The Decision Part II: LeBron James Provides Marketing Message for Public Relations Pros
LeBron James’ decision regarding where to take his talents this time around was the news story that transfixed the country – including media relations and marketing communications professionals. When and how it broke provided P.R. professionals and their clients several lessons in how to share big news, especially compared to how The Decision, Part II went down four years ago.
This had all the trappings of a crisis communications dust-up in need of a P.R. pro skilled at diffusing bad situations. Fans of the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past few weeks all sat breathlessly awaiting James’ word. Where would LeBron go? How would he announce it? Who would he upset this time?
Instead, “The Decision, Part II” proved itself a well-crafted communique and a well-played message. Media relations pros might not learn how to drive to the hoop like King James, but his handling of the message this time around came straight from a P.R. pro’s playbook.
While the decision’s arrival took weeks – seemingly forever to fans in at least two cities – his delivery was certainly more deftly handled than when ESPN carried the message in 2010 and created waves in the process. The choice of letting Sports Illustrated break the news toned down the hyperbole and made it as calm a delivery as this message could be.
One point LeBron probably understands quite well is that you cannot please everyone. Cleveland fans burned and shredded his No. 6 jerseys and swore him off when he left four years ago. Now they’re buying them up again. At the same time, Miami fans are vacillating between jilted about his leaving and thankful for the NBA Championship hardware he left behind.
To be sure, LeBron pushed all the right communications buttons. He thanked the Heat for the opportunity, while also seemingly putting behind him all the criticism and hatred thrown his way by Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert in 2010.
Finally, he used news of the move to play up his charitable side. Where some athletes say they’re no role model (think Charles Barkley), LeBron wants to be just that to kids who live in Northeast Ohio, including the Akron third-graders sponsored by his foundation. Need a dose of civic pride? The kids should “realize that there’s no better place to grow up.”
We in South Florida may have lost the centerpiece to the Miami Heat’s two-time championship team. But we gained a few new pages in the playbook of smart media communications.