NFL Draft Hops Out of April

2013-nfl-draftTwo to three more weeks.

That is what NFL owners agreed to give teams to prepare for the next NFL Draft. Or, at least that is what the juggernaut that is the NFL wants us to believe. Well, that isn’t exactly it. The reason they are giving for moving the Draft out of April and into May is because the venue – Radio City Music Hall in NYC – will be in use at the time of the next draft. The reason there’s a conflict is that the Easter Bunny will be in town.

If the NFL moves the Draft three weeks, it will conflict with something much bigger than the Easter Bunny – Mother’s Day. There’s a saying the NFL should be wary of: “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It makes me think the NFL is drowning in its own hubris. The owners and the commissioner may be thinking that they are too big to fail, but even the most powerful empires crumble. And often, it is self-induced destruction. There is a very strong possibility that this is what the NFL is doing.

From a communications standpoint, the fact that the story of this move is being turned into a cartoon pitting the NFL vs. the Easter Bunny signals to me that the NFL’s communications staff really doesn’t buy into this decision.

So, why do it? The simple answer is ratings. The NFL, which relentlessly works to protect its position as the #1 sport in America, has a TV network in desperate need of content during the crucial May sweeps. Strategically moving the Draft, which MMQB columnist Peter King calls “the most ridiculously overhyped event on the NFL calendar,” will give the NFL Network the content it needs. The assumption by the NFL is that people will watch because they are addicted to the NFL. The NFL doesn’t care what I, the GMs, or any one thinks the decision, because the league will still be on top. At least, that is what the NFL assumes. And we all know what happens when you assume.

The move is a shrewd one, for sure. However, I can’t help but think that the NFL is on its water skis getting ready to jump over the water the shark is swimming in.


Hyped Up On Headlines

Article after article scrolls by on the screen. Then, in a flash of brilliant copywriting, a headline catches your eye. You’re hooked. You must read on.

If you are a storyteller or a person who just likes a good story, you are well aware of the power that a well-written headline has. It is the power to entice, to persuade. It is a call to action. It is a reason to believe. Once you start down the path the headline opens up for you, either you’ll truly enjoy the story or feel like you’ve been robbed – of your time and your sensibility.

That’s what headline hype is all about. It is an inflation of the facts of the story to get your attention. Stories “grab headlines” because the details are such that the media editor can manipulate them into something that interests a wide audience. Headline hype has been the way the media has worked for so long that doing anything different simply does not work.

Now, with the advent of a fractured information feed, headlines become even more important. There is an abundance of media to choose from and the only way to delineate between those things that interest you and those things that you could not care any less about is the headline.

Is this putting too much pressure on the headline writer? I don’t think so, because good writers and good editors make their hay in the headline – we buy the story because of the headline.

So, the next time you scroll through your news feed, think about why you chose the story you’re reading and how you feel about the story. It may just be a bunch of hype.


Have you ever been sitting in traffic when a song comes on the radio that somehow just clicks with the events that are happening in your life right at that very moment? Or, you’re in a rush to get some where and you are stopped dead by an unexpected traffic delay?

Have you ever wondered if either of these scenarios that routinely happen to people are, in fact signs or communications that there we, as individuals, need to be doing something differently? Or take a different perspective on life or something that has happened to us?

This is a stream of questions that came to me, surprisingly, while sitting in traffic. Signs? Or just random thoughts to distract from the tedious nature of the daily commute. You be the judge.

The secret to “Going Viral”

In a brillant post on the topic of writing copy that will go viral, Seth Godin captures lightning in a bottle. And it will change the world as a result.

There are so many people out there right at this very moment making a living by selling a service to an organization or a nonprofit to create content that will go viral for them. They claim to be “experts” in knowing what will be hot, trendy, and will catch on with the masses. But what they are selling is akin to snake oil. If these sales people, marketers, PR guys and gals, and advertisers where truthful with themselves, they would know that the secret to getting something to “go viral” is that there is no secret.

To paraphrase Godin: Don’t set out with the intention to create viral content. Instead create content that makes a real impact – an impact that must be shared.

Godin is talking about creating content that connects with a person’s passion and experiences. Designing and drafting content with these two things in mind is fundamental to the success of any communication. It is imperative to know the audience you are trying to connect with, but other than that, the framework for content creation should be as free as possible. Otherwise, you will fall into the trap of creating content that is expected to catch on, but instead sinks to the bottom of the interest pile like a lead balloon.

Always be mindful of your audience, and as Godin rightly points out, the rest will take care of itself.

Branding free choice

In his post about brands and the abundant choices Americans have, Thomson Dawson raises an interesting point about how freedom and individuality correlate to brand existence. He argues that Americans today might have more choice than is really good for us. At a minimum, he says, we have “more choice than what is truly useful to us.” At the crux of his post is the question – How useful is abundant free choice?

When it comes to brands creating connections with consumers, abundant free choice is not inherently useful. Brands want to exist in a vacuum. They want to be the only choice. Unfortunately for them, that is not the case. It is true that there are a multitude of choices, quite possibly too many. The result is chaos.

As individuals, we have to be able to sort through the barrage of messages that are constantly thrown our way and use our one, powerful tool – free choice – to make the selections that shape how we will interact with the world. The selections are based on our values, beliefs, and experiences.

Here’s the kicker, though. Brands want to be the only choice, yet they are in the same situation as individuals. Each brand has the freedom to choose what it wants to be. It may be one person’s opinion or a board of directors, marketing department, or other group of influencers. Regardless of who makes the decision, a decision is made that sets in motion the development of the brand. So, brands also have a powerful tool in free choice. It is the power to become a vibrant part of the lives of so many just by being what it is.

On the individual or brand level, free choice is what makes us what we are. And what we will become.

The perception of reality

Throughout all of last week, there was a big discussion about Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler. Did he quit? Was he tough enough? Several NFL players, current and former, thought that he wasn’t. And they blitzed him about it on Twitter.

The reason that they said this was all about their perception of the situation. Throughout the week, everyone kept saying that “perception is reality.” That got me to thinking about what that phrase really means in terms of communication.

Communicating an idea and creating buy-in from others is about getting them to envision a scenario in the same way that you do. You are trying to get them to perceive your reality. It is all staging, so to speak. Once they see it the way that you do, then your reality becomes theirs and things can get done. Whether they be a project, a sale, a job, etc. The initial step is creating the reality that people will live in while the action is taking place, and this is all set up by the way we communicate our way of seeing things.

So, when Cutler was out of the game, but wasn’t on crutches and was just sitting there on the sideline, this triggered the NFL players to reference their reality and question what it was they were seeing. They perceived a change in their reality and they attacked. What actually occurred was slow in coming out from the Bears (an issue for another time), and thus there was no authoritative communication on the subject. The vacuum was filled by others with louder voices trying to insert their version of reality on the situation.

This situation is a good case study for communicators because it demonstrates the ability for a small, knowledgable group to overtake the conversation and create a version of reality that may or may not be verifiable.

What do you think? Have you ever been in a situation like this? If so, how did you shift the conversation back to your perception of reality?

Top 4 communication don’ts for 2011

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Tucson earlier this month, I read and watched with great interest the media coverage about the influence political rhetoric may have had on the shooter. Now, with the State of the Union (#SOTU) just days away, there are several PR stunts that are taking place (like this) in an attempt to ratchet down the rhetoric and communicate a message of unity. I think this is actually a good thing. And it lead me to think about the communication trends that will flow throughout 2011.

So, without any further hesitation, here are the 6 things you should avoid this year in your communications:

  1. Hate-filled political rhetoric. Simply put, when you spout hatred, the majority of people will turn you off immediately. Those that don’t are just looking to hear their own thoughts echoed back to them. Instead of building political arguments on crass emotional epitaphs, 2011 will be a year to use your brain to build political communications that are based on provable metrics. Of course, there will always be emotional messaging in politics, but making the case in support of one side or the other will be a lot easier if you can put out strong numbers that are then supported with a positive success story.
  2. Splintered messaging. Keeping your message consistent across all communication channels will be the way to go this year. Don’t say one thing on Twitter and something entirely different on your blog. Instead create one message and format it for each communication vehicle. This will cut down on the noise that can interfere with message being decoded by your intended audience.
  3. Crisis mode. Do you think that if BP and Toyota had it to do all over again, that they would get out in front of the story, trying to manage how it unfolds rather than communicating from a defensive position? I would hope so. But, maybe not. Maybe how they communicated was so ingrained in their corporate culture that looking like bungling dolts out of the gate was the only way they could come out of the gate. Instead, in 2011, organizations that go into crisis mode need to get their side of the story out first and fast. They need to be active in the social media sphere by interacting with the media and their audiences. What they don’t need is the public face of the organization speaking without a filter. Think before speaking, it really helps in a crisis.
  4. Information overload. It seems like we’re hardwired now to constantly produce and receive communications. Are we?’s commercials about search overload make a good point. There is too much needless information cluttering our communications. So, in 2011, don’t add to it. Remember the old adage: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In other words, Make sure that when you communicate, you’re adding value for your intended audience. You can do so by learning about your audience. What do they care about? What do they already know and what might be interesting to them? Find out the answers by interacting with your audience. Listen when you are doing this, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll hear.

Well, there you go. My Top 4 communication don’ts for 2011. What do you think? Are there others that should be added to the list? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.