What College Football Taught Me About PR

This season, I grew to truly love college football.  Now that it’s over, I present some of the lessons college football taught me about public relations.

1) You’ll have to make unpopular choices…but you can still come out on top.

Several students, myself included, were upset when the University of Oregon Athletic Department pulled the “I Love My Ducks” video from YouTube (it’s since been re-posted) and refused to support it because of its unauthorized inclusion of our Duck mascot, which is licensed by Disney and used by the department with Disney’s special permission.

But during an Allen Hall Public Relations meeting, we discussed the video and began seeing things from the department’s point of view.  As future PR professionals, we’ll face similar decisions: make the unpopular choice or break the rules.  The athletic department made the unpopular choice, but still made it up to their fans.

An edited version of the video (which showed past game highlights instead of the Duck) was shown during the Oregon v. Oregon State game.  It may not have been the original, but it served its purpose: The entire student section was ecstatic when it was played.

The original video:

The Civil War version:

2) It’s important to know whom you’re working with.

In order for efficient, quality work to be produced, it’s important to understand a client’s wants and needs.  Not doing so reflects poorly on you and any agency or company you represent.  ESPN College GameDay analyst Lee Corso probably wishes he had remembered that lesson when he attempted to shake hands with a blind boy.  The boy, Jake Olson, had been an inspirational figure for the USC football team: he was a huge USC fan and they embraced him as he battled cancer that forced him to lose his eyesight.  Corso probably shakes dozens of hands a day, but he forgot that this one was different.  Without knowing your clients and fully understanding the work you’re expected to do, you risk embarrassing gaffes.

3) Social media makes anything possible.

The aforementioned ESPN College GameDay is known for the creative posters fans wave behind the set during its broadcasts.  In November, I replied to a tweet sent via the show’s Twitter account, which asked what signs they’d see during their broadcast from the Florida v. Florida State game.  My idea was a sign reading, “Tim Tebow, will you marry me?”  Several minutes later, I saw this reply:

“Now THAT would be original” -Des (Desmond Howard, a GameDay analyst and former Heisman trophy winner)

That interaction is not really a big deal, but it reminded me that Twitter remains a valuable resource for public relations practitioners who can use it to communicate with prospective clients or their clients’ customers.  With Twitter, the possibilities are endless, as long as you can come up with a creative approach to using it effectively.

Those are my three big lessons.  What did you learned from college football this season?

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