Even if you work in the rough-and-tumble world of pro football, a visit from 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace can cause a company man some jitters.
But not Rich Dalrymple, PR director for the Dallas Cowboys, who was blessedly aware the newsman was coming not to bury, but to praise the Cowboys. Wallace visited the team's pre-season training camp in Oxnard, CA, last week to update a profile on Bill Parcells, who came out of retirement in 2003 to coach a glamorous franchise that had suffered through three consecutive losing seasons.
"For a publicist, it's a much smoother ride with Mike when he is working on a personality profile of a man he deeply respects [Parcells] than if we were running a faulty nuclear power plant," Dalrymple quips.
Dalrymple has seen four coaches take the reins of the club during his 14-year tenure, but one thing remains consistent: PR and marketing are priorities. Sponsors' backdrops and products get top visibility at press conferences - evidenced by owner Jerry Jones and Parcells munching a Papa John's pizza at the podium while fielding questions. The Cowboys hauled a semi trailer of merchandise to Oxnard, where thousands of fans snatched up hats, T-shirts, and souvenirs. (I saw three Hispanic fans, a key fan base for the team in Texas and Mexico, remove Oakland Raiders hats and replace them with Cowboys caps.)
While in SoCal, the "Hollywood Cowboys" treated the press to glitzy parties at the ultra-hip Sky Bar in LA and aboard ex-Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman's chartered yacht in the Pacific. Try that in Fort Worth.
Working under Dalrymple, Brett Daniels has helped the organization expand into such areas as real-estate development (including a golf course and convenience stores), TV production (including a 24-hour Cowboys cable channel), merchandising, website development, and ancillary entertainment (such as arena football).
"Bringing TV production in-house lets us shoot our own pre-season games and produce commercial spots for sponsors," Daniels says. "We brought merchandising in-house to gain better quality control of the products and retail locations. We always look for new ideas and innovations, from medical staffing to promotions."
Just a game? Football is a billion-dollar business. Expert PR determines profit margins in the NFL almost as much as wins and losses. Who's the best in the business? How 'bout them Cowboys!
Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer