Some PR Advice: And it’s aimed at friends, foes of Braves’ move here
by Dick Yarbrough
February 14, 2014 09:24 PM | 1542 views | 2 2 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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Now that the ice storms are hopefully slip-sliding away into a bad memory, let’s turn to the next big storm on the horizon, the proposed move of the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County in 2017. (See how easily I segue from ice storms to baseball? It is a gift.)

First off, whether the Braves play in Cobb County or Hooterville doesn’t make much difference to me. I have attended exactly one baseball game in the stadium the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games built for the Braves in Atlanta and that was only because of a church function. I doubt seriously I will exceed that number in Cobb County.

My favorite sport has consisted of walking the high-wire in the external environment. I was deeply involved in two high-profile and complicated projects — the divestiture of the old Bell System in 1984 and the subsequent creation of the Baby Bells and then the ramp-up to the 1996 Olympic Games.

As a result of those two mega-events, and the challenge of an Olympic Park bombing thrown in for good measure, I was identified as one of the “100 Most Influential Public Relations Practitioners of the 20th Century.” OK, so it was a slow century for PR people, but I take my recognition however I can get it.

While I don’t have a dog in the fight to bring the Braves to Cobb County, I do have some advice for the proponents and opponents of the proposed move based on my experiences. Take it for what’s it worth. Just remember that I’ve been there, done that and have the scars to prove it.

First, to the proponents: Don’t presume this is a done deal. You have a long and winding road ahead. I think most people in the county are pleased to see the Braves come as long as they don’t have to pay for the privilege and we are a bit leery at this point. Our trust in government —at any level — isn’t very high these days. Don’t take us for granted.

Develop grassroot support for the pending move. Create a coalition of supporters and don’t let it look like it is being manipulated by the Chamber of Commerce or the Braves. They will become an easy target for your opponents. The broader and deeper the support, the easier your job will be.

Come up with three or four message points and use them in everything you say and do. Don’t make it complicated. If you had 30 seconds with the president or the pope to make your case for the Braves move to Cobb County, what would you say? Keep it that simple.

Most importantly, stay transparent. The media, including this paper, are going to bore into every single detail of this deal. That’s our job. Don’t write down anything you don’t want to read in the MDJ tomorrow. We will report it. (Ask the poor guy in the city of Atlanta who forgot that little detail and had to apologize publicly for demeaning Cobb in an email.)

Now, some advice to the opposition: Time is your enemy. This deal got snuck past you like a sunrise by a rooster. You are playing catch-up and, like a lot of us, you have some questions. Fair enough. As with the proponents, develop a broad coalition and a message strategy on how you think the deal would negatively impact the rest of us. And, please, don’t let your allies tell us what a bunch of rednecks we are. We don’t like hearing that, particularly from people in Atlanta. They have enough problems of their own.

Don’t make the Cobb County commissioners the enemy. Focus on telling the rest of us why the deal is a bad deal for us. Keep the professional agitators in the background. They generally have another goal in mind — raising their profile and raising money. Neither will be helpful to your cause.

Be very careful who you put out front to articulate your opposition. Rich Pellegrino is not that person — unless fasting on honey and water is a key part of your strategy. Also, send Debbie Dooley and her histrionics back to Gwinnett County. Surely, you have some competent spokespeople available to make your case without resorting to these two. I promise that pair will turn us off quicker than bad breath.

OK, enough advice. Let us say goodbye to the ice storms of 2014 and focus our attention now on the pending storm that is the proposal to bring the Braves to Cobb County. “We the Unwashed” are waiting to see who can convince us of what is in our best interest and why.

May the best team win.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.
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Rich Pellegrino
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February 17, 2014
Mr. Yarbrough & Mr. Journeyman (since it appears you are the only ones reading this column): You are welcome to attend the town hall meeting Tuesday night, the 18th, 7pm, Mountain View Community Center, and you will see the excellent spokespeople for the "opposition" to the Braves deal as it stands (not necessarily to the Braves coming here), which my "agitation" helped to bring forward, but who are citizen activists in their own right and don't need me, Debbie, or anyone else to speak for them and their concerns. And this will be an opportunity for "the people" to voice and share their concerns without the paid Braves/Chamber supporters cacophony. (By the way, Dick, thanks for the title "professional agitator", which my wife would love were it true, but I am an amateur, which means I do it out of love--for all people, yes, including all immigrants--and without pay. And regarding the fasting/hunger strike, now I know, Dick, why you seem to have a jealous fixation on that-- as PR goes, it brought the most local and national media coverage to the immigrants' plight than anyone could have imagined or planned...a real PR coup!)

Finally, while we are in advice sharing mode, a word or two for you: if we all learn, like the members of this fledgling CGT group (Citizens for Governmental Transparency) are doing, to drop the divisive labels and personal attacks, stop letting vested interests divide and conquer us, and unite in our diversity for the common good of all, then we will not have big govt at the local or federal level, or big money at any level, shoving things down our throats...whether its the Braves, Obamacare, or whatever. Its a sign and stage of maturity that is long overdue...so I welcome you to join us, as we bury past hatchets as so-called "liberals" learn that "conservatives" don't have horns and vice-verse. Just the coming together of this group is a big win for the county and all the people, regardless of the Braves outcome, and bodes well for our future. Let's try peace and unity for a change...we can always go back to fighting and division if it doesn't work!
Journeyman
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February 15, 2014
Amen to your advice Mr. Yarbrough. ANY group that seeks public support or input needs to have an outsider look at their message and the person/group that delivers the message. Your message can be on target, but if you have the wrong spokesperson or choose the wrong media outlets, you are wasting your time. These are just facts. People do NOT listen, just because you are right.

And if the group opposed to the Braves move thinks that Pellegrino will appeal to most taxpaying homeowners in Cobb, then they are so misguided. And if this group thinks that listening to a nasal toned woman with a 1980s hairstyle will work, then they need to save their breath. She is a turnoff just like the new GA Lottery rapping commercial is.
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