Reflections on Penn State, the Eagles and Social Media

The revelations over the last week concerning Penn State is a sad story that in one single event brought down one of the best known brands in our country – the squeaky clean brand called “Penn State”. Yes it’s still a great academic institution and yes they will survive this disaster because there are so many successful graduates in our business community that will see that it does get fixed but it points out a few things that are worth mentioning in terms of brand and social media.

I used to have a boss who always said – one atta boy equals one oh crap (I’m cleaning it up here folks) and boy did that hold true. It may be a big oh crap but none the less it is this one incident that has brought down the house of Paterno and forever scar his reputation. All those years of building good will is gone. All of the trust in the program and Joe as a coach is gone. A man spends a life time building something great and in an instant it is gone – makes you think doesn’t it?

Your brand is about your reputation. It has to remain pristine at all times. With the speed of information today and social media if you don’t protect your brand you’re doomed. There are a lot of things going back and forth about this on the social pages but it will live forever and making it even harder for the stigma to go away.

Your brand better live up to its expectations also. One bad mark and your competitors have dirt on you and can use it against you. If you say your product or service is great and exceeds all expectations it better! Look at the Philadelphia Eagles – billed as a “dream team” they thought just walking out on the field would be enough to guarantee victory. Someone forgot to tell them this is why they play the game. You may have the greatest individual players but this like a business is a team sport.

This team was branded as the “dream team” by one of their own players. It has been anything but a dream season for the Eagles and what makes it worse is by positioning themselves (or advertising themselves) as better than they really were they created the famous expectation-delivery gap causing criticism from everyone. The bottom line is they didn’t deliver on what they promised. What impact has this brought upon their “brand”? I would bet that merchandise and jersey sales are down. Fans and the media are calling for the head coaches’ job. It’s a mess.

Why? Because the impression that was given was that they are much better than they have been performing. Fans are using social media to abandon the ship. If the Eagles were “listening” to the social sites they would see a diminishing interest in their brand. You’ve work hard to build your brand so make sure you protect it! Remember people are listening…