It’s a simple lesson that many of us who work with the media still need to be reminded of from time to time. The latest such lesson came yesterday from Green Bay Packers hall-of-famer-in-waiting Aaron Rodgers.
“I think that the more that we give credence to stuff like that, the more it’s gonna live on,” Rodgers said in an interview with NFL.com reporter Michael Silver. The comment was referring to President Donald Trump’s endless Twitter criticism of NFL players “protests” (or whatever you want to call them) during the pregame playing of the National Anthem.
Rodgers is correct. The President’s tweets will live on. Due in large part to Rodgers’ comments.
Strategic media relations discussions often center around not giving a negative story “legs.” In other words, don’t give more exposure to something you’d like to see have less exposure. It’s a simple and intuitive notion, but one that even professional communications strategists sometimes need to keep in mind. When commenting on the issue, Rodgers’ objective clearly was to give the President’s Tweets less attention, when just the opposite happened.
When you are one of the most prominent athletes on the planet, commenting on anything gives it legs. Not only did the comment draw more attention to the President’s rants, pushing the tweets into another news cycle, it also caused the coverage to spill into non-sports media, giving the comments infinitely more exposure. It takes a lot for “real” journalists to pay attention to a comment from a sports figure. Those quips are usually limited to sports media, what some news reporters derisively call journalism’s “toy store.”
Another path might’ve been to create consensus within the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) – an effort I’m sure is ongoing – with the objective of drawing as little attention as possible to the President’s narrative while crafting a message that support’s the NFLPA’s objective.
Having logged a few years as a sportswriter and working in public relations with an NFL club, I recognize that this approach is a bit like herding cats, or to use a football analogy, “tackling smoke.”
However, the best approach rarely is the easiest, a point of which the NFL and the NFLPA are, no doubt, keenly aware.
For another perspective on how to manage your organizations’ strategic communications challenges, contact Chuck Sanger at email@example.com or 262-352-2077.