Monday, July 25, 2011

Information Overload

By John Maroon

Let me start out by saying that I love social media and the 24 hour news cycle... it is a great part of what I do for a living and provides so many opportunities to tell your story, but...

Sometimes it is downright exhausting and information overload kicks in. This has been the case recently in the world of sports. One of the game’s greats, Derek Jeter, was marching towards his 3,000th career hit, an exclusive club with only 28 members in all of baseball history.

As he approached the elusive mark, Jeter injured his calf running out a groundball. What seemed like three minutes after he left the game, people were offering their opinions on the extent of the injury, how long he would be out, the impact to the Yankees and more. Obviously there is no need to know any of this... the Yankees and Jeter didn’t know anything at this point, but in the world we live in everyone had to get out in front of this story and offer an opinion... no matter how ludicrous it was. Turns out he had a strained calf, missed a little time, came back and went 5-for-5 and his 3,000th career hit was a home run. Looking back, all of that wild speculation seems a little silly now.

This is nobody’s fault... there is time that needs to be filled and there are hundreds of sports talk radio shows, the 800-pound gorilla that is ESPN and of course Twitter and Facebook among others. This is the trend now and we all have to get used to it. In many ways, it is wonderful for the PR industry as there are so many places and ways in which to tell your client’s story. It is a terrific resource for all of us and a great way to get our news.

The downsides are the need to fill all of this time, and that leads to rampant speculation and blather, as well as the rush to beat everyone else to the story and that often times leads to errors.

I was thinking back to 1993 recently when I was working for the Cleveland Indians and, tragically, two of our players, Steve Olin and Tim Crew, died in a boating accident during spring training and another, Bobby Ojeda, pulled through after a real fight.

It happened at dusk when their boat ran into an unmarked dock. It was the only off day of spring training and after the accident happened, I was driving back to Winterhaven with my wife and we were flagged down in our car by a couple of players who said that they think something happened with a player. They weren’t sure what it was but they were heading to the team hotel. We didn’t have cell phones and we drove to the hotel where many players were outside. I was rushed by our second baseman, a young guy named Carlos Baerga, who said there was an accident and Olie (Steve Olin’s nickname) was dead.

Frantically, I rushed to a pay phone (you can see one in a phone museum or something) and I called our General Manager, John Hart, who said I needed to get to his condo immediately. Once there, we found out what happened, set up HQ there and then calls started to trickle in. We set up a press conference for the next morning at the complex. As the players arrived (a few still hadn’t heard),they met with Manager Mike Hargrove and there was an emotional team meeting followed by a press conference.

This was 18 years ago... not that long! Can you imagine if this happened today? People would have tweeted it from the shores of the lake... there would have been a rush on the hospital... sports talk radio would be off the charts... inaccurate statements about the players conditions, the way in which the accident happened, etc., would be made... players would have heard via Twitter, Facebook, ESPN Breaking News and CNN scrolls... there would have been no chance to get with the families of the victims, prepare an appropriate press announcement or anything like that. We would have to fly by the seat of our pants and do the best we could.

There is no “better” or “easier” way when it comes to something like this... just different. And for PR pros the challenges to control a message becomes nearly impossible, and as proactively as we all try to be, you better be prepared to react as well.

John Maroon
is President of Maroon PR. Contact him at

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