|An Open Letter to Texas A&M's PR Department
By: Shawn Paul Wood
Dear Aggie Flacks,
I respect you work at an esteemed institution rich in tradition and folklore. I admonish that your job can't be easy with overseeing many schools, campus life and that little football program you have. That's why I struggle with the proper way to pose this delicate question when I consider the plight of young Johnny Manziel, but forgive the brash wording. I'm just frustrated but...what in the blue hell are you people doing?
He becomes the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Heisman and your department is statements galore. After that? Radio silence. Only 12 days later, he ends up courtside during a game between the Miami Heat and my Dallas Mavericks. No reason for a statement there, but you may have wanted to gain a little perspective when Johnny goes scorched earth on people via Twitter during the second half. Sure, there was the Cotton Bowl after that, so I guess you were busy. How about a month later when young Johnny is 'grammed' with a handful of cash with the caption 'casino ballin.' Any word from you kids then? Were you busy doing brainstorms and whiteboarding in the conference room? If you were, I can accept that.
Then the red flags really started fanning like Johnny's casino credits and the PR world was left watching for some serious hunkering down of crisis communications.
Thanks to the obsessed statisticians at the Sporting News, we have the following timeline to help you kids realize when you should have taken some action:
There are at least four instances where your PR spidey senses should have been kicking in - and your team straight in the behind - for an official statement, some media training, reputation management, a gag piece and locking him in the closet...something! Alas, nothing. You are too busy at yell practice and drinking the maroon Kool Aid to be bothered by the cash cow of College Station to be worried about what he is doing while you were sleeping. Essentially, all those Aggie jokes chronicled through time? Yeah, he's making each of those come true.
March 2 - Manziel's family (no stranger to business savvy, melodrama or cash) file to trademark "Johnny Football."
March 25 - Johnny shoves a grad assistant after throwing an interception in practice. (Sure, he should have exercised his angst on the opposing cornerback, but never mind that man's game there.)
June 16 - The spiral continues when Johnny's infamous tweet was sent out following a parking ticket and the obligatory "Don't you know who I am?"
July 13 - He big-times Archie, Eli and Payton Manning at their own QB camp by oversleeping (despite a ridiculous hangover).
And now, you have Autograph-Gate. Not that I'm some expert in PR and crisis communications, but even I would think that would be ample opportunity to take over, the athletic director this how we fold our clothes and put a leash on that pompous twit. Maybe you knew something we didn't in flack world. Perhaps your silence was warranted because Johnny Effin' Football was found not guilty of breaking the inane NCAA credo but only got spanked for "inadvertently violating the rules" of signing merchandise. And to celebrate, he makes a complete ass of himself and shames the school during a game with the laughable Rice Owls. Scoreboarding, making the cash symbols and acting like he was signing an autographs were all on display. To wit, Coach Kevin Sumlin did what you kids should have done months ago - sat his tail down.
Think about that, in only nine months, this dude has gone from media darling to being stuck in the crosshairs. All the while, no pressers, statements, training. Nothing. Your inept PR department hasn't done anything to protect the school or help this kid. The spin lately has been to let Johnny focusing on being a student athlete. Considering he's not going to school per se, not so much. Was having the coach take all the heat your doing? If so, think again:
TRANSLATION: Now that the PR team here has decided to Gig' Em ('Em being Johnny), we are praying he can stay sober enough to remember his talking points like he can his playbook. Then - and only then - will we put this fool in front of a microphone.
"I think it's important now based on where he is that his focus is to try to be our quarterback and a student athlete," said Sumlin, according to the Associated Press. "That's his biggest challenge right now. [It's] not his challenge to be here. I don't think right now that him coming here and saying the words would change some people's opinion about who he is. At the appropriate time, he'll be able to speak for himself."
Nine months of hijinks and tomfoolery. Nine months of staining Texas A&M's reputation. Nine months of your coffers filling to the brim with JFF residuals. And still, nothing, until now. Whelp, this should be good. Look forward to seeing your fine work at a press conference following the schlacking your school receives from Alabama in two weeks. You see, Nick "The AntiChrist" Saban has no sense of humor and I doubt he will think Johnny is that lovable, tweeting or not. So good luck with that. You know what they say, "Better late than never."
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