When it comes to bad publicity, especially when it involves someone who’s a household name like Lance Armstrong, the news spreads fast. The internet means that everybody gets to have an opinion – and they have a forum on which to express it.
After years of denial, Armstrong finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to Oprah Winfrey. The interview has evoked criticism and comment from far and wide. And most of it bad.
So what does a brand do when it’s the subject of bad publicity? The larger brands – and celebrities fall into this category – usually employ people who specialise in reputation management.
However, sometimes a PR company or image consultant aren’t enough to turn around a damaged reputation. And that’s where Oprah comes into the picture.
To be forgiven by Oprah is to be forgiven by the world. But in order to get her forgiveness – and it’s not guaranteed – you have to bare your all in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world. Not for the faint of heart.
The question is, was Armstrong in fact looking for redemption when he did the Oprah interview? Or was he just hoping for a diminished ban so he can earn a living racing in triathlons? And does he deserve either?
During the interview, which was aired in two parts, he spoke about his career, allegations of cheating, and his future now that he’s been stripped of his Tour de France victories and other medals. He admitted to blood doping, human growth hormones, and other substances, and says he did so during all seven of his Tour de France victories.
Where to from here?
While Armstrong’s admissions have been devastating to his brand, any business can find itself on the receiving end of bad publicity and negative comment. It’s how you manage this that influences your brand’s reputation going forward.
Reputation management is the practice of monitoring the reputation of an individual or brand. It can be used to build or maintain a brand’s reputation. In the case of Lance Armstrong, it’s all about recovering that reputation.
The cyclist has been universally condemned. He has damaged his reputation, his cancer foundation and his career. It remains to be seen what his next step will be in rebuilding his once stellar reputation.