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How Tom Brady’s thumb strategically directed PR

By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo

3 tips for using an unexpected event to earn positive media coverage

om Brady's injury can give your company a thumbs up in terms of PR tips.

Football fans across the nation found themselves riveted last week by a digit. It was a strange deflection from the anticipated rivalry set to play out this past weekend as the New England Patriots took on the cinderella Jacksonville Jaguars.

A thumb stole center stage.

What does a thumb have to do with public relations you may ask?

Tom Brady, widely recognized as a superior athlete, Gisele’s husband and first string quarterback for the New England Patriots, injured his thumb during a practice prior to the scheduled playoff game. The injury itself isn’t really the news. How the injury became news is.

Questions about whether or not Tom Brady’s thumb injury would sideline him from the playoff game became headline news. After two cancelled press conferences the week of the injury, Mr. Brady finally took the podium on Friday to respond to questions, wearing red gloves on both hands. With each question relating to his injury, Mr. Brady evaded his interviewer like a gazelle chased by a lion. He bobbed and weaved with phrases like, “I’m not going to talk about that.” When asked if he expected to play on Sunday, he responded, “We’ll see.”

Was Brady’s unexpected injury the key to a unique PR strategy? I would vote, yes! The media and fans voraciously consumed any report, article or post that offered details about Brady’s thumb or expectations for the playoff game. By Sunday, the skies cleared as Brady took the field and the Patriots earned yet another victory on the path to the Super Bowl.

The takeaway from the Brady thumb incident isn’t that he recuperates well from injury. It’s that the unexpected, when you package it properly, can earn amazing PR results. Consider these tips when you really want to get mileage out of your press activity:

1. Limited scope of time

With the short attention spans of most people, focus on something that has brief and impactful shelf life. Think of limited versions of cars, beverages, etc. We all knew that come Sunday, Brady would either be playing on the field or cheering from the sidelines. The five-day pregame news hype played to the Patriots’ advantage by creating both media headlines as well as a potential psychological edge. Well played, Pats.

2. Hyperfocus

Brady arrived at a live news conference wearing red gloves. Even for fashion-conscious Brady, that was an unexpected move. Rather than arriving with a bandaged hand, he showed up wearing practice gloves. An attempt to avoid questions? Probably not. A way to counteract potential inquiries? No way. A tactic to keep focus on the Patriots? Perhaps. Eyes remained riveted on those gloved hands for days, further fueling media and online inquisition.

3. Build up

Whether intentional or not, the fact that Tom Brady twice cancelled press conferences stimulated greater media frenzy. The added mystique that accumulated from the cancelled press conferences, red practice gloves and vague answers to questions pertaining to his thumb further fed rumors and headlines pertaining to Brady’s game readiness.

The playoff game was no doubt exciting, yet whether intentional or not, the Patriots somehow maintained a lion’s share of news coverage, all because of a thumb. Or, perhaps, because one very smart organization leveraged that thumb. Do you have a press conference in your future? Want to know how to make the most of it? Watch Axia Public Relations’ media and spokesperson training webinar to learn techniques to help you become downright unforgettable, just like Brady’s thumb.

Spokesperson Training Webinar

Wendy-color.jpgClients love Wendy’s compelling writing. She has nearly 20 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and nonprofit public relations. She serves on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force and is a culinary enthusiast and champion for the special needs community. Wendy has worked with Axia Public Relations since September 2014. Learn more about Wendy.


Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, PR tips, earned media

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