Last November, when the University of Maryland announced it was jumping from the ACC to the B1G in a move that left us all baffled, the higher ups at the university correctly predicted that decision would not go over well. After 60 years in the ACC, you're bailing on Duke to play Northwestern in basketball? WHAT?
They went as far as to hire a PR firm to leave comments on blogs, newspapers, and message boards to shape a more positive narrative about Maryland's move to the Big Ten. Via the Baltimore Sun:
"The public relations campaign was meant to help turn the tide in favor of the move. It included hiring a corporate communications consultant to help shape the message and also working to prevent news of the negotiations from getting out before the move was imminent.
Lee Zeidman, the corporate communications consultant who helped Maryland draft letters and talking points, said Wednesday that it is "standard operating procedure" in the business world to weigh in directly on message boards. "There are special PR agencies who work in the digital space who bombard blogs and newspaper sites where no one puts their name," Zeidman said.
Okay, so that's basically anonymous trolling. While I appreciate Maryland's need to be vocal in the digital space, I'm not sure this was the way to do it. Who do they think they are, Craig James?
Hiring a faceless PR agency to leave random "rah rah" comments on blogs cannot be the most effective way to sway a fan base. Who takes the time to read through comments these days, anyways? And while the decision to leave the ACC was of course for financial reasons, loyal Terps are not just going to instantly accept such a B1G change. (See what I did there.) It will take, at minimum, several seasons. And for Maryland's higher ups to bombard blogs with cheesetastic comments about how GREAT this is going to be for the program is patronizing at best.
The Sun also notes that the university ignored the suggestion to have Maryland alum and ESPN-er Scott Van Pelt break the news. Just so I'm clear on this - a famous alum breaking the news: bad idea. The president of the university leaving stupid comments on message boards: good idea.
I think the move to the B1G is a brilliant decision made by everyone at Maryland who had a hand in making such a momentous move. Kudos to a the athletic department, to the office of the president, and to all of the trustees!!!
(psssst...wheres my money you greedy sonsabitches!)
Public Relations is just a nicer way of saying propaganda. Kind of like how lobbying sounds so much better than bribing.
As someone who has worked in PR for the last 14 years, the practice of leaving anonomous messages on blogs, message boards and elsewhere in the social space is not just ineffective, it's considered highly unethical. If a publicly traded company were doing this, there could be serious SEC consequences. (And I'm not talking about the Alabama-LSU SEC) Hard to believe a major university would do something so dumb.