LADAINIAN TOMLINSON USES HALL OF FAME PLATFORM TO PROMOTE SOCIAL CHANGE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 26, 2017 by sairahusain

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Professional athletes typically work their entire lives to try to be the best at their respective sport. For many, the ultimate goal is to reach the Hall of Fame, one of the most heralded honors any athlete can receive.

This time can be extremely emotional for all players involved in the Hall of Fame process. Again, it’s what you work so tirelessly to achieve. So when your name is called and you have been chosen, it’s an unspeakable honor that takes weeks and preparation to put into the best combination of words.LT

These same words that have been carefully crafted by the honorees are used to highlight careers that have taken their ups and downs, people that have helped to guide them to success and personal stories that either make us laugh, cry or even both. Rarely are these speeches written to make an outward change. Instead, they usually reflect an inward change that took place within the players themselves.

Former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson decided to use his speech to make an outward change.

While detailing the highs and lows of a stellar career, and life, Tomlinson then shifted gears to a matter that has affected the world, especially of late: Equality.

In front of thousands in attendance, and millions watching, LT displayed the passion and grit while on that stage that he had his entire NFL career. The Hall of Famer spoke on his upbringing, current family life and how people who are not of color have always been involved and accepted and vice versa. He explained how this current climate of American society must be changed and that we must do it working together, no matter what race or ethnicity you are.

When hearing this, your ears perk up, not because it hasn’t been said before, but because no one has used this specific platform to say it. Think about it, football draws and brings people from all walks of life together. It’s the most popular sport in America which means that a majority of the people watch these games together whether at home or at the stadiums where they sit right next to each other. For many, football, and sports in general, is one of the only things that we share in common. The love for the game, and for specific teams, allows us to have some type of common ground that otherwise may not exist.

This is why this stage was so essential for Tomlinson’s rally for equality to be expounded on. You had no choice but to hear it and recent events that have occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia have given the speech even more credibility. The white supremacy rally that took place recently are the types of things that LT suggested are very possible in this current societal climate. It’s also what LT said can help to be avoided if everyone sticks together instead of trying to divide and conquer.

So if you didn’t pay it much attention when he gave his speech, you certainly have to give it your attention now that lives have been taken and people have been hurt.

I commend Tomlinson for using that big of a stage to say what needed to be said, especially by these famous and popular professional athletes who can make a change just by one word or one click of a button. Yes, we love to celebrate success and achievement, but even more so, we love to celebrate what you ultimately do what you do with that success and how you can make a positive impact because of it.

LT did just that.

IS CONNOR MCGREGOR IN DANGER OF TURNING INTO THE NEXT RONDA ROUSEY?

Posted in Reputation Management with tags , , on August 26, 2017 by sairahusain

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Tonight will be the biggest fight of his professional career, Conor McGregor is set to face Floyd Mayweather in a $700m megabout. So yes, we must discuss this question and answer it too.

We have seen it on a number of occasions, performers using trash talk and controversy to make headlines and attract further attention ahead of a fight – whether that be boxing, UFC or other sports entirely. It can help them raise their own profile while the added attention brings in extra supporters, which in turn, generates more revenue.

The fact that McGregor does this side of the fight game so well is testament to his tough upbringing and how he’s continued to strive for success, maximizing profit in the process.

“I never forget the struggles, never forget where I came from. Never ever forget the hard times. I pinch myself because I am surrounded by luxury. But make no mistake – it’s luxury built on sacrifice.”

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Fans empathize with and respect McGregor’s grind as a result, which is why he has such an ever-growing following both at home in Ireland and elsewhere across the world.

His fearlessness and charisma don’t only make him unpredictable, but equally exciting from all angles. Not content with being a UFC champion in two separate weight classes, he’s actively sought the biggest challenge of his career by calling out a recently-retired Mayweather – who at 49-0, and looking to end his fighting career in style.

With no previous professional boxing experience behind him, facing one of the best boxers of all-time, it’s obvious that McGregor is a huge underdog to beat Mayweather. Some experts have suggested it’d even be a surprise if he landed more than a few significant strikes on the 40-year-old.

He relishes the underdog tag and despite his choice words at the various press conference events to market the spectacle, he’s set to make more from this fight than any in his entire UFC career combined, irrespective of the result.

The rate of McGregor’s rise since making his UFC debut four years ago has been remarkable. He picked up a £165 welfare cheque just a week prior to his first fight, reiterating the struggles he left behind. Now, he’s set to earn at least $30 million from the Mayweather bout alone and you can understand why he chose him from a financial standpoint as despite being over 40, Floyd is still boxing’s biggest draw.

The same cannot be said about Rousey who, despite being a significant asset for the UFC in a similar way to McGregor, didn’t command the same level of support. Instead, attention was focused upon her mystique – how did she manage to beat opponents in such a dominant manner?

This, coupled with the tireless hype after her impressive performances began to quickly rack up, meant the number of people rooting to watch her downfall in the sport increased significantly. She started to believe in her own hype and repeatedly claimed she’d retire unbeaten, as if to openly challenge anyone to beat her.

Perceived attitude issues and questions over her fighting style, when critiqued in particular detail, meant it was only a matter of time before someone delivered a devastating knockout over the undisputed champion.

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Holly Holm succeeded in doing precisely that in November 2015 and honestly, Rousey could not have handled the situation much worse than she did prior to a short-lived return a year afterwards.

She kept quiet for a few months, presumably to let the internet trolling and media coverage settle down. However, once she gradually returned to the spotlight, her first sit-down interview with Ellen DeGeneres in February was particularly telling.

Watch Ronda’s Interview with Ellen here

She admitted contemplating committing suicide after her defeat, as she struggled to come to terms with the loss, especially in such devastating fashion. Also, she had stated an eagerness not to make excuses for losing, yet proceeded to do exactly that: three title fights in the space of nine months, which she previously made no issue about, was part of the problem.

Then she revealed that retirement despite losing her unbeaten record wasn’t a possibility, at least not yet. She wanted to have a rematch with Holm next, regardless and ultimately avenge her loss.

So you could excuse our surprise and that of UFC supporters across the world when she finally announced her return would be against Amanda Nunes. A Brazilian brute, a year younger, who had just become the new Women’s Bantamweight champion after beating (and prompting the retirement of) Miesha Tate.

Why was she invoking her rematch clause for the championship so quickly? Against someone other than Holm herself, meaning she would have to adapt accordingly and study Nunes’ all-round game.

So when Nunes ruthlessly finished her within a minute of her long-awaited return last December, the verdict was unforgiving. How could someone so highly-rated, so in demand, fall away so quickly? The issue was, she believed her hype far too much and despite some questionable decisions from her own coaching staff, didn’t seem to make any progress before returning.

For all that time off to reflect and assess her options going forward, what did she really improve? Nothing. In stark contrast to McGregor after being submitted by Diaz during their first fight, it’s almost the opposite response.

The way he has responded to adversity is admirable and he refused to shy away from losing either. Instead, he took it in his stride and vowed to come back stronger as a result.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we can either run from adversity or we can face our adversity head on and conquer it. That’s what I plan to do, it wasn’t ideal, I got caught. It is what it is. I’ll face it, take it on the chin and I’ll carry on. I’ll learn from it and that’s it.”

Learning from his mistakes, underestimating the difference between Diaz and other fighters he had previously faced at featherweight, he was keen to make amends and did exactly that during their rematch last August.

Regardless of the result tonight, McGregor’s popularity and stock will continue to increase ahead of his UFC return. With all of that in mind, it also answers the question. No, McGregor isn’t in danger of turning into the next Ronda Rousey because his attitude towards defeat is not destructive. Sure, he loves trash-talking but it ultimately stems from his own self-belief.

If he didn’t have any, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

WHAT PR PROS CAN LEARN FROM THE U.S. WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TEAM

Posted in Workplace Affairs with tags , on July 10, 2015 by sairahusain

One of the biggest headlines of the past week was that the U.S. Women’s World Cup team won 5-2 over Japan, marking its third Women’s World Cup title. Anyone who watched the game was inevitably swept up by the excitement and adrenaline. The American women handily defeated the Japanese in an impressive display of athleticism, poise and nerve.

But beyond the thrill of watching the game, as I witnessed these American women claim victory over Japan, I observed a few key traits that every one of these professional athletes have in common, which great public relations professionals must also embody.

  • Teamwork: Although Carli Lloyd may have stolen the show and taken the lead in the final game with her record-setting hat-trick, the U.S. win was undeniably a team effort. In the world of PR, teamwork is equally important. While different members of a communications team will take on different aspects of a project, nothing can be accomplished without the collaboration of an entire team working together like a well-oiled machine. From the interns to the Communications director, all members play a vital role in the success of its clients, whether they’re working behind the scenes or are at the forefront of scoring top-tier media placements.
  • Preparation: The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team made winning the World Cup look effortless, but it took years of hard work and preparation to make that achievement a reality. While preparation in PR doesn’t involve sprints or footwork training, it certainly involves its own fair share of prep work – we’re constantly scouring the news, researching new reporters and publications to pitch, seeking timely opportunities to increase media exposure and becoming experts within the industries we represent. Only once this preparation is complete can we seize an opportunity to build our brand profile, create a successful pitch or tactfully manage a crisis.
  • Mental Self Care: In sports and PR, alike, success often comes down to getting back to the basics. Reflecting on her outstanding performance in the final World Cup game, Carli Lloyd explained, “…you can have all the tools out there, but if your mental state isn’t good enough, you can’t bring yourself to bigger and better things.” It seems simple, but a healthy and positive mental outlook can be the most important tool, whether you’re an athlete or a public relations professional. While you can’t control a lot of external factors or circumstances, you don’t have to let undue stress or chaos unnerve you. Healthy lifestyle practices, such as getting enough sleep, staying organized and maintaining a healthy work-home balance will help you to confidently tackle each day’s challenges.

While most of us aren’t World Cup-caliber athletes, PR practitioners (or anyone for that matter) should aim to incorporate these key principles in their own professional and personal lives.

Do you have any tips for aspiring PR professionals?

Image Credit: Getty Images

THE INDECISION: THE FREE AGENCY OF DEANDRE JORDAN

Posted in Social Media with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2015 by sairahusain

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More than any other professional sports league, the NBA is an ongoing telenovela, structured around the games outside the games, dependant on the personalities of the odd and whimsical multi-millionaires whose thoughts are now readily available, unfiltered, on social media. It is one long inside joke, and this is why the highlight of the NBA calendar often occurs weeks after the Finals themselves, during a free agency period that is fraught with the kind of off-court unpredictability that hardcore basketball fans embrace almost more than they do the games themselves.

Five years to the day of the LeBron James famous “The Decision,” came the wildest day in NBA offseason on Wednesday. After verbally agreeing to sign with the Dallas Mavericks last Friday, free agent center DeAndre Jordan changed course, opting to instead re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers on a day that will be forever known as “The Indecision.”

According to reports, it involved Chris Paul leaving his banana boat behind to join the recruiting effort, the Clippers refusing to leave DeAndre’s house until midnight, Mark Cuban calling out an ESPN reporter for saying he was frantically driving around Houston looking for DeAndre’s house, and some very good tweets.

If you were paying attention Wednesday night, it was hilariously riveting stuff, a cocktail of Clipper guile and Dallas desperation playing out in real time (There was some mild faux-outrage over Jordan backing out of the Mavs agreement, but give me a break: People in every profession have changes of heart and go back to their old jobs, even when they’ve signed contracts. Happens all the time. It’s just not on Twitter). And in the flurry of messages, which peaked around midnight Houston time with Pierce sending out a photo of himself standing over Jordan as he signed his new Clippers deal, it was possible to see how social media has transformed sports.

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Think about it: This whole incident didn’t go down on a network or a news site, or with handlers or agents or publicists and carefully crafted statements. There were NBA reporters getting good stuff (Woj and Shelburne, as always) but most of the hard info was coming from the participants themselves. All of the good jokes, too. Whether it was a grand plan or not, the Clippers were using social media to control a tricky narrative—those tweets did a fairly brilliant job of turning a bit of backroom corporate maneuvering into cheeky, off-the-cuff comedic theater. We’ve seen social media backfire on athletes quite a bit, and there are times that Twitter can degenerate into a cesspool of hate, but it did not on Wednesday. Does anyone—besides Mavericks fans, of course—not like Blake Griffin a little bit more now?

That’s not a small thing. This remains an era of intense and overwrought scrutiny of public figures, and yet social media has allowed high-profile people to pull back the usual layers of phoniness and controlled environment overmanagement and showcase something closer to their real selves. (Again: Social media is a high-wire act, not for everyone, and there are plenty of high profile people who should try as hard as possible to avoid showcasing their real selves.) But when the timeline happens like it did during the battle for DeAndre Jordan, it’s hard not to see value for sports and the people who follow them. The game, it’s clear, is changing.

Image Credit: Canstock Images

FOUR WAYS FIFA CAN RESTORE ITS TARNISHED REPUTATION

Posted in Reputation Management with tags , , , , on June 30, 2015 by sairahusain

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Money and soccer have not been far from the news over the past month, with FIFA’s long-rumoured corruption finally exposed. For most people, soccer fans or not, it is heartening to see the crooks who lined their pockets hopefully being brought to book. The scale and audacity of the bribery is astonishing. Just take the millions supposedly sent to support football in Trinidad and Tobago that allegedly ended up in the pockets of former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner. Added together it could probably have funded multiple stadiums the size of Wembley, for a country with a similar population to Glasgow.

However, the tangled web of corruption, ongoing investigations, and the fact that current FIFA president Sepp Blatter has gone back and forth about stepping down shows that the scandal will not be over anytime soon.

FIFA needs to rebuild its reputation, but this is not going to be easy – after all, the next two World Cups have already been awarded to Russia and Qatar making it difficult for the organization to simply draw a line in the sand and begin the bidding process again, without upsetting the potential hosts.

So from a PR perspective, what can FIFA do to change its reputation? I’d say there are four things it needs to look at:

  1. Bring in independent experts The public perception is that FIFA needs root and branch reform – and that existing senior management are not the right people to do this. It needs to bring in a team of independent experts who understand governance and compliance to create a completely new structure for the organization and everything it does. This can then be voted on by delegates at the conference, but should follow external best practice, rather than simply tweaking existing ways of doing business.
  2. All senior remuneration to be transparent MPs have to publically declare all of their outside financial interests and have a fixed salary. The same should be true of senior FIFA officials, allowing them to be scrutinized by the media and any wrongdoing brought to light. After all, the fact that ex-FIFA vice president Chuck Blazer spent nearly £4,000 per month renting a flat for his cats should have led to questions about exactly how much he was earning. Additionally, money needs to be shared more equitably – particularly with countries actually hosting the World Cup – so that it doesn’t cost them billions for little reward.
  3. Bring in new blood Soccer players are idolized around the world – yet FIFA is seen as broadly being run by stuffy bureaucrats. More current and recently retired soccer veterans need to be involved in FIFA, particularly in its initiatives to spread grassroots soccer around the world. In the same way that the UN uses celebrities as goodwill ambassadors, so should FIFA. This would both provide a stronger link to the game itself and highlight positive initiatives.
  4. Move HQ Switzerland is the home of many international sporting governing bodies, from cycling to the Olympic movement. But in many people’s minds it is also a country known for secretive private banks, allegedly happy to help with tax evasion. If FIFA is serious about improving global soccer, it should move its HQ from Switzerland to somewhere more in keeping with a new, open culture. It could follow the lead of the UN and open up in New York or be more daring and move to Africa or Asia. That would have the added advantage of helping with a fresh start, with new staff, a new office and new ways of working. Yes, it would be expensive, but FIFA has the money and it would send a strong signal to the world.

Rebuilding FIFA’s reputation will take years, but as the International Olympic Committee has shown, strong leadership, transparency and a desire for change eventually translates into major improvements.

The public relations task starts now – and is going to last for a lot longer than 90 minutes.

Do you have any suggestions or comments on how FIFA can repair its reputation? Discuss

THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GENDER TRAP

Posted in Workplace Affairs with tags , , , , , on June 24, 2015 by sairahusain

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So this is what equality looks like. Finally, sports writers care enough about women’s sports to bother digging into a female athlete’s personal life and find out she’s a mess: married to a man once accused of hitting her, brawling with her own family members, and getting belligerent with cops when they pull over her husband for driving drunk in the team van.

But damn can Hope Solo play—and that’s why she should play. For the same reasons Allen Iverson played, Ray Lewis played, and Ty Cobb played. Don’t let Roger Goodell’s optics-oriented attempts at turning football (a sport based on beating people up) into a morality play disguise the truth. Players play to win, fans watch teams that win, and only a fool thinks the U.S. Women’s National Team can go all the way without Solo.

But she’s an example for the children! Sure. She’s also an example of great goalkeeping—and of how being amazing at one thing doesn’t automatically make a person any less screwed up off the field. The Brands have no problem letting men market themselves as flawed, dangerous, and difficult. Nike built an entire ad campaign around Charles Barkley, who spat on a little girl, drank before games, and lost $10 million to a gambling problem. All Barkley had to do was stare into the camera and declare “I am not a role model.”

Barkley’s still on TV, and still not a role model. Solo doesn’t have to be one either.

But this was domestic violence, and the Brands want to get tough on it! But that’s pretty much where the similarities end between what Solo did and the actions of the person she often gets compared to, Ray Rice.

Kicked off by an ESPN Outside the Lines report that detailed the sordid police report about an unresolved domestic assault case from last June, which involved a fight with her stepsister and nephew, Solo’s presence on the field has been called into question.

The U.S. Soccer Federation made a misstep in trying to claim a moral high ground, saying it did an investigation that, like any sports organization’s investigation, was brief, cursory, and flawed. That’s no surprise. Goodell convinced football fans that he could do a better version of policing domestic violence than our court system. So far, he’s given us pithy donations, domestic violence training that its own players say isn’t working, and a celebrity-driven, shadily financed PR campaign that doesn’t provide any services to victims. And football teams still employ fixers to make these “problems” go away before they become public. Why? Because the NFL is entertainment, the Women’s World Cup is entertainment, and the men and women running these shows are just as unqualified to play judge and jury as music label owners or Hollywood studio heads, who should looked to for moral guidance on absolutely nothing.

So go ahead, get mad at U.S. Soccer’s Sunil Gulati for being really bad at faking like he cares about anything beyond fielding the strongest team possible. Get angry at Solo for being, at best, a flawed and unlikeable person. Roll your eyes at talking heads trying to discount Solo’s assault as a distraction, a cue straight from the NFL playbook. When a young girl asks to buy a Solo jersey, by all means say no and explain why.

But don’t get mad over Solo playing. Sports fans long ago learned to accept our male heroes as anything but heroic. It’s time to let our women be the same.

What do you think? Should Hope Solo be allowed to play?

Image from Getty