Here’s All I Can Say About the VCU Rams

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of something profound to say about the VCU Rams’ victories in the NCAA Tournament and what this Final Four team has to say about communication.

It’s difficult because I’m too caught up in the excitement. Not only is VCU my alma mater (Class of ’85, School of Mass Communications), but I’m also on the adjunct faculty there. This is the farthest VCU has ever made it in the Big Dance and — despite what some naysayers will tell you — we’ve had some pretty good teams in the past.

The excitement the Rams’ success has brought to Richmond, Va., is beyond belief. Students poured into the streets after VCU’s victory over No. 1 seed Kansas. (Police reported no incidents or injuries.) Thousands of fans attended a middle-of-the-night rally when the team arrived back on campus. Folks around the country are getting to know what a great city Richmond is (except for Kansas’ Marcus Morris, who doesn’t know where the city is). Applications to attend our 32,000-student school are sure to spike.

This opportunity is too good to pass up. So here’s the best I can do at drawing out relevant points:

  • Be ready for the next crisis, even if it’s a good one. I wonder if VCU Athletics’ public relations office was ready for the onslaught of hundreds of media calls after the team made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time. When we think of crisis communication, we usually think about bad things. Good news can also put communicators into crisis mode and the best time to prepare for it is before the good news happens.
  • Remember who you represent. Like it or not, everyday people in your organization can be thrust into the limelight quickly. It’s fortunate for VCU that everyday people like Shaka Smart, Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen take seriously their roles as the face of VCU to millions of basketball fans around the country. The entire team has handled their sudden stardom with grace and humility.
  • Nothing works like teamwork. It’s fascinating to watch the Rams work together during a game. Rodriguez shows true leadership, directing his teammates when he’s supposed to and setting them up for successful plays at the most unexpected times. Rodriguez especially is a selfless player who puts the team’s success above his own. The team’s ability to come together and pool their talents when the chips are down is one reason they’re headed for Houston.
  • The stories you tell can be powerful. Amid all the stories about how VCU didn’t belong in the tournament and how each team they’ve met so far was going to be their last, these guys listened to a different story from their coach. Over and over, Smart has told the story of a team that is capable, confident, prepared and skilled enough to win each game. What story are you telling employees about your organization?

That’s all I’ve got. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to the celebrating.


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