The professional (football) management of Social Media

A key component of building a firm foundation for success in any organization, but especially for an NFL General Manager, is communication.  Communication between front office management and team members is key to maintaining the FOCUS and establishing the UNITY necessary to achieve SUCCESS; coaches, players, staff.  Never before have there been so many varied avenues to communicate both (internally and externally) from the club’s perspective.  Over the last few years the explosion of Social Media as a conduit for communication between club personnel, fans, media, and sponsors has both enhanced and hurt the ability to reach team goals and mission accomplishment.

The face of the franchise

Social Media, through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc…, has brought the professional football fan base and the media sources that cover the game even closer to the players, coaches, owners, and administrators that create the excitement on Sundays.  Sponsors are looking for “voices” to represent their products, causes, and efforts.  Perhaps no greater “voice” is heard (right or wrong) to the professional football fan than that of the players that represent their favorite sport and teams throughout the National Football League.

This representation is reflected directly upon the owners that have invested in many cases hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire NFL organizations and to participate in the industry that is professional football.  Make no mistake, the sport that we grew up playing on the empty lots across the country and manifested our “love for the game” is also a VERY BIG business.  Smart and prudent business owners in any profession will do what’s necessary to maximize their positions with clients and consumers.  In the NFL that includes reaching out to the fan base through interaction with the players on the field.

Being a “role model”

Without fans and the media, professional football is nothing more than twenty-two grown kids running around on that empty lot.  The Charles Barkley quote, “I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” is totally understandable.  But in the same light, those kids playing touch are looking to emulate their gridiron heroes and that has continued on to the pizza eating, beer drinking, ticket purchasing, jersey wearing adult fan base.  They’re going to put their money and place their kids where the “role models” are.  Business knows that.

So if the reputation of the National Football League and its individual clubs is so paramount to the overall SUCCESS of the “branding” of professional football, wouldn’t the words, pictures, and intent of all employees be of top priority when posted or shared across the vast medium of Social Networks?  Of course the answer is “yes” and the League has gone through the mechanization process of ensuring they’re covered with another appropriate “check mark” briefing.  Enforcement is similar to all rules laid down by the League office, through a punitive fining of the player or person involved.  Social Media use is as much about “what & how” as it is about “when”.

A proactive approach

But to truly take advantage of the strengths of communicating through Social Media and avoiding the potential pitfalls of doing so, the clubs are going to have to take a more active role in training and developing their employees (that includes everyone) on how to properly utilize these powerful tools.  I tend to ascribe to perhaps an unpopular notion that what you do and who you do it for follows you 24/7.  I suppose it comes from my military background and the idea that you’re a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman on and off duty.  You are always representing something much bigger than yourself.

Circling back to Barkley, you’re a professional athlete (for this case football player) 24/7.  And yes the public expects a certain standard in exchange for their support.  So as an NFL owner, I’d make sure my players, coaches, and staff were all well educated on the positive use of Social Media, public & private, to help the organization and the individual reach their full potential.  The window of opportunity is a small one, and from my perspective there’s a growing need by the 32 clubs to take a more active role and participation in the professional career development of their most valued assets, the players.

It comes with the territory

We all live public and private lives, and those that choose certain professions (like the military or professional sports) can almost certainly expect to lose some of that privacy for one reason or another.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing and can easily be leveraged to maximize the best the NFL has to offer.  But without proper education mistakes are certain to be made, role models tarnished, and opportunity squandered.

It’s happened before.  Take a look at these Social Media Blunders.

By the way, the impetus for this post came from a Social Media marketing expert that explores questionable Tweets, posts, and shares for a living…and she’s making a good living