Jerry Yang could learn from the NFL's Chad Johnson

Yahoo has turned over its corporate blog, Yodel Anecdotal, to Chad Johnson, the NFL superstar and wide receiver. Why the long bomb to spice up the usual corporate blather? Why, it's a promotion to advertise a video contest promoting Yahoo Sports and Chad Johnson himself. We hope Jerry Yang, the mild-mannered CEO of the beleaguered Web property, is reading. He could learn a thing or two from the blustery sports personality known as Ocho Cinco: If you can't actually lead, at least sound like you do.

  • 1. Use the third person. Chad Johnson loves the third person. Chad Johnson knows it constantly hammers home the branding of Chad Johnson's own personality. And when Chad Johnson fails to deliver, the third person provides psychological detachment — as if it was another person entirely. ("Chad Johnson was a disappointment today.") Few believe Jerry Yang is really the permanent CEO of Yahoo. A few statements like: "Jerry Yang expects Panama, once fully deployed, will provide a significant boost to Yahoo's share of advertising" could go a long way in cementing his CEO reign. And now that control is squarely in Yang's hands, blame is, too. A bit of detachment will be helpful now that he is fully culpable for Yahoo's poor results.
  • 2. Display confidence and superlatives in spades. Whenever Johnson speaks, you'd believe he singlehandedly led his team, the Cincinnati Bengals, to win five straight Super Bowls. In fact, with Johnson on board, they only made it into the playoffs once — and barely — and lost. When Jerry Yang stumbled over "a Yahoo that can win" in the recent earnings call, he just revealed that he, like everyone else, doesn't actually believe it's winning. That's got to change.
  • 3. Dominate the media. When faced with a big game and difficult questions, Chad Johnson insisted the media refer to him as Ocho Cinco. It didn't stop the questions, but the media complied, providing the receiver with much amusement and a sense of control. Yang certainly faces tough questions so, henceforth, he should insist that all questions be addressed to El Fundador. It may be the only amusement he gets from media coverage of his company.
  • 4. Cherrypick your stats. Johnson proudly declares, "I've led the NFL's American Football Conference in receiving yards each of the past four seasons." Of course, he only led the entire NFL once, last year, and has never led in touchdowns. Yahoo should emphasize that they lead in unique users worldwide or that they lead in internet usage in Asia over Google, rather than allowing the media to harp on poor search market share and weak banner-ad sales.
  • 5. Never miss an opportunity to plug your other ventures. In interviews, Johnson plugs himself, his jersey sales, his teammates, his endorsement deals, and sponsors. Even if the question is on search or advertising, Yang should plug Yahoo's hotter properties, like My Yahoo, Yahoo Finance, Flickr, Del.icio.us, and so on, whenever he can.
  • 6. The touchdown celebration. Well, Yahoo will actually need to score a touchdown first before Yang can do any celebrating. But when it does, do the dance, Jerry, do the dance.

Of course, none of this advice will actually help Yahoo directly. But as the game becomes one of signing up advertisers and publishers, not just tweaking search algorithms, brassy confidence goes a long way. No one reading the player stats would say Chad Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL. But when you listen to him, you start to believe it. That's what Yahoo needs right now. Jerry Yang, we hope you're wide open to the advice.