Running through my various lists of San Diego Sports Tweeps today, I came across this tweet from Bill Johnston, the PR Director for the San Diego Chargers.
Saying there's pressure on team to have great draft seems ridiculous considering we won't know results until year(s) down the road.
— Bill Johnston (@ChargersPRguy) April 25, 2012
I was a little surprised to see the PR Director tweet something so negative. Ridiculous? How is pressure for a great draft ridiculous? Or is it the fans who are ridiculous for putting the pressure on the team? I felt compelled to point this out to him. You can see here my response and his “save.”
— Shanna Bright (@shannabright) April 25, 2012
@shannabright Agree. Love it when people care. Just wanna WIN.
— Bill Johnston (@ChargersPRguy) April 25, 2012
This is a really great example of someone not taking that one extra moment to re-read a tweet before hitting the send button. With 6281+ followers, I suspect there are a few Chargers fans in the mix. Would Bill’s tweet have made a more positive impact had he posed a question?
“Who are you hoping the Chargers pick up in the NFL draft?”
Or could he have shed some light on the secret wishes of the players?
“The buzz in the locker room is that so-and-so is high on the wish list.”
To keep the communications in the positive zone, I responded with:
@ChargersPRguy We wanna WIN too! Do we know who fans are hoping for the most? What about the players? Very excited for the draft!
— Shanna Bright (@shannabright) April 25, 2012
Main point being, there was a good chance to engage fans and let them have a say, take a moment to interact. The comment/opinion from the PR Director only sets a stage for negative replies, as some might interpret him calling the fans ridiculous.
I’m all for being human and authentic, and certainly feel that even frustrations can be creatively vented online with a dash of humor and an open invite to comment. When you are a public figure, or sit in a position like the PR Director for a professional sports team, you really must remember that every time you post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or elsewhere, you really have to give second thought to how your post will resonate with your audience. For someone in Bill’s position, he should be able to turn what seems like a personal frustration into a positive interaction with Chargers fans. Furthermore, and no less significant, when the PR Director for a sports team sends tweets out a bit haphazardly, what kind of example does that set for the players and FO staff?
How do you think Bill should have tweeted his pressure-filled comment? What examples have you seen where a negative sentiment or frustrating situation is turned into a positive moment where fans feel included? Thanks for sharing your links in the comments!
Perhaps you’ve seen the news peppered with stories about university athletic departments all geared up to monitor their student-athletes’ social media accounts. With several universities receiving media attention and NCAA infractions, it’s no wonder athletic departments are “scrambling” for solutions.
Without a proper education, there is no doubt that student-athletes are going to commit social faux pas online. Even coaches and athletic department staff have committed noticeable errors. However, the message that you send the moment you set up a monitoring system is, “We don’t trust you.” Your message to your players becomes, “We have the greatest faith in you on the field, but the moment you’re out of our sight, we don’t trust your actions or your judgement. We don’t trust that you know how to communicate or what to say. We don’t believe in you.”
Educating your players, on the court and in the office, prepares them to be successful communicators and builds trust between an organization and its team members. When you (re)educate your team – and I mean every staff member, coach and player – about your brand identity, the brand message and provide social media guidelines (methods for successful communication), you empower your people to serve as brand ambassadors. Enabling them with a better understanding of the various communication tools develops personal pride and a willingness to better serve your organization. Directors and Head Coaches serve as positive, capable examples and can better relate with staff and players about the events happening in the social stratosphere. A thorough education and open discussion can serve as a spring board for ideas which may be generated from the most unexpected sources.
Some universities have chosen to provide some level of social media education, but yet continue to employ monitoring services, “just in case.” That only sends mixed signals to the players, “We want you to learn how to use these tools and we want to help you improve your communication skills. But…we still don’t trust that you’ll be successful and remain worried you’ll say or do something stupid.” How else are these young adults to interpret this? How are they (and you) to learn from their mistakes?
ASU’s Michael Crow said at the NCAA Convention in January that the student-athlete experience is, in a sense, a leadership academy. In addition to creating opportunities for their players to become the best athletes they can be, the ASU athletic department staff and coaches offer “life coaching” to motivate their young men and women athletes to consider what they want their life to mean, what life goals they want to achieve and what they want to contribute to the world.
In a CBS video of several coaches weighing in on social media, it was Jim Christian at Texas Christian University who said, “As opposed to just restricting them, you know, sometimes they have to make bad decisions in order to learn. And I think that’s what college is all about.” And UNLV Basketball Head Coach, Dave Rice chimed in with, “I really believe in the importance of empowering student-athletes, making it a part of the education process and really using social media in a positive way.”
Universities, which are at their core, educational institutions, are far better off preparing their athletes for success versus assuming their failures and continually operating in crisis management mode. Educating your athletes about reputation management, personal branding and all the nifty details of social media, challenges them with responsibility and professionalism and a chance to rise to the occasion. At the end of the day, that IS what college is all about and a sure method for creating an environment of trust and empowerment while paving a path for tomorrow’s leaders.
Through Beaming Bohemian’s branding and social media education, including the development of social media guidelines, you can change your tune and deliver the message of trust to your student-athletes. Investing in this education is a uniquely positive approach which delivers the message, “We believe that you are amazing individuals who have a unique ability to inspire others through your leadership. We believe you are just as talented off the field as you are on the court. As a student-athlete, you have a more visible platform for story telling and brand development. We trust that you respect yourself, your teammates, your coaches, fellow students and members of the community. We believe in you and we are excited for you to share your story with the world.”
Maryland Bill Addresses College Athletes’ Social Media Privacy via The New York Times
Athletic departments get free rein with social media via Minnesota Daily
UNC, NCAA Address Monitoring Athletes On Social Media via WFMY News (CBS)
NCAA: No plans to police Twitter via Missoulian
If you follow the #smsports feed on Twitter, you may have caught the discussions about Tim Tebow’s move from the Denver Broncos to the NY Jets during the NFL trades. You may also have caught some buzz about a particular tweet that appeared on the @Redskins feed today. The tweet that started the discussions began with a comment about Tebow’s move:
Was that the view of the team? Everyone who works for the Redskins agreed that it was an awkward fit? Collective opinion? Most of us could see that it was not the Redskins organization that held that opinion, but the person in charge of the Twitter account, Gary Fitzgerald. So when @dcsportsblog called him out on the comment, the Redskins feed posted:
And that was exactly the point. Just an opinion. On a corporate, team or business Twitter account, personal opinions of the tweeter have no place in the feed. This echoes the GM scandal awhile back when an employee made a nasty comment about the driving capabilities of his fellow citizens, a tweet which appeared to be from GM itself. Major hiccup which led to the firing of the employee who tweeted the statement.
Those of us who were chatting about the Redskins comments agreed that the team had not only misstepped by tweeting a personal opinion as representation of the view of the organization, but also really missed an opportunity to bring their 93k fans into the conversation. Instead of letting Gary tweet his personal opinions (which weren’t even positive), why not stimulate conversation with a simple question, “What do you think about Tim Tebow’s move to the Jets?” Redskins fans react, discuss and grow affinity for their own team and the Redskins positively impact engagement. Win.
It was clear that Gary picked up our tweets, as we all made sure to include the @Redskins handle in most of our conversations. A few hours later, this comment appeared:
Again, a misguided employee tweets something inappropriate for the brand. The Redskins need to yank that computer away from Gary Fitzgerald and let him understand that he needs to stop injecting Redskins communication with his own personality. The above tweets were not edgy, informative nor entertaining. The Redskins allowed the person in charge of Twitter to share his personal opinions as though they were the opinions of the team and everyone within the Redskins organization.
What is clear, then is that the Redskins have lost their grip on their brand’s core values. They do not have a clear brand message and certainly, they have no social media guidelines for employees to follow. It looks like Gary runs redskins.com, which also makes me question who they’ve assigned to communicate their brand messaging. Is the webmaster the right person to manage the Twitter feed? What value does the Redskins organization place on social media if they just toss the duties to the web department? Why not hire a branding, marketing or communications professional?
More important than the lack of internal organization and training, the Redskins simply don’t understand that Twitter provides more than a forum for information and entertainment. They could have used the Tebow news to their advantage to spark dialogue with fans, and shed some positive light on their brand. Sure, they would have been talking about Tim Tebow and the Jets and possibly even Denver and Manning, but they would have engaged their fans on the topic of football during a crucial time in the off-season. There were so many opportunities missed here, mistakes made, and that’s why their comments came into focus – for all the wrong reasons.
My course of action for the Redskins?
1. Do an organization-wide branding exercise so all employees are aware of the brand’s identity and messge
2. With all employees, players and coaches, provide social media education and training
3. Consult with the marketing and communications staff to integrate social media throughout their marketing and business plans.
4. Reassign the Twitter responsibilities to someone who understands that they speak for the brand, and that every letter they type needs to be in-line with brand messaging. “Just an opinion” is never something we should see from a brand like the Redskins.
I was at my parents’ house when they asked me if I had heard about MINI’s massive recall. Actually, I hadn’t caught the news, hadn’t received an e-mail from MINI nor did I catch it in any of my social media feeds.
I combed through my e-mails just to make sure that I didn’t miss something or that the significant letter didn’t land in spamville. Curiously, nothing. I started to get a little worried. So I went hunting online to see what I could find.
On the MINI USA twitter feed, there was ONE tweet that addressed the issue, dated January 18th:
MINI issued a recall for the Electric Auxiliary Coolant Pump on some 2007-2011 models. Customers with questions can contact 1-866-ASK-MINI.
— MINI USA (@MINIUSA) January 18, 2012
I couldn’t understand why MINI was addressing owners after the news had been posted. I couldn’t find anything on the website and I imagined that the phone lines would be tied up. So I tweeted to MINI hoping for some information:
— Shanna Bright (@shannabright) January 23, 2012
Much to my surprise, I received a call from MINI about 20 minutes later. They received my tweet, looked my name up and contacted me. The woman on the phone told me that it looked my vehicle would be affected and that they were collecting their information before they sent out letter to owners affected by the recall. I gave her two suggestions:
1. Put up a page on the website where owners could enter their VIN number to see if their car was affected. If the VIN number was a hit, let them know that an e-mail or official letter would be forthcoming.
2. Send out an e-mail, a letter or post a message on the website acknowledging the recall and letting MINI owners know that correspondence would be arriving soon.
I explained that MINI owners shouldn’t have to learn through third parties that their cars may be a part of a massive recall. That new should have come directly from MINI, well before it went public.
I did give MINI a shoutout for responding to my tweet with a phone call:
— Shanna Bright (@shannabright) January 23, 2012
Today, February 22, I finally received the “official” letter in the form of an e-mail from MINI of San Diego, where I got my car. It said:
Attention all MINI “S” model owners only
Your vehicle may be involved in a product part update for your auxiliary water pump. Please reply to this email with:
–Your Name – and if possible the last 7 of your vehicle identification number [located on the driver’s side lower windshield corner]
please email Terry Zito at: [email protected]
And so I responded with the appropriate information and received another e-mail which said only:
NO OPEN CAMPAIGNS
Your vehicle has no open recalls per MINI data base and OR is equipped with the updated part.
Thank you again for your business
And that was it. No “Dear Shanna” no signature, no personalization or possibility to exceed my expectations. So I decided to call the ASK MINI number which was previously tweeted. A man answered this time and I explained the chain of events. I told him that I was confused because the woman I spoke with previously had told me that “it looks like your vehicle is affected.” He asked me who I spoke with (the one time I didn’t actually jot down a name!) because there was “no record of the call” and that my vehicle VIN number was definitely not part of the recall. He then asked me, “How many miles do you have on your vehicle?” And when I told him, he said, “That’s about the same you told us in the last call.” So I told him, “When I called MINI the last time, that was the first time I called. And the woman I spoke with also asked me for the mileage on my car. So if that is the case, how do you know that that was the mileage I reported in the last call if you have no record of my phone call?” He was clearly embarrassed and then made the excuse that he was confused. I ended by telling him that the communication from MINI has been less than stellar, and that as a MINI owner, I simply want to understand if my car has been affected. I also explained that I am not the one who should have to seek out the information, but that MINI should be overly accommodating and make it as easy as possible for owners to get information.
As much as I love my MINI, this episode was thoroughly disappointing. Not only did they not deliver what they promise, but the lack of communication and the strange manner in which they quietly handled this… it’s just not in-line with their brand. It’s a good lesson for other brands. Sometimes things happen that are unfortunate. Sometimes mistakes happen. But if you are a solid brand, you own up to it, and take responsibility for the situation. You can actually take advantage of the situation to deliver your core values and strengthen your brand.
Have you ever had an experience where a brand that you love falls short of your expectations? How did your opinion of that brand change?
As many of you have witnessed from my social media updates, I am a huge football fan. I became a fan of football, of the San Diego Chargers, when I was ten years old. I remember my dad watching a game and whichever team was on offense kept running the ball. This to me looked like men lining up, the QB shouting and then all the men piling on the guy with the ball. I had to ask my dad, “What is the point of this game?” Through several Sunday lessons, I found a sport and a team which I loved to watch and cheer for.
The following season, my family started attending the Chargers pre-season training camps. They were held at the UCSD campus, a casual atmosphere. Once the practice was over, the players made themselves available for autographs and pictures, and friendly chats with young fans like me. While I loved shaking hands with Dan Fouts and taking pictures with cutie pie Rolf Benirschke, it was Kellen Winslow who stole my heart. Kellen would not stand in the line of players edging toward the exit, but would sit on the grass and wait for us kids to come and join him. From there, he would talk to us, shake our hands, ask us our names and talk to us about football, about school, about life. He was the coolest of the cool. To this day, I still rave how much I love him and revere him as my all-time favorite player. His talent on the field is unquestionable. But it was those moments on the grass which deepened my admiration for him as a man and teacher, and cemented my love for the game of football.
My friend and client, Mimi Donaldson is a professional keynote speaker and also a football fanatic. She recently wrote the book, Necessary Roughness: New Rules for the Contact Sport of Life. She is brilliant at relating the game of football to business strategies and life lessons. Amidst a busy schedule of speaking, Mimi met Chrissy Carew who is also an author of a football-themed book called The Insightful Player: Football Pros Lead a Bold Movement of Hope. Mimi’s book has 32 chapters to honor each team. Chrissy’s book profiles 32 players (current, retired or HOF). An immediate friendship and business collaboration was formed. Chrissy’s book recently landed in my mailbox. And apart from being excited to read the profiles of greats like Roger Staubach and current dynamo Antonio Garay of the San Diego Chargers, I noticed that the foreword was written by the CBS Sportscaster, and long-time host of CBS’s “The NFL Today” James Brown. I jumped right in.
In my many years as a host of CBS’s “The NFL Today” and other sports shows, I’ve met thousands of professional athletes, a substantial number whom have been football players. Many NFL players have inspired me with their insights, humility, sense of spirituality, and their altruism. Others were more focused on superficial pursuits.
I often ask the question – what’s the difference between these two kinds of players? Why do some men in the NFL recognize their potential for not just playing a great game, or even winning a Super Bowl ring, but using their global platform to inspire their many fans, especially the youngest, on to personal greatness? Showing kids that hard work and constant practice can turn you into a fine linebacker is a good thing. Demonstrating that a strong set of ethics and values, along with character and a healthy dose of humility, will pave the way to a meaningful life is undeniably even more important.
JB’s insightful comments, which do not end with these two paragraphs, speak to the heart of my work and the vision of Beaming Bohemian. I am working with university athletic departments to educate, enable and empower student athletes to build their personal brand so they may move forward in life with high aspirations, a reason to share knowledge, and a deep desire to inspire others (also graduate as loyal alumni). Athletic departments build a stronger brand by supporting and promoting their athletes, encouraging social network use, and benefit by expanding donor base via student networks.
I have also communicated similar concepts to the San Diego Chargers, because I believe there are a host of wonderful players on the team, like Antonio Garay, who would do well by sharing their stories with our community and connecting with fans online. All teams in the NFL could take advantage of this strategy, for that matter. Beaming Bohemian motivates individual players and the team to recognize their full potential for social good. I’d like players and their team to develop the attitude of the great Kellen Winslow. Imagine the amount of memorable moments just waiting to be realized and how many young hearts could capture that positive attitude and winning spirit. Modern media allows us instant connections, public conversations and direct access to all fans. Through these mediums, opportunities online and in real life are abundant for creating those golden moments reminiscent of a great hero of the game sitting on the grass to spend time with the youngest and most impressionable fans.
The image I’ve included in this post is borrowed from bleacherreport.net. Anyone who knows football knows that this photo was taken at the end of the San Diego vs. Miami game in January 1982, otherwise known as “The Epic in Miami” where San Diego won 41 to 38 in overtime. The Epic in Miami is often referred to as one of the greatest games ever played. Winslow caught a playoff record 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, while also blocking a field goal with seconds remaining to send the game to overtime in one of the greatest single player efforts in NFL history. What made Winslow’s performance all the more memorable was the fact that during the game he was treated for a pinched nerve in his shoulder, dehydration, severe cramps, and received three stitches in his lower lip. After the game, a picture of Winslow being helped off the field by his teammates became an enduring image in NFL Lore. The following week was also legendary as the Chargers were defeated by the Cincinnati Bengals in what has come to be known as the Freezer Bowl. (Some text from Wikipedia)
“It’s kind of like when a dad takes his kid to the candy shop,” he explained. “You’re outside the candy shop, you’re looking at the candy, but you’re not allowed to go in and get the candy. And then your dad just turns around and takes you home. That’s exactly what being a Chargers fan is like.”
That’s how Oak Park/San Diego Coutny’s Lee Norman explains the psychology of being a Charger fan and Super Bowl dreams. (ARTICLE) As a life-long Charger fan myself, I think that’s pretty sad.
I was a disappointed to see the promotions for FanFest 2011. Only kids ages 6 -1 4 were allowed on the field, and only the first 2000 with wrist bands. The Chargers sited safety as a reason they have strict rules in place. Each kid was allowed only one personal item to sign. So if you had a Philip Rivers jersey, you either got his signature only or sacrificed your jersey to get autographs from more than one player. Since it was kids-only on the field, there were no doting parents taking pictures with the family. The Chargers tweeted that there were other open practices to attend, if adults wanted to get autographs.
It was pictures like this one from the event, which made me scratch my head. Players sitting at a table…a barrier between them and their fans.
I treasure the days when players hung out after a pre-season open practice and talked to us kids (and parents), told stories, took pictures and signed autographs. We didn’t have scheduled FanFest’s in the early 80’s, but we didn’t need them…the players were available and able to interact freely with fans, no rules, no wristbands, no limits on personal items brought to sign. I have the memory of shaking Dan Fouts’ hand, kissing Rolf Benirschke on the cheek and taking pictures with the likes of Kellen Winslow – more valuable to me than anything I have that was signed.
Running a business focused on marketing and branding makes me look at events and programs differently. Things have changed a lot since I was a pre-teen and along with the events, marketing efforts and PR methods have changed dramatically. I wanted to see more updates by players individually, a flurry of posts and tweets during the event and connecting digitally with the fans. Contests, games and prizes are an easy way to incentivize fans and help make those who couldn’t attend the event feel like they were there.
I can appreciate that Charger’s FanFest 2011 may have come together quickly due to NFL lock-outs, but believe my Chargers can be ground breakers and standard setters, even with short notice. Fans just want a moment to linger in the candy store and a leave with good taste to savor. FanFest is the perfect opportunity for a sugar rush.
Did you go to FanFest 2011? What are your thoughts? What would have given the day a more personal touch?
You can catch a few photos and videos of FanFest on the Charger website: http://www.chargers.com/