I have no easy answers to these questions, but I can offer a test case for study. Michael Beasley, the enigmatic forward currently unemployed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, recently hired a PR firm to handle his media image. It was a smart move for a player who has proven mostly incapable of presenting himself to the world. This wasn't a case of a player hiring people to spin his image beyond all recognition; instead, he needed their services to show the world that he has more positive aspects than people give him credit for.
PR firms tend to stick with their clients through all kinds of messes -- that's why they exist. So it comes as something of a shock that Beasley and S & S Associates have parted ways after three weeks. Ben Golliver spoke to the company for Eye on Basketball:
"Please be advised that S&S Associates is no longer affiliated with Michael Beasley," the statement read. "Please refer all inquiries to 'Shooter'."
Shooter's email address was listed as "unknown," although a contact phone number was included.
"We think that Michael is a great kid, and we're wishing the best for him, but he was just not a good fit for our firm," S & S Associates' Tonya Payton told CBSSports.com on Wednesday. "Michael is at the stage in his life and his career where he just needs to take a step back and reevaluate a lot of things in his life."
In the three weeks since he hired the P.R. firm, Beasley threw an "All-Star" charity game in which all the All-Stars bailed out and said that the ongoing labor negotiations are "kind of retarded." But that was the petty stuff.
The real bombshell came when Beasley launched explosive lawsuits against his former agent, Joel Bell, and his former AAU coach, Curtis Malone, in which he and his mother admitted to receiving thousands of dollars of illegal benefits while he was in high school and college. The lawsuit is personal, too, as Malone reportedly served as a surrogate father to Beasley, allowing him to live with his family during his high school years.
PR firms can help present an idealized image to the world, but in order to do so they need to have a sense of which image the client wants to present. From what Payton says, it seems as if Beasley is just too disorganized to know what he wants. This company helps a client work towards a goal -- they don't work miracles.
It's nice that Beasley is trying to improve his public image, but actions like the ones he took over the past few weeks suggest he still has a lot of growing up to do. His reputation is poor, and in some ways unfair. But, barring a total resurgence for the Wolves or saving four kittens from a fire, that image rehab is going to take some time. Beasley needs a long-term plan, not quick fixes. Those don't exist.
- Michael Beasley