High-tech PR Requires Highly Skilled Players
High-tech public relations professionals operate differently than those engaged in PR work for more pedestrian products or services. High-tech PR organizations understand the target markets for high technology products as well as the opportunities and pitfalls that are eminent when delivering a message to these markets. High technology products require PR professionals who understand the importance of perfectly timing a product release, the lifestyle impact of the high tech product, and which media members are most likely to help promote positive acceptance of the high tech product.
Similarly, top-performing sports players must also keep public relations in their arsenal. As leaders in their field, and seemingly always under intense scrutiny, sports players must keep their public image and the methods in which they interface with their public as a top priority. Sports stars receive record-setting paychecks. Many mingle with high profile celebrities and draw the admiration and intrigue of the nation. They are under constant scrutiny via social media and the Internet. This can draw the ire of the public when sports stars don’t completely live up to their image. Sports players need public relations support as their image is equally as visible as their player stats. Few sports stars have embraced the core tenets of public relations as well as LeBron James. James has gone from hometown hero, to public enemy, to media darling – all in a matter of months. A skilled PR team can help high technology firms, as well as sports players, to remain in a positive public light. LeBron James is a standout example of a sports player who has employed some of the PR tactics that high technology public relations firms may want to consider when forming a strategy for a client.
LeBron James Then: PR Blunders
Modern celebrities and sports stars live in an unrelenting public relations spotlight.
In the past few decades, being a public figure was a difficult role to fill, but it can’t even begin to compare with celebrity today. Consider the pressure of the invasive reach of news agencies, rabid fans, critical media, Twitter, camera phones, and the constant feed of information that the public relies on to form opinions. With 24/7 information available and the capricious nature of public opinion, it requires a delicate balancing act to live in the limelight.
Attitude: LeBron James has had his share of PR issues – some of them fueled by the public’s ability to access information quickly, and some of it from strategic errors made by a PR team - or James himself. LeBron James has approached many of his fans and critics with a “devil-may-care” attitude, which is endearing to no one. Humility and respect go a long way towards creating a bond between sports star and public. LeBron James has learned this over the years, and has emerged as a player with a generally positive following.
Big Decisions: LeBron James is considered by many to be the top player in the NBA. With impressive scoring stats and a commanding presence on the court, LeBron has proven that he can play ball. However, many argue that the way he has handled several key issues in the past have led to a serious PR problem. Let’s not forget - just a few years ago Cleveland fans were burning his jerseys in the street, and now the public has anointed him King James!
Learning From Mistakes is Critical:
A few key PR blunders that LeBron committed over the past few years can be used as a parallel to managing PR for high tech products:
Know Your Audience – high-tech PR professionals know that you must know your target audience! LeBron has made several blunders in addressing his fans with an aloof attitude. Don’t alienate your base!
You must be an innovator - or someone else will be. So LeBron James (most likely under the direction of a misguided PR professional) decides to develop and air a television segment called “The Decision.” This was a public airing of his decision to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and join an all-star team of players with the Miami Heat. Let’s just reiterate that his jerseys were in flames in the streets of Akron. Lesson learned – this might have been a key, strategic business decision but it ended up looking like betrayal. Innovation is good – but again, make your motivation crystal clear.
Use social media wisely – There is no room for error in today’s information intensive world. Managing your virtual voice is critical to protecting the brand image that took a significant amount of time to build. Sometimes, no information is better than too much. LeBron James severs all ties to his Twitter account during key times in his schedule.
You can recover from big mistakes – LeBron James’ motivation to air “The Decision” was in part to raise money for his Boys and Girls Club charities. It ended up looking like an arrogant publicity stunt gone wrong. It reeked of betrayal to his loyal hometown fan base. But, LeBron has moved on and has emerged as a more calculated and tactful speaker during press conferences. He has put his head down and played hard. He embraces those moments that show he cares about his fan base. At the end of the day, LeBron James is a revered member of the modern sports world. He has joined the ranks of Magic Johnson, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, and Brett Favre as a player who has recovered from a major PR issue that could have been disastrous in the long run.
High-Tech PR Professionals Can Learn From Those LeBron James
Know your target audience. Innovate. Use social media wisely. Understand that mistakes are only bad if they are not used as a catalyst for positive change. High-tech PR professionals can learn from LeBron James – one day, your jersey is being trampled in the streets of Cleveland, the next day you are hailed as the King.