Forgiving Fans: PR Disasters in Sports

Did anyone know that the major league Chicago Cubs baseball team created a new mascot? Intended to be kid-friendly, he’s a pantsless bear named Clark with a backwards cap. I guess Clark beats the Cubs’ former mascot, a mangy bear that could have passed for a rabid squirrel. Nonetheless, comedic backlash immediately flared up, mostly on Twitter, as fans made fun of the silly cartoon. Though unanticipated but quickly evident, the introduction of Clark proved an unpopular marketing decision among Cubs fans. The story didn’t exactly make headlines—perhaps a blessing for embarrassed fans—but the commentary on social media sites attracted enough attention for sites such as the Huffington Post to publish a brief article quoting funny tweets and remarking on the ever-intimidating new mascot.

Besides the recent pro-sports blooper that is Clark the pantsless cub, the world of sports—both professional and collegiate—suffers public relations disasters quite frequently. And most aren’t as humorous as Clark. From LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s overt racism to controversy regarding Native American mascots (e.g., Washington Redskins) to University of Michigan football players accused of rape, we read about these things. We watch the reports on the news. And we gossip about them. But sports fans with similar attitudes as those who will never excuse the 1919 Yankees for taking Babe Ruth from the Red Sox, suddenly know how to forgive and forget. It’s all hush-hush from the time of the incident, to the time when someone leaks it, and beyond that to the time when the public knows but is too loyal and dedicated to take actions to punish the perpetrators.

Maybe there are simply too many fans to mobilize and build a large-scale boycott of sports viewing or purchasing of paraphernalia. Maybe the passion inspired by decades of sporting traditions overpowers the voice for justice against crimes and discrimination; that being angry at a beloved team or player is more of a crime than say, rape. Maybe a drive to the net is more valuable than a drive for integrity. I won’t launch into a lesson on morals, but isn’t it curious that what news outlets would deem “public relations disasters” seem largely to be ignored by fans? In fact, many of these scandals that should make fans embarrassed, often seem to be glorified in fierce defensive allegiance. I recently had an argument online with someone who thinks the Red Sox cheated their way to the World Series with David Ortiz’s clutch grand slam at the end of game two of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. I found myself an angry belligerent Bostonian, telling him to stop being a sore loser, that David Ortiz is too dignified to ever take performance enhancing drugs. (Needless to say, he was a Tigers fan, and we never spoke again.) Another example is when Michigan basketball star Mitch McGary failed an NCAA drug test and subsequently joined the NBA draft to avoid the harsh NCAA penalty. Michigan fans applauded McGary’s decision and congratulated him on his future. But, he failed a drug test. Too soon forgotten, if you ask me.

Social media lends a great deal to these sports scandals, as fans often tweet or post about their opinions. But rarely do those sentiments leave the cyber scene, and never are they transposed onto game attendance records. While shameful happenings of sports teams are publicized, saving face is not necessarily a priority. There is no shortage of spirit for American sports teams; and public relations disasters, as the news categorizes them, fail to threaten most fan bases, whether they are disasters involving racism or disasters with Clark the Cub.

Contributed by Intern Francesca Sands. Reach her via email: fsands@greenoughcom.com or follow her on Twitter: @simplyfrab

Mobile App Gold Medals: Tech at Sochi

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons: The U.S. Army

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons: The U.S. Army

Who says you have to go to the Olympics to experience all that they have to offer? As the line continues to blur between technology and real life, apps that help enhance the experience of live events are becoming more and more advanced. In just a few weeks, we can watch world-class athletes skate, ski, ice luge and bobsled their way to gold medals during the Winter Olympics in Sochi from the comfort of our own homes. And, we can amplify our experience with apps for our phones and tablets, such as the Sochi 2014 Guide.
This isn’t the first sporting event to feature a custom app. Back in the fall of 2012, I blogged about the advanced U.S. Open App, and how it made excellent use of real-time analytics to help fans keep track of all of their favorite players. Then, of course, there’s the news that this year’s Super Bowl will be streamed live through Verizon’s Mobile NFL app, offering a unique way to watch the game.

Let’s get back to the Winter Olympics app. The app will allow users to follow the Olympic torch as it makes its way across Russia. It also allows you to create your own Olympic Games schedule so that you can watch the events you want, when you want, share videos and pictures of the games with friends and learn more about the venues and events.

Apart from being a cool, user-friendly app, the Sochi Guide 2014 and others like it are important because they play into our unique and changing viewer habits. When was the last time you watched TV without scrolling through your phone or iPad at the same time? Or, would the better question be, when was the last time you actually watched TV on a TV? The apps recognize our need to be involved with the action, even if we are not there. They offer the opportunity for the average Joe to offer his two cents on the games, even if he knows nothing about ice dancing. The shared experience of watching the Olympic Games and tweeting about them at the same time will create a tremendous amount of buzz, and help Olympic athletes and spectators to enjoy the games and feel closer to the action more than ever.

There are some bandwidth concerns, however. While we spectators using the app from home have the luxury of connecting our device to our private Wi-Fi network, the city of Sochi itself is expected to host 5,500 Olympic athletes, 25,000 volunteers and welcome 75,000 spectators each day, all the while broadcasting to 3 billion TV viewers. This means it is crucial for the networks at Sochi to be totally up to the strain of broadcasting the games. This can be done through building mission-critical networks, strong Wi-Fi networks and virtualized networks, which help to avoid bandwidth traffic jams.

What apps will you be using to watch the games? And what is your favorite event to watch? Tell us in the comments below!

Gaby Berkman is Account Executive at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter at @Gabyberk.  

Stay Safe Online This Shopping Season

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, One Way Stock

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, One Way Stock

It is hard to believe that the holiday shopping season is already upon us. This year, the holiday shopping done online is expected to jump from 14% last year to 17%. Not surprisingly, 51% of consumers surveyed in a Nielson study said they are planning on taking advantage of the Black Friday deals online, rather than maneuver the crowds in stores. And, 46% said that they would participate in Cyber Monday. What’s more, new apps, such as from BuyVia, encourage shoppers to make purchases directly from their mobile device, where security is an afterthought.
With the rise of online identify theft, privacy breaches and cybersecurity attacks, it is even more important than ever to take precautions to protect your personal data when shopping online. Here are a few tips to stay safe this holiday shopping season:

  • Avoid making purchases on public WiFi. While this may seem obvious, it is much easier for personal information to be poached from public WiFi networks, even that password protected one in your favorite coffee shop.
  • Install and update anti-virus software. Again, seems obvious. But I for one know that updating my anti-virus software rarely crosses my mind. Make sure you have the most recent version before purchasing that iPhone 5S for your Mom.
  • When you can, use credit, not debit. Should your info be accessed, there are more security measures on credit cards than debit cards. For example, credit cards will often call you before authorizing an unusually large purchase, or one that is made in a new location.
  • Stay on top of your account statements. Many times, hackers will get away with charging very low amounts to your card if they think you do not notice. Review your statements after every online purchase.
  • Use strong passwords and change them frequently. For sites that require a login and password, make sure you are using strong ones that will not be easily stolen. And, switch up your passwords so that they are different for every site.

Do you have any online shopping tips you would like to share? Tell us in the comments below. And, happy shopping!

Gaby is an account executive at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @Gabyberk

3 Social Media Lessons from the Government Shutdown

Photo: Twitter Bird - Flickr Creative Commons, eldh

Photo: Twitter Bird – Flickr Creative Commons, eldh

No one is happy about the government shutdown, but, like any bad situation, there are lessons we can learn from it. At Greenough, we spend a lot of time managing social media for our clients, so we’ve been closely watching the effects of the shutdown on government agencies’ social accounts. Here are a few things we’ve learned:
1. Social media never shuts down. Despite knowing full well that no one will respond, numerous tweets continue to mention the U.S. Department of Labor’s Twitter handle @USDOL. The government may be shut down, but the public continues to interact with agencies’ Facebook and Twitter feeds.

This provides an important lesson for all organizations. Whether you’re prepared to respond or not, people are going to send you messages via social media. By regularly interacting with your community and addressing their messages quickly, you’ll build a much stronger relationship with your clients and customers

2. Do something interesting. On October 1, @MarsCuriosity, the Twitter account of the Mars rover, tweeted “Sorry I won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Back as soon as possible.” This tweet was popular, receiving more than 2,700 retweets, 250-plus favorites and numerous replies. During the same period, @EPA received hardly any engagement. What makes @MarsCuriosity so popular?

Rather than posting news about the rover as a NASA employee, @MarsCuriosity writes as if the rover itself is reporting in. This fun and creative spin on NASA brings in followers and, by extension, public support. The lesson for businesses? To gain a stronger social media following, adopt a unique perspective or style. Some customers may actually find your ideas more engaging if they come from your mascot instead of your CEO.

3. Crisis situations require increased social media presence. A great paradox of the shutdown is that while the government is in crisis and effectively shut down, the public actually wants more social communication, not less. During a crisis situation, be it a product recall, a restructuring of the company or a bad quarter, it is important to increase your communication, not decrease it. Doing so reassures them that you are working to solve the issue, avoiding the panic that often comes with silence.

These are just a few things that we’ve noticed during the government shutdown. If you’ve noticed anything, please let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear them!

Contributed by Account Executive Michael Glen

The NSA Security Scandal: a Positive Opportunity for Security Vendors?

When news came out last month that the National Security Association could potentially access millions of customer phone records, Americans were understandably scared. That fear only increased after the former NSA technical contractor Edward Snowden leaked information on top-secret U.S. and British surveillance programs.
Locked iPhones, firewall equipment and hosting company and personal data in highly encrypted clouds give us a false sense of security. We put complete trust in the IT department, without even stopping to consider whether someone out there is intent on doing harm with all of the personal and confidential information we readily give over. But the recent news has put data security to be top of mind for many Americans, causing us to start questioning “how secure are our security measures?”

First, let’s discuss what security means today. Take a minute and reflect on all of the personal information about you that exists on the Internet, your personal computer and on your mobile device. Now think of how you’re securing this information. Do you have a passcode on your phone? Is your Facebook page private? How about your Twitter account?

Now, think about your corporate data, your customer and client records, your employee information, your earnings statements, all of that data you use in your day-to-day work. Most of this mission-critical information is hosted by a cloud vendor or third-party that “touts” built-in security.

Once you start thinking about the possibilities, you’re likely to start wondering which security vendors actually provide the greatest security.

Gartner anticipates that the cloud-based security services market will reach $4.2 billion by 2016, as there is more of a demand for our data to be secured now than ever before. The NSA scandal exposed the fine line between privacy and security, and this provides an excellent opportunity for security vendors to demonstrate their superiority to a wider audience.

While we can do little about government interception and storage of our call logs and text messages, we can use the most advanced technology to protect our data from those who mean us harm, some of whom we may even know and trust. In fact, it’s likely that businesses will take an even closer look at employees, especially those with access to data and security technology. And many businesses will certainly be on the lookout for signs of employee disillusionment post-hiring.

What do you think of the NSA collecting personal information? Does it make you think twice about your personal and company data security? If so, you’re undoubtedly a future prospect for a security vendor – now it comes down to which one can prove they’ll provide the best protection.

Are you more worried now? If so, tell us in the comments below!

Gaby is an account executive at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @Gabyberk

Putting Storytelling to the Test: The Aaron Hernandez Case

Photo: Aaron Hernandez: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Aaron Hernandez: Flickr Creative Commons

In the summer of 2012, Greenough conducted our second “Prevailing Storylines Study,” poring over ten of the most widely read publications, including Forbes, Fortune, New York Times, Time, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and pulling the ten most common narratives, or storylines, from each publication. We found that almost every story or event can fit into one of these storyline archetypes like “David and Goliath” or “Best Kept Secret.” However, some newsworthy events are so big that journalists will play out multiple storylines.

An example of this is the Aaron Hernandez case, in which he is accused of murdering Odin Lloyd. It has captivated the Boston market and the national media, and it has spawned weeks of coverage that shows no sign of slowing. Below is our analysis of the six prevailing storylines that can be identified within the Aaron Hernandez story.

Fall from Grace

Let’s start with the most obvious.  A rising NFL star with a troubled past seems to have turned his life around – only to become the prime suspect in a murder case.  He seemingly had everything going for him, so how could this happen?  The media has fixated on this question since the story first broke.  From local media like New England Cable News to national outlets such as ABC News, versions of this story range from purely factual reports of the arrest and the evidence to more theoretical articles that explore what may have led to this drastic outcome.

When History Repeats Itself

Immediately after a big story breaks, different facets of the newsroom spring into action.  Spot news reporters jump on the early details and investigative reporters start digging.  This is often where the “When History Repeats Itself” storyline begins to appear.  In the Aaron Hernandez case, it has manifested in two ways.  Many articles have explored his troubled past – asking if warning signs were missed, like this piece from The Daily Beast.  Others examine the criminal pasts of other past and present football stars like OJ Simpson and Ray Lewis and point out the beginnings of a disturbing trend: the rising arrest rates in the NFL.

Things Not What They Seem

Aaron Hernandez fooled us all. He seemed charming, sincere and grateful. He was the Patriots’ Cinderella story of sorts. He acknowledged his tarnished history, but said that being with the Patriots had “changed him.” Fans knew of some drug use and a few run-ins with the law when he was younger, but since his most recent arrest, a far more violent picture of Hernandez has emerged: A shooting at a strip club earlier this yeara 2007 bar fight that left a waiter with a burst eardrum and, perhaps  most chilling, an unsolved double homicide last summer. We cheered for a guy who had seemingly turned his life around. Fans were duped. Robert Kraft was duped. The entire Patriots organization says they were duped by someone who wasn’t what he seemed.

A Cautionary Tale

This is perhaps the most prevalent storyline in the Aaron Hernandez case. Google “Aaron Hernandez, cautionary tale,” and you’ll get pages and pages of results with this in the headline: “Aaron Hernandez’s Cautionary Tale”“Aaron Hernandez Case Serves as Cautionary Tale.” The story theme is everywhere and the message is clear for professional athletes, rookies, hopefuls and young men and women alike. Hernandez’s career is likely over, his life is likely over, yet violence in sports continues — cautionary tales of sports figures who “had it all” are everywhere.

New Kid on the Block

If he remains on the roster, Tim Tebow will not only be the Patriots’ new kid on the block, he will be their ray of sunshine –the good to Hernandez’s bad, the peacemaker to Hernandez’s violent nature. Tebow automatically comes with the title of new kid, but in an offseason riddled with players making bad decisions (first Hernandez and now Alfonzo Dennard’s DUI), Tebow has the power to not only be the new kid on the block, but also the good kid on the block.

The Prediction

Predictions outlining the Patriots’ fate are everywhere: Is this the end of a winning era?Five reasons to be optimistic for Patriots’ Super Bowl chances. How will the Hernandez arrest affect Tim Tebow?  As we get closer to football season, we expect these types of articles to pick up.  But even this early in the game, we are already seeing outlets weighing in and trying to predict the larger impact this case will have on sports, the Patriots and the 2013 NFL season.

What storylines have you seen manifest themselves with the Aaron Hernandez case? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Contributed by Media Account Supervisors Rachel Vaccari and Christine Williamson. Follow them on Twitter: @ChristineDBW and @Rachel_Vaccari.