Redskins, Pirates and Looking Before You Leap

Whenever we embark on a new communications project or initiative with a client, we always start by talking out all particulars and considerations  so that our approach is well thought out and as strategic as possible. What are we trying to accomplish? Are there any potential negatives? It’s a bit akin to “looking before you leap” and “thinking before you speak.” 

In the past day or so I’ve come across two instances where, in my opinion, those tenets were not followed. Take, first, the case of the Washington Redskins and owner Daniel Snyder, who has now banned all fan-made signs from entering the stadium. In the midst of an abysmal season and mounting losses, Snyder evidently took a page out of the Matt Millen playbook with a “knee-jerk” reaction to fan displeasure. Even team spokespersons, when asked, had no information to share on exactly when or why the ban had occurred; demonstrating that the move was not thoughtfully discussed in the boardroom with PR. Fallout from fans and the media has been rightfully brutal.

Tonight I also watched a CNN story detailing a new shipboard security system that, it is claimed, makes ocean liners virtually “pirate proof.” My immediate reaction upon viewing the story was: that sounds what they said about the Titanic. Who knows if the security firm that developed the technology approached CNN or vice-versa but the story was very visual and detailed, demonstrating how, for example, jet streams of water might be utilized to keep seafaring privateers at bay. Promoting that the basic technology exists  (ala a burglar alarm commercial and home signage in order to market a product and deter would-be burglars) is understandable; actually showing how it works is, on the other hand, highly questionable and, quite possibly, the first step in a criminal reverse engineering. 

Purpose, message, approach and anticipating potential fallout. All should be important considerations, thought out carefully, for any strategic communications initiative. Proceeding otherwise risks negative backlash or worse.