By now you’ve heard the story of LeBron James. You know, the one who was labeled as “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated when he was only 17? The one who was drafted 1st overall in 2003 by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers? And yes, that same one who infamously announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” in an hour-long ESPN special, “The Decision”. By the way, he’s the same one who finally won his first NBA Championship with the Miami Heat last month.
Oh, you’re not really a sports fan? You mean you’ve never heard of LeBron James?
Well, you have now!
Photo Credit: http://latinotimes.com/sports/30726-lebron_james_champion_heat.html
To answer your question, no, this hasn’t become a sports blog. However, perhaps you could see how LeBron James has done, what some might say, irreparable harm to his reputation. In the business world, this would be similar to a long-time business partner announcing to the world via press conference that they’re leaving you to join a Fortune 100 company – as opposed to staying in business with you.
In the PR world, situations, people, and brands like these call for crisis communications management. At the simplest level, crisis communications just involves telling your stakeholders, “I’m sorry.” But when you have a situation like LeBron James on your hands, well – that’s when you have to pull out all of the stops in order to “win your baby back!”
Believe it or not, there is a lesson to be learn from LeBron James. Last season he gave us a lesson in crisis communication management that you could apply to your situation.
1) Be genuinely remorseful – Admitting that you have a problem is always the first step to solving it. At the start of the 2011-2012 season, LeBron James sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. In the interview, LeBron expressed his feelings of regret for “The Decision.”
2) Be humble – When you’ve suffered a serious setback to your brand, the last thing you can afford to do is continue to toot your own horn; after all, the effects of being humble stem from being humiliated. LeBron learned that after the Heat loss the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.
3) Be supportive – That is, support a noble cause. If you’re in damage control due to an external issue, it makes perfect sense to support an organization or initiative that relates to what got you in trouble to begin with. For example, if you’ve been insensitive to a certain demographic, find a way to be a part of a progressive movement that serves those you’ve offended. While LeBron didn’t offend one particular group of people (although Cleveland sports fans may disagree), he took a step in the right direction by supporting State Farm’s “26 Seconds”
campaign to lower high school dropout rates.
4) Be yourself – At some point you have to stop apologizing to everyone. Unfortunately, there will still be critics to anything positive you try to do. Getting your brand back requires getting back to the things that earned your stakeholders to begin with. Hey, there are actually people out there who forgive. So go out there and make them smile!
5) Be great – Some say that winning cures many ills. If that’s the case, then it’s time for your company to get back to being the best. You may be surprised at how low your critics’ noise-level is compared to the praises.
Overall, the key to crisis communications is being genuine. Your stakeholders have to believe in what you’re doing to make amends with them. However, after so many apologies, they want to see things get back to normal. At the end of the day, don’t just talk about it. Be about it!