After spending Thursday night as one of nearly 10 million who watched “The Decision” – ESPN and LeBron James’ failed attempt at a news event/charity fundraiser/ego stroke – and the past few days and reviewing the online and on-air analysis, from the perspectives of both a professional communicator and a sports fan, I am left with only one conclusion – PR still matters.
Even with all of the opinions and emotions, most everyone can agree that they don’t have as much of a problem with what James decided to do – they just can’t stand how he went about it. That’s PR.
And it seems most fans and analysts agree that they don’t have a problem with ESPN airing some sort of announcement live, they just don’t like how it was shoved at them. That’s PR too.
I’m not going to suggest all of the ways in which this could have been handled differently. Judging by some sports talk radio sampling, even non-sophisticated audiences have already figured that out. But I do think it’s worth remembering that all involved with this situation would have been better off if PR, rather than ego feeding, had come first.
Every morning my inbox is filled with self-proclaimed “social media experts” and more so-called “gurus” than The Beatles’ India swing, presenting their “Top 5” lists on how “traditional” PR isn’t very important anymore. Sure, PR has changed and it keeps changing. And it should. But sometimes it takes a big story or a shared moment to realize that the public is important and isn’t as dumb as celebrities and TV networks think that it is. It takes a moment like Thursday night to remind us that the fundamentals of “Good PR” must still be displayed or the alternative can be ugly, with ramifications lasting for years to come.