Trash Talking: Richard Sherman’s PR Playbook
January 28, 2014
When it comes to Seahawk’s football, I’m a diehard fan. This doesn’t mean I can rattle off the season’s stats on command, that I know everything there is to know about the players to the point of borderline stalking, or that I find myself scrubbing blue and green glitter off my face every Sunday. What it does mean is I’m the chick in the room every guy looks at sideways when I call a flag on a play before it’s thrown, screams at the TV when we should be executing a pass play over a running one, and places bets on if Pete Carroll will go for it on the 4th down (I haven’t lost yet).
What I love about football is the strategy. Richard Sherman and I have this in common. He’s known for being a student of the game, spending hours pouring over film and sharing his insights in a constant stream of chatter to his teammates. Don’t believe me, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbQGlO0B5nY
Besides having a Ph.D in sneakiness, Sherman is also an absurdly smart Stanford grad with a degree in communications. So, rather than me wasting time running my mouth debating his PR nightmare, I’m going to try an squeeze something a little more productive out of this situation.
Here are the top 3 strategies PR professionals should steal from Richard Sherman’s playbook:
If You Want the Team Behind You, You Gotta Call the Play
Sherman didn’t give us 12s the setup. As quarterback, perhaps Russell Wilson can give him a few pointers on calling plays, because without any context on his history with the 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Michael Crabtree to us his response following the game came across like the rant of madman. Then tweets like these start flying back and forth that night between Sherman and Crabtree, and knowing what we know now about the backstory and the bullying, our man’s mindset and passionate reaction is a lot more understandable. We may even empathize, or get a little mad ourselves.
So how the heck does this apply to PR? Listen, we’ve all been on the briefing call when a client skips right over the company download and dives straight into the product announcement leaving the reporter oddly dumbfounded. Next time that happens, now you’ve got the world’s greatest analogy to give them around why it’s imperative they never do that again.
At some point in every PR professional’s career they will have to advise a client on how to apologize publically. Richard Sherman did a great job of perfectly executing what I’ve dubbed the #sorrynotsorry. He expressed remorse for taking attention away from the team while showing no regret and pointing out that he no control over other’s reactions at this point. Then he delivered his crushing not sorry with his strategically planned comeback during a Beats by Dre commercial that I’m sure made even Gabourey Sidibe jealous. We in PR should remember that in some situations when the media spotlight is already on your client and the pressure’s on for an apology it doesn’t have to end there. If you plan it just right, it could also be a golden opportunity for them to shift their story.
Legion of Boom: Don’t be cliché if you want to make some noise
I don’t think I could say it any better that Erin Andrews: “You expect these guys to play like maniacs and animals for 60 minutes, and then 90 seconds after he makes a career-defining, game-changing play, I’m gonna be mad because he’s not giving me a cliché answer, ‘That’s what Seahawks football is all about and that’s what we came to do and we practice for those situations.’ No you don’t. That was awesome. That was so awesome. And I loved it.” She loved it so much she immediately knew it would go viral and Sherman even got a hug from one of the Sexiest Women in broadcasting out of the deal, not bad.
The PR takeaway: it will always be safe to do something someone else has already done, to tell a story that’s already been told. On the flip side, it’s risky to be bold, but sometimes it’s well worth the reward and the best way to cut through the noise.