Gail Sideman Publicity


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PR scraps left from the NFL-Kaepernick workout

Pretend you own a multi-million-dollar business that’s internationally known, and your affiliates have only increased in value each year they’ve existed. During those flush years, which span more than half a century, your business has staged events for all the world to see. Each of them takes months, even years of planning and a steady, consistent PR plan that rightly begins long before invitees land in the host city. So, imagine that as an owner known for your impeccable plans, one day you decide to hold an event that you know will generate loads of media attention but you announce it just three days prior to go time. Chance of survival? Slim.

Now, imagine that this event will awaken an issue your company had with another person that lie dormant for months while your business thrived.

Who would initiate that kind of event?

That scenario is how way many saw last week’s circus that began as a hastily announced NFL-hosted workout for free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. From the moment the event was announced, something seemed off. It was scheduled for a Saturday when NFL scouts typically attend college football games and other decision-making personnel travel with their teams to weekend game sites. It got more absurd from there.

Stunting publicity – The NFL-planned workout was labeled as everything from a staged fail for Kaepernick to unexplainable disorganization. What it wasn’t was part of publicity plan that would continue the 2019 season’s primarily good vibe. A well-trained public relations specialist would advise against an event like this. Kaepernick previously sued the NFL and its teams for collusion to keep him out of the league after he protested police brutality and social injustice, and the parties settled out of court earlier this year. Was this a way to potentially corner Kaepernick and make him look bad? It couldn’t be to make the league look good. One slight misstep and the PR tables are turned.

What’s the rush? — We’re talking about an organization that’s known for its intense planning. It knows to identify what could go wrong in most every case, and head it off before it happens. That wasn’t the case with the Kaepernick workout. Nothing except the venue — the Atlanta Falcons practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. — and who would conduct the on-field workout (former Cleveland Browns coach, Hue Jackson) was reportedly in place when the sun rose on the day the league-hosted workout was to happen. In fact, Kaepernick and his representatives only received the invitation three days prior to the event and according to his camp, were given two hours to accept or deny the invitation, something the league has not denied.

Doomed from the start — Logistically, this workout was dead on arrival. If the NFL was encouraged by a third party to conduct a seat-of-the pants workout, it got poor advice. To follow that announcement with an unprecedented liability waiver and uncertain access would never play in the league’s favor. NFL personnel know better. Therefore, questions remain — why did they do it?

Kaepernick’s camp not faultless, but only for location — Blame the Kaepernick camp for part of the weekend wreck if you must. It moved the workout minutes before the originally scheduled one was to begin when it could could not agree with the NFL about details it deemed important. There was distrust on both sides because of the aforementioned suit, and chaos of the week was reason enough for Kaepernick to have a back-up plan. That the alternate and eventual location was an hour away from the Falcon’s facility was a mistake. If your priority is to meet a group of people, you make it as quick and easy as possible to access, not a logistical maze.

PR fail — If you put public relations reasons to any of it, the only way it passes a scintilla of a smell test is that people are talking about both parties. However, not all publicity is good publicity.

PR lessons — There are lessons to glean from both sides. 1 – Consider every detail as Kaepernick’s camp did, and always have a backup plan. 2 – The old saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail might qualify. Again, not knowing the intent of this workout, we’re left to guess. But if on a whim you throw a bunch of chemicals in a bowl and seal it tightly, chances are it explodes like the experiment that was NFL-Kaepernick Saturday workout. 3 — Only Kaepernick benefits from talking about this further. The NFL is left to either answer questions or put the topic back under wraps. It won’t be easy. There are a lot of underwhelming quarterbacks on 2019 NFL rosters and Kaepernick proved during drills that he’s in shape and his arm is strong.


©Gail Sideman, 2019

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