What Journalists Can Learn From the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

More than Dirk Nowitzki or the hole in the roof of their stadium or even the words “Who shot J.R.?,” I think the thing the majority of Americans connect with the city of Dallas is their cheerleaders. And it’s a strange thing, really, because cheerleaders are so ubiquitous now that one exclusive group of females in north Texas shouldn’t make such an impression on Americans. Every sports team in this country has a squad of short short-wearing ladies, but somehow, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders have become the preeminent name in cheerleading (even moreso, perhaps, than L.A.’s famed Laker Girls).

And if not for the Radio City Rockettes, the Cowboys cheerleaders would be the most famous high-kicking organization in the entire country.

But there’s something odd about group so visible despite the fact that they perform only eight times a year (not counting preseason or playoff games). Somehow, they’ve managed to take cowboys boots and the simplest color scheme this side of Syracuse University and turn it into a cheerleading empire.

That’s why the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are the focus of this installment of “What Journalists Can Learn From….”

1.) The Brand Comes First.
Quick, off the top of your head, name one member of this year’s Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad? How about any cheerleader on the squad dating back to the squad’s inception in 1972? You can’t, because the squad isn’t about individual achievement. The Cowboys cheerleaders are a brand, one of the most powerful ones in sports. They’re carefully managed to make sure that the brand — not the individual members — is the star.

Now look at a news organization like Politico. They’ve managed to connect their brand with politics, and with great results. When one of their writers breaks a story, it’s hailed as a victory for the entire organization, because at Politico, the brand comes first.

2.) Sell It — Across Platforms. Throughout the team’s history, the Cowboys have done a remarkable job of marketing their cheerleaders. Their cheerleaders have appeared in swimsuit calendars (in print and on TV), toured internationally and even had their own feature film (starring, quite naturally, Jane Seymour.) The Cowboys cheerleaders were platform agnostic long before the concept even really existed. They’re a model for journalists willing to brave the multi-platform world.

3.) Be Visible in the Community. I don’t think journalists are doing a good enough job actually making their way into the community and interacting with the public. Some are doing a good job of it digitally — N.B. The Washington Post’s ‘The Fix’ — but actually getting out of the newsroom and being visible is another matter. It’s one thing that the Cowboys cheerleaders excel at, especially when it comes to showing up at public events or youth camps. For journalists, maybe it means attending more forums or speaking at schools. But whatever it is, journalists have to do a better job of reminding people that we’re out there, working for the public good.

Of course, there’s one more thing that any journalist can learn from the Cowboys cheerleaders: whatever it is you’re putting out in the public sphere, make sure it really kicks.


H/T to KENS 5’s Jeff Anastasio for the photos.