I love football. I love the strategy involved. I love the execution of the game. I love watching the big playmakers. And now, I can watch the game from a PR standpoint too, thanks to instant access to highlights, news conferences — and the rumor mill. As a result, we see players and coaches in the spotlight (or hotseat), answering questions from the media. It’s all part of the game.
There are some players and coaches who thrive in this arena. They maintain eye contact and their composure, and they fully engage the media in a short amount of time.
And there are some players and coaches who leave much to be desired. As public relations experts, we love this group. We call this group “Job Security.”
Seriously, though, we know that not everyone shines in the spotlight of the media. Cameras are all around, recording every word and deed. As a Nebraska Cornhusker fan, this has proven true for our coach. In fact, we’ve offered our own post-game analysis of his missteps before.
Last Friday, he was at it again. Amid rumors of a post-game resignation, and not too long after a halftime statement that made waves on the internet, Bo Pelini held his post-game news conference. After an expletive-accentuated rant about a call during the game, I could only imagine how the university’s PR team was working on extinguishing that firestorm.
And work they did, having Coach Pelini issue his apology on Saturday.
And on Monday morning, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were fined $10,000 on behalf of Coach Pelini gesticulating his displeasure on a call toward a referee during the game. Not good.
How should the university proceed? Better yet, how should any brand proceed when their spokesperson has less than stellar moves in front of the media?
Have a game plan. It’s that simple.
- Be prepared. The best defense is offense. Spend way too much time going over scenarios that may never happen. Get coach riled up when the cameras are not rolling and there is time to reign in the emotion and regain composure. For a team that is nearly leading the nation in turnovers lost, Coach Pelini should have had numerous answers to field any questions pertaining to turnovers. Even questions at halftime.
- Break down film. After each game, players can watch ESPN for their own post-game analysis. But the reality is, it’s their coaches analysis that matters, not those who are paid to commentate on it. The same goes for Coach Pelini. He can hear the noise surrounding his media debacles, but he’ll only need to listen to his media-relations coaches. There will be plenty of time in the off-season for his PR team to devote to preparing for interviews, and they should spend it wisely.
- Press on. At the end of the day, he is still the football coach, and the program must march on. Resilience, especially in such an illustrious, longstanding tradition as Nebraska, is an asset. Coach Pelini can take some media-scrutiny, dust himself off and move forward for a more successful PR year.