The King of Owned Content

By Matter

If you’re an NFL fan, like I am, then you probably spent your Sunday glued to the two conference championships.

Living in the Northwest, Portland specifically – the home of great food, beer and Matter Communications latest PR office, it’s been hard to not root for the Seattle Seahawks during the playoffs (sorry those of you who live in San Francisco or other NFC West cities).

And if you were glued to the TV, you invariably caught Richard Sherman’s post-game rant.

Some were horrified, some loved his emotion and honesty, but few lacked an opinion. Thus making him part of the national discussion over the past few days, when previously he was relegated to being a known quantity only amongst the most fervent of Seattle or NFL fans overall.

From a PR standpoint, here’s why I found Sherman’s rant, and the subsequent fallout, fascinating:

  • He owns his narrative: While the past few days may be the exception to Sherman having his story get away from him, a bigger point is to be made – did he let it get away from him, or did it bring his story to a broader audience?  This should never be confused with the premise of ‘any PR is good PR’. That’s a falsehood that kills brands and careers. But there is something said for being genuine, and it would be hard to dispute that Sherman is unflinchingly real in everything he does.
  • He has a point-of-view: Sherman has never been shy in having a perspective on things. Both on, and off, the field. Because of this, he’s immediately interesting. This isn’t to say he’s liked – but he is listened to. Which is something that most brands strive towards achieving, being – a voice that is heard and has credibility, if not universal support.

And lastly…

  • He responds when he’s gone too far: While some will criticize his conciliatory note after the NFC Championship, he at the very least was quick and thoughtful in response to the barrage of negativity around his comments. A lot of companies and other celebrities could learn well from his speedy response. It’s unlikely you will appease everyone when apologizing, and for sure Sherman could have gone further in his own response, but he didn’t lack in speed when addressing the controversy.

So for brands there are a number of potential lessons to be brought forth when creating your owned content:

  • Have a point-of-view: It’s hard to take a stand, yet without one, it’ll be nearly impossible to have anyone care (one way or the other) about what you have to say.
  • Know when you’ve stepped in it: Companies, like people, will screw up. A former client had a saying ‘We’re not evil, just stupid’, that they would toss about when an unintentional crisis hit. Unfortunately many companies forget the general skepticism over corporations intent to ‘do good’, and honest mistakes are easily (and often) construed into being deliberate malicious intent. In the absence of admitting your stupidity, many will assume you’re evil. Don’t let them.
  • Own it: If you don’t care enough to share your own story, why should anyone else? Another friend of mine, who is a former journalist, said something to me not long ago. “There two types of companies – those that know they’re content generators, and those that will realize it too late.” I could not agree with this more, and believe that brands which aren’t adept at telling their own stories, via any medium, are going to be relegated to fast-follower (vs. thought leader) status at best.