This week's PR Roundup looks at what to do when a cool and collected public figure throws a tantrum on national TV, 2024 predictions from the news industry and a gift guide for PR pros.
Patrick Mahomes’s Football Tantrum
What happened: On the evening of Dec. 10, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes attempted to lead his team to a late-game comeback victory against the Buffalo Bills. It certainly looked like the Bills would suffer another heartbreaking loss as Mahomes launched a pass to tight end Travis Kelce, who lateraled the ball to wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who took the ball into the endzone for a touchdown.
However, an official threw a flag at the start of the play, signaling an offensive offsides penalty by Toney and calling the play moot. The Chiefs had several other attempts to score on the drive, but could not convert, sealing the victory for Buffalo with less than a minute left in the game.
Mahomes could be seen on the sideline, spiking his helmet, and yelling at anyone who would listen regarding the offensive offsides call—a surprising scene for a guy who’s seen as a cool, calm, consummate professional and leader—not just in the football world, but as a public figure with multiple corporate endorsements.
Mahomes's wild sideline behavior continued as the teams shook hands after the game, with Bills quarterback Josh Allen coming to midfield to greet Mahomes. However, microphones picked up Mahomes’ continued ranting of the call, during what normally constitutes a good sportsmanship opportunity for a pat on the back. Allen, a friend of Mahomes off the field, patted the rattled athlete on his chest and walked away as the tirade continued.
Fans and sports pundits alike expressed their displeasure for Mahomes’s reaction on social media, talk shows and through many, many mocking memes. He remained a topic of conversation for the next 24-hour news cycle.
Communication lessons: It’s difficult for public figures and athletes to maintain a pristine public image. However, Mahomes is a prime example of a personal brand held in high regard. Kids look up to him, and adults buy insurance from State Farm based on his numerous commercials.
But in one moment, an image can be tarnished. And no one will forget Mahomes’s behavior, as it seemed quite uncharacteristic of what the public comes to expect from the superstar.
Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications, says it’s easy to forget that public figures are capable of making mistakes.
"When it comes to those we hold in high esteem, it can be all too easy to forget that they, too, are only human,” Yaverbaum says. “It's one of the drawbacks to being celebrated in the public eye. So when Patrick Mahomes had an uncharacteristic lapse in sportsmanship—displaying frustration and cursing after a call he disagreed with—it's not surprising that fans were disappointed.”
Mahomes has since shown remorse for his actions, and behavior towards the officials and his friend and competitor, Allen. He joined a local sports radio talk show to express his regrets.
"I probably regret acting like that,” Mahomes said on the show. “More than anything, I regretted the way I acted towards Josh after the game because he had nothing to do with it. I was still hot and emotional, but you can’t do that, man. That’s not a great example for kids watching the game. So, I was more upset about that than I was about me on the sideline."
Yaverbaum notes the importance of response from public figures after public displays of bad behavior.
“No one can be perfect all the time; what matters is how we respond in those moments, and Mahomes ultimately responded with maturity and grace,” he says. “Once he had a level head and some distance from the situation, he was able to own up to his actions and make amends. He gave a genuine apology, expressed regret, and made clear that he should not have reacted the way he did. It was also revealed that he personally reached out to Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen to apologize for his behavior.”
Lessons learned? Own up to your mistakes, communicate with genuine remorse and empathy, and move on. We’ll see how fans and commenters respond to Mahomes’s apology within the coming weeks.
2024 Journalism Predictions
‘Tis the season for new year’s predictions. One list PR professionals may want to take a long look at is Nieman Lab’s annual Predictions for Journalism.
It’s no secret that the news industry is facing rapid changes due to economic challenges and burgeoning technology. The same could be said for the communications industry as well.
The report features dozens of well-informed arguments from highly-esteemed media reporters, journalism educators, product engineers and other industry leaders. Topics include everything from AI and ethics to celebrities endorsing publishers to local news and reaching emerging audiences.
It’s a good practicum for any PR professional looking to truly understand how newsrooms work at the present, and how to help, not hinder, media relations within the industry.
Our favorite? “Humans hold their own against the robots” by Rubina Madan Fillion, director of strategy for The New York Times’ Opinion section.
“With trust in news organizations continuing to decline, we need to make it easier for audiences to get to know the journalists behind the stories,” Fillion says. “Establishing trust with readers means humanizing the way we present our work.”
Gifts for PR Peeps
And finally, if you are a last-minute shopper (you know who you are!), Coyne PR released a VERY convenient holiday gift guide for your favorite PR colleague. Or even yourself! (You’ve worked hard this year—you deserve it!)
Coyne’s guide includes a list of practical gifts such as a portable phone charger to thoughtful trinkets like a mug warmer.
Unfortunately a front-page client piece in The New York Times is not an option, but who knows what dreams Santa can make come true!
[An editor’s note: This is our last PR Roundup for 2023. We’ve enjoyed the incredible feedback and engagement of our readers this past year. Thank you for reading and sharing. We wish you and your loved ones a festive and restful end to 2023 and look forward to hearing about all of your amazing work in 2024. Happy holidays!]