Lance Armstrong’s PR Strategy

Lance Armstrong is expected to confess to Oprah Winfrey this week that he did, in fact, take performance-enhancing drugs for at least 15 years, including while winning seven Tour de France titles.

Sadly, observers and commentators already are painting Armstrong’s mea culpa as a public relations ploy. Even more sadly, they’re probably right.

New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica noted that “Lance once again thinks he is in control of this narrative. It’s not like he’s going to reveal any secrets here.”

I can hear the public relations consultants now: “Just spill your guts, Lance. Cry if you have to. Talk about how sorry you are and admit that you disgraced yourself and the sport. Say how sorry you are for dragging your critics through the mud. Then, sit back and wait because your fans and the sport will forgive you.”

That’s a pretty standard public relations strategy when your client is an egotistical, lying cheater. But it’s a terrible strategy if you’re a self-respecting public relations professional who has even a sliver of conscience.

It could be that the strategy will work. It has worked before. Bill Clinton, anybody? Charlie Sheen? Mel Gibson?

There are a few idealists around who still believe personal integrity, honor and professionalism are more important than money. We would advise our client in this situation to confess if you want to, but then get ready to pay your dues. Take the whipping like a man. Accept what’s coming to you, and do it with true humility. Right the wrongs without regard to what it might do to your brand. Don’t expect redemption. Just do it because it’s the right thing to do.

But it seems those idealists aren’t retained for very long.


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