Deflategate: A Crisis Communications Disaster (and What You Can Learn From It)

It is an understatement to say that the reputations of NFL quarterback Tom Brady and his New England Patriots football team are taking hits that would make an all-pro linebacker proud. Both Brady and the Patriots are iconic brands that now find themselves in a crisis communications disaster. Unfortunately, like many brands, they brought the disaster upon themselves.

Deflate-Gate. NFL football deflated on the field

Brady has been at the center of, “Deflategate,” the name given to the scandal that began during last year’s NFL playoffs. He allegedly directed equipment managers to deflate footballs ever so slightly to improve his grip in the colder weather. The Indianapolis Colts filed a grievance with the league, an investigation ensued and the drama began. It has intensified this week in the wake of an extremely harsh penalty handed down by the league against Brady and the Patriots. In the end, both Brady and the Patriots have severely damaged their respective brand images. Continue Reading

Is your organization social media rich but strategy poor?

There is the perception that if your organization is not fully engaged in social media then you are losing ground to competitors, losing touch with supporters and falling woefully behind the times. To some extent that’s true. However, too many organizational leaders put the Twitter before the proverbial horse.


We do live in an age where social media is the way individuals communicate and digest news and information. On the business side there is an urgency to employ social media – and often social media experts – to drive the organization’s social engine. Many leaders know social media is important, but frankly I believe weight it too heavily in the grand scheme of things. When that happens, your organization may find itself social media rich and strategically poor from a marketing communications perspective. Continue Reading

Dear Younger Professional Me…

Have you ever thought about what you’d write to your younger professional self about your vocational journey? After 25 years in the communications field, there are dozens of things I’d pass on, but here are 10 I feel are most important.


This exercise was prompted by a young friend of mine who is transitioning from his first job out of college to his second with a different company. He’s talented, a team player, productive and meets deadlines. A good steal for his new company, and provided the job fulfills expectations, it will be a good move for him. Here’s what I’d tell him and definitely what I would tell my younger me. Continue Reading

Shooting Organizational Air Balls That Create Crises

As long as there are humans, there will be crises. And as long as humans work for organizations, there will be organizational crises. Yes, that sounds like a Captain Obvious statement, but is your organization about to shoot an air ball and find itself on the national news because of an obvious crisis?


That’s what’s happened with two Middle Tennessee high schools. In a pathetic show of sportsmanship, two very strong girls’ basketball teams tried to lose a pivotal game to one another to avoid receiving a higher seed in the upcoming regional tournament. The reason to avoid the higher seed was to keep from playing a nationally ranked powerhouse which both teams lost to earlier in the season. The result was that both teams were rightfully suspended for the remainder of the season and both schools will pay a $1,500 fine. Continue Reading

You’ll Come Up Big if You’ll Kill the Writing Clichés

Question: How many times does it take before something becomes a cliché? Answer: The second time something is written. When it comes to writing, good writers recognize the curse of the cliché and swear a vow of originality.



Being a former sports writer, I hate to “throw my own under the bus.” But sports writers too often try to “give 110 percent” and “come up empty” in the cliché department instead of “coming up big” with fresh ideas. They need to “relax and play within themselves.” You know, “let the story come to them.” They know they have to “focus on what they do best and not worry about what the other writers are doing.” “Take it one article at a time.” Most of them can “step up and take it to the next level” if they try, and sometimes it “comes down to who wants it more.” There is a “tremendous upside” when people “have their backs against the wall.” They’ll usually “come out swinging.” Continue Reading

Can You Pass the Social Media Driving Test?

Maybe social media should be like driving. Yeah, if you’re planning to use social media to advance the objectives of an organization, them maybe you should have to take a test. It will be a simple test, but not an easy one, and it can be boiled down to two questions.

Stuart Miles,

Stuart Miles,

I’ve recently had conversations with a number of people from different organizations regarding their use of social media and I’m finding there is a high realization that, in one form or another, social media is key for connecting with an organization’s desired audiences. However, there is a lower apprehension for knowing how to accomplish that task. Frankly, I believe social media is a waste of time for many people who have waded into the social media waters. They’re spinning their wheels. Their social media effort amounts to spitting in the dessert and expecting an oasis to bloom. Continue Reading

Interview Better by Leaving the Script

Legendary NFL coach Bill Walsh is considered the godfather of the “West Coast Offense” and also made vogue the practice of scripting the first 25 offensive plays of a game. He stuck to the script regardless of the game’s changing circumstances and obviously garnered a great deal of success, but should interviewers stick to their scripted questions regardless of an interview’s changing direction?

Leave the scripted strategy to execute more productive interviews.

Leave the scripted strategy to execute more productive interviews.

I was recently listening to an interview on NPR’s, “All Things Considered.” The conversation was between the show’s host and an extremely obscure folk musician who had some interesting songs, but as we soon found out, had an even more interesting back story. Having asked thousands of interview questions over the years, I recognized the host’s prepared questions. However, the guest’s response to one of the questions offered an interesting and unexpected tidbit that caught my attention. It caught the host’s attention too because she immediately followed up, and the interview went an entirely unanticipated – and highly interesting – direction from that point.

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Executive Communications: Helping the “Big Guy” Succeed

Let’s be honest, writing for the chief executive officer of any organization is a sweet gig, but it comes with a fair amount of pressure. Question is, if you’re responsible for putting words in the “Big Guy’s” mouth, is what’s coming out increasing your value as a trusted ally or is it increasing your chances of becoming an insurance agent? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)


Every corporate communicator knows consistent access to top brass equals influence, however influence can vaporize faster than steam coming off boiling water.  Here are five ways to become a successful executive communicator — and stay that way. Continue Reading

Social media should be more than an add-on

Can you imagine a potter spending hours creating a beautiful pitcher then realizing he forgot to add a handle? The solution: slap a lump of clay on the neck and quickly finish it off. Crazy, right? But many organizations treat social media as if it is that lump of clay slapped on to the rest of their communications effort. If that’s you, here’s some advice. Put the social media down…and step away.

clay bottle

Many organizations are still behind the adoption curve regarding social media. In many cases it isn’t that they’ve resisted as much as they haven’t been in a position to aggressively pursue its addition to their overall marketing communications strategy. For instance, I’ve worked with some non-profits lately that simply haven’t had the resources to add personnel who can guide it, and other staff members have been too strapped for time to handle the additional responsibility–one they probably don’t fully understand. Continue Reading

Does your communications strategy have one rail or two?

Have you ever considered why railroad tracks have two rails? Probably not because the answer is obvious. Unfortunately too many organizations only lay one rail of a communications strategy yet expect it to offer a smooth ride and a destination arrival ahead of the competition.


I was talking with a prospective client and exploring what it is his company needs as it repositions itself following a couple of years of rapid growth. We talked messaging, and vision statements, and speaking points, and visual branding, and elevator pitches, and content marketing strategies; you know, the bling people see and hear. But then I asked him about the other rail. Continue Reading