Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lie Strong: Can Lance Armstrong Save His Tarnished Brand?

The news of Lance Armstrong’s admission to using performance-enhancing drugs spread like wildfire today. Not only was it the top story on CNN, Armstrong was trending like crazy on the social networks with people sharing their opinion on the news. 

There is no doubt that Lance Armstrong is an amazing person. To battle testicular cancer and not only live to tell, but go on to become a professional cycling champion and raise millions for cancer research is no small task.  However, he not only broke the rules by taking performance enhancing drugs, he spent years lying about it.

So, can the general public overlook this and will Lance Armstrong rise again? My guess is yes, he will, just as some of the other famous public figures that have made unwise decisions in the past.

Armstrong’s story is a lesson in Crisis Communications 101.  The most fundamental rule is to be honest and not to cover up any details. The bottom line is that the truth will come out eventually and your reputation will suffer less damage if you are up front about the situation.   It is quite simple, admit fault, apologize, and explain what you will do to make up for any wrongdoing, and the sooner better.

We’ve seen so many other celebrities and public figures fall from grace by their actions. Despite the fact that we all see what happens when people try to cover things up, we are all human and don’t want to expose our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  Bill Clinton is a prime example. At first he denied any type of relationship with Monica Lewinsky and then once more evidence was disclosed, he later admitted that he did have inappropriate relations with her. Martha Stewart initially denied being involved in insider trading, only to admit it later and serve jail time.

As time passes, we seem to be more forgiving of these people. While these celebrities have managed to do a good deal of damage control, their images will remain tarnished forever.  No matter how great their contributions to our society and how, over time, people seem to forget, their past will always be there to haunt them.

Many are saying that Armstrong’s contributions to fighting cancer are his legacy and you can’t deny that he has not only raised awareness, but also millions of dollars to help this cause.  It will take time for him to rebuild his brand and gain the public's trust again, but in the end, I believe Armstrong will come out ahead.