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Up your pitching game with Twitter’s new DM feature

Last week, Twitter introduced a new feature that allows people to receive direct messages (DMs) from any user, whether they follow them or not.

Many people who appreciate the privacy features of Twitter are happy to hear that this is an opt-in feature. In other words, the setting to receive DMs from anyone will be turned off by default, so users won’t receive messages from strangers unless they decide to change their settings.

However, as cold calls become a thing of the past and journalist email inboxes continue to overflow with misdirected pitches, we have to imagine there are a good number of reporters who will open up their Twitter profiles to being contacted through DM.

We already know many reporters who prefer to be contacted via DM. For instance, Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times (@fmanjoo) says right in his Twitter bio: “I prefer DM PR pitches.” And Roberto Baldwin of Engadget (@strngwys) has said that “the people in PR that are doing a good job actually do pitch me via DM on Twitter now.”

So for those journalists who choose to open themselves up to receiving pitches from anyone and everyone, here are some best practices for getting their attention without stepping on any Twitter toes:

1. Build relationships first

If you don’t already have a relationship with a reporter, you are essentially cold calling with just 140 characters. Unless you catch them with the perfect topic at the perfect moment, this likely isn’t going to work.

Before you pitch a reporter via DM, work on building a relationship with them first. As my colleague Samantha McGarry points out, “Reporters are people too…So get in there with some chitchat about common interests, opinions, the weather, the Red Sox, whatever. Have a dialog. Relate to each other. Make a connection.”

A great way to start is by simply monitoring what they are tweeting about. What current events are they talking about, what are they retweeting, what personal anecdotes are they sharing? You can tweet at them with a link to an article they may be interested in, or tag them in a tweet so they see it. If you haven’t worked together before, this will put you on their radar and leave a lasting impression for when you do eventually reach out.

2. Use DM selectively, otherwise it’ll just be spam

While email is still the preferred method of communications by journalists, according to this survey, many have complained time and again that it is impossible for them to sort through the hundreds of email pitches they get every day, many of which are misdirected and completely unrelated to their beat.

Enter DM. For now, pitching via DM is still novel to reporters. They see PR representatives who pitch via DM to be tech-savvy and on top of their game. That is, until everyone catches on and Twitter becomes yet another vehicle for journalists to be bombarded with irrelevant information.

Let’s be smart PR folks and not let this happen. Use Twitter to gauge a reporter’s interest, monitor what they are covering, and what conferences they are attending. And when the time feels right, shoot them a DM with a story idea that is so up their alley, they’ll be begging you for more information.

3. Move the conversation off Twitter

Trying to tell your story idea within 140 characters seems nearly impossible. The good thing about this is that it forces you to be concise and share only the most important details. Once you share your brief pitch with a journalist, ask for permission for a longer exchange and move the conversation over to email. Not only will this result in he or she keeping an eye out for your message (especially if your subject line references your Twitter conversation), but will also make them much more likely to respond.

Keeping these strategies in mind as you take your pitching to Twitter will not only show your value as a PR representative in the mind of a journalist, but may just land your client a story.

Read more from Kristen Raymaakers
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Are podcasts the future of marketing?

I’m addicted to podcasts. There, I said it.

Some mornings after arriving at work I linger in my car, unable to pull away as an episode of “Serial” ends. (Don’t tell my boss). Some evenings after arriving home I dawdle in my car, waiting to enter our house as Ira Glass wraps another episode of “This American Life.” (Don’t tell my wife.)

Addicted. And I’m not alone.

Driven by the ubiquity of mobile devices and headphones, long commutes and reliable wireless connections, we’ve entered a “golden age of podcasts.” Podcast consumption in the U.S. jumped 18 percent between the spring and fall 2014, according to Edison Research, and Americans now listen to more than 21 million hours of podcasts every day. That’s a whole lot of “Bill Don’t Lie.”

I remember getting hooked five years ago on an early podcast, “Too Beautiful to Live,” an obscure Seattle radio show that turned into a nationally popular podcast. But it was the popularity last fall of “Serial,” which investigated a cold case — the 15-year-old conviction of a Baltimore student charged with the murder of his ex-girlfriend — that riveted Podcast Nation. “Serial” reached 5 million downloads faster than any other podcast in iTunes’ history and sparked a resurgence of interest in podcasts.

(Want ideas for podcasts? You can see the top podcasts in the U.S. this week here.)

For marketers, podcasts are a great opportunity to connect with audiences in a personal, almost intimate way within the confines of one’s car on the daily commute or through the earbuds worn by seemingly every subway rider and jogger. (I also listen to podcasts when shoveling snow and cutting the grass. Addicted.)

Content marketing is about telling good stories and podcasts are no exception. Good content marketing uses many channels to allow brands to tell their stories, from blog posts to ebooks to infographics and videos. It allows companies to connect with and forge relationships with their audiences in ways that news releases never could. At InkHouse, we like to say that if content is king, distribution is queen – and she wears the pants.

If they haven’t already, marketers should add podcasts to their list of content distribution channels. The best podcasts – like the best videos, infographics and other story-telling vehicles – go beyond experts giving their opinions. The really good ones follow a dynamic story arc that includes an introduction, a dose of tension, real characters, a logical flow and a clear wrap-up.

We marketers are still figuring out how to make money from podcasts. Will ads interrupt the audio every few minutes, like TV commercials? My colleague Jill Jankowski points out that companies like PodcastOne are aggregating podcasts and selling ads across the bundle of shows. Will product endorsements make their way into the flow of every podcast? Will banner ads live on the websites where podcast listeners go for more information? Or will brands produce the podcasts themselves, building their audiences in a more organic way?

Many of these same questions popped up a few years back as companies tried to figure out how to make money from online video. Like with video, it’s only a matter of time before marketers get more sophisticated in how they monetize podcasts and we consumers grow more accustomed to the ads and product placements.

Have you incorporated podcasts into your marketing strategy? Rest assured that podcasts are on the rise, an increasingly popular channel to tell your story and connect with your audience — that army of intently listening driveway dawdlers, waiting for their podcast to end.

Read more from John McElhenny

Planning a blogger campaign? Read this first

Before the advent of social media, when a new product or service hit the market, a press release went out to reporters, and the public would (hopefully) read the newspapers and magazines that featured the company. How easy that sounds. Around 2007, social media started becoming more mainstream and soon, blogs went from being online diaries to vehicles for amplifying messaging by brands to a target audience. Mom blogging was born and marketing and PR was forever changed.

Having served time as a mom blogger, I can attest to the flooded inbox with requests to review toys, attend events, wear new clothes, board a plane to Atlantis and test drive a new washer/dryer. I attended several conferences throughout the years, including the ubiquitous BlogHer where not only did I meet some of my very own bloggy idols, but learned new tactics and techniques for making it all work. Clearly it hasn’t taken long for brands and PR to figure out that bloggers provide a valuable service – it’s well documented that there’s no sales tool like word of mouth. Combine that with the fact that moms control a big chunk of household spending – and getting new products/services, etc. into the hands of influential moms became a no brainer – and a great use of resources.

But along with the awesome opportunities (say swag three times fast!) came daily frustrations: requests for a review of a product based on nothing but hi-res images, compensation in the form of a “chance to win” a fabulous prize, the hope that a blogger would endorse a brand or product she’d never heard of and never experienced. The frustration was palpable on social media (hell hath no fury like a mom blogger scorned), shadowing the feeling of value and replacing it with the notion that brands were taking advantage of bloggers.

* Communications agencies (PR/marketing, etc.) can control how they work with bloggers to create a balanced relationship:Solid client communication. From the outset, it is the job of the agency to set expectations with clients. Big name bloggers with highly trafficked sites are being compensated for their time. Brands should expect to remunerate bloggers with a gift card (or some other method of payment) if the product they are sampling is below say, $100 in value. There are exceptions, but the expectation should be set prior to agreeing to execute a blogger campaign. Blogging is a business, and bloggers should be regarded and treated as professionals both by agencies and brands.

* Solid blogger communication. Bloggers provide a very important service that can be pivotal in leveraging a brand’s consumer-facing image. That said, providing all the information the blogger needs to write an informed and balanced review or endorsement is on the agency/brand. Providing images, deadlines, links and a reminder about the FTC disclosure (bloggers must disclose that they are part of a paid campaign), is helpful and a professional way to conduct a campaign. Relationships within the mom blogging community are just as important as client relationships – and should be treated as such.

Bloggers have a role in keeping the trains moving on time as well. When bloggers opt-in to participate in a campaign, accept a product or service, and then can’t find the time to write their review, it’s not just unprofessional, it’s problematic. It happens – the campaign seems interesting when it arrives in your inbox, but once it hits your doorstep, life happens. Maybe something more compelling has taken precedence. Or you simply don’t feel like blogging. Or maybe you decide to take a vacation. Maybe you just hate the product and can’t find one redeeming thing to say about it. Talk to the agency person. Writing an objective review where you cover what’s great – and not so great about the product – is the agreement. But to ignore it is to breach the “gentlewoman’s agreement” implied when opting into participating. And as a professional, living up to your end of the deal is part of the package.

Blogging has become a mainstay of the PR/marketing world and it’s critical that brands and agencies work to cultivate a symbiotic relationship with bloggers. Expectations are important to manage and creating a bridge where brands and bloggers feel a sense of value is the secret to a long and healthy relationship where once there was none.


Read more from Jill Rosenthal

Does Twitter need a strategy refresh?

Last week, Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur and early Twitter investor, spoke at the Guardian Changing Media Summit in London and boldly stated that, “Twitter will die if it doesn’t fix its ‘noise’ problem.”

This noise is the stream of unsolicited information that is flooding users’ feeds with sponsored tweets from users that they do not already follow. So how can Twitter fix its noise problem and prevent itself from joining the ranks of social media “has beens” like Friendster and Myspace?

1. Dismiss irrelevant content: Allow users to identify suggested content that they are uninterested in. The current “dismiss” feature just removes that particular tweet from the user’s timeline, however, there should be an option to never see any recommended content from a particular Twitter feed in the future unless you decide to follow that user.

2. Tighter monitoring: No one appreciates troll accounts following them, favoriting content, or direct messaging them. Even worse, there are troll accounts set up to mimic companies’ pages, with a letter or two off in the spelling so that some users may not even realize at first glance that it is not the real company. Twitter should purge spam accounts more frequently and more thoroughly in order to maintain credibility.

3. Add new features: Keep the site fresh by frequently adding new features, and phase out those features that don’t take off or deter users. This is tricky because while you cannot please everyone, you can work to make the most active users happy. One way would be to invite users into the innovation process. The company could create a poll for users to regularly weigh in on the features that would be most useful to them, perhaps on a quarterly basis. The key will be to communicate what the results were and to make a splash when the new features chosen by users are up-and-running. This will in turn create buzz and make users feel like they are part of a greater Twitter community.

Ultimately, I think that Twitter is here to stay. There is already a strong user base of 288 million users including media outlets, businesses and even celebrities, on top of the “average Joe” users like me who have come to rely on the valuable content that we find on there each day. The key is to engage with users and not be afraid to change up the strategy often in order to keep the site relevant.

Read more from Christine Comey Lewis

Meerkat: Everything You Need to Know About the Live Streaming Video App

It’s 9:00 p,m. on a Saturday. Yale’s men’s basketball team is playing Dartmouth in Hanover for a chance to clinch their first NCAA tourney appearance and Ivy League win since 1962.

The score is 58 to 57, Yale up with 2.3 seconds to play.

I’m sitting at a restaurant in Boston, attempting to multi-task by talking with friends while simultaneously refreshing the Yale Daily News’ Sports Twitter handle like a crazy person.

2 seconds to go:

1.9 seconds: Heart beating wildly, I wait for YDN to update. They tweet the following: 1.3 seconds:

1.2 seconds:

Intrigued (and excited to potentially watch history in the making), I follow the link, log into Meerkat with my twitter credentials and then watch the YDN live-stream the last 1.2 seconds of the game from Hanover via a smartphone.

1 second: Dartmouth scores a lay-up.

0 seconds: Buzzers sounds.

-1 second: Devastated, I log out of Twitter in dismay and return to my dinner.

Meerkat, a new live streaming app that launched February 27th,  totally transformed the experience of “watching” the game on Twitter, allowing me and hundreds of other Yale fans to experience those heart wrenching seconds as if we were really there.

It wasn’t too long ago that Twitter changed the way we find out about events and news in real time. The addition of Twitpic and Instagram gave us the ability to share photos and video of events, bringing us close to experiencing events as they unfold “live.” Of course, that immediacy is limited by the fact the tweeter has to constantly update their feed with new information. That’s why Meerkat is so exciting.


Meerkat takes the idea of immediacy one step further, letting you broadcast live video through Twitter. Like all the best new apps, it’s incredibly simple: you can schedule a live stream, or start one immediately. When the live stream starts, a tweet goes out letting your followers know that that you’re broadcasting. They can follow the link to watch and then comment in real time. Following in Snapchat’s disappearing footsteps, Meerkat videos are ephemeral, and cannot be replayed after the streaming ends.

Even the “rules” of Meerkat, are simple (and pretty much the only information on their website)

– Everything that happens on Meerkat happens on Twitter.

– Streams will be pushed to followers in real time via push notifications.

– People can only watch it live. No reruns.

– Watchers can restream any stream to their followers in real time.

– Scheduled streams will be distributed in the community by their subscribers. Your own streams can be kept locally on your phone, but never on the cloud.

– Everyone can watch on web

– Be kind.


The app launched less than two weeks ago and already some major tech and publishing players are using it. Buzzfeed’s Mat Honan used it to give a tour of San Francisco’s Civic Center neighborhood. In a meta-move, a TechCrunch reporter used Meerkat to live stream himself talking about Meerkat. CNN’s Jose Pagliery used it to host a tech talk. Even The Today Show signed up.

Part of the genius of the app, is it automatically generates a tweet inviting you to watch “LIVE NOW,” creating the kind of immediate call to action that we know is essential to engagement online. In addition, when you click on the link, you can see how many other viewers are watching the live stream with you. As Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor of Variety noted: “It may be the closest we’ll get to teleportation.”


Already, some brands have experimented with Meerkat on their feeds, including cool kids like Starbucks (for livestreaming coffee roasting) and Everlane (for a peek inside their offices). The question for businesses then, is how to use Meerkat to advance their social content and engagement. Here are a few ideas that live streaming video can augment your social strategy:

– Instead of streaming a presentation at an event or conference, use Meerkat to invite your followers to watch live.

– Schedule live stream demos of a new product to coincide with a launch.

– Invite fans to “tour” your office or just showcase a fun event for an inside look at company culture.

– Share your thoughts on breaking news (like Monday’s Apple Watch event) by inviting followers to watch it live with you and comment in real time.

Meerkat, like the small desert-dwelling carnivore it’s named for, is all about “popping” up and sharing real-time video as it happens. Like many of most obsessed-over apps (Twitter and Instagram, for example), Meerkat has direct implications for how the media collects and broadcasts news.For PR professionals tasked with understanding how news is created and consumed, it’s clear that Meerkat could be the next major app in this space.

Yale plays Harvard this Saturday for another chance at the NCAA tournament. I’m looking forward to watching it unfold, live on Meerkat.

Read more from Lee Glandorf

Boo-ya! Communications Lessons to Remember from Stuart Scott

In 1993, I was a senior in college when a new ESPN SportsCenter anchor named Stuart Scott arrived on the scene. I remember vividly sitting in my campus apartment with my roommates and friends watching and listening to this guy with his crazy expressions and an energy that was completely different than the anchors I’d grown up watching. I recall laughing and joking amongst my friends that he was out of his mind and would never last. What I didn’t know at the time was that even more than 20 years into a career in communications I’d still be learning valuable lessons from the way he approached his job and his life.

Stuart Scott taught us that it was okay to be different as long as you believed in what you were doing. Much like many of our great innovators and business leaders such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Scott believed in breaking from the status quo and paving his own path. Those more interested in creating an image will change with public perception while those with true passion and dedication will stay the course and bring others around to their way of thinking.
Scott could be a bit outlandish and outspoken at times, but you were never left with the impression that he was faking it. For better or worse the thoughts echoed by the man on your television screen were sincere and his own.

When you work in a field that is centered on crafting a message and influencing the actions and behaviors of others, it serves as a good reminder that sincerity almost always trumps creativity.
We often advise our clients to take on the subjects and issues they care about and to be genuine in their commentary and points of view. Whether dealing with media or managing your social channels, passion is not something that can be faked and imposters are quickly dismissed.

Scott was not liked by everyone as many did not appreciate the style he brought to the broadcast, but nobody ever said he was not original or passionate in his approach.

I realize that ESPN is dedicated to sports and that some subjects are a bit more serious. However, wouldn’t it be refreshing if everyone approached the role of communicator that way Stuart Scott did?

I never met Stuart Scott and if I’m being completely honest I hadn’t followed his battle with cancer all that closely over the past several years. However, when I learned that he had passed Sunday morning I found myself feeling extremely sad. Perhaps it was the reaction to yet another young person being taken way too young by this terrible disease or maybe it was the reminder that more than 20 years have slipped by in the blink of an eye. But whatever the reason, the fact remains that we lost an original.

Stuart Scott dared to take his own approach and along the way taught us all some very valuable lessons. While I’m sure he felt the pressure from the establishment at times, he remained as “cool as the other side of the pillow.”

Read more from Mike Parker

Words to Retire in 2015: The Millennial Edition

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, the 2014 word of the year is vape.  This was a surprise to me as it’s not a word I’ve seen much over here in the States, but in Great Britain, it’s most definitely a thing.

British/American linguistic differences aside (of which I am a polished connoisseur), when polling my peers, friends, reporters, and social followers for this year’s post, I noticed I barely knew many of the words they wanted retired next year. This collection of mysterious words reminded me that millennial speak and 40-something speak are, well, generations apart.

Their crimes? These words and expressions are shallow, overused on social networks (often preceded by a hashtag) and have the potential to be here-today-gone-tomorrow. It’s no coincidence that several of these terms also appeared in TIME Magazine’s poll of words to ban in 2015 (note that the publication received much whiplash for its suggestion that the word feminist needed banning.)

So without further ado, here are the ten words that a sampling of in-the-know millennials would like to see retired in 2015:

    1. Bae
    2. Basic
    3. Break the Internet
    4. Sorry I’m not sorry
    5. I can’t even
    6. Srsly
    7. Blessed
    8. Swoll
    9. Ish
    10. Ratchet

In the worlds of PR and content marketing, it’s unlikely that we’ll find much need for “bae” or “ratchet” in press releases, contributed posts or infographics. Phew. But the world of business speak is not without its offenders – words that have been overused or become so generic that they lose their punch. Here are the ones that I’m voting off the island:

    1. First, there’s “nounification” everywhere – think: “the ask, the solve.” It’s a pet peeve of Julie Wittes-Schlack who discussed her frustration with corporate speak recently on WBUR.
    2. Then there’s literally, which is literally used too often.
    3. What about engage? We all want to engage with each other, drive engagement, be engaging.
    4. Let’s not forget disrupt. We are so over the disruption and being disruptive, people. Kevin Roose thinks so too as he opined in this NY Mag piece.
    5. A leading xyz. Either you are or you aren’t and if you are, you should need to state it yourself.
    6. And my pet peeve: leverage. It takes the #1 spot in The Guardian’s PR jargon: the most overused words

As we close out 2014, a new expression was recently brought to my attention: on fleek. If you’re not sure whether you are on fleek, BuzzFeed offers this handy quiz. Savvy brands have already caught on. But watch this space, folks, I’ve a feeling that on fleek is already a strong contender for next year’s list of words to retire. Check back here, December 2015.


Read more from Samantha McGarry

#ShopSmall, #SmallBizSat – another win for Small Business Saturday – and for social media

Black Friday is played out – these days, it’s all about Small Business Saturday. Started in 2010 as a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday encourages shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses in their community and invest in the local economy. Even those fatigued with the hyper-consumerism often associated with the holiday season can get behind supporting the local businesses in their community.

However, it can tough for small businesses to compete with national corporations with substantial advertising budgets and wide reach online and off, especially around the holidays. That’s where social media has proven to be particularly impactful in recent years. For smaller enterprises, social channels provide an accessible, affordable and engaging platform through which to spread the word about promotions and interact with members of the surrounding community. The official social media presence of Small Business Saturday – aptly named Shop Small – has served to elevate the event and to showcase participating businesses to its 37,000 Twitter followers and 7,000 Instagram subscribers.

This year, smaller businesses and shoppers alike took to Instagram, Facebook and of course, Twitter in droves. Based on analytics from Brandwatch, the two official hashtags, #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat were the most popular: #ShopSmall was included in more than 62,000 tweets and retweets, garnering more than 320 million impressions, while #SmallBizSat was included more than 29,000 tweets and retweets garnering more than 334 million impressions. Furthermore, American Express and National Federation of Independent Businesses credited social media with increasing awareness of Small Business Saturday, reporting that more than 126,000 tweets were sent about the day on Saturday alone, up 10 percent from 2013.

The social promotion seems to have paid off. Some 88 million people shopped at small businesses, up nearly 15 percent from last year, and spent approximately $14.3 billion, according to a survey released today by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Small Business Association reports that there are 23 million small businesses in the country, and the number of small businesses has increased by 49% since 1982. At a time when more people than ever before are striking out as independent business owners, it’s a good thing when social media is leveraged to rally communities in support of local commerce.

Read more from Emily Barge

Four (OK Five) Twitter Changes Coming Soon

Yesterday, Twitter announced the availability of improvements to the private messaging feature allowing us to talk amongst ourselves a little more freely within the Twitterverse. Originally announced last week, in conjunction with Twitter’s first-ever analyst day, the company also revealed a few other significant feature changes we can look for in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s a quick synopsis of the highlights of these new Twitter improvements and engagement tools and how they can work for you.

1)      Improved Private Messaging:  In addition to the ability to switch a public message to a private one, Twitter also has its eyes on the overall messaging market. Yesterday they rolled out the ability to move public tweets easily into private ones. Will we all start using Twitter in place of our mobile messaging apps? Time will tell. In the meantime, for PR pros and marketers, this will come in very handy when wanting to share a news item or tweet with a specific person. It will also help should a reporter publically request sources on his or her public feed – now you can easy respond via private message within the same conversation.

2)      New Video Tools: These much anticipated improvements are expected to make it easier to record, edit and upload videos from within the ‘compose tweet’ interface. This will undoubtedly come in handy when tweeting video from tradeshows, media events and even for capturing the timely, on-scene reporting of breaking news. It could also offer advertisers a whole new creative outlet to promote video content.  

3)      Timeline Highlights: This nifty tool allows you to stay on top of conversations that matter most to you. According to Twitter’s blog post: “… we’re experimenting with better ways to give you what you come to Twitter for: a snapshot of what’s happening. We can use information like who you follow and what you engage with to surface highlights of what you missed and show those to you as soon as you log back in or come back to the app.” According to images shared via Mashable, it also appears it will allow users to jump back into the conversations and updates that mean the most to them, even after disappearing from the Twitterverse for a while. This will come in handy when trying to cut through the clutter in your timeline to get the skinny on what happened while you were away.

4)      Instant Timeline: This appears to be a way for Twitter to attract more newbies to engage with the Timeline. Twitter will begin to add people, whom they deem relevant to your interests, to your Twitter timeline stream (even if you aren’t following them) creating an instant timeline for those slower to build out their own. Stay tuned for more random, and hopefully relevant, people following you now that these instant recommendations will be more prevalent.

One additional caveat, this may not be a welcome change for those that prefer to control their own timeline.

Extra Bonus Twitter News

5)      Improved Archive Search: On Wednesday, Twitter also announced the ability to search in-depth into the Twitter archive. Amanda Schupak of CBS News reports: “History seekers can use advanced search to narrow to a particular time frame. For now, archival search results will show up in the “All” tab on the site and mobile app, but over time, Twitter intends to tailor search to making digging through old material easier.”

In fact, they will allow for searches all the way back to beginning of Twitter in March 2006. We look forward to all those awkward and poorly worded first tweets re-surfacing!

What are the features you are most looking forward to checking out? If you have other tips on how communicators can use these new features, please share.

Read more from Heather Bliss

The NFL’s Public Relations “Black Eye”

“The NFL policy has become to make crap up as they go along”

-Greg Bedard, Monday Morning Quarterback

Let’s be honest: The perception of the National Football League (NFL) isn’t good at the moment. It’s facing a series of scandals and lawsuits centered on issues such as player safety, drug abuse, illegal distribution of narcotics and other assorted criminal activity. So while the on-field popularity is at an all-time high amongst its fan base, the NFL as an entity has become a public relations disaster. We could examine the cause and effect of any of these issues, but, because we’re in the public relations business, we’ve chosen to examine the recent issues through the lens of a communications professional.

Rather than  the story being about the action happening on the turf and the production of its marquee players, the NFL has been turning out stories day after day that would seem more appropriate for tabloids and gossip sites rather than the pages of the sports section. Many of the sordid details have been covered in national and global media outlets, complete with viral video in some cases thanks to the likes of Ray Rice and TMZ.

It’s not unusual for sports leagues or even corporations to have issues involving its employees, but it’s how they handle these issues that define their reputations.

In public relations, we often refer to the four Cs of communications: credibility, consistency, conviction and clarity. These pillars are what can help an organization successfully navigate its way through difficult times. Adherence to these principles provides the foundation for a respected brand that accepts responsibility and assumes ownership of their mistakes.

When the four Cs are applied to the current NFL situation, and specifically commissioner Roger Goodell, they’re woefully lacking in several areas.


Goodell has found himself in the worst scenario possible for the leader of any organization. When answering the dreaded questions, “Are you lying?” or “Are you simply incompetent?”, credibility is one of the biggest assets, and it’s constantly being tested by every action and every decision. As commissioner of the NFL it is incumbent upon Goodell to come across as credible but his actions have come up short of that threshold. Recently, the NFL and the commissioner have tried to regain credibility by cracking down on offenders, but this reversal, which important to the public’s views of the organization, has also led to questions about consistency.


Inconsistency of action is one of the greatest communications red flags. The NFL is constantly updating and altering its conduct policies on what appears like a case-by-case basis. Only after the exposure of Ray Rice’s actions did the NFL create and implement a domestic violence policy. Without a consistent set of policies to adhere to, the NFL has opened itself up to criticism of how it has handled these situations. To some, it appears as though the league is making it up as it goes along. A consistent message or policy, whether popular or not, provides credibility.


In any corporation, especially one as public as the NFL, people are looking to leadership to make decisions that are right based on the core principles of the organization. When leaders make decisions that run counter to these philosophies or aren’t rooted in the best interests of the league and its stakeholders, they lend themselves to the perception that they lack conviction, or worse, that they don’t believe in the organization’s mission.


Clarity is about standing up to the transparency test. And when decisions have wide-reaching implications with little to no insight into why they are being made, credibility suffers. To date, the commissioner has made a number of decisions based on information that has never been made public. He has failed to disclose important facts, and when these issues are brought into question, he responds with silence.

No one that is a big enough football fan is going to stop watching. However, more is at stake for the league than just their viewership. They cannot maintain their success as a $9-billion organization if they choose to exist in the gray. They have advertisers, the upcoming holiday season with lots of NFL gear to sell, and the general public’s respect to consider. They need to be upfront in their approach in order to regain credibility with sponsors, advertisers and their wide-ranging audiences.










Read more from Alexa Manocchio