Tag Archives: Reputation

Slam Dunk Controversy

If you’ve been near a television, radio or basically any social media outlet over the last couple of days, you’ve heard about Donald Sterling and his less than appealing commentary. In short, Sterling made negative comments about his girlfriend being friends with “blacks” and said he did not want them at his games. Once the audio of his remarks were made public, Clippers players as well as the NBA were outraged. In response, the NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million dollars. Anyone else think Sterling is kicking himself right now?!

As PR people (note applicable to all human beings), this mess can serve as a teaching moment for several reasons. Numero uno: Nothing you say is private if your life is public, meaning if you live in the public eye, you are vulnerable to have whatever you say and do examined by the world. In Sterling’s case, the comments he made were said in private but clearly it didn’t make a difference. It’s important to make our clients aware of this and make sure they know what they can and cannot say in various situations.

donald sterlingPoint number two: Trust no one. Now, this is a hard sell because you need people in your life to talk to. But for those in the public eye, it’s important for them to realize not everyone should know every detail of their lives. There are bad people out there who just want to get close to someone for the story or the almighty dollar. Public figures and celebrities need to keep this in the back of their minds.

No one is denying that what Sterling said was completely wrong. He should be held accountable for his actions regardless of where or when he made these comments. One could argue, though, that more severe acts have been committed with minimal consequences. For example, Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles made racist comments at a concert. He was fined as a result of his actions but is still an active player within the NFL. I understand each sport’s leadership is different but Sterling’s lifetime ban versus Cooper’s fine makes me wonder. Other athletes, say Michael Vick for example, have gotten away with far worse too.

The bottom line is people, public figures or otherwise, need to be held accountable for their actions. PR people need to aid their clients in being responsible for their words and actions. Donald Sterling’s situation is unfortunate but can be used as a lesson for all of us.

Paula’s Past Shapes Her Future

Language and communication impact our lives every day, in both positive and negative ways. The words we use shape our personal brand as well as our relationships. There is no better example this statement then Paula Deen. Within the last month, Deen has gone from Food Network icon to a racist tyrant who demeans her employees. How did this star fall from grace so quickly?

It started when Deen told a prosecutor that she had used the “N” word before. Since she was under oath, one would assume that she was telling the truth. The firestorm then began, with people researching exactly when Deen used the derogatory term throughout her lifetime. A couple of suspected instances from her past came up and quickly she was labeled as a racist. Endorsements disappeared and The Food Network cancelled her show, despite her pleading video apologies to fans and a tearful appearance on The Today Show. Paula Deen’s career as she knows it, is over.

No one should use derogatory terms, regardless of their status as a celebrity or otherwise. Paula Deen is no exception to this statement. However, it appears that this woman’s past is being brought up and her entire reputation is being dragged through the mud. The word she used sounds like it is being taken out of context. Now, let me make this clear: I am not condoning her use of the word or using the word at all. But, in the situation she was in, being held at gunpoint, could anyone blame her for using the word?

We all can sit and speculate if Paula Deen has used the “N” word or other offensive terms in her lifetime. But, she told the truth on the stand that day. She deserves some credit for that. Now, her entire career and life have completed changed, for one alleged mistake that happened 30 years ago. If your life was examined, would you be proud of every word choice you’ve made?

Regardless of what Paula Deen has said or done, the bottom line is your past can come back to haunt you. As a young adult, the actions I take today can and will affect me tomorrow. That is the lesson we all should learn from Paula Deen’s current situation. The words and language we use to communicate whether professionally or in joking around will be judged by others. Words you find inoffensive can potentially bother someone else. If using such a word is questionable in your mind, then just don’t say it.

Unfortunately, Paula Deen learned this lesson the hard way. But, for the rest of us, it is a shining example of how the way we choice to communicate can impact us in the future. Below is Deen’s interview from The Today Show. Do you think she is telling the truth?

The Dangers of Social Media

Social media can be an effective tool for most people. In the field of public relations, social media has become wildly popular with full job positions dedicated to planning and executing a social media strategy. While most of the known world has jumped on the social media bandwagon, if not used properly, it can ruin a person or brand.

Depending on the level of fame, celebrities can run their own Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. accounts. On one hand, it makes their communications more personal; people feel connected with the individual, not just their Twitter feed. Cory Booker runs a successful, personal Twitter account and really converses with people. To find out more about how he does this, check out my post here.

social_media_collage_3

In some situations, celebrities running their own social media accounts becomes a PR nightmare. By the way, I define celebrity on Twitter by having the blue check mark next to your name. Take Manti Te’o for example. Here is a young man with a world of possibilities ahead of him. Yet, because of an alleged phantom girlfriend and her fake presence on Twitter, his reputation is tarnished. His assumed girlfriend’s Twitter name changed several times and it appeared that most of their communications were through social media. What a very public forum for a very private part of someone’s life. It’s true, all parties involved should have known better than to publicize personal details on social media. But, if everyone wasn’t so obsessed with this medium, would any of this have happened? It is almost required for college and professional athletes to have a Twitter or Facebook account. That pressure from fans could cloud someone’s judgement.

ob twitter feedTwitter blew up yesterday during the inauguration. There were specific accounts filled with inauguration information and live feeds of coverage. One account even tweeted the majority of President Obama’s speech in case someone missed it. Yet, with all of the positive information streaming live yesterday, a reporter made a comment that President Obama was tweeting during church. A tweet was sent from his personal account @BarackObama while the first family was attending church. Now this is where people need to use some common sense. Do we all really think the President runs his own account?! I’m sure he approves the content and might send a tweet or two. But in reality, he’s paying some lucky individual to manage his account. So his Blackberry was absolutely not out during church yesterday. Michelle would have known of that.

Social media comes with a certain level of gray area. No one can be 100 percent certain where tweets are coming from or who is actually tweeting. For PR professionals, it is essential that client social media accounts be monitored diligently. Regardless of who is managing the account, the PR team or the person, everyone should proceed with caution. One wrong tweet, post or picture could damage a reputation forever.

The Jokes on General Petraeus

If you’ve turned on any news station within the last week, you’ve heard of the General Petraeus scandal. General David Petraeus, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq resigned as the CIA director due to a pending FBI investigation. The investigation started because of email messages stating the General Petraeus was having an extramarital affair with his biographer. The General confessed to the affair but still testified in Congress about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya on September 11. Additionally, esteemed General John Allen is also under investigation for sending inappropriate messages to another woman. Thanks to this investigation, General Allen’s nomination for NATO’s supreme allied chief has been put on hold by the Obama administration

General David Petraeus.

This is not the first time powerful, political figures were involved in scandals. However, both Generals are known for their moral character and giving speeches about integrity and honesty. With the new information about both, people will begin to question their reputations and legacies. While I do not condone any kind of infidelity, I wonder how public a political figure’s life needs to be. Granted, this person chose to be in a position of power that came with fame and media attention. Because of this, every move this person makes is viewed under a microscope. More than likely, people in the spotlight do not think through the consequences of their actions before participating in less than desirable activities. I do believe that is what happened to both General Petraeus and General Allen. Perhaps they forgot that their private lives can be made public very quickly.

The question now is what to do next. From a public relations or crisis communications standpoint, both Generals need to sincerely apologize to the public and admit their wrongdoings. They need to concentrate on spending time with their families and going through the healing process. Any statements sent to the media must focus on regaining the trust of people and recovering with their families. Humans are not perfect and they do make mistakes. Generals are not exempted from these mistakes.

General John Allen

Infidelity is a problem that plagues society today. The scandals involving General Petraeus and General Allen can serve as teaching moments for all Americans especially the younger generation. Cheating is wrong and if the CIA Director can get caught, so can any average American. While it’s true people do make mistakes, everyone must strive to protect their marriage vows. These political leaders and others in the spotlight are examples of what not to do. We shall see if these generals can recover and continue their careers in Washington.

The Fate of Lance Armstrong

Last week, I wrote a post about the Lance Armstrong scandal and how the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life. Within the last week, things have gone from bad to considerably worse for Armstrong.

The International Cycling Union has ruled in favor of the USADA’s findings, officially stripping Armstrong of his titles and banning him from the sport for life. In addition to Nike, both Anheuser Busch and RadioShack have dropped their sponsorship to Armstrong. The athlete changed his Twitter biography, removing information about winning his Tour de France titles. His Livestrong charity is still doing remarkably well, though the website still contains information about Armstrong winning the titles. Donations to the Livestrong Foundation have increased in recent weeks despite Armstrong’s personal struggles. However, this could be due to the organization celebrating its 15th anniversary. There are some who want their donations back, saying Armstrong scammed the organization and is a disgrace.

Without cycling and Livestrong, what is left for Lance Armstrong? His personal brand was built around his career as an exceptional athlete, cancer survivor and philanthropist. His cycling career is now forever tarnished and he no longer runs his charity. Of course, he still beat cancer and can focus on aspects of his personal life, like raising his children. But in terms of his professional career, it seems like Armstrong caused irreversible damage to his brand.

One other big question remains: Will Armstrong ever admit to doping? As of right now, Armstrong strongly denies using any illegal substances. While some Armstrong supporters will always stand by him, the general public cannot refute 1,000 pages of evidence. If Armstrong admits to the findings and apologizes, will his brand recover? An apology would be a great start but Armstrong must rebuild the trust he once had with his fans, other athletes and supporters of his charity.

What do you think about Armstrong’s personal brand? Can he recover? Share your thoughts with me!

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