The NFL Combine and subsequent draft is quickly approaching—the moment countless young men have spent the better part of their athletic careers preparing for. The ultimate decisions made on draft day are about so much more than how well an athlete plays his respective position. Much attention is also paid to how an athlete looks, sounds and behaves online.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed many instances where a single misstep has had embarrassing and costly consequences. For example, 15 minutes before Laremy Tunsil was to be picked in the top five for the NFL Draft, a video appeared on his Twitter account showing him smoking a substance from a bong. That single post dropped him to the 13th pick, costing him as much as $10 million in signing bonuses.
If you’re a rising athlete who’s fortunate enough to be taking part in this year’s draft, here’s a checklist to ensure your brand is ready for prime time.
Note: These activities should be done in advance of the combine, especially if the athlete is managing his own brand, as the time between that event and draft day is far too hectic.
Conduct a brand audit. You’ve likely Googled yourself for fun, but there’s an actual practicality to this self-research. Review the first three to five pages under your name search. Click here for what to do should you find something unflattering. In addition, go through all your social media accounts to remove any unflattering or even remotely questionable posts or images. Finally, untag yourself from any unflattering posts made by others.
Change passwords and check security settings. To prevent any instances of hacking, update all website and/or social media passwords. Click here for help creating the strongest password possible. Update your social media platform’s security settings to ensure you’re comfortable with who has access to your accounts and who can post, comment or direct message you.
Develop key messages. If you’re only given a few moments to introduce yourself to the world, know what you’re going to say. Developing and rehearsing a few brand messages in advance will ensure that you’ll have well-crafted, authentic remarks when it matters.
Update all bios and images. Each social media bio should reflect the brand messages you crafted. Make sure your brand narrative is universal across all your owned media. In addition, to make it easier on new fans and media, make sure to use the same profile image across all accounts.
Obtain media training. If you’re lucky, the media interviews you give during the combine and draft will be replayed for years to come. To ensure that you’re as poised and articulate as possible, invest in some media and/or speaker training. You truly can never be too prepared for media interviews.
Have a content plan. Think in advance about what kind of content you plan to post and when you’d like to post. If you’re creating the content yourself, have a plan for when and how you’re going to do that. Images and video always receive more engagement than plain text, so keep that in mind. Also, set aside time to engage with followers. This is a good habit to get yourself in for your professional career.
Plan for a crisis. Communications crises can and do happen. Don’t leave yourself a sitting duck without options should one occur. Have a crisis communications professional on speed dial just in case.
Have a family meeting. It’s important that everyone who surrounds you at the combine and on draft day understands that their online and in-person behavior is a reflection of you. They too will be under the microscope and need to be prepared for such.
Remember self-care. During this period, you’ll likely be under more pressure than you’ve ever endured before. You can’t perform on empty, so be sure not to neglect yourself. Eat well and get plenty of rest. Spend quality time with family and friends. Most importantly, take a moment when you need to for peace, reflection and prayer.
Should draft day not turn out as planned for you, read my additional blog about how to maintain your brand as a free agent.
Author Frances Reimers is the founder and CEO of Firestarter, a personal brand consultancy located in Alexandria, VA. Firestarter assists athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators, helping them develop, manage, enhance, and protect a key professional asset: their personal brand. Click here to learn more or to schedule an appointment.