Chad Steele | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chad Steele


The Baltimore Ravens have won two Super Bowls since the team’s inception in 1996. The organization’s guiding mission is a commitment to win football games, serve its fans and be a positive force in the community.

The Mistake:

My mistake was falling into the media trap that we tell our players to avoid.

As a professional in public relations dealing with the media quite often, we prepare our players to speak with the media on a daily basis—before and after practice and before and after games. We always warn them that everything they say can be used, so be careful with your words, be careful saying yes to things, be careful confirming things, because you can do that without really knowing it.

We had an off-field incident with one of our players a couple years ago, and we were trying to send some press releases and do some things to alert the media that yes, we’re aware of it and we’re learning more information. I was getting inundated with calls from media, specifically national media members. As I was right in the middle of writing something, I got a call from ESPN. The reporter led me right into the trap that we always tell guys to try to avoid. She said, “We heard about an incident, can you confirm?” I told her, “Yes, we’re working on something right now, I can confirm we’re aware of the incident.” Then she said, “And you had no idea of this before today, correct?” I had another call coming in and someone coming into my office, and I said, “Yeah, that’s correct, I’ll call you later.” Then I hung up.

Thirty seconds later on ESPN the reporter came on and said she talked to Chad Steele of the Baltimore Ravens, and that I confirmed the Ravens organization had no idea about this incident prior to today. That is exactly what we tell guys to avoid—being led into something and confirming it without knowing exactly what you’re saying.

Fortunately there wasn’t really any external fallout from that mistake because what I said was in fact the case—the organization wasn’t aware of the incident. Internally, with my boss and other people within the organization, there was a little bit of good-natured ribbing. But we also discussed that going forward that’s a mistake we can’t have, because it could be something that’s potentially serious, particularly if it’s something that comes back to litigation or something like that.

The lesson that I learned is you are always responsible for what comes out of your mouth.

The Lesson:

The lesson that I learned is you are always responsible for what comes out of your mouth. It’s a valuable lesson that I can impart to the PR people here and to our players going forward—that I, myself, fell into that trap, and ways you can go about avoiding it. I’m a representative of the Baltimore Ravens, and the National Football League from a bigger scope. What I say and what I do can impact the Baltimore Ravens as an organization and the NFL as a whole.

Be prepared in any situation, and know that something that seems very small at that point in time can escalate into a national embarrassment pretty quickly.

Going forward for the next little while after that I was very gun shy about talking to anybody—on field or off the field. I was very, very cautious, which was a detriment to me doing my job. I was trying to learn from that mistake and know going forward that I can do my job quickly, but in the right frame of mind.

Good communication internally is key, and also establishing with staff the exact proper way you want things communicated. When there’s a lot of calls and emails coming in, stop for a second and get everybody together. Calls and emails can be returned right after a meeting. Instead of trying to jump into it and get things done and answering calls and answering emails, stop and make sure everybody’s on the same page. Know exactly what you’re going to say before answering calls and emails. Communication to the team is paramount in that situation.

Chad Steele is on Twitter at @CSteele32 and the Ravens are at @Ravens.

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