Sinking Fast: The Ryan Lochte Rio Drama Has Widespread Brand Repercussions

Linda Popky on Business Success in ’16: Will The Force Be With You?By Linda J. Popky, Founder, Leverage2Market Associates

It was exactly what we had been warned to expect from the Rio Olympics: A group of American star athletes mugged at gunpoint by thugs impersonating Brazilian police officers.

It sounded horrible. And it was—but not for the reasons we originally thought. It’s become apparent that not only had this mugging not happened to American swimmer Ryan Lochte and three fellow swimmers, but that the group itself had vandalized a gas station and concocted the story to cover up their misdeeds.

It’s now apparent that Lochte lied at the time of the incident, he lied in an interview with NBC afterwards, and he may still be lying about what happened. As a result, he now faces criminal charges in Brazil. The US Olympic Committee (USOC), which had initially backed the swimmers, was left with egg on its face, and Americans in general are significantly embarrassed by this charade.

Can the Lochte brand be saved? After all, we’ve seen all kinds of celebrities act badly and recover.

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

It’s unlikely the Lochte brand will become buoyant anytime soon. Here’s why.

  • This happened on an international stage—in front of a huge global audience for one of the world’s most highly touted and largest-watched sporting events.
  • It sucker-punched the host country. Security issues in Rio were of paramount concern throughout the Games. Lochte’s story hit at the heart of the issue and attempted to implicate the Brazilian authorities in nefarious conduct.
  • Lochte took the coward’s way out. Realizing he was in hot water, Lochte left Brazil quickly, leaving his fellow compatriots Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, and James Feigen to explain themselves to the Brazilian authorities. Huh?
  • At every opportunity, he dug himself in deeper. Lochte’s apologies seem staged and shallow. His latest comments indicated he was still drunk when speaking to NBC afterwards. This does nothing engender compassion or empathy about what happened, and it raises issues about how remorseful he really is.
  • The real Olympic stars upstaged Lochte’s performance. From the record setting medal performances of swimmer Michael Phelps to the incredible gymnastic feats of Simone Biles and the outstanding performances of Simone Manuel, the US has plenty of real heroes to celebrate. Lochte has the misfortune to be the second best American swimmer in the era of Michael Phelps. Phelps has made mistakes, but none that embarrass his country in this kind of way.
  • Sponsors are racing to get out of the pool. Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Airweave, and Gentle Hair Removal all quickly moved to drop Lochte from their ranks. Pine Brothers cough drops jumped on the opportunity to connect Lochte with a “forgiveness” theme, but that’s small consolation. Pine Brothers who?

What happens next? The USOC should be in damage control mode. They need to make perfectly clear that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form from American athletes. Period. Hope Solo was suspended from the US women’s soccer team for comments made after her team’s loss early in the competition—yet she didn’t fabricate a false attack. Lochte should be suspended and fined, and perhaps even banned from competition. His fellow musketeers should be fined and strongly reprimanded at a minimum.

What happens next is critical. The world is waiting and watching. Let’s make sure we cross the finish line and regain our reputation and credibility.

About the Author:  Linda J. Popky, founder of Leverage2Market Associates, is an award-winning Silicon Valley-based strategic marketing expert who is the author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters. Follow her on Twitter at @popky #mktgabove. 

 

 




Ryan Lochte’s Next Stop – A Reputation-Reclamation Tour?

By Ray Hennessey, Chief Innovation Officer, JConnelly

If Ryan Lochte regains his reputation, he has the Real Housewives to thank.

Time was that filing a false police report about being robbed at gunpoint to cover up your boorish behavior in the foreign country hosting the Olympics was a career-killer. Indeed, Ryan Lochte has already lost several sponsorships as a result of the controversy, as brands like Speedo and Ralph Lauren have wisely distanced themselves from the swimmer’s bad behavior. Lochte bungled the crisis response, with inconsistencies and half-hearted apologies. He is not a sympathetic figure.

That’s the opportunity.

Truth is, Ryan Lochte was never a sympathetic figure. Despite tremendous talent, he was always in the shadow of his home-country rival Michael Phelps, who just happens to be the most decorated Olympian in history. That turned Lochte into swimming’s version of the Washington Generals, consistently losing to the Harlem Globetrotters as the crowds roared with delight.

Rather than brood over being born at the wrong time, Lochte acted out – and to great success. With his bleached hair and Playboy-model girlfriend, he assumed the role of swimming’s bad boy. He exuded an attitude problem. He couldn’t compete with Phelps in the pool, nor could he win over the public’s love, so he became the convenient villain, a J.R. Ewing that fans loved because he was so tough to love. The public appreciates a villain, even roots for one from time to time, and Lochte made being bad look good.

Ryan Lochte - Sink or Swim

(Photo Source: Twitter)

That’s precisely why, rather than a drawn-out reputation-reclamation tour, he might just want to double down on his bad-boy image. In reality, there wasn’t much shock and horror at the news that Lochte may have just caused an international incident by lying about police robbing him. There was almost a grudging acceptance that when you put a guy like Ryan Lochte in the streets of Rio in the darkest hours before dawn, something bad is going to happen. After all, it wasn’t like this was Aly Raisman or anything.

Lochte, despite all the furor, has the chance to be the handsomest ugly American in history. The American public would appreciate that. Just look at the popularity of reality television. From the Real Housewives to the Kardashians to The Bachelor, television audiences crave – nay, demand – their villains. Even the granddaddy of reality, Survivor, rewards characters not because of their physical ability to overcome obstacles, but their mental capacity to undercut their fellow man. The worse the behavior, the greater the love. It’s why Tanya Harding is on television today in TruTV’s “World’s Dumbest…” series, while fellow Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, whose career Harding infamously sabotaged in a vicious beating at the 1994 Winter Games, has drifted into relative obscurity.

That’s what makes a conversation about Lochte’s reputation response unique: He is not trying to regain a choir-boy image. He never had one to begin with. Rather, he needs to only convince the world that his bad behavior doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal act. Lochte’s whole public persona radiates mischief and devilment. His only real brand risk is if he’s viewed as a violent criminal. Even the criticism that he’s a liar isn’t a career-killer. Just look at the presidential campaign trail.

But what about all those lucrative sponsorships? They were going away anyway. Take a look at the history of Wheaties boxes and you’ll find a steady stream of athletes who captured their moment then faded to black. Lochte’s career in the pool was over anyway. It was only a matter of time before sponsors looked for the next big thing. Lochte was going to need a second act, one that wouldn’t be characterized by time in Phelps’ shadow.

That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if his phone isn’t buzzing with offers to embrace the role he seems to embody so well. He is a reality television dream casting: handsome, fit, and famous, with just the right amount of wrong. In short, he is already a character. He can parlay that into a very lucrative personal brand, with speaking opportunities, a book, and branded product lines in areas like spirits. There’s money in that approach, and a great deal of continued notoriety. Lochte would be wise to dive right in.

About the Author: Ray Hennessey is Chief Innovation Officer at JConnelly, an integrated communications firm in New York. An accomplished journalist and business leader, Ray develops new approaches to communication, content, reputation and storytelling for JConnelly and its clients. With more than 25 years of media and management experience, Ray has spent his career at the convergence of traditional and emerging media. Most recently, he served as Editorial Director for Entrepreneur, where he helped launch the Entrepreneur360 and Top Company Culture franchises, as well as the Entrepreneur Network video channel. Previously, Ray helped launch the FOX Business Network, where he served as founding Business News Director. Earlier in his career, he was editor at SmartMoney.com and Dow Jones, a daily on-air contributor at CNBC and the IPO columnist at The Wall Street Journal. 




Ryan Lochte: What Was He Thinking?

His Brand Is Shot

Andy-Blum-headshotBy Andrew Blum

What was he thinking? U.S. Olympic swimmer and 12-time gold medalist Ryan Lochte may have destroyed his swimming career and his brand all in one shot. By pulling a Brian Williams in making up the story that he was robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics, Lochte lost his credibility, hurt the three teammates he was out with that night, hurt the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S., and after he weakly apologized, lost $1 million worth of sponsor deals.

Sponsors these days want squeaky-clean celebrities as their spokespeople – one infraction or even a bad flood of social media can hurt a brand, and a celebrity spokesperson. And presto they’re gone.

This is not surprising as even tennis pro Maria Sharapova – who went public with an inadvertent violation of tennis drug rules – lost sponsors. She was upfront with the media and is now appealing a suspension.

Lochte hemmed and hawed for a few days and flew home while the brouhaha exploded in Brazil. Coming up it will get worse as it almost certain the USOC will discipline Lochte and his three teammates. His career and his brand are shot in the short term. Who would hire Lochte now, and who would want him representing the U.S. at this point?

Some questions: why didn’t the USOC have security with a high-profile athlete out on the town in a city with known dangers? Why didn’t Lochte have personal security with him? And how could he weave his tale without anyone asking him, “Ok, if you were robbed at gunpoint, did they take your wallet and cell phone?”  The story smelled from the beginning.

So, now do we have a new standard to think of next time we send athletes to an international event?

Do we have to shelter a team or an individual like the U.S. did in putting the U.S. Olympic basketball team’s sleeping quarters on a cruise ship away from it all during their gold medal run?

Or should a star like Lochte be a grown up and behave like it? Yes, we do forgive celebs in this society after we put them on a pedestal and then knock them down or see them take themselves down.

Think here of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, maybe Sharapova if she wins her appeal, Brian Williams, and fellow U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. He, after all, wound up with drug and DUI problems and came back to win again and retake his brand in the process.

Time will tell for Lochte. For now, he is a PR case study and the answer to a trivia question with a Wikipedia page that has already been updated to reflect what he did in Brazil.

About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies, families and individuals, and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive PR crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at ajbcomms@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms 

 




Ryan Lochte – A Long and Arduous Road to Redemption

Ray_CasasBy Ray Casas, President, Wragg & Casas Strategic Communications

Ryan Lochte has a chance at redemption – Americans love to forgive their fallen heroes.  But he’s made it much harder by his repeated lies and by leaving his teammates behind to fend for themselves.

The Lochte fiasco proves once again that in the public’s eye, the cover-up often is worse than the crime. To their credit, the sponsors who dropped him did so only after he lied a second time about the gas station incident and video evidence of the facts surfaced.

A celebratory drunken night out on the town after two weeks of intense pressure to excel at the pinnacle of sports competition?  Not good, but (wink, wink) boys will be boys.  The robbery at gunpoint explanation?  A terrible mistake, but one that a quick mea culpa with an offer of restitution might have overcome.

But when Lochte came back to the U.S. without his teammates and continued to insist on the robbery fiction as the facts were coming to light, he made the sponsors’ decisions all but automatic.  It’s one thing to be a victim even of your own medal-fueled hubris.  It’s altogether different to fly away to safety while others can face criminal charges in a situation made graver by your attempt at a self-serving explanation.

Ryan Lochte – A Long and Arduous Road to Redemption

(Photo Source: Twitter)

Now what?

Speedo, Ralph Lauren and Syneron-Candela have rightly positioned themselves on the side of truth, honor and the American Way, and they can’t back off from those positions anytime soon.

So Lochte must now begin the arduous, thankless task of rehabilitating his image.  Years of charity work.  Children’s causes. When the time is right, a published “What I’ve Learned” piece accompanied by public humility.  And practice, practice, practice.  Winning, winning, winning.

If he remains an international champion, and after a suitable time has passed, his sponsors, or their competitors, will judge that the positives outweigh the negatives.

He’ll pick up endorsements once again.  But they will keep him on a very tight leash.

 

 

 

About the Author: Ray Casas, president of Wragg & Casas Strategic Communications has managed communications services for multi-national companies, large real estate developers, banks, food companies, attorneys and other professional firms and hospitals for more than 30 years. Casas’ areas of expertise include strategic planning, issues management and crisis counseling. 




Guilt by Association: Sponsors Are Trying to Cut Losses by Cutting Ryan Lochte

Olympic Swimmer is PR Poison After Confession Gaffes

Scott SobelBy Scott Sobel, Senior Strategy and Communications Executive, kglobal

Keeping a crisis from metastasizing into a disaster is the goal of reputation managers. Ryan Lochte and his sponsors were out of luck the second he opened his mouth and tried to answer initial and then follow-up questions that involved any sophistication.

I really don’t intend to be mean spirited but the swimmer is great at putting one arm in front of the other, breathing when his head turns out of the water and kicking. He is not great at putting one thought and sentence together. He is not Solomon when it comes to judgment and ad-libbing and he never should have been served up again to NBC News’ Matt Lauer, who also dropped the ball during the initial interview and was out for blood, like a shark in the water, during the last “get.” Not so tough a get since NBC and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) were in bed with one another for this cycle. In the case of the Lochte disaster, being in bed figuratively also meant bad sex.

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

You can’t blame sponsors swimming away from Lochte in a frenzied sprint. His advisors who took a one-size-fits-all approach to crisis management handled him poorly. Of course, that’s easy for me to say since I don’t have insider knowledge here and there could be legal or other reasons for serving-up Lochte to the media to fillet like a lox. As mentioned, Lochte isn’t very sharp, bless him. He stumbled through the entire affair, answering the predictable, “what were you thinking” questions (we guess not too much) as apologies or faux apologies, during the last interviews.

It’s one thing for sponsors to grit their teeth and hope for the best when a celebrity or athlete just has to look the part and spout simple platitudes after a sporting event where the athlete displays courage, conditioning and a sparkling smile. It’s another thing for a sponsor to stick by a jock, who put the Olympics and their product’s reputation in jeopardy and had nothing endearing or believable to say.

From this point on, Lochte is forever a damaged brand; there is little or no redemption. His mistakes and lack of facility and sincerity have hit that indelible repetitive negative association tipping point. The collective hippocampus area of our brains that retrieves long-term memories has heard and seen Lochte mess-up on too many levels, too many times, to believe what he says next, or worse, to erase the images of what he said in the first place.  To rearrange the famous quote attributed to American founding father Alexander Hamilton, the masses now certainly associate Ryan Lochte with being an insufferable ass. What sponsor wants to take a chance on hitching a ride on the Lochte rollercoaster, which shows no sign of getting back on the rails?

This is also a case of not knowing whether Lochte was indeed sorry for what he did or just sorry for getting caught … one of the rare cases where advising a client to say, “I’m so sorry, no further comment,” would have been, in retrospect, a blessing.

About the Author: Scott Sobel is the Senior Strategy and Communication Executive scott.sobel@kglobal.com at the kglobal full-service public relations agency www.kglobal.com based in Washington, DC. He is a former award-winning major TV market and network level investigative journalist and for the last 20-years an in-house and public relations agency crisis communications advisor to Fortune level CEO’s, celebrities, politicians, iconic law firms and their clients, laws schools, universities, the largest churches and aviation manufacturers, along with many others. He also holds a Masters in Media and Communications Psychology. 




Ryan Lochte: Sink or Swim

steven.fink.featuredBy Steven Fink, President and CEO, Lexicon Communications Corp.

Ryan Lochte finally figured a way to get out from under Michael Phelps’ shadow. But jumping into the deep end of the pool while wearing a pair of concrete boots was not the best way to do it.

For those living under a rock for the past week or so, Lochte fabricated a bizarre and frightening tale of being robbed at gunpoint along with three other USA Olympic swimmers while they were stopped at a Rio gas station late at night. But within 24 hours, the story started to unravel and, in the end, it proved completely false. And the Brazilian government, the IOC, the USOC, and the U.S. Swimming federation were not amused. While Lochte got out of Brazil without being detained, two other swimmers were pulled off their home-bound plane the next day and hauled off to jail for some intense questioning; a third swimmer was forced to pay a $10,800 fine before he was released many hours later.

The current — emphasis on the word current — version has it that Lochte, et.al, after a night of hard partying and hard drinking, inflicted some minor damage/vandalism to the gas station bathroom. Specifically, Lochte apparently pulled a poster down from a wall. But why create the moronic lie in the first place? Three words:

Fear of loss.

Lochte earns money from his sponsors, notably Speedo and Ralph Lauren. If he were to lose his sponsorships, he’d be screwed. But, would a nuisance claim of vandalism ever rise to a DEFCON 3 level, or the attention of his sponsors? No, and Lochte should have known that.

So why lie? The “crime” wasn’t on anyone’s radar…until the lying started. The Brazilian authorities were a little sensitive about the initial allegation involving police officers being paid off, so they started to probe. And they made sure the probe became public when they suspected a fabricated tale.

Ryan Lochte - Sink or Swim

(Photo Source: Twitter)

Perhaps there is something else the boys are covering up, something more sinister. Hookers, maybe? Drugs?

I have no idea, but to create a frightening tale of being robbed with a “gun cocked and pointed at my forehead,” according to the first public version of Lochte’s story, raises more questions than it answers. This is not crisis management, it’s crisis causation.

In my most recent book, Crisis.Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message, in a chapter entitled “Telling The Truth,” I explain that “the single most important corollary to ‘tell the truth’ is ’a lie will be found out.’ Count on it. Telling the truth up front avoids explaining the cover-up down the road.”

And what exactly was that $10,800 fine for? That has all the earmarks of a payoff, but to whom? Who’s getting rich down there?

And now, US Swimming officials have promised a full investigation. We haven’t heard the end of this.

Sadly, Lochte’s stupidity (arrogance?) has tarnished what heretofore were stellar games for the United States, with a record number of gold medals. And perhaps has tarnished his relationships with his sponsors.

If there’s more to tell, Lochte should step up and speak out…before someone else does. A good story will always get out, with or without your help. I always advise my clients that it is always better to play offense rather than defense. Tell the story first, your way, before someone else tells it their way.

Lochte’s hiring of a PR firm will ultimately do him no good. Now, more than ever, he needs to be contrite and candid, not slick and packaged.

But right now, he’s all wet.

 

 About the Author: Steven Fink is President and CEO of Lexicon Communications Corp. (CrisisManagement.com), a leading crisis management firm, and the author of Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message and Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable. Follow him on The Crisis Blog and on Twitter @LexiconCorp. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Communications Experts Take A ‘Deep Dive’ into #RyanLochte & Reputation Management

By CommPRO Editorial Staff

Repairing the Lochte Brand - Three Things He Has Going for Him

(Photo Source: Twitter)

The Ryan Lochte situation dominated mainstream and social media channels  as part of the Olympics wrap-up. #RyanLochte is a classic example of crisis communications, which is a specialization within the public relations profession, which is utilized in responding to threats posed to the reputation of an individual, company or organization. An important component of effective crisis communication is quick response time and an ongoing management of key message points to the public and other stakeholders who, without being properly informed, could have a negative impact on the reputation of the individual, company or organization.

CommPRO reached out to our community seeking their analysis of this crisis communications and reputation management case study.  What’s next?  For Lochte, according to USA Today, he has signed on to appear on season 23 of the ABC reality show, “Dancing with the Stars.”

 

steven.fink.featuredRyan Lochte: Sink or Swim

By Steven Fink, President and CEO, Lexicon Communications Corp.

Ryan Lochte finally figured a way to get out from under Michael Phelps’ shadow. But jumping into the deep end of the pool while wearing a pair of concrete boots was not the best way to do it.    Continue reading…

 

 

Scott SobelGuilt by Association: Sponsors Are Trying to Cut Losses by Cutting Ryan Lochte

By Scott Sobel, Senior Strategy and Communications Executive, kglobal

Keeping a crisis from metastasizing into a disaster is the goal of reputation managers. Ryan Lochte and his sponsors were out of luck the second he opened his mouth and tried to answer initial and then follow-up questions that involved any sophistication.     Continue reading…

 

Ray_CasasRyan Lochte – A Long and Arduous Road to Redemption

By Ray Casas, President, Wragg & Casas Strategic Communications

Ryan Lochte has a chance at redemption – Americans love to forgive their fallen heroes.  But he’s made it much harder by his repeated lies and by leaving his teammates behind to fend for themselves.     Continue reading…

 

 

 Ryan Lochte’s Next Stop – A Reputation-Reclamation Tour? 

By Ray Hennessey, Chief Innovation Officer, JConnelly

If Ryan Lochte regains his reputation, he has the Real Housewives to thank. Time was that filing a false police report about being robbed at gunpoint to cover up your boorish behavior in the foreign country hosting the Olympics was a career-killer.      Continue reading…

 

Todd Murphy Vice President Universal Information Services news monitoring and PR measurementWould Gold Help Lochte Win the PR Game?

By Todd Murphy, Vice President, Universal Information Services

Stupid American

By now the world has learned that Ryan Lochte, US Olympic Swimmer, took great liberties with his story of being robbed in Rio. Our media measurement team has been analyzing the news mentions on a global level, and has one question to ask the media, “Would Lochte’s story have played differently if he had performed better at the Olympics?”     Continue reading…

 

 

Linda Popky on Business Success in ’16: Will The Force Be With You?Sinking Fast: The Ryan Lochte Rio Drama Has Widespread Brand Repercussions

By Linda J. Popky, Founder, Leverage2Market Associates

It was exactly what we had been warned to expect from the Rio Olympics: A group of American star athletes mugged at gunpoint by thugs impersonating Brazilian police officers.

It sounded horrible. And it was—but not for the reasons we originally thought. It’s become apparent that not only had this mugging not happened to American swimmer Ryan Lochte and three fellow swimmers, but that the group itself had vandalized a gas station and concocted the story to cover up their misdeeds.     Continue reading here…

 

heathRepairing the Lochte Brand: Three Things He Has Going for Him

By Heath Fradkoff, Principal & Founder, Ward 6 Marketing

Ryan Lochte’s actions in Rio were reprehensible and sponsors are dropping him accordingly. As a result of just a few minutes of bone-headedness, his ability to make a sustainable living from swimming may be in jeopardy.
However, he does have three things going for him that may allow him to save his personal brand:
  1. The American public loves a comeback story.
  2. His swimming successes indicate a dedicated work ethic.
  3. The Olympics, the biggest stage for US Swimming, comes around every four years.

Continue reading…

 

Andy-Blum-headshotRyan Lochte: What Was He Thinking?

By Andrew Blum

What was he thinking? U.S. Olympic swimmer and 12-time gold medalist Ryan Lochte may have destroyed his swimming career and his brand all in one shot. By pulling a Brian Williams in making up the story that he was robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics, Lochte lost his credibility, hurt the three teammates he was out with that night, hurt the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S., and after he weakly apologized, lost $1 million worth of sponsor deals.     Continue reading…




Repairing the Lochte Brand: Three Things He Has Going for Him

heathBy Heath Fradkoff, Principal & Founder, Ward 6 Marketing

Ryan Lochte’s actions in Rio were reprehensible and sponsors are dropping him accordingly. As a result of just a few minutes of bone-headedness, his ability to make a sustainable living from swimming may be in jeopardy.
However, he does have three things going for him that may allow him to save his personal brand:
  1. The American public loves a comeback story.
  2. His swimming successes indicate a dedicated work ethic.
  3. The Olympics, the biggest stage for US Swimming, comes around every four years.

Repairing the Lochte Brand - Three Things He Has Going for Him

(Photo Source: Twitter)

As with a good majority of public PR crises, the best thing Lochte can do is to show the public that he’s identified a problem and is working toward a solution. Now, he’s not a kid in his 20s, forgivable for “boys will be boys” offenses. He’s a grown man of 32 with real responsibilities toward his sponsors, team, and fans.

It will therefore take a grown-up approach. Lochte will need to gather a team around him to help him get to the root of his actions. He should seek counseling for emotional and/or drinking and drug related issues. He’ll want to surround himself with a tight circle of family and close friends to show he’s getting the right kind of support.

He should focus his efforts on facing those challenges, and then once he’s making progress, he should use his high-profile standing to help others and turn public attention to those issues. He should work with non-profit organizations and be a pro-bono spokesperson on related issues. He should also work with Brazil-focused charities as a way to apologize to the Olympic hosts.
His efforts will have to be honest and executed with real dedication. As a mentor once taught me, the very best PR messaging “has the added benefit of being true.” Given the dishonesty behind his actions, there’s no alternative in Lochte’s predicament.
Certainly, this will require quite a time investment from someone who is also required to spend countless hours in the pool and in training. But given the commitment and work ethic required to become an Olympic medalist, that dedication is likely within his ability.
Americans love stories of triumph over adversity. They admire change for the better. If Lochte can show change in a way that feels sincere and lasting, then fans will come back to support him, as will the sponsors. And with four years until the next summer Olympics, he has time to make a profound transformation.

About the Author: With more than 16 years of diverse communications and marketing experience, Heath Fradkoff is Founder & Principal for Ward 6 Marketing. Much of his work has been in technology and B2B practices, along with consumer media and product brands like PBS, Associated Press, About.com, Epicurious (Conde Nast), Hitachi and Mitsubishi. His written pieces on behalf of clients have appeared in Advertising Age, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch as well as numerous industry trade publications. 

 




Would Gold Help Lochte Win the PR Game?

Todd Murphy Vice President Universal Information Services news monitoring and PR measurementBy Todd Murphy, Vice President, Universal Information Services

Stupid American

Lochte loses sponsorsBy now the world has learned that Ryan Lochte, US Olympic Swimmer, took great liberties with his story of being robbed in Rio. Our media measurement team has been analyzing the news mentions on a global level, and has one question to ask the media, “Would Lochte’s story have played differently if he had performed better at the Olympics?”

Aside from his gold medal as one of four members on the US relay team for the 4x200m, Lochte failed to medal in any of his 2016 Olympic swimming events. Once he was finished competing, he and three other Olympic swimmers spent a night on the town celebrating something… maybe the fact that it was over. Their celebration, according to the third and final story that emerged from other sources, was that in a drunken stupor Lochte and his buddies trashed a bathroom at a Rio de Janeiro gas station.

Being stupid is one mistake many are guilty of. Taking a lie public is an entirely different issue. Lochte went on camera to seemingly bask in an additional 15 seconds of fame for something unrelated to his skills as a swimmer. Recounting a false story of being ordered on the ground by masked bandits, Lochte claimed they held a gun to his head with a clear threat. Well, not really. He even answered tweets, thanking supporters for their prayers and well-wishes.

Would the Glitter of Gold help?

2016 Olympic Gold Medal SwimmingWithout detailing the limitations of the Lochte lie, let’s fast forward to where Lochte skips town for the US while the Rio police try to resolve reality and fiction. As you know, the truth came out within 48 hours. Lochte and and his crew of swimmers had made up the story and tried to payoff the damage they caused with $50. Now Lochte has no individual 2016 gold, has created an international incident, and reinforced an image Americans have worked hard to overcome when travelling abroad. Would his image today be any different had he performed better in the pool?

Sports fans have a history of forgiving those who perform well. But generally that forgiveness comes only after truth, accountability, and an apology. I’m thinking of Alexander Rodriguez of the NY Yankees versus Pete Rose, Manager of the Cincinnati Reds. A-Rod finished his career after a whopper of a lie, Pete Rose is banned for life and will never see the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Lochte stands to lose around $6 million dollars as key sponsors like Ralph Lauren and Speedo consider the situation. When we measure PR, looking at the outcomes of media mentions is one metric we have to calculate the impact. I can assure you Ralph Lauren and Speedo are considering their measures carefully. But would have the glitter of gold medals helped Lochte?

It seems that the global media has already done their job. Using our public relations tools to check the media mentions, we can see that Lochte has won the competition to receive the most negative news coverage. We looked at the top ten names associated with the 2016 Olympics, between 8/12/2016 and 8/18/2016, and in addition to have the the greatest percentage of negative stories, Lochte also eclipsed all other Olympians in terms of total media coverage. In other words, he create the most news for a bad reason.

A sponsored athlete has to cultivate, maintain, and hopefully enhance their image. Engaging in actions that reduce the admiration the public has for a sponsored athlete is counter to what the sponsors want. We’ll continue to watch how this plays out for Ryan Lochte. But it is already written in stone that he has damaged the image of the U.S. citizen and potentially tarnished an otherwise outstanding performance from Team USA at the 2016 Olympics.

Media Monitoring Public Relations Tools

 




College Athletes Must Get in Condition for Commercialism

 

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of MindfulMarketing.org  

College students enjoy talking about ads, especially ones that feature top athletes like Tom Brady, Serena Williams, and Lebron James.  The NCAA’s momentous decision to allow college athletes to become paid spokespeople has leveled the promotional playing field, but are young, soon-to-be endorsers ready for the pressures they’ll face in a different kind of game?

In a landmark decision on June 30, the NCAA lifted its long-standing rules prohibiting organizations from paying student athletes to endorse their products.  Now athletes in all three divisions can profit by leasing their names, images, and likenesses (N.I.L.) to the highest, first, or only bidder.

The rationale behind the NCAA’s prior rulings was to preserve amateurism and the purity of competition, uncontaminated by commercialism.  The point of this piece is not to debate the pros and cons of paying student athletes, which many others have already done.  Instead, it’s past time to ask if these young people are prepared for the new opportunities and challenges that come with being paid endorsers.

Already, many of the same college athletes who had simply enjoyed watching professional spokespeople now find that they are professional spokespeople, but is paid promotion a game they’re ready to play?

The clock had barely turned midnight on June 30, when several college athletes began to monetize their new marketability.  The first was apparently Auburn University quarterback Bo Nix who signed a deal with Milo’s sweet tea at 12:02 am, July 1.  Two others who quickly followed suit were twin sisters Haley and Hanna Cavinder,  basketball players at Fresno State University, who inked an agreement with Boost Mobile.

For the Cavinders, the leap to professional endorsers should be a fairly smooth one.  They are business marketing majors, but even more, they are already social media stars with over 3 million followers on TikTok and about 4 million across all platforms.

However, for other newly minted marketers with less knowledge and experience, the transition will likely be more challenging.  Here are five things college athletes should understand in order to do well and good in their new commercial competition:1) Marketing:  One wouldn’t jump into a serious game of basketball, football, etc. without knowing the sport.  Similarly, one shouldn’t enter paid endorsement without understanding marketing.  Beyond an appreciation of the discipline as a whole (e.g., the four Ps), two concepts that every paid endorser should comprehend are target market and branding.

The sponsoring organization and its advertising agent should be aware of the target market they’re trying to reach in terms of its demographics, psychographics, and any other identifying criteria.  Endorsers should have the same understanding so they can make their own assessment of personality-audience fit and use that knowledge to tailor their communication.

Closely related, an endorser should have a clear picture of the unique identity, or brand, they’re building for themselves and the branding of the sponsoring company.  Although these personal and organizational brands will never be identical, they should be complementary.  For instance, individuals trying to build their brands as ‘sophisticated and exclusive,’ probably shouldn’t endorse brands that are seen as ‘low-budget and casual.’

2) Contracts:  Sponsorship deals are typically bound by contracts that specify the rights and duties of all parties, including those of the spokespeople.  As such, college athletes should understand basic contract terms like offer, acceptance, breach, indemnification, and exclusivity.  The last term is especially important in that contract terms might prohibit an athlete from signing sponsorship deals with other organizations, particularly competitors.

Another special provision often found in endorsement contacts is a character or morals clause, which “allows the sponsor either to suspend or terminate a sponsorship agreement in the event that the athlete, celebrity or other endorser violates the clause [because of] behavior that is criminal, that is scandalous, or that might tarnish the advertiser’s brand.”  Most people have better sense than Ryan Lochte showed after the 2016 Rio Olympics; still, it behooves every college athlete to understand that by signing an endorsement contract they become more accountable for their actions, including their social media posts, than they ever were  before.

3) Personal finance:  Although those who feel they don’t have enough money may disagree, research study results support the premise that more money can mean more problems, at least in terms of added stress.  A former NCAA athlete who now works in banking, believes that newly earned endorsement income can become a burden for college athletes who lack sufficient financial acumen and discipline.

A little over a year ago, Hunter Brindle was captain of Messiah University’s baseball team while he completed majors in economics and marketing.  Now an investment advisor, he expresses concern that college-age spokespeople may not manage their endorsement money wisely, leading to unsustainable spending habits they’ll regret later in life unless they are financially informed:

“When your housing, utilities, and meals are all covered by a scholarship, loan, or your parents in one large payment, you develop the mindset that every dollar that enters your bank account is there for spending. Therefore, I believe it will be very common to see many college athletes spending any endorsement dollars as fast as they are coming in without realizing the potential future benefit those dollars could provide when they are someday trying to figure out how to put a down payment on a house. Because of this, I believe it could be extremely beneficial for athletes to participate in some sort of financial counseling as they enter college where the reality of real-life expenses is laid out before them.”

4) Time-management:  College places time pressure on every student, but regular practices, workouts, and games, mean that athletes must work even harder to balance their schedules.  Messiah University’s men’s soccer coach Brad McCarty, who has led his teams to five NCAA Division III Championships, believes the addition of endorsements makes athletes’ time management all-the-more critical:

“One of the biggest challenges student-athletes face is the balance of time and resources.  Regardless of the level—D1, D2, or D3—NCAA athletes are having to juggle homework, exams, study groups, practice, games, lifting, fitness, nutrition, sleep, relationships with teammates, dating relationships, spiritual development, social media, jobs, etc.  College athletes interested in finding ways to be a paid endorser takes time/energy, but they already don’t have a lot of margin in their lives.”

McCarty goes on to say that athletic departments will be important players in helping their athletes navigate the new commercial environment.

5)  Respect for others:  The first four items college athletes need to understand are squarely in their own self-interest.  However, they also should be cognizant of the impact their endorsement decisions may have on others, including some already inferred above:

  • Teams:  Athletes who are good enough to receive sponsorship deals are naturally among the best on their teams, which means their coaches and fellow players must depend on them to avoid distractions and perform at high levels in order to help the team succeed.
  • Universities:  Any organization’s brand is partly a function of the personal brands of its leaders and other members, e.g., Apple and Steve Jobs; Tesla and Elon Musk.  College athletes must realize, therefore, that their endorsement decisions reflect on their institutions, which is why Brigham Young University has  adopted an N.I.L. policy that prohibits its athletes from endorsing products like alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and adult entertainment.
  • Society:  College athletes already serve as role models for many people, especially young fans.  As they evolve into multimedia influencers, athletes should be aware that many more people will emulate their words and actions in ways that can produce broad positive or negative impact in areas such as physical health, mental well-being, interpersonal relationships, and environmental sustainability.

The five preceding prescriptions can challenge anyone, including young athletes who lack certain life experience and who need to focus on their sports and their education.  As such, these new endorsers will require the guidance of many others, including their coaches, athletic departments, and institutions, as well as other individuals who can offer them informed and unbiased perspectives on personal branding and integrated marketing communication.

College athletes are some of the most gifted individuals in the world.  With the support of others and their own self-discipline, they can continue to excel in their sports and in the classroom will also becoming producers of “Mindful Marketing.”


About the Author: Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of MindfulMarketing.org 




Ocean Spray – Moving Aside To Let Consumers Drive

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of MindfulMarketing.org 

It was a frightening experience.  After driving around the parking lot for a few hours, we turned onto the main road, which I had been on many times before, but now 40 mph seemed like 80, and my whole body tensed as cars whizzed by in the opposite direction.  I was afraid because I was a passenger, teaching one of our children to drive.  I wasn’t in control of the car, they were.  I wonder if Ocean Spray has felt similar fear during its rapid Tik Tok ride.

In a social-media-driven world, marketers increasingly face a dilemma:  Should they keep communication control or slide into the passenger seat and allow someone with no professional experience and little company commitment drive their promotional strategy?  That’s the question Ocean Spray has had to answer as a longboard-riding, selfie-stick-toting Idaho potato worker unexpectedly drove the firm into pop culture prominence.

Nathan Apodaca wasn’t well-known before he posted the 25-second Tik Tok clip of himself skateboarding to work, while lip-syncing to the Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams,” and sipping from a 64 oz. bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice.  However, the video went viral, gaining over 46 million views and almost 8 million likes, while also grabbing mainstream media attention from the likes of CNN to NPR.

Meanwhile, the cranberry cooperative from Middleboro, MA must have been asking itself, “What just happened?” and “How do we handle it?”

When you think of food companies with conservative product lines, there aren’t many more staid than Ocean Spray.  It’s not Nantucket Nectars or Snapple with their overabundance of very creative drink concoctions.  The majority of Ocean Spray’s juices, as well as many of its other products contain cranberries, which seem positioned somewhere between raisins and prunes and probably appeal more to ‘mature’ than to youthful palettes.

Case in point, I’m a member of Gen X whose beverage repertoire happens to be boring—I drink little besides water, but I do have a glass of Ocean Spray Cran-Grape juice every day.  All that to say, I suspect much of the company’s revenue comes from other mundane middle-agers-or-olders like me.  I doubt those in Ocean Spray’s target market are heavy users of Tik Tok, which makes the firm’s reaction to its sudden social media fame even more remarkable.

 

 

However, Ocean Spray didn’t jump on Apodaca’s longboard immediately; instead, it ‘took a beat’ for over a week, which in social media time can seem like an eternity.  Still, positive public reaction suggests that the company’s move was ‘lit’—not sure if I’m using that term correctly.

The firm first did its homework and found that Apodaca wasn’t simply someone aiming for internet fame or a corporate payday.  He was a hard-working father, living in a mobile home, whose pickup truck died on the way to his job at the potato factory.  Rather than miss work, Apodaca pulled the skateboard from his truck, jumped on and, with hydration in hand, began cruising toward the plant.  Videoing himself was a spontaneous thought, brought on by the “Dreams” tune and a desire to capture the uniquely ‘chill’ moment.

Ocean Spray, in turn, captured the hearts of the nation and beyond by gifting the stunned Apodaca a new cranberry red Nissan pickup truck, packed with a generous cache of the company’s products.

Meanwhile, Tik Tok parodies have proliferated.  Those grabbing a bottle of Ocean Spray and skateboarding to the sound of “Dreams” have included legendary Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes, and lieutenant governor of Montana and governor candidate Mike Cooney.

From surprising Apodaca with a new truck to filming their CEO’s own Tik Tok tribute, it seems like Ocean Spray did everything right, but one could also argue that the company was living dangerously by jumping on the Tik Tok longboard, for three reasons:

1. Skateboarding Spills: From the first time I saw Apodaca’s Tik Tok, I wondered about the safety.  Since my own skateboarding experience was very limited and decades ago, I ‘let it ride,’ until I had an opportunity to ask those in a college class their opinions.

One student, Jordan, said he uses an E-skate (electric skateboard) to commute to campus.  While he acknowledged the freedom that some enjoy from riding unencumbered, he was quick to call Apodaca’s approach “ill-advised” because of:  multiple distractions (juice, music, camera), no protective equipment, and proximity to fast-moving traffic.  He also showed a nasty scrape he sustained from a recent spill, even while wearing a helmet and reinforced leather gloves.

But, why should Ocean Spray worry about any such accidents?  It would be tragic to read the headline:  “Car Kills Teen Doing Ocean Spray Tik Tok Parody.”  Yes, people will mimic Apodaca regardless what Ocean Spray does, but the company’s support of the viral celeb and its own CEO’s imitation could be construed as support for the act and its disregard for danger.

2. Unknown Endorser:  Most of the time, famous spokespeople work out well for their sponsors, largely because celebrities are ‘known commodities’ who have been living in the public spotlight for years.  Even then, though, there are times when a celebrity’s poor choices sour the promotional partnership, e.g., Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte in Brazil.

When an ordinary person suddenly rises from obscurity to become the face of a brand, there is increased risk related to an unknown history and uncertainty how he/she might act going forward, both of which could lead to another very undesirable headline, e.g., “BREAKING NEWS:  Ocean Spray Spokesman Apodaca . . .”

3. Brand Confusion:  In keeping with the prior point, brands carefully choose their spokespeople and dozens of other identity-defining elements in order to position themselves precisely where they’d like to be in consumers’ minds relative to the competition.  Allowing whoever happens to shoot a viral video of themself become the face of one’s brand seems like a pretty nonstrategic approach.

If Ocean Spray wants to move its image in the direction of ‘younger,’ ‘carefree,’ and possibly even ‘irreverent,’ the Tik Tok tie-in works.  If not, embracing the viral video could create some cognitive dissonance when consumers attempt to interpret it in light of the company’s other marketing communication.

However, the three cautions above must be interpreted against the reality that Ocean Spray really had to do something.  Not acknowledging the viral video would have made the company seem ungrateful, not to mention completely out of touch.

Even though Ocean Spray didn’t ask for Apodaca’s promotional help, the right thing to do was to reward him for the enormous exposure he created for the brand.  When someone shows you kindness, you thank them; and, if you’re a company with the resources of Ocean Spray, you do more.

In deciding how much gratitude ($$$) to show, company management may have wondered whether the Tik Tok-driven sales uptick would last.  As parodies focus on other things, the firm’s revenue will relapse, but probably not entirely.  Some of its newly-won market share may last, as operant conditioning suggests:  At least some people who never had Ocean Spray before shooting their own video probably tried it, liked it, and will buy it again.

Similarly, the entire Tik Tok episode may have the effect of lowering the bottom end of Ocean Spray’s age demographic, which is something almost any brand would like.  At some point, every organization must appeal to the next generation; otherwise, it goes to the grave with an ever-aging target market.

Still, were these rewards worth the three risks outlined above?  My cautious answer is—Yes.

First, the idea of Ocean Spray implicitly endorsing Apodaca’s somewhat dangerous ride is mitigated by the fact that his truck broke down and he was just trying to get to work.  It wasn’t a thrill ride for the sake of social media shares.  Plus, company CEO Hayes and others have modeled safer and still-satisfying Tik Tok tributes.

Second, should anything unseemly surface from Apodoca’s past or taint his future brand ambassadorship, Ocean Spray could easily pull the plug on the affiliation.  Likewise, knowing Apodaca’s situation and the impromptu circumstances under which the relation was formed, the public probably would give some grace to both the individual and the organization.

Third, most of the people who could potentially experience brand confusion from Ocean Spray’s positioning pivot probably aren’t on Tik Tok anyway.  That media/demographic separation combined with what will likely be a relatively short shelf-life for the video, should mean that traditional perceptions of the brand remain largely intact.

I still enjoy the control of being behind the wheel.  I don’t mind, though, when someone else drives, as long as I feel safe and I have some input into where we’re going.  Marketers increasingly need to know when to slip into the passenger seat, yet continue to influence the way to the destination, all while someone with less promotional experience drives.

Like Ocean Spray, those who can successfully navigate that unique balance are on the road to “Mindful Marketing.”


About the Author: Dr. David Hagenbuch is a Professor of Marketing at Messiah University, the author of Honorable Influence, and the founder MindfulMarketing.org, which aims to encourage ethical marketing.




2016 Top 10 Posts

Editor’s Note:  The CommPRO editorial team has selected the most popular articles shared by industry influencers.  We salute our contributors and look forward to continuing our collaboration in 2017.

2016posts1.   Body Language in the Presidential Debate – A Leadership Lesson –  https://sumo.ly/pHKH

2.   Ray Kotcher on the Role of the CEO in Communications – https://sumo.ly/jeqx

3.   Interview with Patrice Tanaka on Creating Great Work – https://sumo.ly/tCgj

4.   How a #Rolex Snob Learned to Love the #AppleWatch – https://sumo.ly/kC1N

5.   Ryan Lochte: Sink or Swim –  https://sumo.ly/nClv

6.   Media Exposure – What Election Polls Missed –  https://sumo.ly/rKm3

7.  Matt Lauer Under Fire – https://sumo.ly/oAIS

8.   Millennials As Protesters: You Have To Be Carefully Taught –  https://sumo.ly/lTPt

9.   Donald Trump’s PR Lessons – CEOs Take Note… –  https://sumo.ly/iGrN

10. Eight Things Your Competitors Are Doing Better on Social Media – https://sumo.ly/ox2E




Invisible Cowards: How Trolling Became America’s Newest, Ugliest Past Time

By Jennefer Witter, CEO/Founder, The Boreland Group Inc.

A two-time Olympic gold medalist is “heart-broken” and in tears after being cyber bullied.

A well-known columnist, known for her feminist writings, closes her social media accounts down after rape and death threats are made against her five year old daughter.

An actress is forced off Twitter after a barrage of racist and misogynist tweets.

Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones

Social media trolls are the scourge of the online community. In spite of widespread denunciation, they’re like some hydra-headed serpent in a B movie thriller – they keep coming back, no matter how many times they are slain.

Trolling is a relatively new phenomenon. The advent and growth of social media have given nameless, faceless individuals the license to bully, name call and worse, without any sort of significant ramification. Trolls get a sadist thrill in demolishing others.

A friend of mine calls trolls “invisible cowards.” Their strength is in their anonymity. They can say what they want, when they want, with little fear of backlash, hurt or pain to their lives, reputations, families or careers – unlike those whom they attack. I liken them to the Ku Klux Klan, members of which wore hoods when they went out at night to prey upon the innocent. If what they were doing was so right, why didn’t they take off those hoods and let everyone know who they were?

Like the mythical Count Dracula who could only survive and thrive under the cloak of darkness, daylight can sear those exposed. Leslie Jones, one of the stars of Ghostbusters, is the actress who was forced off Twitter. Milo Yiannopoulos, a blogger with a reputation for trolling, led the stream of abuse directed at Jones under the handle @Nero. The response was almost immediate once Yiannapolous was publicly identified– he was banned for life by Twitter. Dani Matthews, the 2015 Playboy Playmate of the Year, took a photo of an overweight, naked woman showering at LA Fitness and shared the picture of the unsuspecting woman via Snapchat along with the caption “If I can’t unseen this then you can’t either.” Matthews was roundly scorned, was suspended from her job, banned from LA Fitness gyms nationwide for life and may face criminal charges.

Gabby Jones

Gabby Douglas

So far, no such outcome for the trolls who are targeting Gabby Douglas, the Olympic athlete, or Jessica Valenti, the journalist and best-selling author.

Free speech, while protected by the First Amendment, does have its limits: you can’t yell “Fire!” in a movie theater without some serious consequences.

Yet, abusive speech is permitted. Wrong, yes. Disgusting, yes. Illegal, no. So what to do? Twitter issued the following statement after the Leslie Jones debacle:

“This type of abusive behavior is not permitted on Twitter, and we’ve taken action on many of the accounts reported to us by both Leslie and others. We rely on people to report this type of behavior to us but we are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse. We realize we still have a lot of work in front of us before Twitter is where it should be on how we handle these issues.”

Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti

Trolls, like cockroaches, are proliferating. What strikes me is that the majority of those who bear the brunt of troll attacks typically are women and people of color. Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte wasn’t mocked on social media for his silver hair, unlike Douglas, whose hair has been slammed since the 2012 London Games. Steve Buscemi, while a great actor, is no Adonis – yet no mass hate against him.

The current environment is a factor in troll behavior: the presidential election is exposing deep social, racial and economic divisions; the shocking assassination of police officers in Dallas; the awful shootings of unarmed men throughout the county…this notorious stew is a breeding ground for hate. And the Internet is a reflection of these times, the festering of ignorance and anger that is directed at those who symbolize, to the haters, what they do not have and do not have the hope of ever achieving.

What can be done is for all social media platforms is to step up their efforts to review and delete troll postings, and permanently ban trolls from their sites. Existing laws can be used to punish trolls as soon as they step out of legal bounds. And the public can pitch in as well. Leslie Jones supporters created the hashtag #LoveforLeslieJ. Jones now has created the hashtag #Love4GabbyUSA to support Douglas. It’s a beginning, but it shows trolls that at the very least, their hate will be mitigated by love. And, perhaps, a stiff prison sentence.

 

About the Author: Jennefer Witter is the CEO/Founder of The Boreland Group Inc., a public relations firm. 

 

 

 




Matt Lauer Catches Flack for His Moderator Performance, as Does Hillary

Wendy Alpine - featuredBy Wendy Alpine, President, Alpine Communications

Poor Matt Lauer can’t catch a break.

First it was his sockless feet. Now he’s been lambasted for how he moderated the recent Commander-in-Chief Forum” between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I’ve never moderated a debate before, but I’ve read it’s harder than it looks.

But that’s not the point of the story for PR.

This morning, the pundits discussed how each of the candidates performed and who won vs. who lost. While it was agreed that Hillary won on substance, it was said that Donald Trump won the debate.

Frustrating for Hillary. She always seems to be challenged on her approach.

matt-lauer-catches-flack-for-his-moderator-performance-as-does-hillary

(Photo Source: Twitter)

Hillary sounded frustrated by having to defend her “damn emails” and did not look strong when she kept apologizing for what she did. From a PR standpoint, she should have said “I’ve answered the questions about my emails and I have nothing more to say about it.” Period. The End. Then she should have pivoted to all of her accomplishments on veterans’ issues which she was rushed to do by Lauer because of limited interview time.

Donald Trump, it seems, can do no wrong. Whatever he says, lies or not, doesn’t stick. For some reason, the same rules don’t apply to him.

Today, the story on CNN was that Hillary doesn’t smile enough and the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign is bubbling up. Why is it that certain standards are applied to her, but not Trump? Some say it’s sexism, with others go further, suggesting misogyny, according to an article in The Atlantic.

Nevertheless, people’s perceptions of Hillary are that she is cold and “walled off,” to use a term she described about how people perceive her.

The time is now for Hillary Clinton to practice 30 second sound bites that people can relate to, and to pivot to what she wants to say rather than what the interviewer is asking. It’s called “bridging,” and it’s a rule of thumb in crisis communications.

Here are some bridge phrases to consider when getting tough questions:

Interviewer: What do you think about how you handled the situation in Iraq?

Hillary: Short statement, then pivot to: What matters in this situation is….

Here are 11 other statements developed by the Publicity Hound in a recent blog post.

Bridging is an effective crisis management tool, and it’s surprising that Hillary Clinton is not using more of it. Do you have any suggestions for how she could have improved her performance?

 About the Author: Wendy Alpine is president of Alpine Communications, a leading PR firm in Atlanta, with a specialty in healthcare and technology. Reach her at wendy@alpinepr.com, or visit www.alpinepr.com