Ruined Reputations by Hurried Actions

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The story of Joe Paterno is a modern American tragedy. He was a man respected and admired by thousands. Players who entered his system left the program as better men for knowing Paterno. Everything changed in early November when accusations of sexual assault were made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

William A. Levinson recently wrote about the Penn State Public Relations Catastrophe, and it’s worth a read for anyone who condemns Joe Paterno, or thinks of him as anything less than a valuable role model for his players. Levinson concludes that the Penn State Board of Trustees made the fatal backward step by turning the Jerry Sandusky scandal into the Penn State scandal. They fired a legendary coach of 61 years, and forced the resignation of President Spanier.

What could the Board of Trustees have done differently? There was public outrage at the accusations, and no one could have expected JoePa to take the field against Nebraska in the following week. A suspension of Paterno would have been most fitting. After all, he was fired simply due to accusations. Nothing had been proven or settled in court, but his reputation was dragged through the mud. As for President Spanier, they could have stayed with their known leader through the crisis. Wholesale change brought excessive attention and, as Levinson said, turned the Jerry Sandusky scandal into the Penn State Scandal.

Joe Paterno passed away on Januarry 22 of this year. He was a living legend until two months before his passing when he was stripped of everything. The Board of Trustees acted in the interest of the University, but they tarnished the University’s reputation as well. They needed to act. This serves as a lesson in PR for all practitioners in crisis communication. When action is needed, it needs to be the right action. One wrong move can ruin your institutions reputation and create an unnecessary secondary scandal.


Football recruits in risky business on Twitter

Photo by KidsLoveAnimals via Flickr

Joey Kaufman recently addressed “recruiting” on social media. National Signing Day has become a holiday for football fans everywhere. ESPN covers the announcements of high school seniors in the same way they did for LeBron two years ago.

There are a million ways for teams to commit NCAA violations during the recruiting process, but this one is nearly out of their control. Any fan can go to a recruit’s Twitter or Facebook and post whatever they want to. Some people could argue for free speech, but the NCAA could bring the hammer down on any University proven to have a “booster” talking to recruits through social media.

It will be nearly impossible for the NCAA to regulate social media as a recruiting tool for boosters. Of course, everyone would notice if Phil Knight was tweeting recruits, but few boosters are on his level, outside of T. Boone Pickens. Most boosters are not well known except for within their own University community.

For anyone who has followed college football recruiting in the past 3 or 4 years, you have inevitably ended up on a recruits Facebook or Twitter page to read their posts. I was glued to Twitter my phone when Arik Armstead (@arikarmstead) announced he was going to be a Duck. Naturally, comments flowed in to congratulate him, or condemn him, on his decision. As a reader of these comments, I caught myself often asking myself, “Why do we care where a 17 year old kid goes to college?”

Social media has been great for college football fans, and it has been even better for recruits. These kids have become temporary celebrities and are allowed to interact with their new fans. The NCAA does need to monitor social media sites for possible infractions, but they will never catch the small fry. Let players connect and hear from the fans. Their decision will not be influenced from a tweet which simply says, “Come to Oregon”. But let’s leave the fan “recruiting” at that.

Most Memorable Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl week is here. For football fans, that means a Sunday of sitting, eating, and watching football with friends. For the inevitable non-football fan, it means the one time of the year that you can look forward to the commercials. The Super Bowl is the prime event for advertisers each year because of it’s ability to draw up to 46% of US households.

AdAge recently compiled a list of the 12 Ads that Changed Super Bowl Marketing. The list includes the popular “1984” Apple ad, the Xerox Monks, and the obligatory Budweiser commercial.

My favorite ad from the list was last years Chrysler “Imported from Detroit” commercial. It was an unheard of 2 minute Super Bowl ad, which made Fox rearrange it’s whole commercial line-up to make it fit. The ad resonated with the audience and led to a series of similar commercials featuring prominent Detroit figures. (I am biased towards the “Homecoming” Ndomukong Suh commercial because it’s filmed in Portland.)

All of the ads chosen were worthy of making the list, but one commercial was noticeably missing. The “Mean Joe Green” Coke commercial from 1979 is one ad that is often still referenced today. There have been parody’s and remakes, but Mean Joe Green will always be associated with Coca-Cola.

What does this blog cover?

Public relations in the sporting industry goes unnoticed to the untrained eye. Sports news breaks around the clock. News can be seen instantly and can be posted by anyone, thanks to Twitter. It seems like a scandal is exposed every day on Twitter, and many of those scandals involve PR. For example, the 17-year-old Phillies fan who was tasered in 2010, the NFL and NBA lockouts, the Penn State scandal, or the Miami Football program being exposed by a ponzi-scheme booster. These events required a response by the universities, player unions, or leagues. The responses are strategic and often well executed plans put in place by PR professionals.

Sports make me tick. My day is not complete without an hour of SportsCenter and online time reading various sports articles. I believe that the only way to truly generate great content and ideas is to love what you do. I will discuss current issues in sports, as well as issues from the past year (2011 was riddled with PR stories to examine). I encourage any readers to join the discussion by commenting with your take on each post.

This is the beginning of my blogging experience, but I cannot wait for each post. Every day I am looking at the world of sports with a critical eye trying to find the impact each story has on it’s publics. Current ideas range from the Penn State scandal, to the NCAA investigation of Oregon, to athletes on twitter (there are some real trouble makers out there).

Finally, I give you some fair warning. This is a sports PR blog, but this blog is also part of a class requirement. There will be some posts based on prompts from my instructor that may not have anything to do with sports, but I will always get back to the basics when the topic is not predetermined.

Thanks for reading.