PR Tactics Used in the NFL Lockout

A lot of lessons can be learned from the 2011 NFL lockout.  From a PR standpoint entrepreneurs and small business owners should take away the importance of painting your organization’s stance and resultant actions in a positive light.

Throughout the NFL negotiations both the players and owners attempted to gain favor with fans by strategic manipulation of the media. While it’s never nice to manipulate people, the simple act of highlighting the positive actions of your organization is a manipulative tactic that can be used by anyone relaying information. It was hard to decide whom to root for between two groups of millionaires, but this is sport, there’s got to be someone to cheer and someone to curse at and throw beer on. It occurred to me, probably long after it should have, that I didn’t know whom to do what to. That’s where public relations came in to play.

To get a better idea of how one can shine a light on their organization’s good side, let’s look at the PR tactics used by both sides and the lessons that can be learned from them.

On the very day the CBA expired Roger Goodell sent out an email to fans that many say painted the owners as hard working and eager to please the fan.
Lesson: When something major happens with your business it’s best to respond early to reassure customers. A lag in response can tell people you are unsure of what to do next and/or hint at panic within the company.

Not long into negotiations the NFL filed an unfair labor practice charge against the players union, alleging they have failed to bargain in good faith because they planned to decertify.
Lesson: However you do it, you need to make sure your message is heard in good times and bad. The owners clearly saw what the union planned on doing from day one and in response filed suit, which they knew would bring media attention to their point of view.

On July 21 the owners voted to approve a new CBA, and rushed to report that a deal was “in place”
Lesson: Do not rely on others to praise you for doing your job. If your business accomplishes something make sure others know it as soon as possible. This was a shrewd move by the owners; by alerting the media that their work was done and a deal would be in place they put all the pressure on the players.

The next day the players said they could not vote on something they hadn’t even read and accused the owners of making a power play.
Lesson: Again, make sure your side of the argument is heard. Many people reacted to this with “well shut up and read it…,” but by making sure people knew their position the players explained any delays, and as mentioned earlier all delays should be promptly explained to your customers.

The heavy use of PR tactics throughout the lockout is evidence that being viewed favorably in the eyes of your customers is vital at all levels of business. Whether you’re a local butcher, real estate agent or the biggest sports league on the planet, highlighting the good you do for your customers will earn you a favorable spot in their minds.