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So You Want to Do PR for Athletes
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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The glitz. The glamour. The jet setting. And all that crisis communications work.

Such would be life for the PR pro of most today's athletes. No, this is not another unfortunate story of law, order, and dog owners. This is about twits...er, Twitter.

In case you were catching up episodes of a sundry MTV Emmy-award winning show, you probably heard that this Osama bin Laden character was killed. The death of the ZZ-Top reject spread like the pig flu across social media. Millions of tweets and status updates per second with the news of the Al Qaeda's leader demise shot around the world.

Evidently, the social media shenanigans were contagious and a few notable athletes decided to join in the fun, much to Roger Goddell's and David Stern's chagrin according to the San Antonio Express News and The Washington Post:
  • Steve Nash, Suns guard opined some 'meh' witticism with this nugget: "Since we caught Osama do I still have to take my laptop out at security?"
  • Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys tailback, but overall good guy, tried his hand at comedy and made a loud thud with this gem: "No to catch a predator tonight. Not cool cnbc."
  • George Hill, Spurs guard who's got some game aside from the infrequently, poorly timed tweet, henpecked this note: "You can't tell me they just now finding bin Laden. We prolly found him years ago and he wasn't giving us no info and we got tired of it."
  • Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers running back steals the competition and discovers how to really endear himself to the fans with this musing: "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side." And before you race to ask him about the psychology of grief, he offered this wisdom: "We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
Now before you throw up your hashtag force field with "FirstAmendment" or some such, think about this for a minute from a flack's point of view. If anyone wants to thank the troops for their service, please do. If anyone feels the need to comment on the news, do your thing. But, if you want to wax philosophical and share "Structural Engineering for Dummies" by Dr. Rashard Mendenhall, consider what any PR pro would tell you: Leave that book on the shelf.

Athletes and celebrities get paid baffling amounts of money to entertain, not educate. They make more in a day than most of us make in a year; yet, their ideology on politics is no more welcomed than my neighbor's, who believes all the campy propaganda that hits his mailbox every week. (And I know that because he probably stumbles in a drunken stupor to said mailbox dawning the latest fashions in soiled wifebeaters and caked overalls. Classy.)

Don't get me wrong. There was comedy to be witnessed on Twitter, but by the pros:
  • Jimmy Fallon's comedic stylings brought us something that made me laugh out loud (No, I will not type the acronym) with "Got Bin Laden AND interrupted Celebrity Apprentice? Win for Obama all around."
  • Rob Riggle exercised the very right he fought for as a Marine with this hilarious tweet: "I wonder how bummed Osama was when he got to hell and realized there were no virgins?"
  • And the great Steve Martin opined something we for which we can all relate: "Slow news day."
People cope with grief, stress and angst in different ways, but when you are in that ubiquitious and high-definition spotlight, I would offer something else that most PR pros would recommend as well: Stick with what brought you there.

Your fans follow you because of admiration for your physical agility not political acuity. Hearing cats like Mendenhall share his conspiracy theories are about as meaningless as some of his cronies taking a free agency flier to "be closer to the family."

And that would be a nice seque for more hijinks, being a PR pro for some of those athletes, but I'll refrain. #PleadThe5th.

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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