Should a PR pro tell others to “chill?”

Football is a game of passion, for fans and for players. It’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It gets many of us more emotional than you could ever imagine. Just ask my wife how I was during the last two New York Giants Super Bowl wins.

In public relations, we have to look out for our clients. It doesn’t matter if you are the public relations manager for an agency or sports team. You keep an eye on how your client (or team) is viewed in public, by fans and the media, and online (social, web, etc.).

Last week, the San Diego Chargers played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. The Chargers had a big lead in the game, only to see it slip away with the Broncos winning in dramatic fashion, 35-24. San Diego is always one of the teams to be in the “contender” conversation before the season begins. Well, count the Chargers director of PR, Bill Johnston, as one of the guys who believes his team is still a contender.

Three days after the loss, Johnston took to the Chargers’ website and wrote a post titled, “Take a Chill Pill.”  Here’s some of what Mr. Johnston said:

“What’s with you people?

Yes, Monday night’s loss was bad. Horrible. Embarrassing.

Ok…enough already. No mas. I get it.

Now get over it. It was a loss. One loss.”

“Time to take a chill pill.  No one knows what will happen this season, yet alone the next game. That’s the beauty of the National Football League.  I don’t know, you don’t know, no one knows what’s going to happen.”

Well, the reaction to the post wasn’t exactly positive. When a colleague shared the post, I tried to think what would drive the Chargers director of PR to write this? I mean, this isn’t really good practice. If I came out and defended a client after they totally botched something, I’d be seen as crass and probably have the PR world not thinking I was sane.

I understand fully that sports PR is a tad different that me representing a client as a PR consultant. But, I also understand that you don’t necessarily want your PR director to be popping off on the team’s website and telling the fan base to “chill.” The fans of the Chargers weren’t too happy with it… and I don’t blame them.

It’s very easy to Monday Morning QB (no pun intended) something like this. Would I write a column like that after a tough loss? No way. Calling out your fans, many of whom are season ticket holders and have been through the ups and downs, isn’t a good idea. It’s also something that makes for an even bigger PR nightmare… something Mr. Johnston had to deal with. He became the story, which you NEVER want to be as a PR pro.

Now, since the original post, Mr. Johnston wrote a follow-up, apologizing for his words. A very good idea, but, as we all know in today’s social and immediate news world, the damage is already done. Of course, if the Chargers go on to win the Super Bowl, this will (probably) be a small bump.

But, either way, take a lesson. Think before you upload that next blog or hit send on that tweet or Facebook post. It could be the big difference between you being embarrassed.


About JasMollica

"It's never too late to have a life and it's never too late to change one." That's something I tell students, friends, and family all the time. After living and working in New York City, I took my own advice in 2004, switched my career from the television/radio industry and got into public relations. Now, I spend my days as a PR/social media marketing consultant and get inspired daily. It's been a good ride, so far. But the car has plenty of gas left. I hope you'll join along in this guy's journey!

Posted on October 25, 2012, in Hot Topic, Public Relations, Social Media, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post Jason! I really like how you took an example from the NFL! It’s a reminder to all of us to think before we post. And I like the graphic too!

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