Armstrong’s Brand at the Finish Line

 Armstrongs Brand at the Finish Line

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong

So, Lance Armstrong doesn’t have nine lives after all. The US Anti-Doping Agency report released last week implicates Armstrong yet again in using banned substances. Previously, he’s denied everything; recently, he gave up all seven of his Tour de France medals, and yesterday, Armstrong announced that he would stand down as Chairman of his Livestrong cancer charity. Yet the rumbles continue.

With a net worth estimated at $125 million, Armstrong is one of the world’s best-paid athletes, pulling in over $15 million in endorsements a year. Despite years of allegations, his sponsors stuck with him. His agent recently told the media that Armstong’s primary sponsors have been “incredibly supportive,” with Nike confirming its endorsement, given that Armstrong had been “unwavering” regarding his innocence.

That all changed yesterday. Less than a week after pledging support, Nike has had a volte face. “Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” said a spokesperson. Anheuser-Busch, another sponsor, immediately fell into line, as have others, including RadioShack, Trek bicycles, and Oakley sunglasses. Nothing can change the direction in which this train is headed.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong; with each sponsor that  falls away, the USADA report gains in credibility. Is there a Plan B?

The PR Takeaway: When one domino falls, they ALL do. Having to hand back his awards and stand down from his charity as Chairman, Armstrong is hoping to avoid the complete collapse of the Armstrong brand. Now that his sponsorship deals are null and void, he may want to think about a radical rethink and complete change of his legal strategy and start afresh from there. Next step: start studying how fallen heroes rehabilitate their reputations. Livestrong may hold the key to his ultimate PR salvation. What Lance Armstrong now needs most urgently is time out of the public spotlight to regroup and think what a new legal and PR strategy might bring him.

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Is there any way Lance Armstrong can save his reputation? Give us your PR Verdict!

Abercrombie & Fitch Caught With Their PR Pants Down

 Abercrombie & Fitch Caught With Their PR Pants Down

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Abercrombie & Fitch, the sexually provocative clothier for mainstream America, is in trouble again. While this time it’s not a class action lawsuit by minority employees (as happened in 2004), the current problem could unravel in ugly ways.

While working at an A&F store last year, Benjamine Bowers alleges in a legal filing that the company referred him to a modeling agent. According to the complaint, Bowers was flown to Mississippi for a photo shoot, where the agent allegedly said his photos needed a more “relaxed” look. Any suggestions? Why not masturbate in front of the camera, so the photo captures your expression immediately after orgasm? Oh, and could you do the whole thing naked, please?

The employee obligiged but is now suing the modeling agent and A&F for $1 million in damages. No comment so far from the agent or the retailer despite some embarrassing headlines. Bowers claims he was used and that the photos were never intended to help his career. Instead, he claims it only served to give the modeling agent a “cheap thrill.”

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Abercrombie & Fitch. When a public company hits the headlines, the PR needs to move fast. What happened here?

PR Takeaway: Distance the firm from the allegation, faster than you can unbutton a polo shirt. Clarify that the allegation concerns a third party contractor and that A&F’s own investigation has begun. Reiterate that the allegation reflects behavior that is clearly unacceptable and that the agent’s contract has been suspended pending investigation. Remind the media that employees and contractors are expected to adhere to a code of conduct (if there is one). Above all, move quickly before consumer groups, religious groups, activist shareholders, and the dreaded class action lawyers swarm for their piece of action. And keep your boxer shorts on at all times.

To read more click here.

Can A&F get past these latest allegations without a smear campaign? Give us your PR Verdict in Speak Your Mind, below.

 

Getting Naked with John Travolta

johntravolta Getting Naked with John Travolta

The PR Verdict: “B” for Travolta who was quick with a robust and unequivocal denial.

What else is there to know about John Travolta and his genitals?  According to a thrillingly prurient and detailed lawsuit filed by an unnamed masseur at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the public now knows more than it ever expected.  After recovering from allegedly being groped by the iconic star, the distressed masseur is now suing Travolta for damages.

Seeking $2 million (what might have been claimed if they went all the way?) the masseur’s filing (his name has been withheld) gives a minute-by-minute retelling.  He claims Travolta’s erect penis is approximately 8 inches in length and his pubic hair is “wirey (sic) and unkempt.”  Travolta, on being rebuffed, yelled “Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect favors in return for sexual activity.”   Undoubtedly an odd response… but bring on the headlines!  They’re guaranteed!

Team Travolta responded with indignation and anger. “Untrue!”  and “False!”   None of the events claimed ever occurred, said his rep.  Besides, Travolta wasn’t in LA at the time of the alleged incident.   The rep said they would fight it and once thrown out, cross sue the masseur for malicious prosecution.   But hold on!  Now a second masseur has come out and joined the Californian lawsuit, claiming Travolta made similar moves at a hotel room in Atlanta.

The PR Verdict: “B” for team Travolta who were quick off the mark with a robust and unequivocal denial. Credibility is going to be strained though if additional complainants join the lawsuit.

PR Takeaway:  As complicating facts emerge it becomes tougher to stick with flat out denials and indignation.   Why not feign indifference?  What a frivolous and cynical lawsuit!  We have handed it to our lawyers.  Point out that Travolta wasn’t even there on the night in question while conceding agreement on three points: the masseur is suing for $2 million in damages, he never approached the police and he filed his opportunistic complaint anonymously.  Next question?

To read more click here

Who would you place money on? Team Travolta or the Masseur.

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Wal-Mart, Anything You Would Like to Say?

walmart Wal Mart, Anything You Would Like to Say?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Wal-Mart and an elegant way to decline comment.

Big trouble ahead for retailer Wal-Mart.  The firm is reeling from Sunday’s NYTimes which claimed that as far back as 2005, Wal-Mart’s big wigs learned of allegations of widespread bribery of government officials in Mexico by its own peeps but did nothing about it.

At heart is an allegation that the internal review conducted by Wal-Mart at the time was a whitewash.  Allegedly conducted by some of the very same people who stood accused of paying up to $25 million in bribes, the NYTimes suggests the firm not only failed to investigate the matter properly but also failed to notify the relevant authorities.  In so doing the firm and its management are now potentially exposed to seriously punitive penalties.

What to say to the NYTimes?  Priority one in a case like this is to buy time and establish distance between what is alleged and where the company is now.  Wal-Mart’s besieged PR commented, “If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.  We are deeply concerned by the allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened.”

The PR Verdict: “A” for Wal-Mart’s response,  an elegant way to decline comment.  As an immediate PR response it established the allegations are unclear, circumstances vague and not what the firm is about.

PR Takeaway:  When in doubt buy time and create distance from the allegation.  While a legal investigation and fallout could take years, the damage to the stock price, relations with regulators and overall reputation will start hurting immediately.  There is very little time.  Suspend or remove the implicated management from the day-to-day workings of the firm.  The faster Wal-Mart can say that was then, this is now, the better for its stockholders.  This is going to be a crisis communications strategy that will have to run and run.

To read the original article click here and to read more click here.

What’s your verdict on Wal-Marts’s response?

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