Don’t Let The Redskins Get Away With This One

Does anyone in the Redskins organization have a clue about PR? Some of them probably do, but they are either aren’t speaking up or are being shutdown.

The team has a new policy that prevents fans from bringing signs of any kind to home games—not just offensive signs, but all signs. As this AP wire story points out, the new policy “coincides with an increase of signs critical of owner Dan Snyder and front office chief Vinny Cerrato during Washington’s 2-5 start.” It’s pretty clear, Snyder doesn’t want signs being seen that are critical of him and the management of the team.

Here’s the problem. If fans are shown on TV with signs that say something bad about Snyder and the organization, it’s not a great thing—you’d prefer to not have that going on, if you can help it.

But now, the Redskins’ decision to ban all signs is getting the team a lot more negative attention than if some unwanted signs had been held up at the games. The issue is now getting more airtime from the media and is being talked about much more by the public than if the team had just let things happen naturally.

By all means, take a sign that the public would find offensive. But don’t take one just because it offends the owner and his shrinking number of supporters. And don’t take the positive ones.

Dan, these are your team’s fans—they put thousands of dollars and hours into supporting the Redskins. An endless waiting list for tickets may make it feel like you can do anything you want, but I’m guessing fewer people are rushing to put their names on that list these days and you’re probably not selling as many jerseys as you normally do. Whether their signs say something good about the team or something bad about you, these signs are all being held up by people who simply want to see their team headed in a positive, organized direction again. They love their team so much that they’d be willing to keep handing you their money to watch their team lose. But everything has its limits and you’re pushing it, by not showing the team is following any sort of plan and—even more so—with downright poor public relations decisions, like the sign-ban-type slaps-in-the-face, that are far more damaging than any win-loss record.

It’s no secret that Redskins fans aren’t happy with the team and it’s owner, and people don’t need signs to know this. They also don’t need signs to know what a lousy job the team is doing at public relations—in fact, the ban on signs has made a lot more people aware of just how bad the Redskins are at it.

A couple of sidenotes
—>Publicly the NFL isn’t saying that they have any problems with the Redskins ban on all signs, according to news reports. They’re saying it’s “a team and stadium matter.” But I sure hope that behind the scenes someone in the league office is letting the Redskins organization know how absolutely foolish it is for them to tell fans they can’t bring in any signs at all—the NFL stands to lose in this mess as well and I hope someone in the league office strongly encourages the Redskins to wise up.

—>Finally, to Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog who, in a recent post about the sign story, said:

“I know, I know, you’re sick of this story. I’ve read your comments. I’ve seen your e-mails. You want me to write about something else. But I think it’s important, and it still makes me angry.”

Don’t let this story die, Dan Steinberg! You’re right, it is important. And what the team is doing makes me angry too, and I’m not even a Skins fan. It’s absurd. Keep it up!

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Benefits of social media on display

In a recent edition of Commentz, public relations and new media consultant Sarah Evans said:

We (husband and I) attended a wedding of a college friend this weekend. We attended with many people we hadn’t “seen” in years. However, it didn’t feel strange seeing and interacting with these people. Why? I am “friends” with them on Facebook and although we have not seen each other we all felt connected. In fact, many of us began interactions with, “I saw on Facebook you’re…” I remember learning in an interpersonal communications course that the number one reason long distance relationships don’t work is because people lose a common language (i.e. inside jokes, day-to-day happenings, etc). We had a common language despite not seeing one another. It also showed that we each make a concerted effort to know what the others are up to.

I love this. Many of us have probably had something like this happen and it shows firsthand how Facebook and social media can keep us connected.

Some people will say these are not “real” interactions everyone is having across social networking sites and that they’d rather spend real, face-to-face time with people. Who wouldn’t like to spend more time with friends? But, regularly scheduled face-to-face time isn’t always an option and it’s not always possible to pick up the phone and catch up with every person on a regular basis.

Facebook may not be the same as spending real time with someone you want to keep in touch with, but it sure beats the alternative of having no idea what’s happening in their life. And it can be a great way to reconnect with people you probably thought you’d never be able to get in touch with again.

I see keeping up with someone via Facebook and other social utilities as being similar to attending a meeting or event via webinar; there are a lot of reasons you’d like to be there in person but since you can’t, the webinar gives you a great way to get the content and feel connected to the event. Next time you run into someone (either offline or virtually) who also attended the conference, you’re both on the same page and can begin sharing bigger ideas. It can work the same way with social media and friendships—we just have to make sure we log-off occasionally. Utilities like Facebook can be amazing but they are at their best when used to enhance our offline relationships, not completely replace them.

New York Times: Part II

We’ve been seeing some great ABCTE-related blog activity following yesterday’s article in the New York Times. Some big players in the education blog world have referenced the story:

Joanne Jacobs – “Fast track to teaching
Heritage Foundation – “Getting Talent Into The Classroom
Flypaper – “Alt. Routes to Teaching…
Eduwonk – “Two On Teachers
Ed is Watching – “ABCTE Serves Important Niche for Adults Switching to Teaching Career

I’m a big believer in the idea that getting press is a great way to get more press. Once you have received press, an important next step is to let everyone know you got the press and to see if you can spin it into additional exposure. For example, maybe getting a mention in a newspaper can be used to land a radio interview. The story can also live on in the form of blog posts or, more recently, through tweets and Facebook mentions. Thanks to these edubloggers, even more people are finding out about the New York Times piece and ABCTE.

ABCTE in New York Times

ABCTE is the organization I do the PR for and we received some nice press in today’s New York Times. The article, “A Fast-Track Alternative to a Teaching Job,” talks about people going into teaching as a second career through alternative certification programs. Two ABCTE teachers are in the article: a special education teacher in Boise, ID and a physics teacher in St. Louis, MO. This is great exposure for the program.

A Simple Example of Great Customer Service

I was in a D.C. area Fuddruckers the other day and saw a nice example of the difference between average customer service and great customer service.

I went to the counter in search of a highchair. The guy I asked said, if we don’t have any over there, we’re out. He was nice about it.

A manager standing further back overheard this and said, let’s check the floor. Sure enough, we found an abandoned highchair, he cleaned it off and asked where my table was. I stopped him and told him I could carry it from there.

The first guy didn’t do anything to upset me but he didn’t go above and beyond–he didn’t ‘wow’ me. I would have gone back to my seat and figured out another way to feed a toddler.

The second guy though is either a manager because he knows how to handle guests or he’s knows how to handle guests because he’s a manager. Bottom line: he didn’t hesitate when he heard my question and there was no way that guy was going to stop until he had done everything in his power to make sure I had, as his customer, whatever I needed. Simple, yet so important and too rare. That’s the kind of person you want all throughout your company if you deal with the public–you can find them or you can breed them. Hopefully that manager went back to the other employee afterward and showed him how he can be the one to impress the guest the next time.

Bannergate

John Feinstein of The Washington Post wrote Tuesday that “The Capitals made a mistake Saturday night” by choosing to only unfurl last season’s Southeast Division championship banner from the rafters before the home opener, rather than “slowly raising” it. I don’t think it matters too much which way the banner was unveiled but, in this situation, I lean much more toward the side of having a somewhat quick celebration as the Caps chose to do (it’s also important to note that the celebration was not overly subtle either, with the Caps taking a few minutes to thank the fans and show a video with highlights from last season before dropping the banner).

If this had been the Caps’ first division title in years or the future
looked cloudy, then maybe you do it up and make it a bigger deal. But in this case, I say celebrate quickly and get on with the business at hand by doing something like scoring a goal just over a minute into the game and earning the victory up for grabs that night.

Anybody who has been following the Caps’ rebuild closely and who knows the organization’s approach to things should not have been too surprised by the way they unveiled the banner. Their coach has talked about not enjoying victories for too long when there is the next game to focus on, their owner speaks often about not getting “too high with the highs or too low with the lows,” and both he and their general manager have talked about building a team that will provide a lengthy window of opportunity to compete for the Cup—in other words, they aren’t into sacrificing the long-term goals for short-term gain.

The Caps are an organization that has their eye on the prize and staying focused means making every effort possible to not let distractions get in the way; over-doing the celebration of last year’s accomplishments, several months after everyone had already enjoyed the process of earning it, was one possible distraction they could control and I think they handled it well. The games to-be-played and the points up for grabs in the coming season are what’s on everyone’s minds now, much more than the very-much-appreciated ones already in the books.

Speaking at PRSA Event October 28

On October 28, I’ll be speaking at an event hosted by the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The panel is “What’s All the Twitter About?: Adding Social Media to Your PR Strategy” and I’ll be speaking about how we’ve added social media into the overall PR strategy at ABCTE. I’ve been asked to to discuss how we’ve done this, how we determined which social media tools to use, and to give some tips for success and analysis. It’s at the U.S. Navy Memorial & Heritage Center in downtown D.C. and all the details are available from the PRSA-NCC.