First of all, let me apologize. I have let LaVar Ball be mentioned in this column. With me writing about him, I, too, have fallen victim to the nonsense of notoriety this man has created in our world. For that, I am sorry.
In early January, Ball publicly said that the Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton had lost the team. Yes—Ball, who is not a sportscaster, a member of the executive office of the Lakers or anyone other than a Dad with false expectations was given a platform.
Perhaps this stems from a conversation with his son Lonzo or somehow his influence connected with another player, but his authority is limited to that of a fan – a drama fan. In today’s drama-filled world, the media has determined that Lavar Ball is a conversation starter, thus, they gave him a platform. To which, they would be correct.
Although he is not credible nor justified in his opinion of Walton, there are many lessons to be learned from all of the nonsense.
No matter how good the talent is, don’t let cancerous behavior enter your business: Lavar Ball’s behavior is cancerous to that team and to its fans. His opinions are causing unnecessary friction that doesn’t drive championship (or even playoff) possibilities. They are selfish and bullying. When you start to spot the Lavar moments in your company (and chances are they are happening undercover), you need to move swiftly to remove, or else you will be stuck in the same situation the Lakers are – having to play defense away from the core business objectives.
In today’s social media world, all voices are credible: Yes, you heard that right – all voices are credible. What does this mean? Well, whenever anyone posts anything that is their opinion, others see it and, in most cases, react. However, reactions are also scrutinized. We all know that no matter what direction you lean politically, your reactions cause more reactions when you address your beliefs. For brands, this is tricky water to navigate. Your content can be influential, but should not be political. You should understand that if you take a critical viewpoint on anything, like Lavar did against the Lakers, it can cause frustration from people who could potentially spend money with you. Additionally, because of the power of credibility, now, more than ever, you have to pay attention to details. Focus on strong service and strong results so that you don’t get ripped by a one-time fan, ala crappy Yelp! review.
Even with accessibility to opinions, negative wins over positive: Let’s be honest, we love drama. Clearly, I do too since I am writing about Lavar. Drama has all of the makings of the content and stories that we love. In Lavar’s case, it is negative drama. In today’s world, negative is viral. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our peers in the workplace have shown us that praise is better than a stick. Thus, positivity is desired. Brands that can have positive drama moments (the return of amazing PR stunts) could win when it comes to a social voice that people care about and react to.
Not all PR is good PR: There once was a publicist who booked bad press. He asked himself, “What should I do?” He then realized, “Ah, if I come up with a good line, the client won’t fire me.” Thus, when asked why in the hell did he book that placement, he replied, “All PR is good PR.” Catchy, sure, but incorrect. While we like watching the drama of Lavar unfold, it is not good PR. Not good for human peace, for kindness, for team building or for success. It is selfish PR that is negative. This is not good PR.
Bottom line, if there is any lesson to be learned from this column, when you see a Lavar Ball near your brand, act fast to move on. If I were the GM of the Lakers during draft night, while I believe Lonzo is incredibly talented, the entourage that comes with him will make it very difficult to build a team. Thus, I would have respectfully passed. Without Scottie, Dennis, and of course, Bill Wennington, the Bulls would have just had an amazing “me” instead of a team. Teams with chemistry win great championships; one misstep in character judgment when building a team can set the goal back a ton.