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A PR lesson courtesy of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals

By Jason Mudd

Cincinnati_Bengals_PHelmetAs millions of business’ daily routines begin, there sometimes comes a turning point – a piece of news, a call from an old friend, an unexpected email – that shifts the trajectory for the entire day. That day came in September for the Cincinnati Bengals organization, an NFL team that made the decision to do something right. Since then, the team, its fans, the nation as a whole and, most importantly, one family in particular have taken notice.

The Bengals selected Devon Still, a defensive tackle, for activation from its practice squad to the playing team several weeks ago. While he is an exemplary athlete, he was activated in an inspiring gesture supported not only by his teammates, but by the Bengals’ front office, as well. Devon Still’s 4-year-old daughter Leah is battling stage 4 cancer (neuroblastoma). Her treatments are expensive and the time she spends in the hospital is daunting. To support Still and his family, the Bengals organization released Devon Still jerseys for retail at $100 each, and is donating all purchase proceeds, in honor of Leah, to pediatric cancer care and research at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital – a brilliant idea which someone inside the organization (likely an experienced PR professional) must have known would result in an uptick in positive public perceptions.

The Cincinnati Bengals organization embodies a model current PR case study proving an immutable point: When you do the right thing, good things happen. What’s more, the organization succeeded in capturing positive media and public attention at a time when the NFL has been under harsh scrutiny courtesy of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s and Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice’s alarming decisions.

In an unexpected twist, Still’s jersey sold from the Bengals store at a record pace, reaching 4,000 jerseys sold in a single week a record by a wide margin. Additionally, New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton purchased 100 jerseys and donated them to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Sales of the Still jersey have already surpassed $500,000.

Extending this inspirational goodwill citywide, area shirt shop Cincy Shirts designed and is now selling two T-shirts to help the cause. Each shirt retails for $25 and, similar to the Bengals organization, Cincy Shirts is donating all proceeds to Devon Still’s PLDGIT campaign. Shirt sales from Cincy Shirts have already raised more than $10,000.


When the media asked Still about how he felt about Saints Head Coach Payton’s purchase of his jersey, Still said, “I just wanted to thank you for really stepping up to help support this cause. Im pretty sure you know how many families and how many children youre helping out with this. And its just showing the world how its not all about how competitive you can be on the field – its about what you can do to help out humanity. And I really appreciate you doing what you did.” The latest medical update from Still about Leah: “Right now they say it’s gone from a grapefruit-sized to a tomato-sized tumor, so I dont know what that means but I know its good news.”

The Bengals organization has achieved monumentally positive press, as has the cause of pediatric cancer, thanks to goodwill and a touching gesture of support. Imagine all the possible campaigns launched and positive mindsets adopted if even a handful of major businesses took the initiative to put aside bottom line expectations and simply lived in the moment. This wonderful story gave us pause to reflect on the potential each business has to make a positive difference. Does your business support area schools or community programs with funding or other support? Is your CEO an underground philanthropist? Are there members of your organization who volunteer in your community? All of these elements make for heart-warming stories and the savvy business owner can leverage them through the media to showcase the more sincere and human side of business.

Yesterday, Leah entered the hospital for surgery to remove a tumor in her abdomen, which resulted in the successful removal of that tumor and all of her lymph nodes. This is the pep talk her father gave her before she arrived: http://instagram.com/p/tXfQHcJ6sU/?utm_source=partner&utm_medium=embed&utm_campaign=video&modal=true

This touching story highlighted for us the undervalued element of simple kindness. While businesses exist to make money, the Bengals didn’t concern themselves with money, but rather with the art of altruism. Axia PR frequently invests in the community at large, and recommends that all businesses seek out ways to give back in their own unique ways. At times, clients have asked us to support such efforts by donning costumes and carrying megaphones, and others have requested our most keen strategic mindsets to design impactful campaigns that set the bar just a little higher.

A corporate image requires regular attention, and public relations is a tool that can support such an effort. Whether highlighting philanthropic efforts, internal programs that support the community at large, food drives, participation in a regional event or even donations, don’t forget to tell the world about your corporate goodwill. We find that the press (and our nation) deeply values simple reminders about the good things we tend to gloss over. Those fleeting videos, photos, messages and stories deliver a true sense of inspiration.

If you’re curious about how doing the right thing can be valuable, we invite you to connect with us directly at Axia PR. We know a number of avenues and approaches to take each of which we can tailor to your budget and your goals.

jason-mudd-axia-pr-1– Jason Mudd, APR, is CEO of Axia Public Relations. He is an Emmy Award-winning accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His public relations portfolio includes work for established national and emerging brands such as American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, Brightway, Florida Blue, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Ray Charles, Southern Comfort, Verizon and more. Connect with Jason on Twitter at @jasonmudd9 and Axia Public Relations at @axiapr. Be sure to tweet and share your thoughts below. We’ll read and respond to each of them.




New Call-to-action Bengals photo credit: www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Topics: public relations

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