Posted on Apr 10, 2013 by Kathleen Hessert
As the President of Rutgers University, what would you do? Hide under your covers? Match bravado with NJ Governor Chris Christie? Glue the University’s crisis plan to your right hand? Pine over the once soaring reputation of the Scarlet Knights? Have nightmares about why “vigilant thinking” and issues management were not part of the campus lexicon? APOLOGIZE to the Men’s basketball players who were actually those abused?
A Quick Rehash of Events (as we know them):
- A mashup video of Rutgers Men’s Basketball practice aired on national television depicting Coach Mike Rice’s belligerent and abusive coaching style
- Video went viral
- Public reaction quickly gained hurricane force
- Fast forward: the evolving controversy was redirected to accountability. How the university (president included) and now a sullied Athletic Director, Tim Pernetti handled the situation. Why didn’t Tim fire the Coach after first seeing the tape months ago?
- 1 day after ESPN aired the video, Rice got his pink slip
- 2 days later Pernetti was forced to resign
- Additional resignations included the Interim Sr VP/ University General Counsel
To complicate matters, Pernetti’s resignation letter alluded to the fact that he wanted to terminate Coach Rice after first review of the tape, but that the University nixed it, leading to the coach’s ultimate suspension and $50,000 fine.
Once again, if you were the President of Rutgers University, Robert Barchi, what would you do? Easy to say in hindsight right? Actually, forget the rearview mirror. If the university and athletic department had done some prudent advance work, (SOP in Corporate America) they could have responded faster, better and maybe even avoided the entire costly crisis.
Think “issues management”, monitoring social media for near real-time business intelligence to maintain first mover advantage, and alignment with influencers and advocates well in advance.
Where was the “Vigilant Thinking”? Issue Management
Today came word that former Dean, Carl Kirschner, was selected as the interim Athletic Director for the 2nd time. At least someone is temporarily in place to manage Athletics. Top priority: find a replacement AD, and new basketball coach to insure there aren’t lapses in the running of the program. Of course there are reports of losing transfer requests and recruits that need to be addressed to minimize long-term effects. And all student-athletes and their parents need to be assured and trust that this won’t happen again. STRATEGY is crucial. Tactics are busy work without an end goal in place. Where does Rutgers want to be with this situation in a month, three months, six months or by this time next year? The new regime will need to immediately communicate that there’s a fresh way of operating there and deal with the ripple effects that continue to weaken the foundation. Imagine flooding waters creeping up a basement wall.
Vigilant thinking should be the mantra on any and every campus and within every athletic department. If an interdisciplinary “issues management” team had met quarterly to share their nightmares and assign resources based on both crisis impact and probability of occurrence, Rutgers may have been able to dodge a mighty bullet.
Monitor Conversation for 1st Mover Advantage
To stay ahead of negative publicity and stakeholder perceptions, Rutgers officials will need to be alert to the vortex of rumors swirling around. Monitoring online conversation will be critical in maintaining the “First Mover Advantage.” The First Mover Advantage is a proactive approach to dealing with a crisis, by knowing and taking action on both real and perceived issues before they blow up in your face. We’ve been monitoring this crisis for a couple of days with BuzzMgr™ our proprietary online social media conversation listening tool.
Three of the top concerns being bandied about at the social media water cooler need to be addressed.
- Why was former AD Pernetti not allowed as he suggests to immediately terminate Rice, as he mentioned in his resignation letter?
- Was the University’s move to the Big Ten Conference a determining factor in initially NOT firing Rice?
- Who are the potential candidates and replacements for Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach?
Addressing these questions, as well as staying on top of other questions and rumors that are even more core to the university brand, is the best way maintain the First Mover Advantage. There is quantifiable data that needs to be transformed into actionable insights but that takes listening. Prior to Penn State’s behemoth of a crisis, BuzzMgr was monitoring 10,000 social media posts a month for the athletics department. Within a week after PSU’s crisis hit, that number soared to 851,000 mentions of the controversy in social media outlets. Vital issues were unearthed and acted on via social media monitoring.
Organizing a Digital Street Team
Finally, Rutgers must reestablish itself with influencers and advocates so they can voice support for the school and its athletic program. They will clearly be more persuasive with the masses than the University itself will. Ideally, the brand would have previously identified offline and online influencers and advocates, then tapped them to communicate strategic messaging. The goal is to convert influencers to advocates and advocates to evangelists on behalf of the brand for marketing, PR, even customer service reasons. Here at Sports Media Challenge we call the online advocates a “digital street team”. It’s not too late to start.
Many prominent former athletes have voiced their disapproval with the forced resignation of AD Pernetti. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as usual has been bellicose about the situation as well as other state lawmakers. Once the flash points have settled down, unfortunately for Rutgers, the chronic crisis stage will linger much longer than most imagine. The day PSU fired Joe Paterno, I told the athletic department executive management team to expect a decade or more of residual crisis effects… now it’s more like 25 years of chronic crisis stage. To move forward from this crisis, Rutgers will need key influencer support including that of alumni, fans, and sponsors to polish the tarnished Rutgers brand.
The stages of crisis are:
- Acute crisis
- Chronic crisis
The worst is far from over.
Tell us what you think. Do you agree or disagree? Comment below or share this with your friends.
Posted on Jan 18, 2013 by Kathleen Hessert
Let’s talk TRUST… a quality that is highly valued, seriously tarnished, coveted by all. Most of you won’t remember November 8, 2008 but I do. That’s the day @Shaq joined Twitter and took social media out of the hands of nerds and to the masses. How do I know? Because I took him there. But much more important is what prompted the event. There was a very believable impostor of NBA great, Shaquille O’Neal on Twitter. Not someone feigning to be a girlfriend, but someone pretending to be an NBA superstar. The person was so artful in his charade that the team fell for it. Not only did they think Shaq was on Twitter but a member of the Phoenix Suns staff regularly engaged the fake Shaq generating more followers for the Suns and more fun for the local guy who had a complete “playbook” of Shaq-isms for the year. He had studied Shaq’s language and other nuances. Instead of getting lawyers involved I prodded “@The_Real_Shaq” to take to the twittersphere and the rest is history. As of this hour, Shaq has 6,580,540 followers.
Who Can/Should We Trust
I don’t know who’s at fault in the Manti Te’o debacle, but I do know trust is at the crux of it. There’s plenty of doubt to go around and the internet and social media are clearly components. There will be sports teams that use this as an excuse to try to shut down all use of social media by anyone associated with its program. There will be families that put computers behind locked doors and somebody will suggest a new law or two because so many of us were duped.
But it’s important to remember that the issue of trust isn’t just a challenge for the young and impressionable or the less educated or sophisticated. Trust is an issue for all of us. For CEO’s, their employees and stockholders, for brands and their customers, for first responders and those they’re scrambling to rescue. It’s an issue online and offline. We want to trust and at the same time dare not to. Many in the conventional media world would like to rely on old time methods of ferreting out stories and sources on foot and by phone. But studies show that in the media’s scramble to stay alive and relevant, they’ve drifted to often unskilled and untested citizen journalists for story ideas, and sources to ignite their own product even when the digital word-of-mouth is more rumor than fact and often as stale and misshapened as the bread crumbs I add to my homemade turkey dressing.
There’s a company called Storyful that has built its two year old business around verifying social media conversations for media outlets and major corporations so that they can “get closer to the story, faster.” According to its website, clients include: ABC News, Reuters,The New York Times and other venerable news organizations. “We separate actionable news from the noise of the real-time web, 24/7. We unearth the smartest conversations about world events and raise up the authentic voices on the big stories… discovering and verifying content… to identify new, credible sources close to every story.” Good for them and good for all of us.
A Call to Study Trust in Social Media
For months now I’ve been exploring the issue of trust and social media. It’s critical because social media isn’t going away and it’s way past the tipping point. It would be nice to have a template to verify our facts, and our hearts. Short of that, we need some mechanism to get us at least part way there and yes we need a heaping dose of skepticism.
Through tools like the Internet video platform- Google Hangout it’s easier to verify the face behind the tweet. I use hangouts regularly to connect and get closer with clients, friends and family around the world.
Anyone doing serious study into the issue of trust and social media let’s talk! Contact me @kathleenhessert on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Facebook or the old fashion way by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 1-704-541-5942.
Posted on Dec 19, 2012 by Kathleen Hessert
It’s been a week since Pope Benedict XVI posted his first 140 character tweet and today: 2 more tweets. A success? Certainly in number of followers and worldwide attention to the Church and Pope himself. The effort has been lauded for beginning to modernize the church’s brand image & showcasing a wish to connect with a new generation of Church “customers”. But it can’t stop there. A single, though monumental event is not enough.
Social media and Twitter is not intended as a broadcast mechanism. It’s a conversation. And for tangible and sustainable success, the Church needs to build an ecosystem & social culture for itself within and well beyond the Vatican. If it’s to be the genuine person-to-person connection Twitter can be and the church needs; if it’s to be a forum to build trusts & engagement then start building your social media ecosystem. The Queen of England speaks to her subjects via Youtube each year. Prince William and Kate invited the whole world to participate in their wedding via an array of social media platforms and crowdsourcing opportunities. So what can the Church in Rome and around the world learn from the momentous Twitter event? Smart social media monitoring tells us a lot and is a way to take the voluminous data, turn it into knowledge and ultimately valuable insight. Read More…
Posted on Dec 13, 2012 by Kathleen Hessert
One of my favorite tweets was penned by journalist Heidi Moore @moorehn “So, we’re back to religious figures handing down statements on tablets.” And apparently lots of others enjoyed it too since it was retweeted 187 times & favorite 49 times in just over 24 hours (which is an impressive amount).
Which shows that despite my husband’s claim that I have little to no sense of humor, no matter how monumental the event or serious the issue, a little humor can bless our day.
I can’t tell you how much resistance there still is in sports and other markets to the value and strategic use of Twitter. It truly boggles my mind. A prominent Athletic Director was asked at a national forum in December if he would ban student-athletes from Twitter. His response: “as a person- NO. As an Athletic Director- YES.” Thanks to Pope Benedict XVI, I now have one more irrefutable example of leadership in a scary world. It does take courage to be authentic and put yourself and your ideas on essentially a public bulletin board for all to take aim at. But maybe the Vatican believed they had some special help from on high that we mere mortals don’t have access to.
DELIVERING THOUGHT LEADERSHIP VIA SOCIAL MEDIA Read More…
Posted on Dec 03, 2012 by Kathleen Hessert
It’s that time of year. We eat too much on Thanksgiving. Spend the holidays with our family. Watch college football coaches get hired and fired. Make New Year’s Eve plans. Wait? One of those things is not like the other, but if you follow college football it’s right up there on the importance scale.
With the end of each college football season, underperforming coaches get fired while the most promising coaches are often plucked for greener pastures. Coaches and programs in both are these situations typically bring out the famed passion of college football fans. This passion often finds its way onto message boards, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. These platforms and others like Google+ and even Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram should be monitored and researched just like the traditional means of coaching background searches. Social media monitoring can play a key role in the process for both the university and coach to better understand fan sentiment while also preparing each side for the negative backlash that might be lurking on the internet including potential NCAA violations, claims of player mistreatment and staff difficulties and even rave reviews all round.
Why should athletic departments and coaches monitor online conversation? Read More…