Villing & Company

Touchdowns and Touchpoints: Football Provides a Lesson in Brand Management

For people like me, the dark time of the last 70 days is coming to an end. The two-plus months between the end of basketball season and the start of football season are a test of endurance for me. It's only 70 or so days, but it feels like much more. I'm always exceedingly grateful to hear sports reports that don't begin with the words, "In major league baseball..."

Football has been used as a metaphor to describe everything from political races to the economic climate. So it's fitting that recent events in the world of pigskin provide the context for a lesson in public relations. I'm not talking about the potential damage to the NFL brand brought on by the recent lockout (though that is certainly worth discussing.) Rather, there's this lesson: your people are your brand, especially those people who have touchpoints to the public.

You may have missed this recent story about a coach on the Pittsburgh Steelers' staff, who sold his Mercedes sports car to a cafeteria worker for $20. Great story about a member of the organization who apparently has a great heart.

It's less likely you've missed some other stories involving members of the Steelers organization – namely their quarterback's alleged assault incident, or their star defensive player's tirade against the NFL commissioner and his own teammates.

Conversely, if you thought about the brand character of the Indianapolis Colts, you're much more likely to remember their quarterback's charity work than their kicker's indiscretion in a local canal.

The point is this: while it's true we all want good people throughout our organization, particular attention must be paid to those people who act as the face of your brand. The story about the coach selling the car is great, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the tidal wave of bad press involving the organization's public-facing personnel.

In your business, it may play out differently. Perhaps no one will remember your accountant's local charity work if they see your cashiers in a fight during business hours. The people interacting with customers must have the highest character, even if they're not the highest-paid.

Brand management doesn't always involve elements within your control, which is why you must make the most of the opportunities you can control.  Quality of character in the people you hire should be as important as their skill set. If your people lack it, your brand will always be struggling to establish trust and loyalty in the marketplace. And there will be no guarantee of a reprieve in 70 days.

Filed Under: public relations

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