletes to make announcements their own ways.

Today, athletes create their own visuals and make statements via social media, and those individually posted nuggets live on in Internet infinity. Even if we move on to new stories the following day, creativity like Allen’s and Lynch’s skyrocket in the minutes and hours after their release, but remain online to share months and years forward.

“Even if it was crafted by an agent or a PR firm, Marshawn Lynch’s retirement announcement was brilliant because it perfectly suited his taciturn public personality,” said Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and 2015 NSSA Sportswriter of the Year, Lori Nickel. “I loved it. If he did it himself, or with the help of a friend, it’s even better.”

ESPN play-by-play announcer Adam Amin said that he appreciates athletes’ creativity, but as someone that uses background information to tell stories to frame game broadcasts, he would like more information.

“As a media member, I would just want access to an athlete to find out why they want to retire, rather than speculate on my own,” Amin said. “As long as that gets fulfilled at some point, I encourage athletes to continue to do things as creatively and efficiently as possible to reach as large an audience as they can.”

Nickel is not so sure that every question would be answered, even if there were press conferences.

“I can’t think of anything more useless than a sports press conference,” Nickel said. “They’re not set up for a genuine exchange between thoughtful questioning and honest answering. They’re awkward, they’re sterile and they’re distance creating and as a result, they’re boring and uninformative.

“It’s all for image and show – and heaven help us, hopefully not a beer or pizza endorsement – and as a journalist I couldn’t care less about any of that.”

Nickel said that she “fondly remembers” the days when traditional media – reporters and photo journalists once served useful roles in capturing retirement announcements and their emotions with powerful still images, rare camera close ups and candid conversations.

“It was almost a rite of passage for the star athlete to climb a dais, grab a mic and let the memories and the reflections flow,” she said. “I like the modern idea of the final goodbye coming straight from the sports star to the social media observer, or better yet, the sports idol to the devoted fan. I don’t feel like I’m being nudged out of a good story.

“If anything, I feel all the more challenged to make the chase and try to beat out everyone else for the killer follow up.”

Davis reflected from a fan’s point of view.

“We have the attention spans of gnats, so we quickly forget these announcements, especially if there isn’t any color to them,” he said. “I don’t think fans care that they don’t see a press conference and those of us in the media — we’re onto the next thing so quickly. The downside for television news is that they could cut and splice sound bytes from pressers and use them in different broadcasts forever, but the individual creativity certainly isn’t there.”

Social media has changed the way we disseminate and consume news; peek into public figures lives and now, the way athletes retire. Its uses will continue to evolve, especially in the sports arena.

©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016


Sports network revenue stories educate consumers about more than stock prices

Posted on by Gail

There is reason for sports networks and their corporate parents to be concerned each time a negative revenue report is released in 2016, and it’s not all about dollars and cents on the surface.

Sports networks – ok, ESPN in particular – have a PR challenge, one I’m sure everyone in the sports television industry considers when such a story is reported. It goes further than a headline about a quarterly bottom line.

People often research and cut cords when reports are released about the sports television industry.

There are many consumers that don’t realize that they can get many of their favorite television shows without cable until they read or hear reports about sports television revenues. Each time quarterly statistics are released and logos fly above newspaper headlines, people like me research further into how to omit television services to save money. While I haven’t done it and my insatiable sports appetite and work will keep me from leaving my paid TV service at the curb, I admit that I learn something each time one of these stories is released. The lure of a smaller media bill is enticing, for sure.

In the name of consumers that don’t read the stock market pages, the Bristol, Conn., based company and sports fans everywhere hope these stories slow and proverbial scissors go back into the drawer. Education is power and the more people read, I think the more they will act to cut services or cords.

Disclaimer: I have freelanced with ESPN and other sports network television crews for several years and count staffers among my friends. Network professionals have taught me a great deal about the industry. I am and will be forever grateful.


©Gail Sideman; publiside.com 2016


Newton was wrong for his Super Bowl pressroom conduct, but shouldn’t be crucified

Posted on by Gail

Super Bowl 50 armchair quarterbacks are running at full force today, and comments are not so much about the game as they are about one player. And that player isn’t Peyton Manning or Von Miller.

Cam Newton critics are loud today.

Newton’s Law ruled throughout the 2015 football season. With every dab and loud celebration, he said he was simply true to himself. He made no apologies to those that criticized him for his Super Man cleats and giving kids footballs after Carolina Panthers’ scores at home.

Cam play

Cam Newton is a quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

Then came the Super Bowl 50 postgame press conference when Cam behaved badly after his Panthers lost to the Broncos 24-10. He arrived to speak to the media dejected, dressed in a hoodie, answered a couple of questions with a word or two and abruptly left the stage. He’s been called classless, a sore loser and lots of other things not fit for family print.

As someone that coaches sports public relations circles, I have thought a lot about the postgame Cam crash. More intriguing to me are thoughts from peers – fellow PR specialists.

Sue Zoldak

Sue Zoldak, Vice President of LEVICK, said, “I think it is pretty unfair of the ecosystem – media and fans – to treat professional athletes as if they are robots programmed to deliver on a good (i.e. provide entertainment value). The Super Bowl is the biggest day in the lives of these humans and for many, a one-time chance to live a life-long dream. That’s a lot of pressure.

“And whether there is self-induced pressure that’s introduced it’s not something that we should punish someone for after the fact. Isn’t that what we want as viewers?”

Brian Gleason

I saw a comment from Brian Gleason on Twitter Sunday night, which rang a bell in my own PR mind, and asked him to elaborate.

“Cam is still a young athlete in terms of his professional career,” said Gleason, Vice President of Marketing for Previnix. “I’ve been around several professional athletes that really struggled with the media early in their careers, especially when facing criticism after tough playoff losses. I’ve then seen those same athletes learn and grow, and become great examples of how to handle the media professionally later in their careers.”


My take is similar to Zoldak’s and Gleason’s. I certainly think Newton should have acted more professionally, but that doesn’t lie entirely on his lap after his first Super Bowl loss. While it was reported that Panthers’ offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey tried to get Newton’s attention for him to remove the hood from his head before he started to speak but were unsuccessful, I think that preparation for such an outcome should have started the day he arrived in Charlotte, N.C. and continued in the months and days prior to the Super Bowl. And maybe it did and Newton was just that upset. Add to that, the postgame setup at the Super Bowl that had him within earshot of a Broncos player talking about their game plan to dismantle Newton.

Could have been worse

Newton is the face of the Panthers. He’s a newly crowned NFL MVP. He’s not new to the spotlight for anyone that knows his college and professional careers. He should have been better dressed; more prepared and handled his postgame press conference professionally. That said, I would not crucify him for one episode of poor conduct. No one was hurt, arrested or worse.

Therein lies the importance for preparation, Zoldak said.

“I think players, especially the face of a team like the star quarterback, should be given more support from his organization than it appears that Newton had from a media relations front,” Zoldak said. “That means spokesperson training year-round, a before game ‘murder board’ session where the worst possible scenario is rehearsed, a before-the-interview pep talk and final prep session, a spokesperson on stage or nearby who can help answer or defer questions and step in if the player is too emotional to speak.”

Newton’s emotions were on overdrive and he may not have responded to or he may have even tuned out a pre-interview pep talk, but a team’s public relations staff has to try. And again, maybe it did. None of us in this post know.

The situation could have certainly ended worse for Newton. I’d rather see him leave the podium early instead of fuming to the point where he said something that would haunt his team and him in every press session for the rest of his career.

I said last night that I believe that Newton has grown publicly since the beginning of his professional football career and he’s a work-in-progress. He’s had highs and lows, but playing a game on the biggest world sports stage has a greater learning curve for some. I think Newton has a responsibility to be more cordial than he was last night, but I hope and believe that he will look back on and work to improve himself for the future. Gleason agrees.

“While Cam didn’t handle himself well in the post-game, he’ll learn and grow from this, and I’d suspect in several years we’ll be gushing about his professionalism,” Gleason said.

Newton missed an opportunity to be a standup team guy who answers every question after a tough loss. He may have even sullied chances for bigger endorsement opportunities in the short term because of the public outcry after the presser.

I’m pulling for him to be better. He’s loaded with physical talent, but even like some of us several years older, he’s growing. I hope the Panthers provide him the media coaching that he needs, and he vows to represent his team and the NFL professionally in the future.

Until then, I’m giving him a mulligan.


The NFL could generate great PR beyond the Super Bowl

Posted on by Gail

I was interviewed for a podcast last week when the host asked me about sports organizations that do the public relations thing wrong and what they could do to improve. I was really at a loss because there haven’t been any glaring examples as of late. Well …

The host responded with, “you’ve been critical of the way the NFL has handed its publicity.“

Ok, busted, but only because I love the NFL. We tend to be tough on those we love because we want them to be better. I don’t want to hide my head in my hands when something else is said that speaks down to the people that give their bodies (football players) and dollars (fans) to the game.

It’s a new year and I promised social media followers and myself that I would focus more on the positive. That includes today, hours before Super Bowl 50.

Instead of criticizing National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell about some of the comments he made at Friday’s State of the NFL press conference or other decisions the league announced during the year, I’m simply going to make suggestions about how the NFL can be better. It’s a league that has A LOT of television viewers but has lost the trust of many when it comes to the way it speaks to its fans and treats some former players.

My suggestions would put the league in a better light; thus, enhance its public relations image. The cost to NFL team owners, for whom Goodell speaks and acts, is very little in the scheme of their businesses. In fact, I’m confident that they could see their profits rise if they acted on a few of my ideas.

nfl-logo-tiltedSo without further adieu, my suggestions to the NFL to improve its PR:

Pay the man!

This week, New York Times reporter Richard Sandomir told us the story of the only known person to own the most comprehensive recording of Super Bowl I as CBS and NBC, which simultaneously televised the game, did not keep tapes of the January 1967 game. Troy Haupt’s late father recorded the game and the tapes sat in an attic for years. For the last five years, his lawyer tried to negotiate the sale of those tapes with the NFL so that the league could share the footage with its insatiable football fans. The Haupt team’s asking price was $1 million. The NFL countered with $30,000. Needless to say, Haupt didn’t sell.

On behalf of NFL fans everywhere, NFL, PLEASE BUY THE TAPE! The version that was pieced together from CBS and NBC and aired on NFL Network in January was nice, but Haupt’s is the most complete version of the game known to exist. The cost to each owner for the asking price: $31,250. The NFL’s total 2015 reported revenue: $12.4 billion.

Not only would the NFL have lots of change left over, but the public relations boost would be immeasurable to a nation of rabid football fans, many of whom were barely old enough to remember the game yet see it. They’re curious. They want to see it. They appreciate the history of the game and the NFL could help fill in some of those mystery gaps.

Take responsibility for CTE message

Own the message that football might not be safe for kids instead of letting former NFL players and coaches do it for you. It makes the league look like has something to hide.

Admit the statistics that fewer young people play football instead of ignoring that the numbers are down. Reinforce and share how USA Football and others continually learn and train its coaches to teach safe tackling and hitting. Assure that youth health professionals do all in their power to diagnose concussions and take precautions against further damage. Do these things and regain the trust of parents – those that make the ultimate decision about whether their kids play or not. Respect a public that ponders the game’s safety and rolls their eyes at some of the league’s comments made about it.

Admitting this problem is good for the game

There’s a positive to be earned if the NFL changes its tune on the safety issue. I suggest that the NFL target its entire audience, but millenials in particular, who are its present and future. Let them know that if they delay contact, those that choose to play football later could extend their careers and lives.

Respect that this generation is one that doesn’t believe something because a league commissioner says it. This demographic will research and make decisions that are best for them and if it means changing their allegiances to another sport, it will happen eventually. Sure, “protect the shield,” but to do that, you have to protect your players and fans’ confidence, first.

Loosen the grip on “Super Bowl”

I respect that sponsors pay a lot of money to market their businesses as official this or that of the NFL and/or Super Bowl and it’s their right to have exclusive use of the event’s trademarked logo.

But let others use the words “Super Bowl” in their marketing surrounding the weekend of the game, even if it’s just once in ad mentions, and the game would enjoy an even bigger publicity boost. Let businesses and their customers celebrate what has essentially become a national holiday with family and friends.

Drop Deflategate

The NFL and Tom Brady’s legal team are scheduled to return to court in March after the league appealed a decision to vacate the New England Patriots quarterback’s four-game suspension for allegedly knowing air was released from footballs in 2014.

Fans continue their distrust in the case and balk at money spent to defend what now looks more a frivolous incident. The NFL made the matter murkier when it said that it only did random PSI checks during the 2015-16 season, and little would be done with the information if anything at all.

I respect and admire the NFL for wanting to stay in the media and public consciousness 365 days a year, but a lot of money and time has already been spent on both sides of this case. That money would have been better spent purchasing the Super Bowl I tapes and there would be money left over!

Pick something else to promote the few months during the year when the NFL might not be in focus. The NFL would earn BIG props for that.

Enjoy the game, y’all!


The NFL could flip Concussion movie into a public relations win

Posted on by Gail

I’m not a movie reviewer or a doctor. Like many of you, I’m a football fan, albeit one that often looks at professional football issues with a public relations eye.

To me, there’s little that compares to the excitement of game days, so when statistics about the impact concussions have on athletes’ brains, I cringe, knowing that many of the men for whom we cheer each week may have less-than perfect qualities of life later. Like many that work in and around the sports industry, I looked forward to, if that’s the right sentiment, to seeing the motion picture, Concussion, which opened in theaters Christmas Day.

Concussion MovieMuch has been written about the movie, Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research and discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—CTE — as well as long-term effects that head trauma has on living football players’ brains. (Actor Will Smith played Omalu brilliantly.)

The movie doesn’t break new ground. We previously learned that 96 percent of players tested were posthumously diagnosed with CTE. Is there someone to blame? We know that these are athletes that will do most anything to stay in a game regardless of how many hits they take.

The NFL is concerned, however. And it should be. Not just because of the numbers, but because we’ve been enlightened about the lengths it went to keep detrimental information about concussions from seeing the light of day. And as bitter as the taste your mouth when you see verbiage about those efforts, who could blame the league? Billions of dollars are at stake. If players are scared straight and decide not to play and if fans are suddenly turned off by the violent nature of the game, an industry collapses. From PBS’ Frontline’s League of Denial to 60 Minutes to Time Magazine and Mike Freeman’s Two Minute Warning, the NFL has been scrunched further into a corner each time new findings about concussions are released. As if the league didn’t have public relations issues without them. But with each revelation, the games went on with fans traveling, tailgating and immersing themselves in their teams.

I walked out of the movie theater thinking something different than I anticipated about what I saw. Concussion may actually be good for the NFL in the long run if plays its public relations cards right. It’s already moving in a positive direction with equipment and rule changes to prevent the type of hits fans used to celebrate. It’s not perfect (see Case Keenum), but it’s better.

If the NFL wants to win this round, it has to stop insinuating that there’s no scientific proof that repeated hits to the head are not harmful. It is true that CTE can currently only be detected in deceased individuals, but 87 out of 91 players diagnosed was discovered on autopsy tables, not in a movie studio. If I’m Roger Goodell, I thank Sony and Omalu for helping the NFL better inform its players, medical personnel and fans and reiterate (and SHOW) that it’s taking action to make the game safer.

I didn’t see Concussion as the 2-hour takedown of the NFL that some suggested. I, instead, saw a movie based on a true story that informs, educates and yes, as movies do, entertain.

Omalu is driven to find out why football players that endure forceful hits to the head develop a disease that manifests itself in life as a combination of depression, insomnia, aggression and dementia, to name a few. He learned about this American sport later in his life than most of us, but in the movie and in interviews, he says that he appreciates the artistry and athletic dynamics of the game. Based on what Omalu discovered, he’s trying to make it safer while he searches for answers about how to stem the deterioration. The league must embrace the education and move forward, and it can, with a better NFL.

The game is already different than we knew it 10 and 20 years ago, and it will evolve as we learn how to keep athletes safer on the field. That’s not a bad thing. Even with the changes, magnificently athletic individuals still play a game that people want to watch and cheer. All will ensure the league’s life and business.

The discussion started months ago and with Concussion’s release, it will continue. If the NFL listens and learns from science, its responses will help grow the sport going forward. It will grow differently than we’ve witnessed in the past, but in my opinion, it will still be America’s favorite sport.

©Gail Sideman, PUBLISIDE.com, 2015


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