Think of Public Relations as a Tool, Not a Chore

January 22nd, 2018 | by Jonathan Yates
Think of Public Relations as a Tool, Not a Chore

Public Relations

Contrary to what many think about tweeting, adults with responsible positions master this useful social media tool.  Billionaire investor Carl Icahn (@carl_c_icahn on Twitter), one of the best in history, has tweeted hundreds of times with 347,000 followers.  Texas athletic director Chris del Conte (@del_conte), also one of the best ever, has tweeted thousands of times with 16,600 followers.

For the best in public relations, whether an athletic director or a billionaire investor, if it is out there like tweeting, it becomes an asset!

Too often public relations is looked down upon, especially in sports.  When contests are decided  “in the trenches,” its tough to pay much attention to those tweeting and writing press releases.  What this attitude fails to recognize is how effective public relations can result in many advantages in the actual game.

Many feel that Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina basketball coach, did not like dealing with the media, but the man was a master at manipulating The Fourth Estate!

Smith would often complain about how other players would push around his Tar Heels.  He would approach them about this at games, lecturing them in front of the crowd, the press, and the officials about playing cleaner and not fouling so much.  This would obviously alert referees and others to watch closely to make sure that UNC players were not physically abused by another team.  This kept his Carolina players from being roughed up with a quick whistle, sending his Tar Heels to the free throw line.

So adroit was he at this, that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski famously complained of a “double standard” for Smith, which supposedly resulted in officiated slanted towards the Tar Heels winning.

For the other extreme, Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driessel received much less favorable treatment, from both the press and the officials.  The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) obviously has a heavy North Carolina influence with four teams from the state.  Lefty is still not in the Hall of Fame, which is a travesty based on the man’s record and career, and his teams suffered on the court.

Just look at what many consider to be the greatest college basketball game in history, when NC State topped Maryland in triple overtime for the ACC Championship back in 1974, 103-100.

Eight of the 14 who played that day were drafted.  Many went in the first round, and then to be NBA all-stars.  More than 50% of the field goals attempted were made.  There was not a single turnover in the game, the teams were so evenly matched with talented players who knew how to play the game without making mistakes.

For free throws, NC State shot 24 and Maryland only had eight!

The game was played in Greensboro, North Carolina, a short drive from the NC State campus.  At that time, only the ACC champ went to The Dance, so no Final Four for All Americans from College Park like Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, and John Lucas, all of whom were drafted in the first round and had rewarding careers in the NBA.  As a Maryland fan, I do not miss the ACC one bit.  Many others feel the same for the same reason: too many times the Terps lost to teams from North Carolina due to questionable officiating.  Who can forget announcer Billy Packer tearing into the officials when Duke was getting all the calls so they could cut into Maryland’s huge lead in that epic Final Four clash no Terp fan will ever forget?

Virginia basketball coach Terry Holland famously claimed that he named his dog “Dean” because it whined so much.

Whatever public relations ploys Smith deployed to ensure that his Tar Heels got the benefit of the doubt from the refs, it worked.  Much of this involved heady public relations in making sure the press went with his story.  Chewing out players from other team for playing dirty before a packed arena worked well too (imagine what would have happened if Lefty Driessel lectured Grant Hill at Cameron or Michael Jordan at The Dean Dome?)  It also involved writing recruits who selected other schools, to let them know what a fine choice they made and how much he wished them well.

Many of these went on to coach and then advised other players to go to Carolina even though they did not, evincing how Smith would use public relations at a personal level to bring future players to Chapel Hill, turning defeat into victory, the sure sign of a master of public relations!

Effective public relations is the reconnaissance unit out front for any organization.  It lets them know what is coming, and what actions to take to influence decision-makers so as to triumph.  Dean Smith may have whined a lot to get his Tar Heels every little advantage in the press, but that went a long way to making Carolina a big winner on the court!

Jonathan Yates About Jonathan Yates
Jonathan Yates spent much of his career working for Members of Congress in a variety of press and legislative posts. Positions he has held working for Members of Congress and state legislators include Chief of Staff, General Counsel, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, and Legislative Assistant. His journalistic work has appeared in such periodicals as The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Investor's Business Daily, and TheStreet, among others. He has degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown University Law Center; and has also matriculated at the U.S. Naval War College and The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Jonathan also hosts The Culture of Sports You can follow Jonathan Yates on Twitter at @politicsports13

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