Reputation management in tough times

Is Lance getting any reputation management advice? If yes, he should fire the people giving it. And if no, maybe it’s time to invest some of those earned-with-EPO dollars with someone who can help him stop the bleed on his reputation. Why does Lance not understand that every time he opens his mouth, he is making things worse?

Normally I wouldn’t choose to write about Lance Armstrong. But a story in this morning’s Guardian compels me to because, from a communication perspective, his reputation management mess is fascinating.

Doing an interview with Le Monde the day before the Tour de France starts – the same Le Monde whose journalism Armstrong once described with the words “vulture” and “desperate” (read more here) –isn’t smart. I am open to hearing from anyone who can give me reasons otherwise, but it smacks of desperation and lack of strategic thinking.

And then there’s the messaging. No show of humility and contrition; just a call for, as William Fotheringham puts it in the Guardian, ‘a ”truth and reconciliation” process within cycling, the implication being that he wants his misdeeds to be put in the context of a sport where cheating was commonplace.” That’s right. Armstrong’s key message? He couldn’t have won if he hadn’t cheated. I don’t think it’s winning hearts and minds.

Armstrong wants the glory back too quickly; just like he wanted all those Tour wins. He’s still going about things all the wrong way.

What Lance needs is good marketing and self-promotion for his really bad reputation. And the reputation management advice I’m giving for free? Go away for a while, Lance, and keep your mouth shut. Stop trying to get your story out in the press – you come across as a snivelling whiner. Focus instead on your actions and build your reputation that way.

Five tips for managing your reputation in tough times

  1. Take responsibility: if Lance hadn’t been caught, he wouldn’t be ‘championing’ the doping in cycling issue. When you’re in reputation recovery mode, the first thing to do is acknowledge your part in the mess. A genuine show of humility can go a long way. You screwed up. Admit it.
  2. Check your ego: no one likes an arrogant screw-up. Actually, lots of people like one, but for all the wrong reasons. Combining an ego and an in-tatters reputation is fuel to the fire for anyone who wants to hurt you, or your business, more than you’ve already done.
  3. Remember, actions speak louder than words: it’s time to stop talking and start doing. Do good deeds, wherever and whenever you can, for fun and for free.
  4. Stop seeking and expecting recognition: there was probably a time when what you did and thought mattered. Not so much anymore. Instead of demanding recognition because of who you used to be, focus on earning it back, slowly.
  5. Have no expectations: maybe your reputation won’t ever recover but, the chances are it will, if you develop a realistic strategy for doing so. Genuine humility and changes in behaviour and attitude can really pay off. The key word there is genuine.

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