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“To challenge National Football League players to be lifelong learners while pursuing continuous improvement in family relations, social interactions, personal growth and career development during and beyond their careers as NFL players.”

Those are words that you may not hear very often.  Yet that is the NFL‘s player development mission statement. And as a PR person, we know how crucial it is for an organization to establish and follow its mission statement.  With that being said, let’s discuss the  Ben Roethlisberger situation.

It seems that everyone and their moms have something to say about the NFL’s ordeal regarding Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time Superbowl champ and pro-bowl select.  In case you have been hiding in a cave, Big Ben was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old girl, his second accusation in two years. Charges were not filed, but a 500 page police report had detailed witness accounts describing reckless behavior, heavy drinking and an egotistical NFL star bar-hopping in a small, college town in Georgia.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did suspend Roethlisberger for 4-6 games and had quite the  statement along with it. (For more details of the legal decisions regarding the case and suspension, read this interesting article by ESPN writer and legal analyst Lester Munson).

Now everyone has their opinions on the suspension and the situation in general.  But as a PR person, I am interested in looking at it from the NFL’s perspective as a multibillion-dollar organization, where issues regarding the images of its players are constantly in the news.  Sure, this recent scandal is one of many.  Yet this recent decision shows how the NFL values its reputation, especially taking into account the view of the fans (aka consumers) and the players (aka employees).

While many people are looking at the NFL’s personal conduct policy in regards to this issue, I believe looking at the mission statement is equally important.  Remember, a mission statement defines an organization’s overall purpose and essentially, its essence.  If the NFL had not acted in punishing Roethlisberger, it would be going against their mission statement, a huge PR misstep.  The punishment shows how the NFL  is “challenging (Roethlisberger) to be a life long learner,” because hopefully he will learn from his actions (I’m sure this will be a lesson he will never forget).  This will also help make improvements in his “social growth” but most importantly, “his personal growth.”

And as much as I hate to say it, punishing one of their biggest and most recognizable stars is definitely a way to make a statement.  You get the glory, but you must take the fall. Punishing him not only forces him to take responsibility for his actions, but sets an example to other players in the league.  In this way the NFL also makes another statement–that it is a credible organization who not only values its publics and reputation, but also knows its purpose.

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Is social media a requirement for a PR professional? What an interesting question.  The fact is, as a PR student, I have never even thought about it.  I have been so focused on learning the ins and outs of Twitter and keeping my LinkedIn profile up-to-date.  I spend my free time scouring blogs (especially ones with social media tips), searching for  cool widgets, checking my favorite RSS feeds and creating my own Delicious page. Everywhere I turn, it’s drilled in my head that I must be a social media guru in order to be a PR professional and compete in the job market.  But is it an actual requirement? Well, maybe it is not a requirement, but why wouldn’t you?

I recently read a blog debate on Social Media Today where two PR professionals spoke their sides on whether every PR professional should be on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets.  One of the bloggers said no, he did not think it was a requirement.  He claimed that social media does not work for everyone, and nothing can replace real relationships.  He also claims that you shouldn’t be apart of social media just to “be apart of it.” The other blogger claimed that yes, social media is a requirement because in order to understand how it works you need to actively use it yourself.  Also, she says it  is the newest and most most effective tool in the field of communications.

If you want to be technical, I might agree with the first blogger that “you are not doomed if you do not use social media.”  There are plenty of examples of PR professionals and organizations who do not use it.  Yet I do think if you are not actively apart of social media, such as blogs and Twitter, you are miles behind.  Part of being a PR professional is to be aware of new trends and tools that can be effective, not only for the organization you work for, but for your personal use as well.  That is what being a PR professional is all about–staying ahead of the game.

Secondly, why would you not choose to use such incredibly effective communication tools?  As a student, I realize in order to be a value to any organization I need to be aware and fully competent of every possible communication tool out there.  Being an avid seeker of PR jobs and internships, almost all listing include social media background as requirements.

I think the main question is not asking if social media is a requirement, but asking why not take advantage of it? It helps the PR field in the most valuable and core areas:

  • Increasing transparency
  • Ensuring the flow of communication
  • Networking
  • Keeping up on news and trends of the industry

Sure, some may be able to get by without it.  However, by not actively using one of the newest and most effective communication tools out there, what does that say about you as a PR professional?

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