The NFL’s PR Fumble(s)

Parker Anderson (Creative Commons)

Parker Anderson (Creative Commons)

Without question the NFL is the most continuously embattled sports franchise in America. From cheating scandals to murder trials to domestic violence and child abuse, the NFL seems to always have a crisis in its lap to manage. Beyond the weight of the multiple scandals is the NFL’s approach to crisis management — it is an ongoing study of contradictions.

It has been, and continues to be, painful to watch the Ray and Janay Rice saga unravel. Each layer adds a dimension to the public discourse that, seemingly, widens the chasm between the sides of the debate. You’d think there would only be one side the one denouncing the brutal violent attack on a women, but sadly there are audacious voices who’ve questioned what prompted Ray to slug his then-fiancé, as if it there is ever justification for domestic violence.

The video is what it is and show what it shows. We know there were two versions, the abbreviated version (disturbing enough) and the full version that shows the episode from beginning to end (the one that left me numb). When the NFL actually viewed the full footage is dubious, and while the League scurries to make amends, it’s their response to the Rice drama that should give pause.

While the spotlight is glaring on the NFL, Baltimore Ravens and Ray Rice, this is obviously not the NFL’s first crisis spurred by domestic violence.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges last July. According to public records, Hardy allegedly choked his then-girlfriend, dragged her by her hair and threw her on a sofa that was covered with several loaded assault rifles. Despite Hardy’s conviction, which he is appealing, he was never placed on indefinite suspension as Rice was. In fact, he played in the team’s 2014 season opener.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy

What’s the difference, NFL? Even though Hardy is appealing his conviction, he was convicted, and he received not even a slap on the wrist. Yet Rice, initially received a two-game suspension—the equivalent of a time-out—on the strength of the partial video footage, and now that the full footage has been exposed he’s out indefinitely. What gives? Is domestic violence only a concern when it’s captured on video, or only when the media gets hold of it?

The NFL has made several classic PR missteps in the Rice and Hardy situations: sending mixed messages, lack of transparency, not admitting its mistakes, and feigning concern only after being exposed.

Vilifying Rice and Hardy are not the right course of action, either. Plainly, both men need interventions and guidance, and deserve an opportunity to rehabilitate their behavior.

No one should be judged by their personal failings for the rest of her/his life. That’s not the issue. The broader issue is that the NFL should take a stance, an authentic stance unmotivated by public outcry, against domestic violence, implement swift action for all domestic violence offenses and sideline players until allegations are resolved in the legal system. Jumping from extremes of toddler time-outs in the form of two-game suspensions to indefinite suspensions to no suspensions at all are the wrong moves. Pick an approach—the right approach— and stick with it!

Commissioner Roger Goddell and the NFL have repeatedly fumbled opportunities to use good, strategic public relations to address the nation’s domestic violence epidemic in the raw: every day in America three women die due to domestic violence, and 25 percent of women say they have been physically abused.

This is what we need to talk about. The NFL has a chance to lead here, and not for gain of sponsor or union favor, but for the good of culture. Come on, young girls and boys are watching.

The good that has come out of these crises is that the world is talking about domestic violence. As we approach Domestic Violence Awareness Month, hopefully it will be an additive and substantive discussion.

The NFL can and should take the opportunity to correct itself by sending a stronger message against domestic violence and joining the conversation, but only if it gets its story straight.

Domestic violence is never okay, the victim’s gender does not matter. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is each October. Visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for resources.

FAIL: Epic Missteps in the City of #Ferguson’s P.R. Strategy

Kimberly N. Alleyne


The civil eruption in #Ferguson (Missouri) has quelled since the Aug. 9, 2014,  shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer though the conflict that’s tearing an already divided community rages on, if silently.

Photo by Blue Cheddar

Photo by Blue Cheddar/Flickr Creative Commons

Varying accounts of what actually precipitated the fatal shooting of the unarmed recent high school graduate still mottle accounts offered in print, broadcast and cyber media: Brown attacked Darren Wilson (the officer who shot Brown); Brown was fleeing; Brown had his hands up begging Wilson not to shoot him; Brown didn’t have his hands up…the truth will eventually manifest during the trial.

Despite the calm that is now reclining on the St. Louis County town, a emotional unrest persists among the residents and there is a notable chasm-like void in the City of Ferguson’s public relations approach — to date, it’s been near indiscernible. Here are reasons why the strategy, whatever it is, has been ineffective.

1. Late to the game — By the time the City of Ferguson retained an agency of record (Common Ground PR), civil unrest on both sides had exploded; the shrapnel bred additional crises, such as Michael Brown’s autopsy report, that compounded the situation. The City failed to get in front of those crises–or to respond quickly enough.

2. Lack of community engagement — There are deep divides in the public opinion, primarily along racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines. A smart strategy would be to focus on engaging the community via town halls and listening tours. You cannot communicate with an audience if you don’t know what they’ll respond to. Lack of engagement–and understanding–blows targeted messaging out of the water.

3.  Insertion of personal opinion — The City of Ferguson announced that Common Ground PR would assist with crisis management by “fielding media inquiries,” and soon after, the racial/ethnicity composition of the firm’s staff was questioned (Not unreasonable since they’re handling an intensely racially-charged situation). Denise Bentele responded, umm sort of, to the criticism in a statement in which she shared her dismay about negative online comments. What?! … Why? Regardless of what the public thinks, Bentele should have never offered personal commentary. And coming on the defensive about the racial make-up of her staff actually heightened suspicion about the firm’s capabilities. The crisis is not about her, and her opinion adds no substance to the public dialogue.

Denise Bentele, CEO of Common Ground PR,

Denise Bentele, CEO of Common Ground PR

4. Not responding on social media – So it looks like Common Ground is not very social. Despite the plethora opportunities to engage media and community members online and on social, the PR agency has also been criticized for not engaging on social, Twitter in particular. Not a tweet out of them so far.

5. No clear spokesperson (s) — Who’s running the show? A spokesperson has yet to emerge. There are too many people talking in this situation. The airwaves are far too crowded with opinionated voices soapboxing boxing about the tragic incident, and not one of those voices includes a City of Ferguson spokesperson. What gives? An essential, and basic, PR strategy is to establish a spokesperson and to equip she or he with a substantive message. That’s not happening in Ferguson. Fielding media inquiries is a back-burner priority in relation to this.

6.  Missed storytelling opportunities –In the face of the widely circulated images of an incensed community standing against police/military, rallies for Michael Brown, and rallies for the Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, there have also been displays of unity that transcend zip code, income, race and ethnicity. The City of Ferguson and Common Ground PR should seize those storytelling opportunities to flip the frame and show another view of the picture.

Also, a PR agency should be an extension of and a complement to a brand, more like a silent partner, not a replacement of its voice.

Common Ground PR should revisit its approach — the nation is watching.


Odd Tips to Prioritize Your Day via Fast Company

Kimberly N. Alleyne

Who doesn’t love a Fast Company article? Today’s “Hit the Ground Running” newsletter offers a great article with tips for setting priorities. For an example, have you ever considered thinking about death to help you set priorities? The article shares a neat prioritization tip from Warren Buffet, too.


If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? — Steve Jobs

Changed Priorities sign by Addison Berry

Changed Priorities sign by Addison Berry

Check it out. The tip I’ll add is to “imagine your day.” I am re-reading “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Hill writes that the trick is to envision all you want to accomplish on a day the evening before and the morning of. I’ve found that this simple visualization method helps me to sift out the less important, less urgent items from my to-do list.

What tips do you use to set priorities?

Make Your Feedback Matter

Kimberly N. Alleyne

Photo by Giulia Forsythe

Photo by Giulia Forsythe


If you’re in a leadership position, it’s a must that you master delivery of feedback to your team mates. Otherwise, you’re wasting their time — and yours. While feedback is expected, it is not helpful if it is not handled with care. Here are a few tips to make you feedback matter.

1. Celebrate great ideas and significant achievements privately and publicly. We reinforce behavior by reinforcement. So if an employee knocked it out of the park Derek Jeter style (Gonna miss you, Captain), broadcast it. When you brag about a job well-done, the chances for a repeat performance will shoot up!

Feedback Lightbulb

2. Give details and, if possible, examples. Vague commentary that is laced with anger, irritation or displeasure is not only ineffective, it just doesn’t serve anyone’s interests. Statements such as “I don’t like it” or “I didn’t get that” are unproductive and don’t advance anything. You can expect someone to improve in a weak area if you cannot articulate the problem. As much as possible, cite examples of the preferred outcome; and explain why something didn’t work.

3. Make feedback timely. Firing off a load of criticisms about a campaign that lacked luster months or even a year after the fact doesn’t make much sense, and it’s also unfair. Give feedback close enough to the incident/behavior/situation so that the individual who is receiving the feedback can actually remember what took place, absorb what went wrong and why, and implement improvements.

Photo illustration by Steve Ransom

Photo illustration by Steve Ransom

Are You A Boss or A Leader?

leaderLeadership Ahead

Kimberly N. Alleyne

I read a great article on qualities that great bosses share. The author listed eight qualities, all of which I co-sign; but I got to thinking that there are significant differences between an individual who is merely a boss or manager, and one who is a leader.

Here’s what I mean:

It’s easy for someone who is clever at directing processes, gifted at project management, and adept at organizing details. Sure. But can that same person rally a team to exceed goals? To glamorize the active pursuit of individual improvement for the betterment of the person, team and organization? Or to keep morale up when the organization faces financial crises? Or to inspire others to believe in themselves? No, not necessarily.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for bosses, those whom were unremarkable (dreadful in some cases); and I’ve worked for leaders— those whom imprinted my life and made me professionally and personally richer. I’ve learned something from each of them, be it in the form of qualities I found admirable and incorporated in my own leadership style, or qualities that I knew I’d always strive to avoid.

As a result of my experiences I am fascinated with leadership approaches, especially as I navigate my own ride on the corporate elevator. As a leader, I consistently hunt ways to improve, particularly as it relates to leading people–that’s hugely important to me. The fact is not everyone is not gifted to lead people. Meeting team goals and organizational objectives are not open for compromise, of course. But when it comes to my team, how do I get it right? What works? How do I influence a team, its members individually and collectively, with lasting impact?

The leadership styles I have been exposed to have been are varied. And what I have noted is while there are many avenues to get to an end point, there are traits that separate bosses from leaders.

Boss versus leader

Olivier Carré-Delisle

  1. Leaders get in the game, they don’t sit on the sideline while their teams toil away. They push and pull with their teams.
  2. Leaders don’t hover or micromanage; they give others space to dream, create and execute. They give others freedoms to shine, to step up, or sometimes, to fall.
  3. Leaders inspire others to do what they think they cannot do.
  4. Leaders do not paint with a broad brush or only with one color. They lead others based on individual needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Leaders groom their bench for growth. If a  leader is not preparing an individual/team for the next step up, she or he is doing them a disservice.
    Black Enterprise Favorited My Tweet
  6. Leaders understand that’s it not a solo show, it’s a team performance.
  7. Leaders give credit and celebrate others’ accomplishments.
  8. Leaders are honest, transparent and fair.
  9. Leaders understand that leadership is an eternal journey of learning, growing and adjusting.
  10. Leaders dream in color and dream big, but build in ample opportunity for course correction.
  11. Leaders are confident, but they know they’re not always right, and that they don’t always know the answer. They admit their mistakes—quickly.
  12. Leaders know that leadership is a gift, and they embrace it with respect, humility and honor.



Leaders inspire–and lead–movements.

In the vast universe of leadership, there are inevitable twists and turns, ups and downs. Each ebb and flow is a mere dot point, not the final destination. There is always space to be better. Always. And a title is not necessarily a mark of leadership—if no one is following, or wants to follow—then it’s not leadership…yeah, not so much.

Are you a boss or a leader?

Great PageTurners on Leadership:

  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell
  • The Power of Positive Thinking (The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking), Norman Vincent Peale
  • Great on the Job (What to Say, How to Say It, The Secrets of Getting Ahead), Jodi Glickman
  • Bringing Out the Best in People (Aubrey C. Daniels)
  • Strengths Based Leadership (Tom Rath, Barry Conchie)



My Week in Twitter — Thanks #BECornerOffice!

These Twitter activity recaps are great. Not a bad week:

My Week in Twitter_8.22These numbers were boosted by participating in an @blackenterprise #BECornerOffice Twitter chat with @EarlButchGraves. Great #leadership insights! I’ve already calendared the next one, which is scheduled for 9/8 with the 1st African American winner of “The Apprentice.”

Looking forward! Twiiter