4 PR lessons you can learn from the Minnesota Vikings

I’m a Vikings fan. Have been my entire life. And I’ll tell you, it’s a curse. The ’97 season. 41-0. The NFC championship game in New Orleans last year (Tom Martin, not a WORD!). I can only compare it to what it must be like to be a Cleveland Indians fan (sorry Chuck Hemann). Heartache. Year, after year, after year.

And this year is no different. I’ve been glued to each game. And, despite the Vikes 2-5 start, I continue to hope there’s a chance they could run the table or go 7-2 and close out the year 9-7, secure a play-off berth and make a run to the Super Bowl in Big D.

And then came the drama that has been the last week in Minnesota.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve watched the Vikes make blunder after blunder–on the field and off. But, since this isn’t a Vikings blog, let’s stick to the PR lessons we can learn from what happened off the field this week. The Vikes made a few mistakes this week–no question. What can we take away from the situation and learn from? Quite a bit, it turns out:

* Communicate quickly and effectively with key audiences–from the inside out. Coach Childress actually had the right idea here–he just didn’t hit all the internal audiences (allegedly). In this case, the counselor in me would have encouraged Coach Childress to sit down with management first. Then, the team. Then, the media. Maybe even single out a few players that he knew Moss meant a lot to (Percy Harvin, for one). Bottom line: Make sure you’re communicating key information in a timely fashion with the right people–in the right order.

* Build consensus before making key decisions. Local MinnPost columnist, David Brauer, had a great tweet the other night: “Say what you will about Chili cutting Moss, but the move was gangsta.” Sure, cutting a player without informing much of anyone (again, allegedly) is pretty bad-ass, I’ll agree. But, if you’re planning to cut a player with the talent and fan adulation of Randy Moss, you better make sure you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with management and the director of player personnel before pulling the trigger. A little consensus building would have went a long ways here.

* Erase all opportunities for speculation. This is probably one of my biggest beefs with Coach Childress’ approach to date. OK, so you cut Moss unilaterally and don’t inform too many people. Not ideal, but I can live with it. But, you cut him and you don’t explain why? Not to the team (allegedly). Not to the public. Not to anyone, as far as I can tell. Why is that a problem? Because it opens up the opportunity for *massive* speculation, which is what’s happening now. If Coach Childress comes out hard Tuesday talking about exactly what happened and why, and starts focusing squarely on the game this Sunday, this is all swept under the rug fairly quickly. As it stands, this probably won’t go away until after the game Sunday (and if they lose, it may extend in the news cycle for another week).

* Admit your mistakes (when possible). Coach Childress did say that trading Moss for a third-round draft pick was a “poor decision.” He did own up. And, look at the result: People seem to be dropping that piece of the story. Why? Because it  leaves nowhere for reporters and the public to go. He admitted he was wrong–end of story (on that piece, at least). Just not much to report or talk about. Plus, I always argue, admitting fault isn’t a sign of weakness–it’s a sign that you’re human. And, keep in mind, people (fans, coaches, organizations, etc.) will forgive you for your mistakes. Sports figures and coaches have proven that to be true over and over again.

Note: Photo courtesy of David Erickson via FlickR Creative Commons.

5 comments
eduardo camins
eduardo camins

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jlbraaten
jlbraaten

What do you say now, Arik? Has Chili bought himself some time with yesterday's win or do you think he's just on borrowed time at this point?

By the way, I love the point about consensus building. I've had meetings where all the VPs have been briefed on a new idea before the big VP meeting and meetings where they're all seeing a new idea for the first time. Do not learn the value of consensus the hard way. :)

Mark W. Schaefer
Mark W. Schaefer

It's interesting that if you view this from a leadership perspective, you might come up with opposite conclusions. Management took decisive actions to take care of a toxic situation. Although public reaction might be negative, tbey probably don't know the whole story and management needs to focus on winning, which is not possible with that kind of dissention.

So who knows? But good luck to the Vikes except when they play the Steelers (who have had their own set of PR problems this year!!)

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

I love it when you blog about football! Er, PR. Could you next include the mess that is Favre and his junk??

Arik Hanson
Arik Hanson

No question, Moss was toxic. Always has been. But, I think the communications issue at play here centers around how coach Childress handled the situation. Was he decisive? Absolutely. I just think he could have done a better job informing other key internal audiences before going public. And, when he went public, I would have probably done a few things differently. Part of this is a style issue, too. But, I think that's probably a different post. Thanks for the comment, Mark!