What He Meant to Say Was...
Although I have mixed feelings about being called a 'spin doctor,' it's tough to make an argument against it after the silly spin the Patriots tried to put on Tom Brady's comments yesterday when they tried convincing the public that "Yeah, start drinking early (...)" means, "Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water?" Um. Ok.
Don't get me wrong -- I have a ton of respect for the team's PR discipline even though fans find it frustrating. I think Stacey James has a super cool job, but I must admit I felt bad for him yesterday. James was faced with a conundrum and I'm sure he knew that whatever the approach, it was a lose-lose situation. He could either choose to leave the comment out there and risk having some people take it to an extreme and suggest Brady (and by association, the Pats) is promoting excessive drinking and bad behavior; or he could choose, as he did, to release an absurd statement that resulted in the team being mocked because there really is no way to spin, "start drinking early," and "get lubed up."
The bottom line is that you have to remember the context and who your key audience is. You have to set your strategy accordingly and be prepared to take the lumps from others.
There's context here. Last year the players took issue with the fans not being loud enough during the games. They were asking for support -- it motivates them, fires them up. It's football. Sunday's game will be a tough one and the team needs to be hungry and aggressive from the first minute to the last. If you listen to Brady's comments in their entirety and within that context, it's clear this is about getting fans engaged and doing their part in putting another W on the board. It's not about suggesting 70,000 people should go out and get drunk.
In this case, I think fear of criticism drove a poor PR decision and the team to overreact. A Globe poll is validating this today. The poll reveals 75 percent of the 3,000 people participating view Brady's comment as innocuous, and only 6 percent truly see it as egregious.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I would have suggested the statement be framed differently, along the lines of, "We hope that fans and the general public do not misconstrue Tom Brady's comments. Tom and the team are fired up for the home opener and he was encouraging the passion, participation and sheer volume from the fans that he knows can influence the team's performance."
If you were in James' shoes, how would you have handled it?