By Chris Daley
A year ago I wrote a blog that many of you have probably forgotten by now, or didn’t even read, called, King of Public Relations. The blog was written the day LeBron James held the sports world hostage and decided to stage a publicity stunt based around what team he was going to play for after his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers expired.
I took a look back at my blog because even I had forgotten what I wrote about that day. I was curious to see how much my perspective on LeBron James has changed in a year.
Last year on July 8 when I Googled “LeBron James,” the main headline that popped up was from FoxNews.com which said, “LeBron James – Public Relations Genius.” Today, I Googled “LeBron James” and the main headline that popped up was by SportingNews.com which says, “Poll results show big decline in LeBron James' marketability.” What a difference a year makes!
I can say this - my overall opinion about LeBron James has not changed at all. He is one of the best athletes on the planet, a dominating player in the NBA and great for the game. Although I’ve never met the guy, he seems like a genuinely nice person on and off the court.
LeBron took a lot of heat this year as a player and a person all stemming from the television program he staged known as The Decision. It’s easy to say now, but the only way his announcement could have ended well is if he had decided to stay in Cleveland. That didn’t happen and now he is left with scrutiny both as a player and person.
From an athletics standpoint, I find it funny when the media is so quick to call a professional athlete a disappointment. Most members of the media don’t have the athletic credentials to know what it even takes to make it to a professional level or even the college level. But, they are very quick to cast an opinion if a person or team doesn’t live up to their hype. I guess that’s the media’s job in some capacity, but I don’t like the sensationalism.
I would not call LeBron a failure or disappointment at all. The guy is amazing and a destined Hall of Famer. His team - albeit the team with arguably the most talent - didn’t win a championship this season. That said it is my non-expert opinion that they will be in the NBA Finals again and will win a championship at some point. Not an easy thing to do at the professional level.
From a public relations stand point, I think it’s safe to say now that LeBron James is not the King of Public Relations. I’m sure he’s learned a lesson in how not to make an announcement. James was also taking hits by the way he reacted to losing in the NBA Finals. Well, maybe it wasn’t the best way to react to a championship loss. I don’t think that’s grounds to blast the guy. I imagine it sucks pretty bad to lose on a large stage like that and some emotions are uncontrollable. In the overall grand scheme of things, these are very minor faults and the 26 year-old star is still learning whether people like to hear that or not.
Now I hear the media talking about what LeBron James needs to do to repair his image which is where my supposed public relations expertise should come in handy. I think it’s simple. Here is my three step advice for LeBron:
First, get over the fact that Cleveland hates you. No matter what you do now, people with nothing better to do will be burning your jersey. Chances are they are taking out frustrations based on other aspects of their lives that have nothing to do with being a sports fan.
Secondly, talk about it. Target the right media outlets and tell your story. It’s as simple as saying you are learning from these experiences, that you are going to continue to work hard to win an NBA Championship, and you realize that with being such a high-profile athlete there are consequences with every decision you make. The NBA lock-out is a great excuse to get some well positioned media interviews done. People and media want to see your human side, and this will give the public a sense that you are some what in touch with reality.
Third, use this experience as fuel to work harder this off-season and win the Championship next season. In sports, winning cures everything. Just take a look at Michael Vick.
Chris Daley is a Senior Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact him at Chris@MaroonPR.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisDaley43.