Carefully Crafted on October 20

PR Lessons from Favre, Kiper Controversies

This is a guest post from Dan Farkas.

As a former sports anchor, I like football. As a former sports anchor, I LOVE good hair.

It should come as no surprise that I remember when Mel Kiper Jr., NFL draft guru, talked about a young kid from Southern Mississippi named Brett Favre.  A rocket for an arm who needs time to develop at the pro level.

Two decades later, both have laid claim to being the best in the world at what they do. Favre has every NFL passing record under the sun.  Kiper’s following and hair are Justin Bieber freaky. Yet when it comes to public relations, it amazes me how Kiper’s read on Favre still applies, especially when you consider what Kiper had to deal with last week.

A former NFL agent accused Kiper of giving preferential grades to draft prospects aligned with certain agents. If you’re not a sports fan, this is a big bad no no.

Around this time, word leaked that Favre allegedly sent inappropriate pictures to a female employee of the New York Jets while Favre was a member of the team.

Two PR nightmares. Two totally different ways of handling said nightmares.

Kiper went of the offensive, even as his bosses at ESPN conducted an investigation. Kiper did various radio interviews, denied wrongdoing and had supporting facts to state his case. It was quick. It was transparent. It had measurable data to support the argument.  Within days, ESPN ended its investigation. Kiper Jr. remains an employee of ESPN. How’s that for the value of proactive PR?

Then there’s Favre. When first asked about the issue, Favre said he wanted to focus on the New York Jet defense. I would too. They’re monsters.  Still, the story grows. The NFL begins an investigation.  Monday Night Football crews ask Favre again for comment.  The response is a non-denial and the “I hate to be a distraction” card which causes only more distractions.

Monday, Favre apologizes to his teammates, which leaks to the press. His Vikings lose, so much for focusing on the Jets defense. Then Favre spends the post-game press conference wishing reporters would ask about the play of his wide receiver when some of those reporters don’t even know what a wide receiver is.  I know. Even BP thinks this strategy is flummoxing.

Now Favre is meeting with NFL investigators and could face league discipline. Wrangler Jeans is limiting the scope and scale of its Favre commercials.  His team is a mess. God only knows about his personal life. Had Favre simply said, “This is an ongoing investigation. I can’t talk about it. When it’s over, I’ll talk with all of you about it,” how much of this firestorm would have gone away? Or heaven forbid Favre say exactly what happened to nip this digital frenzy in the bud.  Even if the behavior was wrong, this is a forgiving country.

Talk about the importance of transparency in a brand. If you can say something, say it. If you can’t say something, explain why. Then explain when you’ll be able to share your side of the story.  Seems simple. But wow can it be hard to deliver.

Mel Kiper Jr. isn’t always right about draft prospects.  But he was right about Brett Favre in more ways than one.

Dan Farkas is an Account Director at The Milenthal Group, a lover of web-based video production, and a proud parent to Leah. He’s also thankful for letting Heather give him a chance to blog on her site. You can find Dan @danfarkas on Twitter. Or just e-mail him through

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