Social media training for athletes sparks media frenzy

Last week, the University of Michigan faced a PR crisis after reports said it was allegedly ‘catfishing’ student-athletes as part of a training exercise. Not true, say officials. 

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Male and female employees of Florida-based firm 180 Communications—which the university hires—send the athletes a friend or follower request on Facebook or Twitter. Later, the firm reveals to the athletes what it found on their pages.

The reveal often leaves the students in stunned silence.

“We’re trying to educate them” on the dangers of social media, said Lee Gordon, director of corporate communications at 180 Communications.

When Brandon told attendees of the KeyBank Global Leaders Forum on Friday about the training, a blogger from, who was live tweeting the speech, fired off five tweets on the topic, beginning with:

Brandon said the athletic department catfished several athletes to teach them the dangers of social networking. Very interesting.

— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) February 1, 2013

The tweet unleashed a wave of media reports that Michigan “catfished” its players.

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