As a long-suffering Mets and Jets fan, I'm agonizing through yet another painful month of September. But, as a communications professional, I'm fascinated by the starkly different communications strategies taken by each squad.
Let's begin with the hapless Metropolitans. After three or four seasons in a row in which they claimed to be the National League's best team (but weren't), the 2010 Mets' communications plan was decidedly low key. I distinctly recall outfielder Jeff Francoeur being quoted during Spring Training and saying something to the effect, “We really like the balance on this team. And, we also really like being underestimated by the experts. Some are even saying we'll finish as low as fourth place. Ha. We'll see,” he said with a smile. Well, guess what? The Mets are indeed mired in fourth place and Francouer is gone with the wind, having been traded to the Texas Rangers.
Now, let's turn to the hapless Jets. Led by head coach Rex Ryan and coming off a surprising run to the AFC championship game last season, the Jets have been bold and brash, predicting nothing less than a Super Bowl victory. Their trash-talking swagger was brilliantly captured by HBO's 'Hard Knocks' series and further exacerbated by countless articles quoting Ryan and others as saying that anything less than a Super Bowl win would be considered a failure.
Well, the offense failed badly in Monday night's season opener and the brashness and bravado went darker than a coal mine collapse in Chile. Further undermining the 'image' of these new, Super Bowl-bound Jets was a weekend story about player harassment of a female Mexican sportscaster.
It seems to me a communication strategy should be based upon facts and results, not projections of what might be. We sometimes come to verbal blows with clients in media training sessions over this very issue. They want to talk about soon being masters of the universe in their particular field. We push back, knowing a jaded media will laugh at such hyperbole.
It's a shame sports teams don't provide better counseling to coaches and players about messaging that sets false expectations. Naturally, there's a need to generate fan excitement and sell tickets but, at least with the Mets and Jets, the communications strategies seem to always parallel the end result. Whether it's a “…You just wait and see” or “…We're on a one-way ride to the Super Bowl,” neither team seems able to deliver on its communications strategy (or win a championship, for that matter).