MVP CEO Kevin Long offers advice for professional athletes on social media

Do Better: Paul George and Social Media

Off the court, it has been an interesting year for Paul George. That’s because, within the last 365 days, George has been slapped with a paternity suit from a former stripperallegedly offered that same woman $1 million to “not move forward with the pregnancy,” rumored to have had an affair with the fiancée of his teammate Roy Hibbert and of course, there was that whole catfish story which the 24-year-old has since denied. And through it all, whether PG was responding to a certain rumor with a tweet or tied to an alleged story through a picture on Instagram, one thing has remained constant: social media is a problem for him. Much like his skills on the court, there’s always going to be some room for improvement in the world of social media. That’s where we come in.

There are two different approaches to social media, either of which would help George clean things up-play it straight or go all out. How can George improve his Twitter game? What does the Pacers star forward need to look out for as his star continues to rise? We caught up with Kevin Long, the CEO of MVP Sports Media Training, which specializes in advising athletes from the professional to the collegiate level on managing their social accounts appropriately.

The Straight Arrow Method

What was your point of view on the whole situation with the woman who leaked the pictures which initially stemmed from a catfish rumor?

It’s one of those things where I think that anybody can be fooled. It’s not surprising. What surprises me is that more athletes haven’t been fooled by that. George has come out and said he wasn’t catfished but whether he was or not, this goes back to the point that you don’t discern who you accept as friends and interact with on these pages. And as an athlete, especially one who’s an up-and-coming, rising star like he is, Paul has so much potential to not only increase his popularity with the fans, but also generating more revenue for himself through endorsements. Looking at his account, for the most part, he says and does the right things. He’s interacting with his friends and followers which is a good thing. If I were to work with him, I would encourage him to be a little more professional about some of the interactions but that will come with time. There are some athletes who combine those skill sets of interacting in a professional way and slipping in some good marketing posts.

If your mother wouldn’t approve of it, you probably shouldn’t post it. If you can run it by your mom or grandmother and it’s fine, then you probably won’t have an issue.

Can you give an example of one person?

The best that I have seen is Drew Brees. He’s from a relatively small market team in New Orleans but yet he’s one of the league’s top players. And he has a ton of marketing posts, but they’re blended in with stuff about his family and interactions with fans. It comes across as very genuine, honest and not done by anyone but himself. Those are all good things. The fans want to believe that the person they’re interacting with the athlete and not a marketing team member. I would really use him as the guy other athletes would want to model their accounts after.

There was a hashtag George contributed to a while back where he posted something on Twitter that could’ve offended African-American women. Isn’t that a pitfall of that approach of appearing like he’s simply talking to his friends?

Well, yes. You’re not taking into consideration that as a professional athlete with a verified account, you have the attention of anyone who is a fan of your team, the organization and the news media. You need to have a full understanding that anything you say can and will be used against you, if you don’t say the right thing. One of the things that I like to talk to athletes about is that they shouldn’t use this as a mode of communication between friends but as a megaphone. Depending on how you look at it, every word is dissected and you can rarely convey context in 140 characters, so the things you say may be innocuous to the people who know what you are talking about. However, they may not be taken in the same context when other people read it.

George is now in offseason mode. What’s your prospective on athletes in the offseason?

It’s not only the responsibility of George, but of his management team, to decide how he wants this time period to go now that he has elevated himself to the ranks of a marquee player in the league. This means making sure he’s thinking clearly and it’s all advantageous to his potential income through endorsement. Some of the things that he posts, like the photos of himself fishing with teammates or a friend, are awesome. In a small market like Indianapolis, it kind of helps him relate with Pacers fans living in the area who like to do those things as well. It gives him a great opportunity to be approached by companies who wouldn’t normally consider an NBA player as a representative for the brand. If I were Bass Pro Shops, I would be all over him. As long as he has the persona out there, I think it would be great for him.

Are you reading this Bass Pro Shops?! Anyway, what is your stance on athletes posting pictures on sites like Instagram?

Another rule I have is, if your mother wouldn’t approve of it, you probably shouldn’t post it. If you can run it by your mom or grandmother and it’s fine, then you probably won’t have an issue. Another thing I would recommend is not using Twitter when you go out partying or had a couple drinks. You just want to be careful with what you put out there because that’s your marketability. And, as you become more of a superstar, it becomes more of an issue with the media, the people who follow you and ultimately, your endorsements.