How could the NFL, with arguably one of the most sophisticated PR departments in the world, handle a social media fiasco so poorly? Fans were enraged over the actions of Ray Rice and the lack of response from NFL.
At 451 Marketing, we had the opportunity to sit in on a webinar on Social Media Crisis Management: Lessons from the NFL, on this very issue.
Here are a few key points that I took away:
Bad news gets worse the longer it takes to come out -
NFL officials were reluctant to admit that they had seen the video before it was leaked. It took 10 days for Goodell to respond to the crisis and hold a press conference. This is an unacceptable amount of time to address such a controversial and sensitive issue. To many, the damage was already done. This hurt the NFL's credibility and made its job of getting its views heard that much harder.
Beware of the “Rolling Thunder”-
It is usually best to break up a big announcement into a few smaller ones. A bigger announcement, like Goodell’s press conference, addressed all the issues at once. This can be overwhelming and leaves room for heavy scrutiny. Smaller announcements allow the public to get the main ideas and digest it easier.
Know what is being said -
There were a lot negative comments flying about on the Internet in response to the NFL and its mishandling of the Ray Rice scandal. Although the NFL could not foresee the leak of the video, daily scans of keywords is a good way to see the ratio of positive comments vs. negative comments and help to predict future crises.
The delivery of any message is key, especially when it is an apology. Although Goodell said all the right things, his delivery was insincere and lacked emotion. This led many to not believe his apology and take his words seriously.
Don’t censor comments - Just because there is negative content floating around doesn’t mean it should be censored. People are expressing their views and they are upset—you can’t deny them of that. Language should only be censored when words turn foul.
Know your audience and be sensitive to their issues -
Domestic violence is an extremely sensitive issue, especially when almost half of the NFL fan base is female. The NFL’s initial reaction to Ray Rice’s violence was seen as unsympathetic to the issue of domestic violence.
Utilize social media in a positive manner-
Many people were expressing their views on the Ray Rice scandal via Twitter and Facebook. This doesn’t have to be a place strictly for negative attention. The Facebook page, NFL 12th Man
, was a place where positive messages about the NFL could be shared. This helped the league’s image. It is also important to post third party content that helps support your cause.
In conclusion, following these guidelines can help to prevent and control any media crises that may arise. From the NFL’s handling of the situation we are able to analyze and see what is most effective and what we may want to avoid if ever in a similar situation.
** Written by Consumer PR intern Kelly O’Connor, Lesley University (Class of 2015)