How athletes can improve poor social media skills

Professional athletes are now all over Twitter and Facebook, displaying their thoughts and day-to-day activities to the world. Athletes are always appearing in headlines and new stories. With so much media exposure, pro athletes should have some training in social media and responding to the public because athletes often get themselves into trouble by making inappropriate comments. Everyday I am amazed at the lack of professionalism athlete’s display in public.

Each athlete represents a brand or an organization and it is their job to make their organization look good. Too often athletes misuse social media tools like Twitter. The Pro Sports Communications blog explains the common mistakes that athletes make on social media. Here are big mistakes that I agree with:

Lack of social media education

Social media should be approached with a plan and purpose when used by anyone, especially athletes. For an athlete, social media tools should be used to focus on things like increasing your fan base, representing your brand and being a role model.

Bad Language

I understand that locker room talk is not necessarily clean because you are with your friends, but make sure that it does not carry over into your social media posts. Swear words are not appealing to all viewers, so keep it exclusive to conversations with the homies. Also check grammar, we want to know that jocks have brains too.

Focusing on the haters, not the supportive fans

There are no benefits from getting into Twitter battles with haters. You have more supportive fans anyways, so interact with them and ignore the negative comments.

Forgetting to represent your brand

When you become a professional athlete you are no longer representing yourself, you are representing your team and your organization. So don’t embarrass yourself, or your brand with social media mistakes.

My advice, get social media training. As a freshman college soccer player I was clueless about the importance of representation. I am a University of Oregon athlete and the community recognizes me as representing Oregon. Thankfully, early on I was taught how answer to the media and how to represent Oregon. Now I am careful what I post on the Internet because I am part of something bigger than just myself. Just like on social media, I am aware that I a may be recognized when I am out in the community, so I have to carry myself responsibly and respectfully at all times.

Ryan Braun’s PR mishap

It’s that time of year again, baseball season! As the weather slowly begins to warm up and the sun tries to peak through the clouds, baseball players start reporting to spring training. Baseball did not intrigue me when I was younger. Now, attending the University of Oregon has presented me with the opportunity to watch some college baseball games and I must admit, I truly enjoy the game. It took me most of my adolescent life to understand the mechanics, mental toughness and skill required to excel in baseball, but now I respect the players participating in such a skilled sport.

The sport may be exhilarating to watch, but some of the players are not always as enjoyable to listen to. Ryan Braun is a recent athlete that has lost my respect because of his unprofessional behavior. If you do not know the story, Braun plays outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers and failed a urine test in the beginning of October. The results of the drug test displayed extremely high levels of testosterone, which resulted in a punishment of a 50-game suspension for Braun starting in the 2012 season.

Braun challenged his drug test and provided enough evidence to overturn his suspension. He proved his innocence by showing that his statistics have not changed since he entered the professional level and that the test displayed levels of testosterone exceedingly higher than any other test in MLB drug testing history. The fact that the urine sample also sat in the collector’s house for two days also played in Braun’s favor. Braun presented himself as a victim to the public and the league and won his case with sufficient evidence.

But winning his case wasn’t good enough. Braun should have shut his mouth right when he was cleared to play, instead he took his situation a step further and extended the story by wrongly accusing the man who collected his urine, Dino Laurenzi Jr. If you were wrongly accused and greatly inconvenienced, why would you return the favor to someone else? A better-advised athlete would have known better. Here is my future advice to Braun and his PR adviser:

1) Stop while you are ahead (that should be obvious)!

2) Drop the issue once it is settled.

3) Don’t blame someone else; instead suggest refinements within the system.

 

Braun is a great player, but he could have carried himself better in this situation. It sucks, as an athlete, to be punished after you have worked so hard, but even if you are innocent, you should never personally attack others involved. You may be right about your accusation, but if you are not, you could end up really hurting someone’s reputation and making yourself look really bad.

The University of Oregon men’s golf team mixes PR and humor

What kind of sports blogger would I be if I didn’t blog about my very own ducks and fellow athletes?  This month, the University of Oregon men’s golf team caught my attention. They were recently ranked No. 2 in the nation after their competition on Friday, Mar. 3. I must admit that second in the nation is pretty impressive, but I have found that golf is not their only skill.

Businesses are always looking for new ways to improve their communication and relationships through PR. With the growing presence of technology, like the iPad, there is an increase in demand for visuals by consumers. Videos are particularly popular because they (usually) add audio explanation to the image being viewed. Realizing the increased popularity in social media outlets like YouTube, the golf team saw a video as an opportunity to reach out the community in a personal way.

Here is some advice; if you are in a slump and cannot think of a good way to get your name out there, start with the basics. Try to trigger people’s emotions and get some kind of reaction. Humor is always a good way to get the attention of a certain target public.

What did the golf team do to boost their awareness and support?

They…

Got creative!
Triggered emotions and made people laugh.
Were personable and open.
Reached out to multiple target publics, including college students and families.
Disseminated their video through social media.

 

The golf team may not be marketing or PR professionals, but they are very creative and keep their idea simple. They didn’t add special effects or use expensive props; instead they kept it simple and used what they had. The statement “less is more” is a good guideline for PR professionals because too much detail often creates clutter and confusion when dealing with large numbers of people. It also can make the message appear cheesy, in a bad way.

Another appealing PR attribute that the golf boys executed was being open and vulnerable. Trust is built between a corporation and its publics when they are open and honest. They goofed off and opened up in an attempt to create relationships with current and potential fans. Lastly, the golf team used the connections they had, like the athletic department, and the social media available to them to get the word out about their video. By getting the word out they hoped to gain attention and increase their fan base. Facebook and Twitter helped, but YouTube was the outlet that really got the attention of users. PR is all about connecting and building. Get creative like the golf team, stay simple and get out there! There are so many ways to use social media, take advantage of your opportunities and the technology available!

The Knicks gamble on Lin and win big

Jeremy Lin takes a jump shot against the Lakers on February 10, 2012 in Madison Square Garden

Being a college athlete, I always love hearing about the player that perseveres and proves everyone wrong when he was expected to fail. I have the utmost respect for hard working players like Jeremy Lin, who never let what people say stop them from achieving greatness.

Like a few others, Lin has branded himself in the world of sports. He surpassed expectations and silenced the non-believers who pushed him to the side. His brand, known to some as #Linsanity, defines the ultimate illustration of perseverance.

Lin deserves all of the credit for the hard work he put in to become the starting point-guard for the Knicks, but without the Knicks he would not be the talked about sensation he is today. By taking a chance on an undervalued player, the Knicks presented a competitor to the NBA that we would not have known about otherwise.

What PR moves did the Knicks do right?

Made a decision based on sight, not word of mouth.

It is dangerous to make a big decision off of rumors. If you are smart you will take the time to research who and what will be the best fit for your team. Whether it is a PR team or a sports team, you want the new addition coop with everyone and be a positive influence on the surrounding players or workers. The Knicks knew Lin was good, that is why they added him to their team. Lucky for them, good ended up being phenomenal.

Took a chance

Sometimes the risks end up being the most rewarding decisions a corporation makes. Coaches, critics and fans never expected Lin to impact the Knicks and the NBA in the way he has this season. When research doesn’t give you all the answers, sometimes you must take a chance. When you cannot attract the big talent because of money, sometimes gambling on the underestimated player works in your favor.

Overlooked appearance

We have all heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” well, Jeremy Lin was judged by his cover. His size and Asian heritage made him less appealing to college and professional coaches even when his history proved that he could deliver on the court. Make sure that you do not base talent on appearance. To move forward within your corporation you need the most innovative thinkers, not the best looking chumps.

As Lin moves forward, I just hope that his current fans will support him at all stages of his career. The progress he has made and the inspiration he has spawned should be remembered no matter how his future in the NBA plays out. His brand is so powerful and inspirational that a bad game should not change the impact he has made. Maintaining brand support over the long-term is a challenge PR professionals deal with everyday. Lets see if Lin is up to the challenge. I think he is!

Lukewarm for Tebow

Tim Tebow has been in the media spotlight since he was a teen. The name Tebow was famous even before he entered high school throughout the state of Florida. Now, Tim has become a nationwide icon and is highly talked about by critics and supporters. Listening to observers you find only two types of Tebow groups, the haters and the lovers.

No matter where you look there is no middle ground on the subject of Tim Tebow. There are virtually no lukewarm supporters, either you want him to succeed or you want him to fail miserably. One thing is for sure, whether you hate him or love him, you are drawn to him and can’t help but watch him every Monday night the Broncos step on the field.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback.

He attracts the public’s attention because of his unique character and humble statements. His views, actions, and beliefs may bother some, but for others they are traits found in a quality role model. No matter what the critics say, Tim has created great hype and PR for himself, his beliefs, his team, and the NFL in general. He proves that rough and tough language is not the only way to gain attention as a professional athlete.

Tim Tebow always diverts the attention away from himself, giving his Lord and Savior, or his teammates credit. Lebron James, a Tebow supporter, took his interview question about Tim and attempted to turn it into good PR for himself. Lebron claims “I can relate to him a lot. I see how the media plays it sometimes and how the critics go at him. To see him prove them wrong … he continues to stay positive and move forward. You respect that.” Lebron appears to be on the “love” Tebow side, but he also definitely loves himself. I respect his support for a fellow athlete, but his comparison was used to focus the attention on himself. Selfish self-PR?

I am not trying to bash Lebron because I do like him as a player, but not necessarily as a role model. Tim Tebow is a selfless athlete who never uses the self-PR tactics many other athletes do. It is almost impossible ignore his national presence. Rooting for or not, his media popularity is obvious. He is anything, but a lukewarm topic. Tim is not concerned about his fame. He is in the NFL to play and win. Take it or leave it because I can guarantee you will not remain indifferent about the Bronco’s quarterback for long.

What really killed Joe Paterno?

No matter how many incredible things a person does for society, one misjudgment can change everyone’s opinion of him. Joe Paterno (JoePa) was a legend…correction…is still a legend in the eyes of many, but will not be remembered for his positive attributes to the community. He will be remembered as the man that didn’t do nearly enough when his defensive coordinator, Coach Jerry Sandusky, sexually abused little boys.

The Joe Paterno Statue

JoePa died at age 85 on Jan. 22, 2011. His medical records displayed that he died of lung cancer, but could something else have been the killer?  Did the negativity from the media and society contribute to his death? I believe so!

Joe said himself that he wished he had done more. Don’t get me wrong; I despise the fact that Joe did not do more to turn Sandusky in, but he was not the only person in a position to stop the abominable acts. The Board, the Athletic Director, janitors and others also could have turned Sandusky in, but didn’t! So why did Joe take the fall? Maybe it is because our society likes creating heroes, but we love tearing them down.

Does Joe’s legacy outweigh the sexual abuse scandal? JoePa has too many awards and honors to count. He turned Penn State football around and made the boys on the team not only better players but better people. He is a loved man around Pa. and fashioned an admirable reputation throughout his lifetime. Positive PR was created just through him living his life and working to better society, which also made Penn State look good. He was creating relationships within his organization that extended to the outside world, which no PR team could do in the same genuine way that JoePa did.

Where did Penn State go wrong?

After JoePa turned his information over to the school the PR team kept the information a secret to protect their reputations. Not reporting the scandal first and trying to turn in a criminal was their big mistake! Being in PR classes, I have learned that you always want to report your issue to the public before the media can beat you to it. Penn State failed to report the scandal first and because of that their reputation is now tarnished. It is almost impossible to regain trust in the world of PR once you lose credibility.

If the media didn’t assume and didn’t instantly blame Joe would he still be here? I guess we will never know. JoePa is an example of why social media and news sometimes scares me! In Joe’s case it may have led to his death.