In an attempt to avoid interrupting my father’s Sunday afternoon with our weekly call, I kept an eye on the score of the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys NFL game (the Eagles are the team he supports).  While doing a handful of other things it came to my attention that Marcus Vick, the brother to Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick, began to tweet about how boring the game was as well as acting generally as an antagonist to the Eagles community. Given the social media rules that the National Football League has on players during games, there was absolutely nothing that Michael could do online to effectively tell his brother to knock it off.

Marcus Vick, unfortunately, is no stranger to controversy though when he uses Twitter. There are multiple accounts of his mouthing off after a teammate of Michael’s was recorded making some fairly offensive racial statements and him pleading with the Eagles to trade his brother away.

This is a particularly interesting situation and one that most people do not think about as a potential for creating a crisis inside an organization or around a brand.  It is not quite brandjacking.  It’s not quite a customer complaint either. Given the proximity that Marcus has to Michael one has to wonder if he isn’t simply repeating the sentiments of his brother.

I have had multiple people approach me over the past couple of days asking for how I might handle the situation. It really boils down to the potential for damage that the individual making these statements has.

In this instance, Marcus, while an interested third party, is not stating anything on behalf of his brother and given his propensity to put his foot in his mouth in the public space, I would in all likelihood do exactly as Michael did; namely, not even publicly address the situation.  In a private conversation, I would recommend for Michael to express that Marcus’ actions are a distraction to both the team and Michael’s continuing recovery from a football related injury.  Simply put, Michael does not need any extra stress as the recovery happens or extra pressure when he eventually goes back out on the field to compete.

In the interest of education, let us assume that the mother-in-law of a Fortune 1000 CMO who complains publicly and persistently that her daughter and her grandchildren never get to see him.  Obviously, she is a concerned party but not a spokesperson for the company or the executive.  (I have actually seen things like this be picked up by the business press and I expect one of these tweets or Facebook posts to be cited as a source in a controversy soon.)  In the event that this does become and issue, the executive has three choices that would be seen by the public:

–   Silence
–   Address the individual in the public forum
–   Make a statement to the general public about this situation

Knowing which of these options to execute on is a balance between public and private needs and desires.  Ultimately it is the decision of the executive but in the event that this were to cross my desk and the issue is being picked up by the media, I would likely recommend the third option. Let the executive speak with the business press about the company, his role, the large objectives that they are looking to achieve and how he tries to manage work-life balance.  While this may strain the relationship between this hypothetical executive and his mother-in-law I continue to be of the mindset that you should never let the opportunity to leverage a crisis to create more positive press for your company to pass you by.  Changes in behavior on the home front are relatively easier to make versus changing the culture or expectations of a large company.

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