Football season is here, and as a Green Bay Packers fan, I could not be more excited. But communications professionals say that the National Football League could potentially have more than just rowdy fans on its hands this season.
This week, Sony Pictures released a trailer for a new movie about the dangers of head trauma in football. The film, Concussion, tells the story of neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered chronic brain trauma in football players, and the hostility he faced as the league tried to silence him.
As communicators, we all know the importance of being honest, relevant and timely with our audiences. So when the NFL began making headlines in recent years over the health and safety of its players, I was curious how an organization as big as the NFL would honestly and effectively communicate its efforts to millions of beloved fans.
The release of Concussion is anticipated to bring the long-running issue into mainstream news once again. And, experts say that although the NFL has been communicating about its health and safety efforts, this movie’s release could potentially reignite the discussion on a much broader scale.
In its most recent health and safety report, the NFL outlined steps it’s taking to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, expanded medical resources, investing in protective equipment, and a focus on overall youth sports safety.
While this issue has been a hot topic in sports news over the past few years, a Hollywood film could exponentially increase consumer awareness of the issue. Even though the NFL has been working to reshape the conversation on this topic, the league will now need to emphasize its efforts even more. So, how can the NFL be proactive and open with media and fans?
Here are a few tips from communications experts in a recent PRWeek article:
- Be prepared to talk about brain trauma. Currently the NFL only runs head trauma public service announcements game days, but it will now need to reach different media outlets and audiences to bring more awareness to the issue.
- Continue to highlight ongoing efforts. So far, the NFL has donated money to brain research, breakthrough ideas, community outreach and more. It is going to need to emphasize these efforts even more.
- Be transparent. The NFL needs to acknowledge the risks of football going forward and do everything it reasonably can to be a part of the solution.
- Acknowledge mistakes. The NFL must open up about how they tried to discredit the research and cover up information about the risk of concussion before they came clean.
Do you think the release of Concussion will greatly impact the NFL this season? And more importantly—do you think the NFL will handle it well?