As a New York Giants fan, I don’t need much of a reason to dislike the Dallas Cowboys. Despite that, I end up watching at least three Dallas games a year anyway: their two games against the Giants and the Thanksgiving Day game.
This year’s Thanksgiving game against Miami had a lighter moment when Dallas tight end Jason Witten accidentally bowled over cheerleader Melissa Kellerman in the fourth quarter. Everyone seemed to have a good laugh about it, including Kellerman who joked about it on Twitter @MelissaRae:
The Dallas Cowboys corporate office however doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor. The story took a turn when CNBC’s Darren Rovell tweeted that Kellerman was forced to shut down her account, after gaining 1,000 new Twitter followers in just one day.
What should have been an innocent story turned into a classic example of short-sightedness unnecessarily creating a negative story. The Cowboys should have just let this go or tried to book Witten and Kellerman on the Today Show or Letterman for some good publicity. Everyone would have remembered “the time that football player knocked over that cheerleader”. Instead, it’s the dumbest move made by a Cowboy since Leon Lett’s 1993 Thanksgiving game blunder.
Fans have rallied around Kellerman, creating accounts like @BringBakMelissa and @FreeMelissaRae, and the press is having a field day with the story. While I strongly encourage companies to have social media policies, they have to have common sense and discretion. By clamping down on their employee as though this was a crisis communications situation, the Cowboys created one.
The Bottom Line
The Cowboys were social media turkeys in three regards, needing to learn:
- Trust Your Employees on the minor things. The New Rules of Marketing and PR author David Meerman Scott blogged that the way to “build a crappy workforce” is to crack down on social media. Scott echoes Rovell’s point that cracking down on employees says you don’t trust them: “If Cowboys don’t trust the cheerleaders to speak for themselves, why do they even interview them for the squad?” It discourages your workforce and makes you look petty.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve quoted Kenny Rogers before, but you think that someone with the Dallas Cowboys would have known when to walk away. There was nothing wrong with Kellerman’s tweets and forcing her to delete her account made a mountain out of a mole hill.
- Look for ways everyone could win. If the Cowboys were concerned that an employee was getting more attention than the team, they really don’t understand social media. Protecting the core brand is important, but companies can use opportunities like this in ways that everyone is a winner. They could have capitalized on the interest in Kellerman by allowing her fifteen minutes of fame. Instead, they traded goodwill for Monday morning quarterbacking by media and by fans.