Friday Morning Quarterbacking

Last night, the NFL kicked off its 2015 season, following one of the more controversial off-seasons in the League’s history. From Deflategate to the ongoing concussion debate, player controversy after player controversy, we’re betting that the NFL’s crisis communications team didn’t take advantage of “half-day summer Fridays.”

It’s not uncommon for organizations to deal with one distraction after another. However, in the NFL’s case, those distractions have been amplified, with no game coverage to offset the negativity.

So, in throwback NFL-style, this week’s intersection offers a bit of Friday Morning Quarterbacking, with three insights that can help to drive organizational success.

1. Good Business Practices Can Help Safeguard Brand Image
We’ve long believed that communications is a means to help an organization achieve its objectives. Communications itself is rarely the solution to fix broken business processes. Take the NFL’s Deflategate scandal. It was yet another example of the NFL’s questionable approach to rule enforcement, penalty distribution and appeals process. When business practices are flawed, brand image stands to be exposed negatively. And communications can’t always be on the hook to clean it up.

2. Control the Controllable
The old adage still holds true, and even the most well-intended events can have negative consequences. The NFL tries to do the right thing with its rookie symposium, designed to help explain what life in the NFL will be like. The event is well documented and intended to be informative as well as a good representation of the brand. But sometimes, that big time keynote comes at more than a financial expense when he or she goes off message as was the case with Cris Carter, when he told players at the 2014 symposium to make sure they had a “fall guy” on standby if they got into legal trouble.

That event should have been the easy win. It should have been a positive educational opportunity for those rookie players, vs. planting even more seeds that poor behavior is not just accepted, but expected.Organizations can’t simply expect headliners to naturally stay on message. Think beyond: “Will this name get me the audience I need?”, to “Will this name add credibility to my story?”

3. Acknowledge the Issue, Commit to Doing Something, and Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About It
Even those who don’t follow the NFL are likely aware of the ongoing concern related to player concussions. And now, with an upcoming Sony pictures feature film, titled Concussion, the NFL and its Commissioner will soon face an increased level of scrutiny on the League’s commitment to player safety. The NFL is hardly the first to face challenges that question product quality or safety. In nearly every industry, there are difficult, often costly and controversial issues that require solutions: from a restaurant chain’s commitment to more healthful ingredients to a national pharmacy’s removal of cigarettes from its shelves. Organizations can’t simply acknowledge issues; they must be willing to invest in meaningful changes that lead to improved outcomes if they want to maintain brand loyalty.

Whether its your off-season or your prime-time, keep these thoughts in mind to help drive your mission forward.

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