There’s been a ton of talk lately about tweeting and the NFL – from what the rules are to almost “censorship.” Â But let’s stand back and take a look at what’s really important:
First, every NFL player should realize they are a public figure and using twitter, or any other form of social media, is part of your personal brand. In other words, be smart about how you represent your brand. Â Think before you tweet, because someone will repeat it, broadcast it, or otherwise publicly use it. Â This isn’t Â necessarily “controlling the message” or “censorship” Â - it’s smart marketing for yourself. Â And rules that everyone should consider – especially since many companies will even search your name and potentially check profiles in social network spaces before hiring you. Â This “brand” effects sponsorship opportunities and endoresements. Â And the NFL isn’t the only “company” that thinks this way.
Clearly , the NFL is not against using twitter. Â Spokesperson Brian McCarthy said, “Our NFL account has 770k+ followers, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen has 32k, and heck, even my own NFLprguy account has 5700 followers. When done properly, it’s a tremendous opportunity to talk with and listen to fans.”
Second, Â just like any other major business, you don’t want anyone – player or reporters or fans – to share information that could be thought of as competitive advantage. Â I don’t know a single company that doesn’t have a communications policy in place. Â As a public relations professional, I can tell you that there are designated spokespeople who are the only people allowed to speak on behalf of an organization. Â The reason for this is not just controlling what other people hear, but protecting competitive advantage.
Last weekend while in Latrobe at training camp, I saw a tweet from a reporter that was a little in depth, one that I thought gave away some of Dick LeBeau’s “secrets” – as a Steeler fan, that’s the last thing I want to see get out. Â My team’s defense is something I hope the opposing offense never figures out. Â Think of it in terms of the Patriots “secret tapes”, with twitter, in certain circumstances, who needs tapes? The secrets could be told in a variety of ways and if you take tweets from all the different sources, even if only 140 characters, the offensive or defensive scheme might be figured out.
There’s a saying in the Navy “Loose lips sink ships” which basically is the campaign asking military members to think before they speak. Â If you only give away one piece of information, could the enemy gather small pieces from many people and put the entire strategy together.
I think this is what the NFL and each individual club are trying to protect. Â The recommendations from the NFL to individual clubs allow real-time reporting (tweeting and texting) from training camp practices open to the public. Currently, 22 teams permit some form of reporting via tweets and texts from training camp practices open to the public. The NFL recommended that clubs allow limited live reporting from open-to-the-public training camp practices subject to guidelines set by clubs on the reporting of strategy.
In other words, if it’s open to the public, you can tweet or txt, but for reporters, make sure you are also following that specific club’s rules related to reporting on football strategy. As a blogger who attended training camp…same rules should apply. Â Not that I am an expert in each of the individual schemes anyway. But I should still NOT share the Steelers specific plays…it’s somewhat common sense, right?
On game days, the NFL has longstanding rules barring the use of cell phones, computers, PDAs and other electronic equipment by coaches, players and other club football personnel. Â This Â applies to the sidelines, coachesâ€™ booths and locker rooms from the start of pregame warm-ups through the end of the game, including halftime.
That prohibits the use of Twitter, Facebook and similar social networking sites during that period of time by coaches, players, and other club personnel. Â The NFL is currently working on a broader policy that would apply to the use of social media sites in general on the day of a game.
This is not to censor what players say more than it is to protect the competitive advantage of a team and their plays.
I’m actually hoping NOT to see any Steelers tweeting during game day…I don’t want them thinking about me, I want them thinking about the game.