How Big Ben Can Win Back the Fans… Off the Field

When Big Ben is back he’s got the Steelers on the verge of the playoffs, what are you going to talk about? Being the first team to win seven Super Bowls or this whole situation? It’ll be months, however, before Ben even has a chance to get on the field. He should start improving his image right now.

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There’s one thing that Ben Roethlisberger can do that will win most people over again: Win football games.

Winning solves everything. Kobe did it, Tiger is doing it already and it’s only been a few weeks. Heck, the Pirates win three games in a row and people are more likely to bring up this year’s World Series than the past 17 years.

When Big Ben is back he’s got the Steelers on the verge of the playoffs, what are you going to talk about? Being the first team to win seven Super Bowls or this whole situation?

It’ll be months, however, before Ben even has a chance to get on the field. He should start improving his image right now.

In order to do that, Ben needs to communicate with his fans. He could do it by getting on TV, have a big press conference, and answer lots of questions. Or he could do it a better way.

There are some very easy ways that Ben could use social media to improve his public image.

First, use Twitter and Facebook. Post updates throughout the day. They don’t have to be long, just tell everyone what is happening. He doesn’t have to try and explain anything. Going to practice? Tell everyone. Working out at the gym? Tell everyone. Watching some film? TwitPic that up.

Now the tough one: Going to the bar? Tell everyone.

Like most people, I feel that it would be in Ben’s best interest to avoid bars for a while—like the next ten or fifteen years. You can have just as much fun by inviting a few guys over to hang out. That being said, he can do what he wants. Millions of people go to bars everyday without incident.

If he keeps people updated on stuff like, “Hines dropped two passes in practice today!” and “Had a meeting with @nflcommish, thought we got a lot accomplished,” people will accept his nightlife a lot quicker.

Even better, if he does the updates, but eliminates the nightlife he will win people over that much quicker.

If everyone feels like they’re getting to know him, or even better, if they actually are getting to know him as a person, he will be trusted again. It won’t take long either.

Both of those outlets can obviously be used to talk to people—like the general public not what some TV producer thinks will get him a higher rating. A short answer on Twitter could be good because it gives the asker (and the world) an answer, and such a short answer won’t take a lot of time either.

If it’s too personal, than don’t answer it, but be polite.

There’s a better way to answer questions though. Sites like UStream and BlogTV allow anyone to set up a webcam and broadcast to the world. Viewers can enter a chat room that everyone—including the person on camera—can see. Set up that camera, tell people to show up and ask questions; I guarantee they will.

I’ve seen it work multiple times, somebody says, “I have a half hour of free time starting now, here’s the link.” A few hundred people show up, questions get answered, and a good time is had by all.

It doesn’t have to be live, if a more controlled atmosphere is desirable then tell people to tweet in questions, and post a video on YouTube answering them.

Talk to people, let them ask questions and answer them. People with answers = Happy people. Communication is the key.

I’m not saying he has to check in on FourSquare every five seconds; he doesn’t even have to use a geolocation service at all. Though it probably couldn’t hurt.

If Shaq was involved in some situation and rumors were flying everywhere, are the two million people following him on twitter going to believe speculation from the TV and talk radio or a message directly from Shaq?

The number one thing on Ben’s priority list should be to change his behavior. I’ve hear numerous callers on the radio say that anytime Ben has a function for kids he is on the field from beginning to end, doing what he can to help the kids enjoy their day. We know there’s a good guy in there somewhere.

Ben has been with Pittsburgh since 2004, but he’s starting to feel more like a stranger to some. Time to end that and start connecting.

Originally published on April 22, 2010.

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