First, let’s just say that the NFL must be making some good decisions because they are a $10 billion per year enterprise. And considering just how many entertainment choices there are at any given moment, the NFL often commands more than 80% of all the television viewing in America during regular season games.
The fans love the game, they love watching it played well. So what are some possible approaches to getting better PR for the NFL?
Here are four ideas to help rebuild a flawless image for the NFL’s PR:
Industry Standard Training
Everyone knows the best crisis management is making sure no crisis happens in the first place. But the NFL is a big place and the money involved for winners who don’t have press problems is almost astronomical.
Unfortunately, sometimes the public view is that teams, owners, players, coaches, and others are cheating in some form or other to get ahead and make more money. Leadership starts at the top and until the NFL leadership incentivizes integrity and harshly penalizes “cheating,” problems are likely to keep creeping to the surface.
New draft picks come to the game without a real understanding of the world they are entering. Some of them may even come out of situations where their sports skills got them special treatment. Now they are offered contracts with more money than they’ve seen before and some pretty fast lifestyle options.
Pairing rookies with an experienced player as a mentor, or requiring training time within a group where players who know the ropes can help rookies navigate these unfamiliar waters is advisable. Especially for those situations not about game time, like how to behave in a bar, or the proper way to speak to and about others, no matter where they find themselves.
Faster Responses to Crisis Situations
No matter how much training you offer in advance, there are going to be screw ups with so many people involved. We’re not just talking about the NFL people, but all the onlookers with smartphones ready to take pictures of any celebrity in their midst. NFL players can expect that unless they are at home alone with all the blinds and curtains drawn and all electronics turned off, someone could be videoing their every move.
None of us would stand up to that level of scrutiny 100% of the time. If the players know how to best respond in a crisis, and do so with confidence and speed, they might stop the bad press express in its tracks. Teach them that If they are wrong, apologize, do what’s possible to make it right, show concern and compassion for those suffering, and then get out of the spotlight as quickly possible, staying away long enough for the dust to settle.
Repeat Offenders – bye-bye!
Not much more needs to be said in our opinion. Repeat offenders, no matter how great their game, will drag the entire league into the gutter. That doesn’t mean total abandonment. Show compassion. If it is an addiction or abuse issue, get them into treatment, help their family and loved ones with what is needed, and shield the innocent from as much of the nightmare as possible.
But, do not bring the player back to the game again if they already offended once, and returned. To do so invites every scandal suffered within in the league back to your doorstep for review. Football is upon us!
There are many PR firms who have worked in some capacity with the NFL – Burson-Marsteller has worked for the Redskins, Coyne PR has worked for the players union, and French-West Vaughan, 5WPR and others have worked for a slew of players.