LeBron Embarrasses Cleveland

“We are removing the LeBron James Witness mural in downtown Cleveland and expect the process to be completed within a few days.”  -KeJuan Wilkins, Nike spokesman, July 11, 2010

“Bye Bye LeBron,” my sister texted me from her home in Chicago the night the Cavs lost their final playoff game

So long, LeBron. Source: Google

to the Celtics.  Now, a week after LeBron made his Decision, most people around this city have accepted and moved on from the fact that a hometown hero has made his choice to leave the very town that loved him so dearly.

The buzz has settled down, and now apart from the jokes and spoofs, it’s “old news” that will resurface at the beginning of next season.  Is there anything else left to say?

Yes, there is: the way LeBron handled his public Decision was not only an embarrassment to himself, it was a slap in the face to Cleveland.  Sadly, this is exactly the kind of publicity we don’t want:  a national reminder of how it seems all good things/people leave Cleveland for the hope of something better.  It almost feels like an Eeyore moment; “Whoa as Cleveland.”

What makes Clevelanders look like fools is the way we rallied behind our Chosen One and conveyed a message that went viral of love, support, and loyalty.  Now, in retrospect, the way LeBron handled himself makes our town, and the people, look silly.  Last Friday at a Miami Heat rally, Miami player Chris Bosh said he had been talking about this moment with LeBron (the moment of LeBron joining the Heat) for “months.”  He quickly caught himself, and revised his statement to “days.”

Nice try, but it slipped and the damage is done.  That statement lets Clevelanders know that while they were

No one was smiling in Cleveland. Source: Google

supporting the message of “loyalty” and “home,” there’s a good chance LeBron already had his mind made up.  LeBron wants a championship, and he has his reasons for going to Miami.  None of us are in his shoes, so it can be easy to criticize and hard to look at the decision objectively.

But what LeBron did have control over is how the announcement was handled.  I feel that his publicity team handled the announcement poorly and that in the end, no matter what city you’re from or cheering for, it reflected poorly upon LBJ.  Yes, money was raised for charity, but in my opinion, LeBron could blink and raise money for charity.  ESPN got publicity, but in all likelihood the cable giant would have been the most-watched for the announcement regardless of a hour special or not.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Dan Gilbert over-road what I’m positive was his own

Dan Gilbert Source: Google

panicked PR team and released his official letter to the fans that night via the Cavs official website.  Hats off to Mr. Gilbert for at least helping ease the hurt that Cleveland was feeling that night (I say that as a heartbroken Clevelander).  “Do you understand how much heat (no pun intended) we’ll get for this?!” is what the PR professional in me wanted to say (scream!), imagining I was part of his PR team as I read that letter.

Like Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore in 1997, this too will pass, but will not be forgotten.  It will always leave a bad taste in the mouth of Clevelanders.  Dan Gilbert now has a lot resting on his shoulders; he made a lofty promise to Cleveland that we will win a championship before Miami does.

My feelings are that LeBron probably hasn’t looked back since heading to Miami last Thursday night.  Shame on you, LeBron, for handling the situation in such a tasteless manner.  You gave Cleveland publicity, alright, just not the kind we want or deserve.

What Cleveland Will WITNESS

“Ask me to play, I’ll play.  Ask me to shoot, I’ll shoot.  Ask me to pass, I’ll pass.  Ask me to steal, block out, sacrifice, lead dominate.  ANYTHING.  But it’s not what you ask of me.  It’s what I ask of myself.   -LeBron James

In less than 24 hours, at 9 p.m. Thursday on ESPN, Cleveland (and the world) will receive the answer to “The Decision.”  (Yes, LeBron has officially dubbed this “The Decision.”)

He is King. Source: Google

Loyalty is what Cleveland has asked of LeBron.

Future is what LeBron has been asking of himself.

As Plain Dealer sports writer Terry Pluto said tonight, “What LeBron James announces will change everything for the Cavaliers and their fans.”

Of course it’s about money, it always is.  But for a group of fans who created morethanaplayer.org, it’s about home; it’s about loyalty.  In many ways, that’s the unity that ties us together as Cleveland sports fans.

Remember when the WITNESS mural went up on Ontario across from the Q?  But before the hype, buzz and excitement of King LeBron, remember the high school sports stories out of Akron, featuring Saint Vincent Saint Mary’s basketball team?  And before he was a world-wide phenomenon, do you remember the hometown feature stories on the six o’clock news about a seventeen year-old kid named LeBron James, who lived in a two-bedroom apartment with his mother?

I do, mainly because being a year older than LeBron, I was following high school sports in 2001, and I was enticed

The SI cover that changed it all. Source: Google

by him.  I specifically recall a human interest story on Fox 8, where LeBron showed off his bedroom, a modest room with posters and sports memorabilia.  Hard to believe that was over nine years ago, and LeBron has been a part of Cleveland professional basketball for the past seven.

Though I was young in 1995, I do remember when Art Modell took the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, and what a sore spot that will forever be in Cleveland sports.  I agree with this: When Modell took the team, every positive thing he ever did went out the window.  (Check out more on the Modell/James comparison in the blog waitingfornextyear.com).  If James leaves, Cleveland fans will be split in two: those that will never forgive him for leaving his hometown, and those that will follow him regardless.

I’m calling a 90/10 split; that if LeBron leaves, 90% of us will begin using WITNESS shirts as dust rags.  The feelings of excitement, anticipation and unity that LeBron helped to bring this city during the playoffs will leave with him.  And without a doubt, it will be heartbreaking.

But now, the wait is about to come to and end.  The grassroots campaign to keep LeBron in Cleveland has ended: just like after the polls have closed on election day, LeBron has made his decision, and nothing at this point can change it.  And just like families and co-workers huddle around the t.v. to see who the next President will be, we’ll all gather tomorrow night to watch LeBron’s decision on ESPN.

Thank you to the unbelievably devoted fans who, out of their own pockets, ran the promotions for More Than A Player.  We started seeing billboards after the Cavs lost the playoffs: solid black background with “LOYALTY” or “HOME” in white letters, and at the bottom, “morethanaplayer.org.”

Here’s my three favorite tactics that More Than A Player did right:

  1. Going viral (Cleveland viral):  free and low-cost stickers, posters and t-shirts and Clevelander’s grabbed right up.
  2. Knowing their audience, and targeting it without over saturation.
  3. Creating a message:  Smart marketing to use the black/white theme that went global when Nike launched the WITNESS campaign.

Here’s to hoping we won’t be uttering those famous words tomorrow, all to familiar to a Cleveland sports fan: “There’s always next year.”  LeBron, please stay, this is your home.  The spirit created during the past few Cavs seasons has been nothing short of magical, and I sincerely hope it continues.

THIS IS MAGIC. Source: Google

Cleveland is “Positively” Capable of its Own Promotion, Thanks.

Ever since I started classes at Kent State in 2008, one thing in particular has loomed over my head.  Each and every time I’m reminded of the PR internship requirement, I begin doubting myself and my capabilities as a

Internships: Key to Success Source: Google

budding PR professional.  But, that’s a whole other topic.  What I have been forced to think about is where I’m going to do this internship at.  Knowing I want to end up in corporate PR, but also wanting to dabble in agency work for the experience, I’m always keeping my ears perked for what’s out there in Cleveland.

That said, I’m occasionally checking in on Positively Cleveland, the city’s cleverly-named convention and visitors bureau.  Positively Cleveland uses PR and marketing to promote the entire NEO region to convention and meeting planners, as well as leisure tourists.

A big misconception is that Positively Cleveland only brings conventions to the convention center (our new

Source: Google

convention center and medical mart is beginning construction this fall).  Positively Cleveland also brings in meetings, tradeshows and yes, conferences, to outside venues like hotels and the I-X Center and they also help facilitate them- many times free of charge.  Here’s my favorite statistic about Positively Cleveland: For every $1 they spend selling meetings and conventions, they return $105 to the community.

I love this group- and I’m all for what their doing.  They’ve got a nice budget -5.3 million- and while it sounds like a lot (because it is a lot), I’m all for the ROI.  Bravo to the 36 employees who work there.  Boo-hoo to the sour-pusses at Scene Magazine who have to rain on everyone’s parade (more on why in a minute).  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Cleveland’s only alternative weekly that can be found everywhere from street corner stands on W.117 to the rack next to the “Free Apartment Guide” at your local watering hole.  I “get” that you’re journalists,you play devils’ advocate, and your severely underpaid.  As someone who makes, well, let’s just say not a lot of money (yet), I get a little green with envy too when I see the salaries (it’s public record) of the people at Positively Cleveland.

Scene ran an article in this week’s edition about the possibility that Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI), the Chicago company that will build and run Cleveland’s new convention center, may take over the operations of

Cleveland's Current Convention Center Source: Google

Positively Cleveland as well.  So, not only would the publicly-funded revenue stream be redirected to MMPI, but so would all the functions (and jobs) of Positively Cleveland.

This is unfortunate on many fronts, and in my opinion, the largest being that since MMPI’s role is to mainly promote the convention center, many of the other promotions that Positively Cleveland currently does would simply be cut.  Right now, promoting the current and future convention center is only about 10 percent of what Positively Cleveland does.

I already feel that the building and running of the new convention center should have been contracted to a Cleveland firm.  Why is it that city commissioners want to now dump more millions of dollars into the lap of MMPI?!  Who knows their city the best- someone who lives and works here, or someone based six hours away on Michigan Avenue?

Scene, hats off to you investigative journalism.  Solid points made with an undertone that could only be delivered by an alternative publication.  But here’s my gripe: why are you bringing up salaries?  It seems this is always the drive-home point: salaries are public information (which no doubt they should be), and yes, it makes sense when bringing up the point that MMPI, as a private company, would not have to disclose their spending.  But in my opinion, listing the salaries of the folks at Positively Cleveland makes it seem your against them.  Maybe as Clevelanders, you should re-think that.

So, on that note, I wonder if Positively Cleveland offers paid internships.  I’m guessing Scene Magazine does not.

Continental + United… Good for Cleveland?

On May 3, Houston-based Continental and Chicago-based United Airlines announced a definitive merger agreement that the fifth largest and third largest airlines, respectively, would join forces to create the world’s leading airline.  According to the official press release on PR Newswire, the airlines will now use Continental’s logo and the name United Airlines.  Their new tag line will be “Let’s Fly Together” and here’s an excerpt of the official press release “fluff,” as Professor Sledzik would call it, outlining the benefits of the merger.

“[United Airlines will provide] superior service to customers, expanded access to an unparalleled global network serving 370 destinations around the world, enhanced long-term career prospects for employees, and a platform for improved profitability and sustainable long-term value for shareholders. The all-stock merger of equals brings together two of the world’s premier airlines, creating a combined company well positioned to succeed in an increasingly competitive global and domestic aviation industry.”

I’m a devote Continental flier, so along with other consumers, I’m asking, “How is this going to effect me?!”  One of the reasons I fly Continental is that eight times out of ten, it’s the cheapest carrier with the most direct route from Cleveland to my destination, thanks to Continental having a main hub here.  I’ve also never had a complaint about their customer service or my satisfaction with a flight; its actually quite the opposite.  As an individual that only flies for pleasure and not work, their frequent flier program is decent and the one time I got bumped, I not only landed a posh first class seat, but a $400 flight voucher.  I was sold.

I also wanted to take a look at how Continental and United are handling the public during this merger.  When I started researching for this blog, the first two sites I visited were, big surprise, Continental.com and United.com.

"Let's Fly Together" Source: United Airlines

While I’m very impressed with the online news rooms, there is nothing regarding the merger.  Nada. On either site.  Is this the work of the lawyers, I wonder?

This early in the game, airline experts are saying United Airlines will be based in Chicago, and there’s a chance Cleveland will be eliminated as a hub.  The merger is also expected to lead to job losses here, and fewer options for business travelers.  Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has already urged the Transportation Secretary to consider that a merger could harm Ohio airports, reducing flight options and increasing prices.

According to Ned Hill, Dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, “Wherever United and Continental competed on a route, that will now get more expensive.  Wherever Continental had a monopoly on a route, and a lower fare carrier comes underneath it, prices will drop.”

A big unknown at this point is how the merger will affect Cleveland’s ability to attract and retain businesses.  As

When two become one. Source: Cleveland.com

the head of Team NEO, part of Cleveland Plus, it’s Tom Waltermire’s job to help Northeast Ohio attract new businesses.  He says it’s too early to know if changes at Hopkins would make the region less competitive. It’s possible, he says, that it would remain well serviced by lots of flights. But even if they do lose some air service, he says the region “will still be appealing.”

Well, of course Northeast Ohio will still be appealing; business flight charter is a determinant, but certainly not the only one!  (Be sure to check out Team NEO’s new international business attraction strategy here.)

In my opinion, Continental and United will need to save face when the heat comes for expected job losses.  Continental employs 2,200 workers at Hopkins, with 1,000 others employed by its regional airline partners.  Tongues have been wagging since late April, when the Plain Dealer reported on the still-unconfirmed merger talks.

U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, a freshman Democrat from Alliance and a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said it’s important to keep the airport jobs.  “We want to make sure jobs would be sustained and not unravel all the gains we’ve made with expansion of service that Continental has provided,” said Boccieri.

I’d say it’s time to step up the media game on behalf of Continental and United.  Though they have issued press releases, there are very few (official and non-official) comments coming from the C-Suite.  It’s time for Continental Chief Executive Jeff Smisek and United CEO Glenn Tilton to sit down with the likes of “60 Minutes.”

I’m big on direct flights (it’s essential when flying with kids), and if Continental cuts back on direct flights to my destinations, I may be in the market for another airline.  I know I don’t stand alone when I say, “Don’t mess with my frequent flier miles” as well.  Keep the jobs in Cleveland, and keep our hub, United Airlines, and you and Cleveland should remain on good terms.

We’re Hot, In Cleveland

Cheers, Cleveland! Source:Google

You’ve seen the ads on the side of RTA buses and the billboards along I-480, and being a Clevelander, let’s hope you watched the premier of Hot In Cleveland on TV Land Wednesday night.  Apparently, plenty of folks across the country did; “Hot In Cleveland” was the highest rated and most watched show on cable June 16th, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“Hot in Cleveland” revolves around three fabulous best friends from L.A – a novelist, eye-brow archer to the stars and former soap star – who find their lives changed forever when their plane, headed for Paris, makes an unexpected landing.  When the friends discover that they are hot in Cleveland (as opposed to aging in L.A), they decide to stay.  Starting over, they rent a house in Lakewood that happens to come with a very feisty caretaker.

I’m glad Cleveland collectively made the right PR move and got on board with supporting the show.  Catching wind that a new sitcom was airing about Cleveland, the folks at Positively Cleveland were skeptical, without having even seen the pilot.  Word was it would be yet another jab-at-Cleveland, kick-’em-when-their-down kinda show.

My own reaction was this: As a Clevelander, we’re used to this kind of thing.  Drew Carey must be lurking in the background somewhere, ready to jump out and help “save” Cleveland.  The writers at Scene Magazine were surely at a dive in Tremont, planning a cover story.

Neil Mohney of Forest City meets cast member Betty White in LA Source:Google

Luckily, someone with the knowledge and background of communications jumped in and -gasp- had a novel idea: to see for himself what “hot” was all about.  Forest City Enterprises Executive Coordinator Neil Mohney hopped a flight to the set in L.A and talked to the cast and producers himself.  He met with producer Bob Heath (an Akron native) and learned that “hot” was in reference to the show’s forty-ish cast feeling sexy in Cleveland as opposed to L.A, where fake boobs and butts are as prominent as forty-inch waistlines here in Cleveland.

But not everyone here in Cleveland is jumping on board the “hot” express.  The show’s publicity team pitched Cleveland Magazine to put the cast on the cover of the June issue, but got turned down.  More important than being hot in LBJ-town?  The mag’s annual “Rating the Suburbs” issue.  All those cougars moving from the west coast need to know which yacht club boast the ritziest Sunday brunch, darling.

Here’s a good “oops” PR move (or lack thereof) for the folks over at Viacom, the comm company of TV Land.  A search of www.hotincleveland.com (as well as .net and .info) yields a search of… a site run by a pastor at the downtown Old Stone Church?! Yep- looks like someone didn’t register their domain name, and a Clevelander wanting to promote his city got to it first.  Certainly the publicity team at Viacom wants to greet interested web surfers with “Move over Hotlanta – We’re Hot in Cleveland!” -which is exactly what appears at the top of the pastor’s site.

Forgetting you “now blog”

It took one week, countless self-reminding sticky notes and some damn persistence to remember that I started a blog.  What it took to remember my username and password reminds me parts of my short-term memory may be shot.

In my usual self-realization, I thought twice (two months later, none the less) about once again putting myself out there via a blog.  I feel I now have a better understanding of why my mother is terrified of the exact same anxiety-ridden feeling… only hers comes by way of match.com.

My fear is… my blog.

I must humbly admit that when I tried to track down the blog I started, I went through the following steps:

1)  I first remembered that one night around the holidays… something about my lame non-existent plans for the evening… a bottle of wine + my macbook… {this opening could segway into waaay too many stories} = a blog.

But it doesn’t.  It segways into how I decided to start my blog.

2)  I’m distracted one afternoon in class and suddenly I am prompted to wonder: did I use wordpress.com or .org?  My excuse for this pressing thought comes from the fact I was in a media relations and publicity class, so it was relevant.

3)  I type every possible keyword I can think of on both wordpress.com and wordpress.org- including the official name of this blog.  None yield my blog.

I do, however, discover the following:

a)  It only took wordpress .27 seconds to find 9,107 hits on the word “emery” (again, none of which were my blog).

b)  Marc Emery is an underground pot-loving grown-ass man who bums around California and occasionally is incarcerated.  My father’s name is Mark Emery, and he is a 28-year veteran of the Cleveland Police.

c)  “Emery” was the 778th most popular first name of 2009.

d)  “EmeryCAT” is a blog about… a cat?

e)  There are some “celebrities” with a small-time cult following with the last name Emery- a hockey player, a hiker, a cat…and Marc.

I was excited to see I had 1 comment when I finally managed to crack the code to my own blog.  Someone found my blog! Someone found me!

Next thought:

*&^$#&%@!*

The comment was from wordpress, welcoming me to my blog.

When you’re busy the other 364 days of the year.

My mommy made some amazing Thanksgiving grub… I’ve gone through about three rounds of Thanksgiving food, and her’s still ranks first.  Not because she is my mother…because… well, she is my mother and I will always favor her cooking!

But mothers and mother-in-laws and all things mother-related needs to be saved for another day.

And another bottle.

Here’s my sound-off: What happens when, the other 364 or so days of the year, you are busy busy BUSY with your LIFE- and all of a sudden, a holiday comes: school is on break (both for me and the kid), the office closes, and work slows down.  Suddenly, I am obligated to attend family functions (not that I am complaining), but that otherwise, I wouldn’t have time for.

Usually, this comes as a hassle.  I have to look nice.  I better have something good (a.k.a “successful”) going on in my life to make conversation with.  I must ask if I can “bring something” (and am relieved when told “oh, no that’s ok!”).  We usually make a last-minute run to Target for shoes/dress pants/dog food.  (hey, I don’t have time during the week to get that 1,000 lb. bag, ok?!)

This blog is unedited. I need to put that in there, because man, does this sound like a scrooge holiday rant or what?!  I just ate some of the best food I will eat all year (what does that tell you? That tells you times are tough- as in no Chilian Sea Bass this season…).  I will repeat:  Green Bean Casseroll is waaaay too good to only have twice a year.

Here is what I have found myself faced with for the third night in a row:  My kid is off with dad/dad’s family or in the case of tonight, a sleepover.  I have not had to get up before 8 a.m.  (Although my internal clock does anyway).  My internet is shut off (much to my dismay two nights ago: I can’t pay my over-due bill online b/c I need to be postal-mailed a “pin”.  I cannot pay via phone b/c the office is closed for the holiday. Than HOW THE HELL do I get my internet turned back on?!)  I do not get cable t.v for three good reasons: 1) I am never home/around enough to watch it 2) it costs a butt-load of money…and most shows you can watch on hulu.com or somewhere on the internet, and, 3) I believe I owe the cable company some money.

I do not enjoy talking on the phone.  It’s winter in Cleveland, so the extent of me walking my dog is…not much.  My waaay over-due homework needs to be done….ONLINE.  My bank account is telling me in a obvious way that I really can’t afford to go out.  But never mind all that.

If it were not a holiday, I would be way too busy to care about any of this.  But it IS a holiday, so I find myself wondering, is this what I get when I ignore/put on hold everyone/everything the other 364 days of the year?!

Case-in-point:  My 22 year-old sister is in town.  I call it ‘Hurricane Annie’ when she decides, literally, to blow into town.  She is….22.  She is… a nomadic, southern-Florida college-educated world-traveling hippie.  Blonde, thin, and incredibly likeable.   And she is 22.

I have found myself going through my phone: something I guess I do only on the holidays and when I am wasted- to find someone to text.  And like a stupid internet-default setting, I find myself texting my sister…”what are you up to??”

Oops, my bad, I forgot when you’re the typical 22 year-old, you change plans like you change sex partners or college majors.  So, here I am, all dressed (dead sexy, if I may say so) and no where to go.

I’m mooching off of some neighbor’s unsecure internet connection in my kitchen.  Any longer with no plans, and I am going to have to re-apply eyeliner… and re-evaluate my life situation.

It’s a toss-up between refilling my drink…. or walking my dog, yet again, to the end of the drive and back.