PR Roundup: McAfee Screws Up—Again, Executive Resonance Report, PRMuseum on the Move

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This week's PR Roundup looks at ESPN personality Pat McAfee screwing up—again, a new report from KWT Global on executive resonance and a new partnership between PRSA and the PRMuseum.

ESPN Host Pat McAfee Puts His Foot In His Mouth—Again

What happened: Pat McAfee, former NFL player and popular host of The Pat McAfee Show, began licensing his show to ESPN in 2023. During his somewhat short tenure, McAfee has not been without public controversies.

From guest and NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s false public assertion that late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel was on the Epstein list, to McAfee calling out ESPN executive Norby Williamson for attempting to sabotage "The Pat McAfee Show," there’s been no shortage of work for the ESPN PR department.

In his latest installment of shame, McAfee used vulgarity to call WNBA player Caitlin Clark a “white bit–.”

According to The Sporting News, “McAfee had been discussing how Clark's rookie season has lifted the WNBA and called her a superstar. He then said the media should stop referring to the success as being a product of "this rookie class."

“Nah, just call it for what it is," McAfee said. "There's one white b— for the Indiana team who is a superstar."”

McAfee issued an apology on social media later that day.

However, not soon after McAfee appeared as a co-host on “WWE Raw” appearing to make light of the situation, in which he called wrestler Braun Strowman, “one big white son of a bit–.”

Communication takeaways: With conflicting actions, who can tell when, and if, McAfee is authentic in his apologies, especially as he keeps pushing ESPN’s buttons with no repercussions? How many chances is McAfee going to get?

Megan Weekes, CMO and partner, Speekes, says this sort of public discourse and talk warrants something bigger than an apology.

"We are living in an era where any person in any position can be called out when they say something hurtful or inappropriate,” Weekes says. “When words cause harm, particularly with the use of a truly disparaging term, it's frankly bigger than an apology. The offender needs to take a hard look at where those words came from and take a real opportunity to listen and learn.”

Weekes also says word choice is important, and it shouldn’t be difficult to acknowledge the success Clark has brought to women’s sports.

“Caitlin is changing history while we watch and making a tremendous impact on women's sports as a whole,” she says. “The only appropriate response is to cheer her on wholeheartedly, without the need to reduce or diminish her in any way."

KWT Global Releases Inaugural Resonance Report

What happened: This week KWT Global released a new research report that explores how executive resonance impacts business performance. Alongside the report and its findings, KWT also launched its xVoice program, which elevates executives in brand communications through tailored persona mapping.

KWT partnered with HarrisX to conduct a survey of C-suite and senior executives across the United States to learn more about their perceptions of their own external presence and the role it plays in business success. The report highlights challenges and opportunities executives face navigating and earning influence.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • 90% of executives believe that having a strong and visible leader is important for a company’s success.
  • While most executives aspire to be influential in their industry, 61% say it can be difficult for leaders to appear relatable.
  • Despite 80% of executives seeing a strong relationship between their external presence and the success of their business, only about half feel very confident in communicating on social media and responding to media.
  • Executives are currently split (53% no, 42% yes) on whether their personal and business personas differ, with executives under age 40 more likely to say there is a distinction.

Communication takeaways: Gabrielle Zucker, CEO of KWT, says the agency noticed a trend in media cycles: executives missing the mark in terms of showing up authentically when speaking on behalf of their organization.

"We decided to explore the disconnect for ourselves," Zucker says. "Conducting this research has allowed us to better understand the evolving needs of business leaders and the real-world challenges they face.”

Dara Cothran, Executive Vice President, Global Strategy and Insights at KWT, says the report reveals how executives see themselves and the role that plays in their business’s success.

“For communicators, this data [solidifies] that communications is the surest tool through which executives can take charge of their external presence and engage more authentically with key stakeholders to positively drive measurable performance.”

Museum of Public Relations Relocating to PRSA Headquarters

What happened: This week The Public Relations Society of America and The Museum of Public Relations announced a new partnership to create joint educational programming and deliver expanded research regarding the world of PR.

A centerpiece of the announcement is the relocation of the PRMuseum, which will now be housed at PRSA’s headquarters in New York City. With more than 5,000 artifacts, the museum is the world’s only institution dedicated to preserving material documenting PR’s development as a social institution. Archives feature original documents from prominent historical industry figures including Edward Bernays, Inez Kaiser, Ofield Dukes and Harold Burson.

The partnership programming will not only benefit current members, but also expand offerings for the student arm, PRSSA. Students will be able to advance their knowledge skills and understanding of best practices, all within an expanded historical context. PRSSA members will also now have access on-site to the museum.

Communication takeaways: Leadership from both PRSA and PRMuseum say this solidifies the timely, increased importance of PR and the need for continued education and growth.

“This is an exciting time for the public relations profession,” says Shelley Spector, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the PRMuseum. “The practice of PR has never been more valued, and our clients have never been more demanding.”

Linda Thomas Brooks, CEO, PRSA, says the new and innovative programming will provide unique opportunities for members.

“With this collaborative venture, we’re not just bringing together two storied institutions, we’re building on our expertise and breadth of history to propel the profession forward,” says Thomas Brooks.

Spector agrees and sees the move as a real expression of confidence in the profession.

“[The partnership] will expand our reach and ability to reaffirm public relations’ role as a responsible tool of commerce and a powerful force for social progress.”

Nicole Schuman is Managing Editor at PRNEWS.