NFL Referees’ Return Highlights This Truth: In PR, Grassroots Trumps Management

NFL ref Gene Steratore acknowledges the cheers--but it wasn't long before the boo-birds emerged. (Credit Evan Habeeb/US Presswire)

Last night, National Football League referees got a standing ovation¬†when the first “regular” crew arrived for Week 4’s first contest: the Baltimore Ravens game against the Cleveland Browns.

Good for them–this one time, anyway.

After having been locked out in a dispute with the NFL, the crew must have loved it but, on some level, been extremely uncomfortable as well. One of the oldest sports sayings I can recall is this one: “You know the ref (or umpire, in baseball) is doing his job when nobody notices him.”

That quest for anonymity–not for its own sake but as a barometer of a job well done–often applies to public relations, too. Curious as it may sound, if you know a publicist is behind a story, that may well mean he or she has missed an opportunity or at least compromised the client’s bid for coverage.

The focus should be on the client, not on the PR firm or practitioner supporting the client. Put your attaboys and robust client list on your website–don’t muck up your outreach by being so clunky about it.

A current case in point: through my work with a professional association, I am helping its members develop op-ed style content to submit to media outlets throughout the Chicago area.

I will do all the gathering of contact information and provide the introductory greetings for each media outreach. But at that point I am putting all of that content in the hands of the association’s representatives so that they are the ones making the frontline contacts.

After all, I have played only a supporting role, and there’s a solid chance that if I were the one contacting the media, any given outlet may incorrectly perceive this as a PR creation. In fact, this is a truly grassroots effort–and grassroots trumps PR-management every time.

Besides, any publicist with a long-term view isn’t looking for public pats on the back, let alone a standing ovation. Our biggest aim is heightened recognition for our clients and all of the benefits that flow from there.

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