Washington Redskins tweet exposes astroturfing effort

I’ve written about the Washington Redskins and their social media fails before, including the recent tone-deaf tweet in which they wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving – never mind the fate of the Indians who they continue to insult with their name.

Anyway, the Redskins are back at it again, this time with their Twitter account for Redskins Facts, whose biography says that the account and website is “a growing online community of passionate Washington Redskins fans.”

Oh, fans?  Really?  Check out this mistake, caught by Washington Post reporter Dan Steinberg:

Photo: Dan Steinberg/Washington Post

Photo: Dan Steinberg/Washington Post

An identical tweet was posted to the Redskins Facts account, then deleted, only to be reposted to the Washington Redskins account.  What does that likely mean?  The same staffer has access to both accounts and tweeted to the wrong account.  A careless mistake, but a common one – and a pretty serious screw-up, as it exposes the truth behind the Redskins Facts account.

This is a classic example of astroturfing, the term used for when a business or corporation attempts to create the illusion of grassroots support, when an entire advocacy effort is, in fact, controlled and funded by the corporation itself.

This is also a reason why transparency is so important on Twitter.  It’s pretty easy to make mistakes on the medium – most users who have been at it long enough have made these types of errors.  That being said, you can minimize the damage done with a screw-up like this if you are always honest and transparent.  Clearly, the Redskins do not hold either of these values as important!

Chuck Pagano

Twitter Q&A with NFL Coach Chuck Pagano goes poorly after fake punt disaster

Why, oh why, will no one STOP DOING THIS??

Okay, first, the background.  Chuck Pagano is the coach of the Indianapolis Colts.  On October 18, Pagano and the Colts were playing a tight game against the New England Patriots.  Down by only six and with the ball late in the 3rd quarter, the Colts were faced with a 4th & 3.  They elected to punt, and then, this happened:

You don’t have to be a football fan to know that was a complete disaster.  The trick play went catastrophically wrong and the Patriots scored on the next possession, ultimately winning the game.  Pagano took responsibility for the play and was widely ridiculed.

Anyway, that brings us to last week, when, during a radio apperance, Pagano’s weekly radio show sent out this tweet:

Fans, of course, were too happy to oblige, and the questions were brutal and hilarious:

In all fairness, this is something which Pagano does on a weekly basis.  The radio show is obviously a recurring program, and the account has, on previous occasions, solicited feedback:

However, the account has only sent out four tweets since September 22 – and the last one previous to that was in Janurary.  In other words, no one would have noticed if the account hadn’t tweeted, which begs the question: What the heck were they thinking!??!

So, all together now: In the aftermath of a controversy on PR disaster, don’t hold a Q&A session like this…and certainly not when you just know that the questions are only going to serve to magnify some major, previous error.

Roger Goodell last tweet

How not to tweet: Roger Goodell edition

As you may very well be aware, the NFL has been embroiled in a series of scandals related to their players and the unfortunate propensity of a very select few to beat women or children.  The league has been criticized by many for their inaction, and potential cover-up, as a result of these scandals.  Much of that criticism has been directed at Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner.  I’d like to approach this story from the social media angle, because as I recently learned, one of Goodell’s many screw-ups in relation to this disaster has been on Twitter.  Indeed, ‘d previously written about the scandal and Twitter, noting that the Baltimore Ravens deleted an older, victim-blaming tweet, with no explanation, related to the incident between Ray Rice attacking his then fiancee.

Goodell is on Twitter and had an active Twitter account.  I say had because he hasn’t tweeted since September 5, over a month ago.  This was his last tweet:

Roger Goodell last tweet

Three days after this tweet was sent the infamous video was released by TMZ. That video showed Rice striking his finance and knocking her unconscious.  From there, it somehow got worse. Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended by the NFL, but allegations emerged that the NFL had, in fact, seen the video tape which showed Rice striking his fiance.  Goodell, who had already been roundly criticized for suspending a woman beater longer than a marijuana smoker, reacted by lengthening penalties for domestic abusers, but the damage was done.

One of the items that Goodell has been criticized on was his lack of communication. The NFL was giving less than clear answers on a variety of fronts, like when they first saw the video tape.  The slew of criticisms resulted in many calling for Goodell’s resignation.

I think that Goodell compounded the problem by not being clear with who knew what, and when they knew it.  The public still remains angry at Goodell – just look at the latest tweets sent in his direction:


By not participating on Twitter, Goodell lost a vital opportunity to participate in this story, and shape the conversation around it.  The league claims to be open to transparency, and by Goodell not tweeting, its pretty clear that he doesn’t want to answer questions and that he has something to hide.

You don’t always have to live tweet a crisis.  I get that.  Sometimes, you need time to figure out a message and a communications strategy – the last thing you want to do with social media is go off half-cocked and have to walk back any message.

However, at some point, sooner rather than later, you have to reengage.  Personally, if I were Goodell and the NFL, I would get on Twitter and hold a Twitter Town Hall – yes, I am going back on my own advice – for the explicit purpose of giving people the chance to yell at me.  I would say, “I’m Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, and the buck stops here.  I understand the public is furious with me, and they have every right to be.  I’m going to sit here and answer as many of your questions as I can.  I know the comments will be overwhelmingly negative, and I understand that.  I want to be constructive and try to address the concerns about me and the NFL – fire away #NFLTownHall.”  The tweets would be beyond negative.  But it would give Goodell the chance to be transparent, answer questions and start to rehabilitate his image, because let’s be honest, it really can’t get much worse.

The only reason you don’t engage is if you have something you still want to hide, or you think the scandal is going to get worse and don’t want to have to go dark again.  And if that’s really the case, Goodell should really resign.  Now.  Or, more appropriately, he should have done so a month ago.